(AP) — Two of baseball’s top home run hitters meet for the first time as Nelson Cruz’s Baltimore Orioles take on Jose Abreu’s Chicago White Sox.
One difference between these right-handed sluggers is how they fare against left-handers, and that will be on display Monday night.
Chicago’s Chris Sale and Baltimore’s Wei-Yin Chen will be on the mound to start a three-game series, as the White Sox look to avoid a fifth straight loss overall and eighth in a row on the road.
Cruz is second in the majors with 23 homers while Abreu is third with 21. While Cruz is hitting .419 against left-handers for one of baseball’s best marks, Abreu is much worse at .237.
Abreu has never faced Baltimore (39-35) or Chen (7-2, 3.78 ERA). Cruz has a positive history versus Sale in going 3 for 8 with a homer.
Sale (6-1, 2.20) is limiting hitters to a .171 average and enters after giving up three runs over six innings Wednesday to earn a 7-6 victory over San Francisco.
His lone start against Baltimore came on the road Aug. 28, 2012. Sale yielded four runs over four innings in a 6-0 loss.
The Orioles may want to bench Jonathan Schoop since he’s a .197 hitter against left-handers. He has never faced Sale but came through in a big way Sunday with a homer off Yankees star Masahiro Tanaka in an 8-0 rout.
J.J. Hardy capped a strong trip by going 2 for 4 with a three-run double. Hardy was 9 for 23 over six games, ending an 87-game drought without a homer in Saturday’s 6-1 victory.
“I feel like a lot of balls have been getting through the infield, I have been pretty fortunate,” Hardy said. “I am trying to find that power stroke and hitting that homer yesterday was big for me.”
Baltimore starters went 4-0 with a 2.29 ERA on the 4-2 trip and have posted a major league-best 1.87 ERA since June 9.
“There’s no rest for the weary because the big separator up here is the pitching you see,” manager Buck Showalter said. “And we’re going to see Sale tomorrow for the White Sox and if you dwell on it too long, there’s another guy who’s going to slap you back into reality.”
The Orioles took four of seven from Chicago (35-41) last year and have won six of the last eight home meetings.
Chen benefits from a 6.59 run-support average that is among the best marks in the majors. He hasn’t lost since May 3, going 4-0 with a 3.47 ERA in his last eight outings after giving up three runs over 6 2-3 innings last Monday in a 5-4 loss at Tampa Bay.
The Orioles have won all three of Chen’s starts against the White Sox, with the southpaw going 1-0 with a 2.60 ERA. He has held Adam Dunn hitless in six at-bats with three strikeouts.
Chicago’s woes continued with Sunday’s 6-5 loss at Minnesota. Abreu and Gordon Beckham each had two RBIs.
“Anytime you sit there and pity yourself, you’re going to get buried,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Nobody cares. You have to be able to pick yourself up off the mat and compete and then it works out.”
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