SaleGreinke: A pitcher's duel, or will Greinke's road struggles continue?


SaleGreinke: A pitcher's duel, or will Greinke's road struggles continue?

A week ago, the buzz in baseball centered around a matchup between two dominant lefties. But the Chris Sale vs. Clayton Kershaw matchup didn't live up to its pitcher's duel billing -- that went to last Sunday's Jose QuintanaChris Capuano showdown.

Pitching aficionados will get another chance to see Sale participate in a pitcher's duel tonight, though, as Sale squares off against Zack Greinke in Milwaukee's first trip to the South Side since 2000. The White Sox swept Milwaukee en route to winning the AL Central with the best record in the league, scoring 29 runs in the three-game set.

That'll be tough to top this weekend given Greinke's presence on the mound Friday. The former Royal enters the game with a 3.10 ERA in 14 starts, although more impressive is his 2.01 FIP, which stands as the best in baseball.

Quick sidebar: Greinke's a fan of FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), which measures a pitcher's ability to succeed at the things he can directly control -- walks, strikeouts and home runs. Everything other result is at the mercy of a pitcher's fielders.

"Thats pretty much how I pitch, to try to keep my FIP as low as possible," Greinke told the New York Times during his Cy Young season of 2009.

He's doing a fantastic job of it this season, striking out 95 with only 20 walks and three home runs allowed. That may be what you can expect from Greinke tonight -- lots of strikeouts, few walks and even fewer home runs.

But Greinke has struggled on the road this season, allowing opponents to have a .796 OPS against him away from Miller Park. By FIP, he's still excellent, posting a 2.52 FIP on the road as opposed to a 1.44 one at home. But his ERA on the road is 4.96, and opposing hitters have basically been Alejandro De Aza against him.

He hasn't thrown enough road innings to make a solid determination about his struggles. Maybe it's luck, or maybe his command just isn't as good away from Miller Park, leading to more hittable pitches and, of course, more runs crossing the plate.

Sale is coming off statistically his worst start of the season, allowing more than three runs for the first time in a start this season last Friday in Los Angeles. He's pitching on, as Kenny Williams called it this week, a college schedule, on a full week of rest. If everything goes according to plan, Sale's pitch count could get up in the 115, 120 range.

He'll have a great chance to go deep into the game tonight. If Greinke holds up his end of the bargain and Sale bounces back, it could be one of the more exciting games of the 2012 season.

You can catch all the SaleGreinke action on Comcast SportsNet tonight at 7 pm.

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