While rookie Yu Darvish has impressed at the front end of the Texas Rangers' rotation, the Chicago White Sox's Chris Sale has also come up big in his first season as a starter.
In a matchup between two of the game's more exciting young pitchers, Darvish takes the hill opposite Sale as the Rangers and visiting White Sox open a three-game set Friday night.
Signed to a $60 million deal during the offseason, not including a $51.7 million posting fee, Darvish (11-6, 3.88 ERA) has more than held his own in the big leagues. The right-hander's 10.24 strikeouts per nine innings rank third in the majors and he leads all AL rookies in wins.
Darvish was at his best Saturday in a 9-2 road win over the Los Angeles Angels, allowing two runs, three hits, four walks and striking out a season high-tying 11 over seven innings.
"He was throwing it by hitters," catcher Yorvit Torrealba told MLB's official website. "His fastball looked so good, we stayed with it. When he can locate his fastball, he can be as good as anybody in the game."
Darvish has never faced Chicago (53-45) but knows he'll have his work cut out against one of the most potent offenses in baseball. The White Sox are fourth in the majors with 120 homers and sixth with 466 runs.
"I'll do my homework before the start," Darvish said. "We'll still go over the hitters in our meetings and watch video."
Sale (11-3, 2.37) will try to slow down the Rangers, who've posted a league-leading 31 home wins. Texas (58-39) most recently took two of three from Boston in Arlington, winning 5-3 on Wednesday.
Sale had gone 8-0 with a 1.61 ERA over a 10-start stretch May 17-July 15 before getting hit hard during Saturday's 7-1 loss at Detroit. The 23-year-old left-hander surrendered a career worst-tying five runs, seven hits and four walks over seven innings, suffering his first loss in nine career road starts.
"He's one of the premier pitchers in the league, an All-Star and all that," said Tigers outfielder Brennan Boesch, who hit a three-run homer off Sale. "His numbers are great. But anyone can get hit."
Sale was sharp in his only career start versus Texas, giving up five hits over 7 1-3 innings of one-run ball during a 19-2 home victory July 3. That was the first win of Chicago's three-game sweep in which it held Texas to seven runs.
After dropping the final five contests on a 10-game road trip, Chicago returned home and completed a three-game sweep of Minnesota with Wednesday's 8-2 win.
"These three games we just played good team baseball," winning pitcher Jake Peavy said. "It's nice to come back after the road trip we had. We had a short homestand, but we played well, got back on track."
If their recent road woes are any indication, the White Sox could be hard-pressed to keep things going as they head out on another six-game trek. Chicago is batting .195 and has been outscored 30-9 during its season-high five-game skid away from home.
"That's just the way it goes," manager Robin Ventura said. "Nobody's really talking about it. You knew it was on the schedule, so we're prepared for it. It's a long stretch of July to be on the road most of the time."
Chicago, though, should receive a boost from catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who's expected to be available after missing the last two games with a mild right oblique strain.
Third baseman Kevin Youkilis is also hoping to play after spraining his right ankle Wednesday.