CHICAGO – The White Sox, riding a three-game winning streak, were supposed to use their four-game series against the Cubs to make a statement.
They had an opportunity to continue their dominance against their rivals to the north, a potential catalyst to send the Sox above .500 and ascend the AL Central standings.
Instead, the Cubs handed the Sox three thrashings – saved from a possible fourth loss thanks to a postponed game because of rain – topped by Thursday’s 8-3 win for the North Siders at Wrigley Field. Ultimately, the Cubs (22-30) owned the Sox (24-27) during the crosstown series, outscoring them 24-6.
“Anytime you have three games like this at any point, it’s discouraging,” Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “ … The way [the Cubs] are swinging it and pitching, you’re giving them a lot of opportunities to put you away, and they did.”
The crosstown rivalry represented a chance for the Sox to prove they’re legitimate threats to take down the Detroit Tigers and win the AL Central. Good teams take advantage of a team, such as the Cubs, that is scuffling and clearly in rebuild mode. But starting pitcher Travis Wood and the Cubs were the ones that made the Sox seem washed up and going nowhere.
“I think that we just have to step up with a little more intensity and it starts with me,” Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy said. “I didn’t do a very good job of that today, nor did much of anybody.”
Considering how well Cubs’ starting pitchers have hit the ball, it wouldn’t be a surprise if manager Dale Sveum decided to bump them up from the No. 9 spot. Sveum downplayed the idea, but Wood continued his run of stellar pitching performances – both on the mound and at the plate. Wood’s grand slam in the fourth off Peavy gave the Cubs a 6-1 lead, and they eventually cruised to the win.
Wood became the first Cubs pitcher to hit a grand slam at Wrigley since Burt Hooton in 1972.
“We take pride in our hitting, just being able to help ourselves out, just being able to handle the bat,” Wood said. “That way we’re not just a dead out.”
Wood’s self-critique of his outing didn’t make the Sox hitters look good. His plan was to keep the ball down with the 24 mph winds blowing out of the ballpark, which created optimal hitting conditions for both teams. But in Wood’s opinion, “I was kind of all over the place.”
Based on the Sox’s offensive performance, that would have been difficult to discern. Wood held the Sox to two runs on five hits in six innings. He also struck out six and walked two.
At one point during the third through fifth innings, Wood retired eight of nine batters he faced.
“I honestly didn’t do that very well the first 3 1/2, four innings,” Wood said. “I was pitching up and was fortunate enough that they were missing balls and popping them up, just light enough they didn’t go out of the ballpark.”
Thursday’s win locked up the Cubs’ first season series win against the Sox since 2007, when they went 5-1. Cubs pitchers helped their own cause against Sox pitchers, part of a month-long trend. The Cubs are the first NL team to record 19 RBIs from their pitchers in a calendar month, according to Elias. The Detroit Tigers were the last team to tally at least 19 RBIs from their pitchers (20 RBIs in 1940).
“I don’t like it, to be honest, they’re embarrassing all of us,” a smiling Anthony Rizzo said of Cubs’ pitchers success at the plate. “No, it’s great. They’re loose and they’re having fun and they’re keeping everyone else loose.”
• Meghan Montemurro covers the White Sox and Cubs for Shaw Media. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Sox Insider and Inside the Cubs blogs at NWHerald.com and on Twitter @Sox_Insider and @InsideTheCubs.