Nothing epitomizes baseball in Chicago more than two mediocre teams meeting in the annual Crosstown Classic.
For the first time, the Cubs and White Sox play a four-game home-and-away series beginning today at U.S. Cellular Field – a blessing for fans tired of a rivalry that has lost its luster. The Sox no longer feature two of Cubs fans’ top targets, with manager Ozzie Guillen and catcher A.J. Pierzynski gone.
As for the Cubs, Sox fans need to dig deep to find a clever way to insult the fan base of a team that is 11 games under .500 and owns the third-worst record in the majors. There are only so many times you can mock the Cubs for not winning a World Series since 1908.
Although plenty of tickets are available for all four games, there are intriguing storylines.
Arms battle: The rotations both rank in the top 10 in the majors, and their dominance should continue this week.
Tuesday features the most intriguing matchup as Cubs right-hander Edwin Jackson (1-7, 6.11 ERA) returns to U.S. Cellular Field to face a Sox team he was with for part of two seasons (2010-2011). Jackson has yet to live up to the four-year, $52 million deal he signed in the offseason, unlike Sox left-hander Chris Sale (5-2, 2.53), who signed a five-year, $32.5 million contract before the season. Sale is expected to start Tuesday after missing his last start because of mild tendinitis in his left shoulder.
Anemic offense: Neither team is close to being a run-scoring machine. The Cubs and Sox rank 24th and 25th, respectively, in runs scored, although each is capable of slugging a home run or two in any given game. Strong starting pitching, combined with bad offense should make for great entertainment, however. All four games should be close and could be decided in the late innings. Advantage Sox, who have a much more reliable bullpen.
Passionate fan bases: With neither the Cubs nor Sox having reached the postseason since 2008, let’s just say both organizations are anxious to return. Although those playoff droughts likely will continue this season, fans’ enthusiasm and frustrations are ever present.
The crosstown rivalry brings out the best and worst in both teams’ fans, and although nothing of value is on the line when the Cubs and Sox meet this week, expect passionate crowds.
Just don’t do the wave.
Jeff Samardzija (2-6, 3.25 ERA) vs. Jose Quintana (3-1, 3.48 ERA)
6:10 p.m. Monday, U.S. Cellular Field
TV: WGN, CSN
Edwin Jackson (1-7, 6.11) vs. Chris Sale (5-2, 2.53)
7:10 p.m. Tuesday, U.S. Cellular Field
TV: CSN, WCIU
John Danks (0-0, 4.50) vs. Scott Feldman (4-4, 2.80)
1:20 p.m. Wednesday, Wrigley Field
TV: WGN, CSN
Jake Peavy (6-2, 2.97) vs. Travis Wood (4-3, 2.73)
1:20 p.m. Thursday, Wrigley Field
TV: CSN, WGN