Shutdown Showdown: Sale takes on Felix

By Shane Nicholson
Managing Editor

White Sox fans with little left to cling to for the 2015 season at least have a bright spot on the radar. World-beating-left-hander Chris Sale is set to face off against world-beating-right-hander Felix Hernandez at 9:10 tonight at Seattle’s Safeco Field.

Sale of course is coming off one of the season’s gem performances, stalling a streaking Cubs offense last Sunday with a 15 strikeout performance, allowing just one hit over seven innings.

The Sox starter stands at 11-7 on the season with a 3.32 ERA and 208 strikeouts.

Opposite Sale is the Mariners’ own streak-stopper, Hernandez. Riding one of the worst seven game stretches of his career, King Felix comes in 14-7 on the campaign, with a 3.65 ERA and 147 strikeouts, numbers that nearly any other starter in the game would kill for but are a slip from Hernandez’s high standards.

In his past seven starts, Hernandez has gone 4-2, but with a 5.27 ERA capped by a career-high 10 earned runs allowed in a 22-10 loss at Fenway Park last Saturday. His career mark against the Sox stands at 4-5 with a 3.67 ERA in 15 starts.

But with both clubs having little left to play for this marquee match up gives reason enough to tune in Friday night. Sale has struggled in his career against the Mariners’ Nelson Cruz, who’s hitting .462 with two home runs in 13 at-bats against the lefty. Robinson Cano, Jesus Montero and Mark Trumbo have also had past success against Sale, all raking in averages over .300.

For the Sox, outside Melky Cabrera and part-timer Geovany Soto there’s very little to suggest that Felix will struggle in the same way he did with the Red Sox lineup last weekend. Slugger Jose Abreu is 0-for-3 in his career against Hernandez; the same for Adam LaRoche. Only Gordon Beckham has taken the Seattle starter deep in his career, logging two home runs in 26 at-bats.

Cubs take on Braves in weekend set

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Meanwhile, the Cubs and Braves start at 3:05 this afternoon, with Kyle Hendricks facing off against Shelby Miller following Chicago’s 7-1 win over Atlanta Thursday night.

Hendricks was rocked last Friday against the White Sox, giving up five runs in 3.1 innings. Miller is riding a 16-start winless streak, though he has posted a 3.03 ERA in that time. Last week, he took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning against the Diamondbacks, only to end the game with a no-decision.

The Cubs come into the weekend series 4-games up on the Giants for the second National League wild card spot. Dan Haren and Jason Hammel are expected to take the mound for the final two starts of the weekend series as the Northsiders look to close the gap on the division-rival Pittsburgh Pirates for the top wild card slot, giving them home-field advantage for the one-game playoff.

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