Chicago’s Paul Konerko is off to a strong start, but the White Sox are struggling a bit.
Facing the Seattle Mariners should expedite the first baseman’s hot hitting and help his team get out of its funk.
Konerko and the White Sox look to continue their dominance over the Mariners in Friday’s series opener at Safeco Field.
Chicago (6-6) arrives in Seattle after striking out a season-high 16 times in Thursday’s 5-3 loss to Baltimore, its fourth defeat in five games. Swinging and missing with two strikes has been an ongoing problem for the White Sox, who are tied for the AL lead with 111 strikeouts.
“Some of them you can put it down as maybe not having the right approach,” manager Robin Ventura said of the strikeouts. “Some of them are just good pitches. It’s going to happen. You just try to learn from it and work on it and cut those down.”
Seattle’s pitching staff has struck out 109 - second-most in the AL - and scheduled starter Hector Noesi (1-1, 5.73 ERA) had six in his last outing.
Chicago, however, probably isn’t too intimidated considering its recent history in the Pacific Northwest.
The White Sox are 16-3 against the Mariners since 2010, their best record against any AL opponent. They’ve won seven of nine in Seattle and outscored the Mariners 27-7 in winning the last five at Safeco Field.
Konerko has been instrumental to this success.
Since 2010, Konerko is batting .420 with nine homers, five doubles and 14 RBIs with a 1.372 OPS against the Mariners. His home run total is his most against any opponent despite playing the Mariners nearly half as many times as AL Central rivals.
The five-time All-Star has hit safely in all but one game this season, batting .370 with one homer, five doubles and nine RBIs.
Konerko and his teammates aren’t too familiar with Noesi, who pitched an inning of relief in his lone outing against the White Sox last August. The right-hander did serve up a homer to Adam Dunn, who leads the majors with 21 strikeouts.
Noesi was knocked around for seven runs in three innings of an 11-5 loss to Texas on April 9, but looked strong against Oakland on Saturday, scattering five hits and one walk in eight innings of a 4-0 win.
The Mariners (7-7) have split their four games since and are coming off a discouraging defeat. Felix Hernandez struck out 12 over eight innings and left with his team leading 1-0, but closer Brandon League couldn’t save it and Seattle lost 2-1.
Sale allowed three runs and five hits in five innings in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to Detroit. The converted reliever struck out five and walked two while throwing a career-high 102 pitches
“I kind of babied it at times,” he said. “I just have to get the confidence to throw the pitch I need to throw and not worry about where it is.”
The left-hander made two relief appearances against the Mariners last season, allowing two hits in 2 1-3 scoreless innings.