By Bruce Levine–
SAN DIEGO (CBS) — The ultimate in-your-face matchup will occur Tuesday night in the All-Star Game when White Sox ace and Americal League starter faces a National League lineup that includes four Cubs hitters. At least two of those Cubs — Ben Zobrist batting lead-off and Kris Bryant in the three hole — will square off against baseball’s biggest winner this season. Depending on how quickly AL manager Ned Yost of the Royals leaves Sale in, Anthony Rizzo (hitting sixth) and Addison Russell (ninth) could also face Sale.
Sale (14-3, 3.38 ERA) will be revved up to pitch as hard as he can and as long as he can in the 87th edition of the Midsummer Classic.
“I am going to let the fastball eat,” Sale said about his all-out approach to a planned short start. “I am going to go as hard as I can and really enjoy the moment.”
The NL is loaded with power hitters.
“It will be nice to go against him,” Rizzo said. “That is especially true because we will be playing them soon after (at the end of July). It will be great to face him. He is the best. The great thing here is it’s always fun facing the best in the game. In Sale, that is what we will get.”
Zobrist has had great success against Sale, going 6-of-11 in his career.
“When I have faced him in the past, I just try to pick the ball up,” said Zobrist, the NL’s starting second baseman. “When you try to do to much against him, you are in trouble. I have had a little success against him by not trying to do too much. If you see it and put it in play, hopefully something good happens. He has been pitching great this year, so I am sure he will be at his best. It should be a fun matchup.”
Bryant has been humbled by Sale in his brief history against him, as he struck out the first times he faced him in 2015.
“Wow, I am looking forward to facing him,” Bryant said. “He has been the toughest pitcher for me to hit in my brief career.”
While he’ll be a flamethrower for the All-Star Game, Sale has been much more of a contact pitcher this season. That has surprised many hitters, especially those in the NL who rarely, if ever, see him.
“I have not looked at any of his video,” Zobrist said. “I will tomorrow. In the past, he has been more of a power pitcher. If he is hitting spots a little bit more, that may change our ability to drive the ball. That being said, the same approach applies. You take what he gives you and hopefully the shadows won’t be to bad with a 5 p.m. (Pacific time) start.”
Bryant believes the Cubs-White Sox subplot carries some extra juice with it.
“This is more exciting, because it’s White Sox verses some of us Cubs,” Bryant said. “It does kind of stink, because it’s Chris Sale and in my opinion the toughest pitcher in the big leagues. It will be good for us because we get the White Sox after the break. We get a little scouting report. One thing we know is he will tough for us tomorrow night.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.