Series Preview: Crosstown Classic, Part I

The White Sox are back in Chicago to finish up their “road trip” with two games at Wrigley Field before heading back to the other side of town for two games at the Cell.  We will preview the two games at Wrigley today and then hit the games at the Cell on Wednesday.

The Sox snapped a four-game losing streak with a dramatic come from behind win on Sunday capped off by Dayan Viciedo’s three run homer in the ninth inning off Indians closer John Axford.  It was a much needed win after a couple of rough days in Cleveland.

The Cubs had their season-best three-game winning streak snapped on Sunday night by the Cardinals.  The Cubs are 11-18 overall but 7-9 with a positive run differential at home in the Friendly Confines.  Last year they swept the Sox in all four games, taking control of the BP Cup for the first time.

The White Sox lead the overall series at 49-45 but the Cubs hold a one game lead at Wrigley Field with a 24-23 mark.

Pitching Matchups

The series gets underway on Monday night as Jose Quintana (1-2, 4.00 ERA) takes on Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija (0-3, 1.98 ERA).

Samardzija has been the tough luck pitcher for the Cubs this year.  As indicated by his ERA, he doesn’t deserve to be 0-3.  In fact, Samardzija hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a start yet this season and has pitched at least seven innings in five of his six outings. His strikeouts are down a little bit this year from where he has been throughout his career but he is keeping the ball in the ballpark, and that has helped.

Samardzija has been very good at Wrigley Field this year posting a 2.11 ERA and a 1.219 WHIP in three starts and has held opponents to a .235/.295/.321 triple slash.

Lifetime against the White Sox, Samardzija is 1-2 with a 1.80 ERA and a very good 0.700 WHIP in five games (2 starts).  No White Sox hitters have more than nine career plate appearances against the former Notre Dame wide receiver with Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Gordon Beckham each taking him deep once.  Alejandro De Aza is 0-for-8 with five strikeouts against him.

Jose Quintana will be looking to get back on track against the Cubs.  Quintana has seen his ERA rise from 2.37 to 4.00 over the last three starts.  While he hasn’t pitched badly the last few times out, he hasn’t been very sharp either. He did have ten strikeouts against no walks in his last outing versus the Tigers while giving up three runs over six innings.

Quintana made one start against the Cubs last year and gave up four runs on four hits over six innings with three walks and five strikeouts in a losing effort.  No current Cubs hitter has more than three plate appearances against Quintana with Emilio Bonifacio and Anthony Rizzo each having a hit apiece against the Colombian southpaw.

Game two at Wrigley will be Tuesday night and will feature Hector Noesi (0-2, 11.12 ERA) going up against former Sox hurler Edwin Jackson (2-2, 5.24 ERA).

E-Jax is off to his typical up and down start for the Cubs this year.  He has given up four or more runs three times and less than three runs twice in six starts so far this year. His strikeouts are right about at his career average but he is walking 4.5 batters per nine this year, one full walk higher than his career average.

Jackson has struggled at Wrigley Field in 2014, posting a 5.71 ERA and a 1.731 WHIP while allowing opposing hitters to bat .319/.392/.449 against him.  He has also had issues with left handed hitters who are hitting .339 with six extra base hits.

In his career against the White Sox, Jackson is 1-4 with a 6.60 ERA over eight starts. White Sox batters have hit .321 with 10 homers against Jackson throughout his career.  Despite the eight career starts only three current Sox hitters have faced Jackson. Gordon Beckham is hitting .400 with three doubles against E-Jax while Alexei Ramirez is an unbelieveable 0-for-17 and Paul Konerko is 1-for-12 with a couple strikeouts.

For the Sox, Hector Noesi will be making his second spot start since being claimed off waivers. He pitched admirably against the Tigers, throwing three scoreless innings before getting hit around in the fourth. In the end, Noesi was charged with four runs on five hits in 3.2 innings with one walk and two strikeouts.  He threw 51 pitches, the most he has thrown in a game this season.

The Sox will probably hope to get four, maybe five innings out of Noesi and then turn it over to the bullpen, as they did in his last start.

Noesi has made one relief appearance against the Cubs in his career and tossed a scoreless inning.  Current Cub John Baker (2-for-3) and Ryan Kalish (1-for-2) have hits against him while Emilio Bonifacio and Starlin Castro are both 0-for-1.

Keys to the Series

Score Some Runs: The White Sox have struggled offensively over the last week hitting just .199/.275/.323 and have only scored 13 runs. They have also struck out 48 times with just 16 walks in that same time span.

Injuries have played a part, but overall the offense has struggled the last week or so. If the Sox want to get back on track, their offense is going to have to carry them for right now. With the rotation in flux and the bullpen logging a lot of innings, the Sox are going to have to out hit people to win games and the Cubs are not a very good hitting team so far.

Cubs Young Core: Despite the overall offensive numbers being less than stellar, the Cubs are getting good production from a couple of their cornerstone pieces.

Credit: Brian Kersey, Getty Images

Credit: Brian Kersey, Getty Images

Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are off to very good starts. Rizzo hitting .294/.421/.510 with six homers and 16 RBI and has more walks than strikeouts.  Castro is hitting .302 with four homers and 14 RBI and has cut down on the strikeouts.  It will be important for the Sox to not let these two beat them over the course of the next four days.

Injury Issues: The White Sox have had more injury issues already this year than I can recall them having for a long time.

Chris Sale, Avisail Garcia, Jeff Keppinger, Gordon Beckham, Nate Jones, Conor Gillaspie, Felipe Paulino and now Adam Eaton have all spent time on the DL at one time or another so far this year.  They have still managed to perform pretty well but I think part of the hitting issues over the last week can be attributed to the constant flow of players to the training room.

With so many guys out the Sox have had to turn to some different places than they had expected. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the newest White Sox Moises Sierra in this series if Jordan Danks continues to struggle.

Outlook

Well, this series doesn’t carry the same cache that it once did and playing four straight days with two at each ballpark in the middle of the week really kills the hype even more.

It also doesn’t help that both clubs are rebuilding and there isn’t much in the way of expectations for either team.

Despite all that, I think the White Sox are a little upset with being swept last year and want to get some revenge.  It is going to be a tough couple of games with Samardzija going Monday and the Sox starting Noesi on Tuesday so a split at Wrigley might be the best they can hope for before returning to the best, I mean, south side.

matthoeppner

About matthoeppner

White Sox fan for as long as I can remember. Graduate of the Michigan State School of Journalism, Pitch F/X Operator for MLB.com, play-by-play announcer for the Michigan Regional Sports Network and new dad. I live in the Detroit area but am still a Chicagoan all the way.

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