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Sale aims to increase strikeout total vs. Rangers

Jun 19, 2015 - 2:44 PM ( - Chris Sale is racking up strikeouts at a tremendous rate and the Chicago White Sox hope the K's keep coming Friday in the opener of a three-game series versus the Texas Rangers.

Sale has struck out 10 or more batters in each of his last five starts and joined Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson as the only pitchers since 1914 to fan 12 or more batters in at least four straight outings. He posted 12 in a 2-1 loss at Tampa Bay on Sunday, allowing two runs over 6 2/3 innings.

The left-hander, who is fifth in the majors with 105 strikeouts, became the first pitcher since David Price in 2014 to strike out 10 or more batters in five straight starts. Johnson turned the trick in six straight starts in 2002.

His 51 K's over the past four starts are a franchise record. Sale is 3-1 with a 0.92 earned run average over that stretch and has yielded just three runs in that time. Sale has a 6-3 record and a 3.01 ERA in 12 starts.

Sale is 2-1 in six home starts and has faced the Rangers 10 times (6 starts) in his career, going 4-2 with a 3.89 ERA. In a 9-2 victory at Texas on June 3, Sale whiffed 13 batters across seven shutout innings of three-hit ball.

Chicago could use another strong showing from Sale and is mired in a season- worst seven-game losing streak, which continued with Thursday's 3-2 setback versus the Pittsburgh Pirates in the finale of a four-game series. The Pirates banged out 13 hits to Chicago's three and Gerrit Cole became the first pitcher with 11 wins, charged with two runs and three hits in seven innings.

Jeff Samardzija pitched well in the no-decision for the White Sox and gave up two runs and 10 hits in seven innings. He struck out seven and did not walk a batter. Jake Petricka gave up the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth to suffer the loss.

Geovany Soto homered in defeat.

"It's starting to be buckle down time when we need to put together a string of good games and it has to be sooner than later before the trade deadline starts creeping up on us," White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton said.

The Rangers were aiming for a four-game, home-and-home sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but dropped a 1-0 decision Thursday on Keone Kela's balk in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Pinch-runner Enrique Hernandez came home with two out for the winning run.

"We saw the slight shoulder turn. It was a lack of focus," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "(Kela's) focus should have been on the hitter."

Rangers starting pitcher Anthony Ranaudo, who was called up from Triple-A Round Rock to make the spot start, was impressive with 6 2/3 shutout innings, four strikeouts and two walks.

"We were very encouraged by what we saw from Ranaudo," Banister said. "It was a mature outing. He attacked the strike zone, used his fastball very well, moved it in and out. His changeup was in play as well as his breaking ball."

Texas had won five of six games and is 3 1/2 games behind Houston for the AL West lead.

Colby Lewis gets the start for the Rangers -- his 14th of the season -- and is 6-3 with a 4.37 ERA. Lewis is unbeaten (2-0) in his last three starts and 5-1 in his previous six decisions. In an 11-7 win versus Minnesota on Saturday, Lewis gave up three runs and four hits in seven innings, striking out six and walking just one batter.

Lewis has lasted seven innings in each of his past three starts after struggling in Cleveland on May 27, when he was hammered for 10 runs (9 earned) and 11 hits in only 2 2/3 innings.

The right-hander defeated the White Sox on June 2 in a 15-2 rout and pitched seven innings of two-run ball. Lewis owns a 6-3 record against the Pale Hose to go along with a 4.21 ERA in 12 games (10 starts).

Texas took two of three meetings with Chicago earlier this month in Arlington and has won four of the last five games in this series.