Chris Sale didn't need long after a month-long absence to re-establish himself as one of baseball's best pitchers. And given his past form against the Los Angeles Angels, the Chicago White Sox can likely expect another dominant performance Saturday night.
Sale (5-0, 1.59 ERA) is the ERA leader among pitchers with at least seven starts. He recorded his first complete game of the season Sunday, a two-hitter in a 4-1 victory over San Diego. He threw 100 pitches, the second-fewest he's needed to finish one of his six complete games.
Chase Headley's homer is the only run allowed by the left-hander - along with two other hits - over his 18 innings in three starts since returning from a strained flexor muscle in his elbow. Sale was expected to have a limited pitch count Sunday, according to the team's official website, however his efficiency rendered it moot.
"It's almost like it never happened, other than the missed time," Sale said of the injury. "That's something that doesn't even cross my mind anymore."
Each Angels starter hit safely and all but one scored a run in their 8-4 home victory over the White Sox on Friday. However, they could be in for a much quieter night Saturday.
Sale has won all three career starts versus Los Angeles, surrendering one run and nine hits over 22 innings with 26 strikeouts. That run came on an Albert Pujols home run - his only hit in nine lifetime at-bats against Sale.
Pujols hit his 507th homer Friday, moving him two behind Gary Sheffield for 24th all-time.
Sale, who has also thrown two scoreless innings of relief against the Angels, owns a 0.38 ERA in five total matchups - his lowest versus any club he's faced at least four times. He also carries a shutout streak of 16 2-3 innings against them into this game from last year, highlighted by a one-hitter on May 12, 2013, in which he retired the first 19 batters he faced.
Mike Trout is 1 for 8 off Sale, while Howard Kendrick - who is 7 for 15 with five RBIs over his last four versus Chicago, though he rested Friday - is 1 for 7.
White Sox (31-31) starters had posted a 1.80 ERA in nine games prior to Friday, when Andre Rienzo was shelled for seven runs and nine hits in just 3 2-3 innings.
Meanwhile, returning home after closing out a road trip losing five of six served the Angels (32-28) well. They're 26 for 74 (.351) with runners in scoring position and averaging 5.2 runs while winning seven of nine in Anaheim.
"Coming back home, we wanted to set the tone and came in with a little fire under our butts," said Jered Weaver, who struck out nine and allowed two runs over six innings.
Rookie Matt Shoemaker (3-1, 4.03) draws the difficult task of opposing Sale, though he's 3-0 in four starts with a 3.38 ERA. He gave up three runs in 5 1-3 innings in his last start, a 7-5 win in Seattle on May 29, though he allowed back-to-back homers in one inning of relief in Tuesday's 7-2 loss at Houston.
Rookie starters are 2-3 with a 3.95 ERA in seven outings versus Chicago.
Josh Hamilton is 3 for 15 in four games since returning from left thumb surgery. He's 1 for 11 against Sale, against whom left-handers are 0 for 32 this season.