White Sox lefthander Chris Sale has blossomed into the best pitcher in the AL Central, outside of Justin Verlander. Though he doesn’t have Verlander’s track record, Sale might represent an even bigger challenge for the Twins in today’s rubber game at Target Field.

Sale, a 6-6, 180-pound Florida native, leads the AL with a 2.24 ERA and opponents batting average at .194. He is 5-0 with a 1.61 ERA in his past seven starts and held the Twins to two hits over seven scoreless innings in a dominant performance in Chicago on May 23.

“He’s going to be one of the nastiest lefties in the league,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said after Tuesday’s 3-2 loss. “He’s probably going to end up in the All-Star Game; hopefully we’ll put a dent in that [today]. He’s really good. He throws really hard, with a hard breaking ball, with a little funk to him and hides it pretty good, so he’s as advertised. He’s throwing the living fire out of the ball. So we’ll have to figure out how we can get him to misfire a little bit and maybe rattle him -- I don’t know.”

We’ll see how the heat and humidity affect Sale and Twins starter Nick Blackburn, who knows he hasn’t pitched as well as his 4-4 record suggests. Blackburn has an 8.04 ERA in his past six starts but somehow -- with big run support and big help from the bullpen -- he is 4-0 in that stretch.


The Twins acquired minor-league RHP Shairon Martis from the Pirates and assigned him to Class AA New Britain. Martis, 25, had a 4.96 ERA in 15 combined appearances at Double-A and Triple-A for Pittsburgh. He made 20 appearances for the Nationals between 2008 and 2009.

WHITE SOX (39-35)

1. Alejandro De Aza, CF
2. Eduardo Escobar, 3B
3. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
4. Adam Dunn, DH
5. Alex Rios, RF
6. A.J. Pierzynski, C
7. Alexei Ramirez, SS
8. Jordan Danks, LF
9. Orlando Hudson, 2B

Starting pitcher: LH Chris Sale (8-2, 2.24 ERA)

TWINS (30-43)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Ben Revere, RF
3. Joe Mauer, DH
4. Josh Willingham, LF
5. Justin Morneau, 1B
6. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
7. Ryan Doumit, C
8. Brian Dozier, SS
9. Jamey Carroll, 2B

Starting pitcher: RH Nick Blackburn (4-4, 7.45 ERA)

Target Field. First pitch: 12:10 p.m. TV: FSN. Twins Radio Network

Follow along on Twitter: @JoeCStrib

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