Pitching showdown: Sale vs. Dickey

Pitching showdown: Sale vs. Dickey
April 18, 2013, 11:00 am

Gametime: 6:07 p.m., Comcast SportsNet (coverage continues with White Sox Postgame Live after the game)

On the mound: Chris Sale (5.21 ERA, 20 H, 5 BB, 17 K, 4 HR) vs. R.A. Dickey (5.82 ERA, 20 H, 8 BB, 13 K, 3 HR)

Sale turned in his worst outing with the White Sox his last time out, allowing eight runs on eight hits with two walks, three strikeouts and two home runs in 4 1/3 innings against Cleveland.

"I didn’t really think I had too much of anything today,” Sale told reporters after the game. “I’m not here to make excuses. Just a bad day and didn’t get it done and I’ll work these next four days and do everything I can to change this.”

Sale has allowed two home runs in each of his last two starts, although those didn't burn him against Seattle on April 7 (7 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K). Keeping the ball in the park will be key for him tonight against Toronto.

[RELATED: White Sox aiming to salvage road trip]

Dickey got off to a rough start this year, allowing 12 runs (10 earned) with six walks, nine strikeouts and three home runs in his first two starts covering 10 2/3 innings. The 2012 National League Cy Young winner fared much better in his last outing, throwing 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball against Kansas City April 13.

Dickey is no longer the lone knuckleballer in the majors -- Boston called up knuckleballing prospect Steven Wright this week when closer Joel Hanrahan went on the disabled list -- but it's still special to see someone throw a pitch like this.

What to watch for: Sox can minimize damage on road trip

The White Sox lost their first five games on this current 10-game road trip, but have won three of the last four, including two in a row against Toronto. Early on, it looked like the Sox could be buried early by this trip, but a 4-6 record against three pretty tough opponents would hardly be a big negative.

Last night, the Sox offense woke up, with Tyler Flowers' three-run homer pacing a seven-run outburst. The Sox were able to couple those runs with a fantastic outing by Jose Quintana, who shut the Blue Jays out for 6 2/3 innings.

[MORE: Quintana's gem helps Sox rout Jays]

A win tonight would pull the White Sox back to .500, and while it's far too early to care about records, it's more of a symbolic thing -- after a five-game losing streak, clawing back to 8-8 would be a solid accomplishment away from home.

The last word: Konerko vs. knucklers

Since Paul Konerko broke into the majors in 1997, he's seen plenty of knuckeballs -- most out of the hand of former Red Sox righty Tim Wakefield. And Konerko saw plenty of success against those fluttering offerings, hitting .244/.340/.537 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 50 plate appearances.

Konerko enjoyed varying levels of success against Steve Sparks, who spun knuckleballs for Milwaukee, Anaheim, Detroit, Oakland and Arizona between 1995 and 2004. In 43 plate appearances against Sparks, Konerko hit .235/.372/.324 with one home run, eight RBIs and seven walks, although that home run was his only extra-base hit.

Still, combine the power Konerko hit with against Wakefield with the on-base percentage he had against Sparks, and that forms a pretty high level of success against knuckleballers in No. 14's career.