Chris Sale will establish a new career high when he takes the mound in Sunday’s regular season finale.
The White Sox ace is set to start one more time this season and in doing so will make a career-best 32nd turn. One of the top contenders for the American League Cy Young Award, Sale has already established career highs for complete games (six) and innings pitched (221 2/3). White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Thursday that Sale, who pitched on Tuesday, would start against the Minnesota Twins.
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“At first you can look at it like he doesn’t necessarily have to throw,” Ventura said. “But I think he wants to throw and that’s a good sign. He’s motivated to throw and just to go do it. We’re not doing it for numbers or anything, but he wants to throw. I think that’s part of his commitment to being a teammate and all that stuff. So we’ll have a pretty good lineup out there.”
As for what to expect from Sale, Ventura said: “It won’t be four or five (innings), but it won’t be nine. Well, if he has a no-hitter, it’s a possibility. If there’s something special there and his pitch count and everything and he’s feeling good, he would go. But for the most part he’s not going to go nine.”
Just over a year ago the Chicago Red Stars hosted a National Women’s Soccer League semifinal and had high expectations for a playoff run.
However, it all came crashing down quickly in a 3-0 loss at Toyota Park in which visiting FC Kansas City scored all three goals in the first 25 minutes. Kansas City went on to win the league title and the Red Stars were left to wonder what the heck just happened.
Now, the Red Stars have a chance at redemption in a return to the NWSL semifinals. The Red Stars will visit the Washington Spirit on Friday.
“I’m personally really excited to play on Friday, to be back in the semifinals the year after kind of a hard loss last season against Kansas City,” Red Stars forward Christen Press said. “I think that the girls that were here last year we kind of have a chip on our shoulder about that match and how it went down. I think that’s helped motivate us to get back.”
After finishing third in the NWSL regular season the Red Stars have to go on the road in this year’s semifinal. The Spirit and Red Stars are the only two teams to return from the 2015 playoffs and both lost 3-0 in the semifinals so the redemption factor goes both ways.
The Red Stars are well aware of what happened last year, but coach Rory Dames doesn’t expect a repeat.
“I expect the game to not be over 20 minutes in,” Dames said. “Different team, different year.”
This year’s Red Stars racked up plenty of individual accolades in getting back to the playoffs. Press is one of five finalists for league MVP, Julie Johnston and Arin Gilliland are Defender of the Year finalists and Alyssa Naeher is up for Goalkeeper of the Year.
A win would push the Red Stars into the club’s first NWSL final in the NWSL’s fourth season. Last year’s semifinal was the first playoff appearance for the Red Stars.
The Red Stars just beat the Spirit on Saturday 3-1 in the regular season finale at Toyota Park. Back on July 9 the Spirit won 2-0 at the Maryland SoccerPlex, host site of Friday’s semifinal.
“We played them at (their) home earlier in the season and it didn’t end the way we wanted,” said midfielder Courtney Raetzman, who graduated from Conant High School in Hoffman Estates. “But I think we showed that we can play with them and as our game just showed, we beat them and we probably didn’t even perform to our absolute best so I’m really excited going into this next game.”
Dames said playing back-to-back games against a playoff opponent “isn’t ideal” in terms of coaching but it’s also a confidence boost to have a win heading into the playoffs.
“I think it’s a good and a bad thing because we both have extra video on each other, on playing each other specifically,” midfielder Taylor Comeau said. “We have a couple things that we definitely want to clean up and we’ll rewatch the film and clean up just what we think we need to and hopefully have a better performance in the next game.”
The winner of Friday’s semifinal will play in the NWSL final in Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium on Oct. 9.