Monday's pitching matchup in Game 1 of the Royals-White Sox three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field features Chris Sale making his first start after a nine-game break opposite Royals right-hander Luis Mendoza, who thrived in the sweltering Midwest heat in his last outing Aug. 1 in beating the Indians.
Sale, the White Sox Cy Young candidate, struggled in his last outing, working 6 1/3 innings against the Rangers and giving up six hits and five earned runs in getting credit for the win in a 9-5 victory.
The 23-year-old Sale has been spectacular in moving from late-inning reliever during the 2011 campaign to front-line starter in 2012 and is fast approaching his single-season high of 136 2/3 innings.
His velocity has fallen in recent outings and manager Robin Venture and pitching coach Don Cooper decided a break was in order.
"They came to me in Texas and said they were thinking about doing some things and then the other day told me what was going on," Sale said Sunday.
Did he fight against the plan?
"It was their call anyways," he said. "Not much to fight, to be honest with you."
The break has been beneficial, Sale believes.
"It felt really good," he said about a bullpen session Friday. "I've had a lot of time off now to prepare for tomorrow. Everything leading up to today and tomorrow has been fine."
Mendoza worked and sweated through 99-degree heat to stymie the Indians on four hits and just two earned runs in 7 1/3 innings in a 5-2 victory.
Mendoza was the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year last year for the Royals' Triple-A Omaha affiliate and is 5-7 with a 4.32 ERA in 14 starts for the Major League team this year.
"He went through the entire year as the best pitcher in that league in a hitter's league," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "So we knew it was there.
"We knew he had to get his feet underneath him. The more comfortable he got, we felt the better off he would be both for himself and for us. So far that's shown to be true."
Against the Indians, Mendoza was pitching in front of his father, Alfredo, and uncle, Jose Luis, who came in from Veracruz, Mexico.
"That's a good motivation," said Mendoza, who threw 94 pitchers on the sultry night. "I've got to do well with my family in town, so I'm happy with it."
Royals: Gordon gets a break
Left fielder Alex Gordon was not in the Royals' lineup Sunday when the they beat the Rangers, 7-6, in 10 innings. It was the first time since April 9, a span of 102 starts. Lorenzo Cain, who had started 18 games in center and six in right, made his first start in left.
White Sox: Pierzynski on HR streak
A. J. Pierzynski has homered in five straight games, the latest as a pinch-hitter in Sunday's 4-2 victory over the Angels.
Third baseman Kevin Youkilis homered Sunday and has three home runs in the last two games.
White Sox starter John Danks will have season-ending left shoulder surgery Monday in Chicago. The left-hander, who has been out since May 25 with a shoulder strain, finished the season 3-4 with 5.70 ERA.