Chris Sale didn't need much run support to win his first opening day start. But he'll happily take more of what Alex Rios has been providing the Chicago White Sox lately.
Sale looks to build on a strong debut and Rios tries to continue his hot streak as the White Sox finish a three-game series against the visiting Seattle Mariners on Sunday.
In Chicago's opener Monday, Sale struck out seven in 7 2-3 innings and the White Sox (3-2) held on for a 1-0 win over Kansas City.
"That was fun, it was exciting. It was everything I thought it would be and more," Sale told the team's official website. "I did a real good job of kind of collecting myself and not getting too amped up too early or too late and it ended up being a pretty good day."
It was an auspicious debut for the 24-year-old left-hander after an eventful spring in which he signed a five-year, $32.5 million contract extension.
"I think a lot of stuff's been thrown at him in spring training," manager Robin Ventura said. "He gets the contract, he gets opening day. There's a lot of expectations of him, but that all comes with it."
Ventura added that Sale has "come along great" in spite of the heightened expectations.
Ventura has to be similarly pleased with Rios, who hit a tiebreaking home run in the sixth inning Saturday to help Chicago to a 4-3 victory over Seattle (3-3).
Rios, who has homered in the last two games, has at least one hit in each of Chicago's games this season, stretching his hitting streak to 11 games dating to Sept. 26. He's 7 for 18 with four RBIs, three runs, three walks and two stolen bases in 2013.
"It's all about the confidence," said Rios, who hit .304 with 25 home runs and 91 RBIs last season – all career highs. "When you have that confidence, you go up to the plate and you just think about seeing the ball and hitting the ball. You don't think about other things that kind of change your approach."
Rios is 0 for 2 in his career against Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma, who will make his second start Sunday. The right-hander, who was 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA as a starter in his rookie season, has a 1.80 ERA in two relief appearances against the White Sox.
Like Sale, Iwakuma delivered a strong performance in his 2013 debut, holding Oakland to one run and two hits while striking out seven in six innings of a 7-1 road victory. He settled down quickly after allowing a second-inning homer.
"After that home run, I said, 'I need to stay calm and be patient,'" Iwakuma said through a translator. "That got me in a groove."
Iwakuma said a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand was "a little tender" after the game, but the Mariners do not expect it to bother him Sunday.
Sale is 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA in four career games - two starts - against Seattle. He has struck out 21 Mariners over 17 2-3 innings in those contests.
That doesn't bode well for a Mariners team that stranded six runners and went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position Saturday.
"We just weren't able to capitalize on some of the opportunities we created for ourselves," manager Eric Wedge said.