I have a story for you this evening in place of the usual notes with which I’ve been beginning previews.
1997 was the first year of interleague play and thus the first time the Cubs had ever played the White Sox in a game that counted in the standings. I was at the first such game, played at the park then still known as Comiskey, June 16. (The Cubs won the game 8-3, though they lost the series two games to one.)
The Cubs entered that series 27-40, on their way to a 94-loss season. The Sox had been expected to contend that year, but were also under .500 at 30-35, though just five games out of first place behind the Indians. Oddly, even with that bad record the Cubs were only 5½ games out of first place, as every team in what was dubbed the “Comedy Central” had a losing record at the time.
I asked some White Sox fans I was seated next to, “Will you root for the Cubs when they play the Indians later this year?”
They were horrified at the thought. “Oh, no, we could never do that!” was the response.
And therein, I believe, lies the difference between the two fanbases. When the Sox play the Cardinals or Brewers in interleague play — heck yeah, I want them to win every single game against the Cubs’ biggest division rivals. But the White Sox fans I spoke with that afternoon could not conceive of wanting the Cubs to win even if it helped their own team’s chances of making the postseason.
This inter-city rivalry has always seemed to mean more to the Sox fan (and sometimes, the players) than it does to the Cubs. To me it’s just another two games I want the Cubs to win, and even one Cubs player sees it that way:
Reporter shows Kris Bryant an @scottmerkin tweet and this quote from Dylan Covey on Cubs-Sox: “We definitely want to beat them, no doubt, every single time.”— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) June 15, 2019
“I didn’t even know we played them next week,” says Bryant, who roomed with Covey at the University of San Diego. #Merk
For the Sox fan, it looks to this outside viewer that if the Sox can’t win the World Series in any particular year, it’s OK as long as they beat the Cubs. For me, these could just as well be two games against the Padres or Nationals.
One last note, and this is addressed to Rob Manfred and MLB. If there is expansion and divisional realignment, please, please don’t put the Cubs and Sox in the same division. No one wants these teams meeting 18 (or more!) times a year.
Here are today’s particulars.
White Sox lineup:
Cole Hamels, LHP vs. Ivan Nova, RHP
Cole Hamels has made 408 MLB starts. Ivan Nova has made 203 MLB starts. Both have been around for a long time.
And yet, this is the first time they have ever faced each other in their travels around the big leagues.
Hamels is having a fantastic June: three starts, 22 innings, 0.00 ERA (one unearned run), 0.682 WHIP, 23 strikeouts. He’s coming off one of his best starts as a Cub in one of the toughest places to pitch, Coors Field.
He last faced the White Sox last year, July 1, 2018 at Texas, and the Sox pummeled him for seven runs in five innings. Hamels was bad all last year at Globe Life Park, so perhaps we can dismiss that.
Current White Sox are a small-sample-size 11-for-44 (.250) against him with one home run (Jose Abreu).
Ivan Nova is quite familiar to us from his days with the Pirates. He made four starts against the Cubs last year and posted a 3.86 ERA and 1.286 WHIP, which is decent enough.
Not so decent is Nova’s 2019 season. He’s just been bad. He is leading the major leagues in hits allowed (103) and his ERA has not been below 6 since mid-April. Current Cubs are hitting .295 (41-for-139) against him with five home runs, two of those by Javier Baez.
Because baseball, I wouldn’t want to say this is a “gimme,” but this certainly looks like a favorable pitching matchup tonight.
Today’s game is on NBC Sports Chicago. This game is also being carried by streaming service ESPN+ — sign up for ESPN+ here. ESPN+ games are blacked out in the participating teams’ home markets. If you have “cut the cord,” NBC Sports Chicago games can be streamed in the Cubs’ market territory via Fubo. Sign up for Fubo here. It’s also on WGN with the White Sox announcers.
SB Nation game preview
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The 2019 Game Thread procedure will be the same as the one used in previous years. Here’s how it works.
You’ll find the game preview posted separately on the front page, two hours before game time (90 minutes for some early day games following night games).
At the same time, a StoryStream containing the preview will also post on the front page. The First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads will be published in that stream, as well as the recap. The recap will also live on the front page as a separate post, and at the time I write the recap I will rename the stream “Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads” so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.
You will also be able to find the preview, First Pitch Thread, all the overflow threads and recap in the box marked “Chicago Cubs Game Threads” at the bottom of the front page (you can also find them in this section link). They will also appear in the game’s StoryStream as noted above.
The First Pitch thread will post at five minutes before game time, then an overflow thread at one hour, two hours and 2:45 after the scheduled game time.
Discuss amongst yourselves.