Before the 2012 season began, few would have forecast the mid-June matchup between the White Sox and Dodgers series as one of the marquee interleague clashes of the season.
Fast forward to June 15, however, and that’s exactly what we have on tap at Chavez Ravine, including perhaps the most delicious pitching matchup of the season.
The schedule tells us that the Chisox will invade Chavez Ravine on Friday night for a 10:10 p.m. (ET) clash. Inspecting further, it’s a true heavyweight pitching matchup between Chicago’s red-hot Chris Sale and LA’s reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.
A check of the Don Best odds screen notes that the Dodgers and Kershaw have been posted as early -130 favorites, with the take-back on the Sale’s Pale Hose at +120. Speaking to the prowess of these respective hurlers, the early total at most Las Vegas wagering outlets has been posted at a mere 5½ runs, the lowest such of the season to date, shaded slightly to the ‘over’ at -120.
Early Run line prices show Sale and the Chisox at -205 plus the extra run, with the Dodgers and Kershaw at +175 minus the added run. Check your cable guides for TV coverage that will be handled by Comcast in Chicago – with the one and only due of Ken Harrelson and Steve Stone describing the action – and Fox Prime Ticket in the west coast with Vin Scully calling the balls and strikes.
The battle lines have certainly been drawn for this one in a rare renewal of a distant rivalry that includes the 1959 World Series in which Walt Alston’s Dodgers, in just their second season in Los Angeles, outdueled the “go-go” White Sox of Al Lopez in six games. That World Series will resonate forever on at least one page of the baseball record book as it boasted of attendance figures unlikely to ever be matched in MLB, considering the Dodgers were playing games at the cavernous LA Coliseum in those days and drawing huge throngs, topped by a whopping 92,706 for Game 5 which still stands as an MLB and World Series record.
Considering no current stadium tops 56,000 in attendance, it’s safe to say that record will endure until further notice.
While the Dodgers have continued with the good early foot they displayed in the first couple of weeks of the season, entering Friday night on top of the NL West with an MLB-best 40-24 mark, the Chisox have in fact been playing better than LA lately, winning 17 of their last 24 prior to Thursday’s game at St. Louis. That surge has pushed the Pale Hose to the top of the AL Central.
The Dodgers have been very solid at home thus far, winning 22 of their first 33 at the Ravine and providing good value in the process, +807 units as host in the process. The White Sox, however, have been sizzling away from home and are a whopping +1111 units as a visitor prior to Thursday’s game at St. Louis.
Moreover, these teams have both been dynamite on the Run Line, with the Dodgers +1876 units on the season and the Pale Hose even better at +2013 on the Run Line.
The feature of the Friday clash, however, is the pitching matchup between Sale and Kershaw. The young lefty Sale has been a real revelation since moving to the starting rotation for new manager Robin Ventura. Sale, who performed out of the bullpen the past two seasons, has been almost untouchable lately, allowing just four runs and 19 hits over his last five outings covering 36 2/3 IP, which equates to a microscopic 0.98 ERA. Along the way Sale has recorded 43 strikeouts and just seven walks in those last five games, all White Sox wins.
As for Kershaw, his numbers have lagged a bit behind his wondrous stats of a year ago when he won the NL Cy Young, but he remains formidable with a 5-3 record and 2.65 ERA. In the Ravine, Kershaw has been a bit tougher, with a 2.37 ERA and 1.02 WHIP thus far in 2012.
The Dodgers have managed to keep afloat despite the absence of All-Star OF Matt Kemp, who enjoyed a sizzling April with 12 homers but has made two trips to the DL since with hamstring issues, and likely remains out until the end of June, if not the All-Star break. Los Angeles has also been without 2B Mark Ellis, who enjoyed a stellar first month of the season, since mid-May due to a sprained knee.
The Dodgers looked ready to slump two weeks ago when swept at home in a 4-game set by the Brewers and losing two of three at Colorado, but have rebounded to win seven of their last 10 to maintain their edge in the NL West over the Giants.
Skeptics, however, have pointed out the favorable scheduling sequencing the Dodgers have enjoyed, and wonder if that luck might be running out after losing two of three at home to the nearby Angels at midweek. Dodger hitting issues minus Kemp resurfaced in the series vs. the Angels when managing just seven runs – five of those in the lone win over the Halos on Tuesday night – in the 3-game set. The Dodgers were also no-hit by six Seattle pitchers last Friday at Safeco Field.
The White Sox continue to benefit by the resurgence of big 1B/DH Adam Dunn, who has recovered from a brutal 2011 to belt 21 homers by mid-June. Note however that Dunn, suffering from a mild sprained knee that limited him to pinch hit duties midweek at St. Louis, will have to play at 1B in this series as the DH will not be utilized in the Dodgers’ NL park.
Prior to Thursday game at St. Louis, the Chisox had also won eight of their last nine games on the road.
Still, it’s the heavyweight pitching battle between Sale and Kershaw that draws extra interest for this intriguing battle at Chavez Ravine.