"Inverted W" and all, Chris Sale is becoming a very good major league starting pitcher.
If you like Brewer games with the DH, this weekend is your last chance to see them until 2013 (or the World Series).
Tonight the Brewers are in Chicago for their first look at Chris Sale (2.46 ERA, 2.55 FIP), and the word "phenom" might not be too strong to describe him. Sale is 23 and was the White Sox's first round pick in the 2010 draft before joining the big league team later that same season and being with them ever since. 2012 is his first season as a starter, and his results have actually improved since making the switch. He was roughed up a bit by the Dodgers a week ago, though, allowing five runs on seven hits and four walks over 5.2 innings. Before that, he had posted a 0.86 ERA and pitched seven or more innings in four straight starts.
Sale throws a low 90's fastball, a very good slider and a plus changeup. All three pitches have been above average this season. His pitches are in the strike zone over 50% of the time but batters also swing at roughly a third of his pitches outside the zone. He's also already set a career high for innings pitched this season.
This is Sale's first outing against the Brewers. The only current Brewer who has faced him before is Aramis Ramirez, and he's 0-for-1.
The Brewers will counter with Zack Greinke (3.10 ERA, 2.01 FIP), who could be a fringe candidate to start for the NL in the All Star Game. Most of Greinke's peripheral numbers are as good or better than they were last year, and he's doing a significantly better job of limiting home runs, allowing just 0.3 per nine innings. He pitched eight innings against the Twins on Sunday, allowing four runs on eleven hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
Greinke has done a great job of pitching deep into games lately. He's thrown seven or more innings in three straight appearances for just the second time as a Brewer. He hasn't done it in four straight games since May of 2010. If he pitches seven innings tonight he'll be just the second Brewer since 2008 to do it in four straight starts (2011 Randy Wolf is the other).
This will be the 25th time Greinke has faced the White Sox, but the first time as a Brewer. Six current White Sox have faced him six times or more:
As many of us feared, Cesar Izturis has come off the DL and been shoved right back into the lineup:
Norichika Aoki RF
Carlos Gomez CF
Ryan Braun LF
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Corey Hart 1B
Rickie Weeks DH
Cody Ransom 2B
Martin Maldonado C
Cesar Izturis SS
Meanwhile, the bullpen has had a day to rest and recover:
Tim Dillard pitched 1.1 innings (22 pitches) on Wednesday and also pitched on Tuesday.
Michael Fiers pitched one inning (17 pitches) on Wednesday and is expected to start on Sunday.
Francisco Rodriguez, John Axford and Manny Parra last pitched on Tuesday.
Kameron Loe last pitched on Monday.
Jose Veras last pitched on Sunday.
Livan Hernandez last pitched for the Braves on June 10.
It should be a beautiful night for baseball tonight, with temps in the mid 70's and no precipitation in the forecast.