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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. White Sox series preview

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The Sox are not off to a good start.

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Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

So, here we go with the first round of Chicago’s annual crosstown matchup, with the Cubs on a semi-roll off a three-game sweep of the Marlins, and the Sox on a five-game losing streak and having lost nine of their last 10.

I asked Brett Ballantini, managing editor of our SB Nation White Sox site South Side Sox, to update us on the Cubs’ South Side rivals. This is a bit longer than many of these updates, but I found it entertaining. I think you will too.

I live in a very old-growth, forested area. About a week ago, our neighbor had some tree-trimming done on her property. By “tree-trimming,” I mean to say that a small apocalypse was unleashed next door. If they made roach bombs for trees that came in forest-killing size, this is what was used for The Day After that has sprung up next door. Which is OK. It’s not my property. Aesthetically, I object to being able to see clear to Russia from my house, but, again, it’s not my property, so I was fully prepared to passive-aggressively seethe and work my tale of woe into, I dunno, baseball writing.

But in the process of the massacree, about a dozen Pinto-sized pine branches were felled right on top of a patch of our garden; our irrigation lines were blitzkrieged several times over by weapons of foliage destruction, cracking several sprinkler heads; our glorious, mighty oak, a tree that might predate organized baseball and almost certainly dates to the days until recently considered the “last” Cubs and White Sox titles, had about a dozen limbs severed willy-nilly, without our permission.

So, a tree-trimming that on one hand began as a plausible, even expected, bout of discomfort over the course of a short period of time turned into a rather violent and unseemly transgression, yielding far uglier results than I would have anticipated in even the worst case.

Why do I share my story of unfettered chainsawing? The decimation, which may have started out as a good idea but right now looks like charred wasteland, is a hallucinogenic fair representation of where White Sox fans stand right now, heading into the team’s first crosstown series vs. the Cubs.

We knew there would be pain coming with a rebuild. Some of the greater masochists of the fan base even welcomed the pain, aching for the endorphin rush of, what, a No. 3 pick instead of a No. 6 next June?

None of us thought it would be this ugly.

Yes, the 2018 White Sox have been a violation.

We knew the starting rotation, with James Shields and Miguel González passing as veteran hands, would be the baby’s bottom of this uncommonly soft major league team. My hopes were that Lucas Giolito would extend his hot finish to 2017 into genuine acedom this year (not even close), Reynaldo López and González would be average starters (López has been a revelation — although, true to form, all too many White Sox fans are bellyaching about his high FIP and uncommon luck in escaping full-on tire fires of his own lighting — while González was atrocious through a few starts, is currently shelved with a shoulder injury, and is in line for release if and when the White Sox promote Michael Kopech), and we’d just have to turn and cough for Shields’s and Carson Fulmer’s starts (Shields and his Wiffleball delivery has been oddly, creepily effective, in a softball beerleaguer sorta way, while Fulmer already has been the subject of several defensive, expletive-laden and borderline irrational rants by pitching coach Don Cooper).

I believed the bullpen would, like last year before every reliever with an intact rotator cuff was shipped to contenders for additional rebuild pieces, be solid: Joakim Soria was still breathing, Luis Avilán seemed just well-traveled and left-handed enough to be an ideal flip candidate, Nate Jones was healthy and tossing 100 mile per hour beebees. I no longer feel that way. The best flip deal the White Sox could make for a current reliever would bring back bus fare for a future Charlotte callup like Kopech or Eloy Jiménez. No meal money, mind you; just bus fare.

The offense, after a godawful 2017, broke out in the thin air of Glendale and looked revitalized for 2018. When Matt Davidson led off the season with three homers of shot-from-bazooka exit velocity, and the Sox as a whole clocked six taters in the frozen air of Kansas City on Opening Day, the breakout seemed less mirage, more a foundation of a surprise wild-card run.

After about a week or so, however, the offense’s average exit velocity trickled to about a 4 mile per hour average and, with help from a snowbound weekend of blizzardy goodness in Minneapolis (three postponed games, after an utter handcuffing by the mesmerizing curveball of Jose Berrios), the bats went into deep freeze.

If he’s smart enough not to read the ninnied handwringing of the White Sox twitterverse, Yoan Moncada seems poised to be the White Sox’s lone All-Star in 2018. He’s a five-tool, real deal. Some Sox fans prefer to bellyache over his 89.7 percent strikeout rate or the cranky hammy that currently has him on the 10-day DL, but I’d rather luxuriate in the 5.0-plus WAR pace he was on before his shelving.

