LOS ANGELES (AP) At age 24, Clayton Kershaw has already won a Cy Young Award with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
If 23-year-old Chris Sale continues to pitch the way he has for the Chicago White Sox this season, he could be a serious contender for the same honor.
Two of the majors’ best young left-handers match up Friday night when these first-place teams open a weekend set at Dodger Stadium.
While reigning NL Cy Young winner Kershaw (5-3, 2.65 ERA) has pitched well again for Los Angeles (40-24) this season, Sale is a big reason Chicago is the surprise leader in the AL Central.
In his first year as a starter, Sale (8-2, 2.05) ranks among the major league leaders in wins and ERA. He has struck out 43 and allowed four runs in 36 2-3 innings while winning his last five starts.
“I’m not one to really look at my stats or anything like that. It really doesn’t do anything for you,” Sale said. “You got a five (ERA) or a one and you still got to go out there and pitch and get outs.”
He gave up four hits and fanned seven without a walk in eight scoreless innings during a 10-1 win over Houston on Saturday.
“He’s tough to hit against because he has a lot of different things he can throw,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think a lot of people believe he just goes out and throws 98, 99. He actually pitches, hits corners, creates angles and things like that make him extremely tough.”
Though Sale is making his first regular-season start against the Dodgers, he already impressed Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly with six sharp innings in spring training this year.
“He throws the ball good,” Mattingly told his team’s official website. “He’s got good stuff.”
The White Sox (34-29) are 11-4 all-time in the regular season versus Los Angeles, winning two of three in each of their previous two series at Dodger Stadium – the most recent in 2008. Chicago, however, looks to avoid a third consecutive loss overall after falling 5-3 at St. Louis on Thursday.
Chicago has dropped seven of 11 since winning nine in a row.
“You want to win games, but all you can ask is the way they’re playing, and they’re playing hard,” Ventura said.
Bouncing back might not be an easy task against Kershaw, who struck out a season-high 12 in seven innings of an 8-3 victory at Seattle on Saturday for his first win in four starts. He gave up a three-run homer and three other hits.
“I wish my mistakes didn’t go over the fence right now and cost me three runs,” said Kershaw, who has yielded three homers – each with at least one man on base – over his last four starts. “I don’t care about giving up home runs, but they just can’t be three-run homers.”
While Kershaw looks to keep the ball in the park, he’ll also try to avoid losing a third straight start at Dodger Stadium, where he is 3-3 with a 2.37 ERA in eight outings. He gave up two runs in four innings there during a 2-0 loss in his only previous appearance against the White Sox as a rookie in 2008.
Adam Dunn, who hit his 22nd homer Thursday to double his 2011 total and tie Josh Hamilton for the major league lead, is 7 for 11 with three homers and two doubles against Kershaw.
Los Angeles’ Andre Ethier recorded his NL-leading 55th RBI in Wednesday’s 2-1 home loss to the Angels. Ethier is 5 for 41 (.122) in his last 11 games but has seven RBIs in the last four.