The first of two Cubs/White Sox three-game series for this year begins Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Both teams were expected to contend in 2015 after they made some major offseason acquisitions. The Sox have floundered for much of the year, though in the muddled-up American League they stand just 6½ games out of a wild-card spot.
I asked Jim Margalus, managing editor of SB Nation's White Sox site South Side Sox, to write up a brief summary of his team so far:
I've seen Cubs fans complaining about their run production over the last few weeks. Now, take those complaints, stretch them out over the length of the entire season, and remove the solace that elite-prospect hitters provide, and that's what it's been like watching the White Sox offense this season. The pitching is what Rick Hahn and the front office thought it would be. Chris Sale is incredible, Jeff Samardzija stumbled out of the gate, but he's living up to his billing now, Jose Quintana is doing his thing, and is the Sox' uber-prospect (you know he's going to be great, even when he hits rough patches). The bullpen wobbles at times, but it's doing the job, more or less. All in all, it's a pitching staff of a postseason team. The position players, on the other hand, look like they couldn't form a Triple-A team at times. It'd be one thing if they couldn't hit, which they aren't. But, as a group, they also struggle to run the bases and catch the ball, which is why they're on pace for a historic kind of bad at the halfway point. They've smoothed out their roughest edges some -- Carlos Sanchez has brought a measure of calm to the infield, even if his approach at the plate isn't working. The catchers flirted with disaster early, but now they're only mildly underperforming. Adam Eaton is basically what he was supposed to be since the start of May, and Melky Cabrera started hitting in early June. But when looking at the lineup over the entire season to date, only Jose Abreu has answered the call from Day One, and that's why they're in the position they're in.
Friday: Kyle Hendricks (4-4, 3.82 ERA, 1.152 WHIP, 3.41 FIP) vs. Carlos Rodon (3-2, 4.18 ERA, 1.641 WHIP, 3.68 FIP)
Saturday: Jon Lester (4-7, 3.48 ERA, 1.277 WHIP, 3.31 FIP) vs. Chris Sale (7-4, 2.80 ERA, 0.944 WHIP, 2.31 FIP)
Sunday: Jake Arrieta (9-5, 2.80 ERA, 1.047 WHIP, 2.72 FIP) vs. Jose Quintana (4-8, 3.69 ERA, 1.295 WHIP, 3.32 FIP)
The White Sox have some pretty good pitchers, but they rank 10th in the American League in runs allowed. As noted by Jim, their offense can look worse than the Cubs', and they are last in the A.L. in runs scored. They've been better lately, winning seven of their last nine (including taking two from the Cardinals in St. Louis!), but they are 16-27 on the road. Each of these pitching matchups couldn't have worked out better -- the first is two young up-and-coming stars, the second between marquee names, the third matches up solid starters who don't always get the recognition they deserve. The Cubs will take two of three, and all three could be low-scoring affairs.
The All-Star break, followed by a three-game series against the Braves in Atlanta starting a week from today.