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White Sox survive doubleheader and turn to Chris Sale

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Resumption of Cy Young quest aligns with resumption of normal -- albeit difficult -- schedule

David Banks/Getty Images

In the end, the doubleheader of doom between the White Sox and Indians turned out to be fairly mundane for both teams. The games were different enough -- and the starters lasted long enough -- that neither manager had to consider using the same relievers.

Mat Latos gave up two dispiriting homers and came away with the win, thanks to Brett Lawrie's magical swings:

Latos Lawrie GIF

Erik Johnson gave up two dispiriting homers, and his reward is a loss and a return to Charlotte. Latham's Tommy Kahnle was called up to be the 26th man, but he'll end up hanging around for a bit, as the White Sox optioned Carlos Sanchez to Triple-A instead. They'll go with eight relievers and a three-man bench until the bullpen is able to regain its wind.

If Chris Sale does his thing, none of those eight relievers will be needed. He takes the mound not only in search of his 10th win in 10 starts, but also his third consecutive complete game.

Yet before we get too excited about another Sale start, let's acknowledge that he'll be facing two obstacles unique to him in 2016:

No. 1: This is the first time a team's seeing him for the second time.

The Condor has faced nine different opponents in his first nine starts, and the Indians came the closest to tacking a loss on him. Back on April 9, Mike Napoli hit a two-run shot in the sixth inning to tie the game, and Yan Gomes started off the seventh with a solo shot to give Cleveland a 3-2 lead.

Sale was at 107 pitches through seven, so he probably wouldn't have come out for the eighth. Fortunately for him, the White Sox exploded with five runs off Bryan Shaw, capped by a three-run Avisail Garcia homer. The Sox led 7-3, and Sale improved to 2-0.

The Indians saw perhaps the most extreme version of Sale's conservation efforts this season. He only averaged 91 mph on his fastball, and although he saved his best heat for the back third of the game, Gomes hit the go-ahead homer on an elevated 90 mph two-seamer.

If even more recent trends hold, however, the Indians may not see too many more two-seamers. Brooks says he virtually abandoned the sinker in his complete games over the Yankees and Astros, throwing only one each game. That's a stark and sudden reversal considering Sale threw more sinkers than four-seamers in three consecutive starts. The second of those games was his shortest outing of the year, and the third had him punching himself in the head with the ball, so maybe this newest adaptation is for his mental well-being. If it holds, he'll be a different pitcher than the Indians saw the first time.

No. 2: The Indians haven't lost a Josh Tomlin start.

Back when inclement weather canceled the original game, the Sox risked missing out on good timing. The Indians were without Michael Brantley, and they missed a Carlos Carrasco start. The last pitching matchup of the series -- Jose Quintana vs. Josh Tomlin -- favored the Sox considerably, at least to some.

I wasn't so enthused about that last point,  as Tomlin has been quite effective against the Sox over the seven times he's seen them. You won't see it in his ERA, which is good-not-great (3.44). It's in his strikeout rate. Against teams Tomlin has faced more than once, he has his highest strikeout rate against the Sox, and by a large margin:

  1. White Sox, 10.1 K/9
  2. Mariners, 8.7
  3. Rockies, 8.3

After numerous trips between Cleveland and Triple-A Columbus, Tomlin is sticking in the bigs with a rather bizarre profile. He's a righty who throws an 87-mph fastball and an 84-mph cutter 80 percent of the time, doesn't get grounders and, in fact, gives up a ton of homers. He's surrendered 21 over his last 17 starts spanning 108 innings, over which he's ...

... he's ...

... 13-2 with a 3.23 ERA. That includes a 6-0 start to this season, and the Indians won his no-decision, too.

His secret: He keeps cutting his walk rate. It was never high to begin with, but now he's issued just five over his 43 innings in 2016.

This ought to be Sale's biggest test to date. The good news is that the Sox didn't miss anything with the rescheduling, really. Sale is a better bet against Tomlin than Jose Quintana, and Quintana is a good matchup for Corey Kluber in the finale, as they both struggle to get run support. Brantley went back to the disabled list, and Carrasco is there himself. The Sox may not end up taking control of the season series after Wednesday, but they won't be able to blame timing. And thanks to the win in opener, they'll still be ahead in the Central regardless.