August 12, 2016

MIAMI -- Sunday at Marlins Park would've been a great pitching matchup ... and it still might be, just without the marquee billing.

The originally scheduled duel between the Miami Marlins and the Chicago White Sox called for a pair of All-Stars -- right-hander Jose Fernandez for the home team and left-hander Chris Sale for the visitors.

But when the Marlins decided to rest Fernandez -- skipping him until next Friday to afford him more rest -- the marquee was trashed.

Fernandez, who is 26-2 with a 1.62 ERA at Marlins Park, would have been a tough matchup for Sale. But Fernandez, who is on pace for 185 innings in this his first full year after elbow surgery, was held back. The goal is to keep him at about 180 innings this year.

Instead of Fernandez, Sale will match pitches with Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler, who has been dominant in his past four starts, going 3-0 with a 0.67 ERA.

"He's been our best starter the past month," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Koehler.

The White Sox (56-60) will go for a three-game sweep over the Marlins (60-56) on Sunday. With Saturday's loss, the Marlins moved a half-game behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the second and final NL wild-card playoff berth.

Making matters tougher for the Marlins will be Sale, who will be making his fourth start since his behavior cost him a five-day suspension.

On July 23, while the rest of the team was taking batting practice, Sale used a knife to cut up several of his team's throw-back uniforms.

Since coming back, Sale is 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA.

He is better than that, historically, in terms of winning games, posting a career record of 71-45 with a 2.95 ERA.

It will be interesting to see how he does in his first game at Marlins Park. Sale is a native Floridian, and his hometown of Lakeland is a four-hour car-ride away.

Sale, 27, still has nasty stuff. At 6 feet 6, 180 pounds, his fastball gets on hitters in a hurry, which is why he was a first-round pick -- No. 13 overall -- in 2010.

He made it to the majors that same year and started a dominant run in 2012. Since that season, he is a five-time All-Star. He has also finished in the top 10 in the American League in ERA and strikeouts four years in a row. This year, he could extend both streaks.

The White Sox are confident that Sale can turn things around.

"We have a good clubhouse right now," White Sox catcher Dioner Navarro said after Saturday's 8-7 victory over Miami. "We're confident in Chris. We're confident in all our guys."

Sale's job Sunday could be made easier because of an apparent groin injury suffered by Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who had three hits -- including a homer -- and three RBIs on Saturday.

Stanton pulled up lame on the final out of the game, grabbing his left side.

"They're looking at something in his groin area," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.

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