Jose Abreu is solid, and stolid, as always. Yolmer Sánchez is having a pretty strong season as the surprise regular at the hot corner; if WAR had a wackiness element, he’d be ahead of Kris Bryant on the MLB leaderboards. Tim Anderson is hot and cold, subject to some rough offensive and defensive slumps, but leading the league in Annoying Persnickety Opponents (APO); if he finds a way to fuel is WAR with his off-the-charts APO, he’d be right there with Sánchez on the leaderboards.

I think that’s it for the offense. Let me check. OK, there’s this new guy, Daniel Palka, swings at every first pitch and has hit a few bombs. White Sox fans being “blue collar” and all, we’re doing things like the “Palka Polka” and stuff. Palka’s sort of our Kyle Schwarber, give or take a few Ho-Hos.

Yeah, really though, that’s about it.

There are kids on the farm. Kopech is just service time away from leaving Triple-A. For some mysterious reason, our outfielder who is destined to haunt you much harder than Sammy Sosa ever spooked us, Jiménez, is still at Double-A, where the latest footage has his home runs toppling escaping shoplifters for easy arrest and gently nudging spooked kitties from tree limbs.

There is talk that the Winston-Salem Dash, our ludicrously loaded Advanced-A club managed by Omar Vizquel and featuring like eight future All-Stars attempting to fit into one outfield, could sweep the White Sox right now, if they played. Don’t believe that crazy talk; realistically, the Dash would take two out of three.

Man, I just read this over. It is pretty depressing. Maybe not as depressing as having a bizarre, three-wins-in-three-cities-in-three-days-tiebreaker-back-into-the-playoffs 10 years ago be our last postseason berth. But still, yeesh.

Maybe I could have told this tale of woe much more quickly.

Before the season, on our initial, revamped SSS podcast, I predicted the White Sox would win 68 games. My partner, Matt Smith, was far more optimistic: After a winning Cactus League slate, he tabbed the team for something like 75 or 80 victories. After the Opening Day bludgeoning of the Kansas City Royals and two overall wins in K.C. before the first snowout of the season hit, I felt guilty for having undercut my beloved ballclub.

The White Sox, at 9-25, are currently on pace to win 43 games this year.

I no longer feel guilty, just stupid.

Fun fact

Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito’s mom is famous in her own right. She’s Lindsay Frost, an actress who first starred in the daytime soap “Days Of Our Lives,” and has been in other TV series such as “Birdland” and “Crossing Jordan.” Giolito’s grandfather, Warren Frost, played Dr. Hayward on “Twin Peaks.”

Pitching matchups

Friday: Tyler Chatwood, RHP (2-3, 3.31 ERA, 1.531 WHIP, 4.26 FIP) vs. Carson Fulmer, RHP (2-2, 5.02 ERA, 1.605 WHIP, 6.44 FIP)

Saturday: Jon Lester, LHP (2-1, 2.82 ERA, 1.330 WHIP, 4.80 FIP) vs. James Shields, RHP (1-3, 5.14 ERA, 1.333 WHIP, 4.37 FIP)

Sunday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (3-2, 3.02 ERA, 1.030 WHIP, 4.79 FIP) vs. Lucas Giolito, RHP (1-4, 7.25 ERA, 1.667 WHIP, 6.02 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Friday: 1:20 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago (Cubs announcers), MLB Network (outside Chicago market), WGN (Sox announcers)

Saturday: 1:20 p.m. CT, WGN (Cubs announcers), NBC Sports Chicago (Sox announcers)

Sunday: 1:20 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago (Cubs announcers), MLB Network (outside Chicago market), NBC Sports Chicago (Sox announcers)

Prediction

I’d love to say the Cubs should sweep this series, but predicting sweeps is not good form. So I’ll say two of three, and hope that the favorable pitching matchups produce three of three.

Up next

The Cubs play the Atlanta Braves in what amounts to a four-game series. Monday, the teams will play a makeup game at Wrigley Field for the April 15 rainout, then head to Atlanta for three more games.


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Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the White Sox?

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    3
    (218 votes)
  • 31%
    2
    (116 votes)
  • 6%
    1
    (23 votes)
  • 4%
    0
    (16 votes)
373 votes total Vote Now