But those studying the odds probably weren't anticipating how well Nick Tepesch would pitch coming off a bad knee, how stout the Rangers' bullpen would be and how Chicagoland native Adam Rosales would have the greatest day of his career in front of 15 or so family and friends.
They also forgot that Rosales owns Sale -- even if there is no real explanation for it.
On a day of well-played baseball, all of that stood out for the Rangers as they held off the White Sox for a 3-1 victory. The Rangers end up taking two of three from the White Sox and have won consecutive games for the first time since June 27-28 against the Twins.
"Today we did a lot of things right ... we just need to do them more consistently," manager Ron Washington said. "We didn't know what Tepesch would give us after having 10 days off, but today he stayed focused and executed his pitches. He did a great job."
Rosales, looking like something between Joe Morgan and Ryne Sandberg while playing second base, hit two home runs for the first time in his career -- including a two-run shot of Sale in the second that the Rangers were able to make stand up. He also helped turn three double plays in the field and got another big out on a diving stop.
"It was a good day for us and felt pretty good for me," Rosales said. "To help the team out like that meant a lot to me. I had a lot of family here, this is my hometown. Chris Sale is a great pitcher. To win against him with Tepesch throwing well is great."
Tepesch, who was skipped in his last start because of a sore left knee, hadn't won since June 27. Sale hadn't lost since June 12. But Tepesch outpitched the three-time All-Star by holding the White Sox scoreless through 5 2/3 innings.
"He is one of the best in the game," Tepesch said. "Any time we can win a game facing a guy like that is a positive. I felt good. I felt like I was in rhythm and within myself mechanically the whole time."
Tepesch allowed six hits and a walk while striking out two. He picked off a runner in the first and allowed the leadoff hitter reach base in the third through sixth innings. But he stayed out of trouble by getting the White Sox to hit into double plays in the third, fourth and fifth.
"We were successful getting that first guy on and he kept rolling that double-play ball," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "That was big one for him. Couldn't move it over to the other side, just kept rolling over. It's a rally killer and everything else, but it's a big lift for him to be able to double us up that many times."
Tepesch was working with an early lead. Sale started the second inning by hitting J.P. Arencibia in the foot with a 2-2 slider. That brought up Rosales, who entered the game 5-for-9 with two home runs in his career against Sale. The count again went to 2-2 before Rosales smashed a fastball over the right-center field wall for a two-run home run.
"Against Sale, you've got to be aggressive, I guess," Rosales said. "He's a great pitcher and I have been fortunate in the few at-bats that I've had against him to be successful."
Tepesch was tough through five before running into trouble in the sixth. But the bullpen picked him up after Alejandro De Aza led off with a single. Tepesch retired the next two hitters before Alexei Ramirez doubled into the left-field corner. Left fielder Jim Adduci did a good job of playing the ball out of the corner, which prevented De Aza from scoring.
That brought up Jose Abreu, who began the day leading the Majors with 86 RBIs. Roman Mendez, taking over for Tepesch, got ahead with a first-pitch slider, then got Abreu to ground out to shortstop to end the inning.
Rosales hit his second home run off of Daniel Webb in the top of the seventh and Dayan Viciedo hit one off of Mendez with one out in the bottom of the inning. A two-out single by Tyler Flowers then set up a key confrontation between White Sox pinch-hitter Paul Konerko and Rangers reliever Neal Cotts. In a battle of former teammates, Cotts struck out Konerko to end the inning.
Cotts got the Rangers through the eighth and retired Adam Dunn on a fly ball to start the ninth. Neftali Feliz then came in and threw 94-96 mph fastballs past Viciedo and Conor Gillaspie to end the game.
"Neftali was throwing his pitches today," Washington said. "We were able to close some things down when they presented themselves. We haven't always done that, but today we did."