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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. White Sox series preview

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A win in this series would be... more than the Cubs had in the last one.

Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images

When these teams met three weeks ago at Wrigley Field, it was pretty much a disaster for the Cubs. They got swept and outscored 21-9, though there was one magic moment when Andrew Romine smashed a three-run homer off Craig Kimbrel.

As usual when the Cubs play the Sox, I ask Brett Ballantini, editor-in-chief of our SB Nation White Sox site South Side Sox, to write a few words about the South Side ballclub.

He wrote a lot of words. You will like them!

Hi everyone, I’m the White Sox guy. Al’s nice enough to ask for some thoughts on the team every year, and I try to give him what he asks for but probably always miss.

Wait though, I didn’t hear any applause when I walked in here. Anyone here? I know times have been a little tough since the trade deadline, but you’re still here, right?

I was ready to attack your hackneyed teardown, but Al and I had a brief chat about it and I suppose I’ll stand down on that.

(Truth: SB Nation limits our crosstown contact to build rivalry and hatred. Al’s the godfather here, I can check my contract, but I think it’s five Slack messages per month OR two phone calls OR one email plus reply OR one postal letter. Unlimited texting, but I’m still working off a rotary phone, so I’m more or less in the dark about the Cubs tearing everything down to the studs and patiently waiting for full health from Nick Madrgial, anticipated 2025.)

Last series came with a thorough rundown of the 2021 Chicago White Sox, so here’s what’s the haps since then.

The White Sox have been mediocre, playing .500ish since the All-Star Game. Somewhat understandable, given this is a somewhat rough patch of games (but Pittsburgh awaits!). Also, so what, the AL Central took eight steps back at the deadline, leaving the White Sox to look around them and think hey man, we took a BIG leap forward!

Plus, .500 ball wins you the AL Central this season. That’s not a figure of speech, or bluster based on the White Sox sprinting to 20 games over and mailing the second half in. Literally, second-place Cleveland is one game over .500, with a negative run differential pointing them to a losing final record, so a .500 record would likely in fact win the division.

Problem: The White Sox are playing a little bit down to that competition.

The offense should go WOMP but instead is too often womp-womp. Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert have returned from major injuries and are doing all right. Yasmani Grandal, of the Bat .100 and OPS 8.000 Grandals, is due back in time to possibly scowl at the unidentifiable Cubs in the dugout this very weekend. Carlos Rodón, who you will not see, is back as I type and, though it seems humanly impossible, is rolling with his jersey even farther unbuttoned than before.

It would be better if we had the 1983 Tony La Russa running things, 1983 not just being Tony’s high point in Chicago but the last time the White Sox ran away with a division that was filled with below-.500 teams (in fact, SIX, not the four of today). But even the best-in-baseball 1983 White Sox folded despite home field advantage, bullied by Earl Weaver’s Orioles and making young Brett shed a tiny tear when Tito Landrum took Britt Burns deep. My dad had Game 5 tickets for us, gifted from Moe Drabowsky. Wait, where was I?

Oh, Tony. Yeah, for those of you on the outside, Tony sucks just as much to us on the inside. He’s just … this was obviously not an inspired choice. I generate a managerial WAR metric that I would claim as proprietary if anyone gave a damn, but long story short Tony is going to cost the White Sox four wins this year. Big deal? I dunno. Worse than Ricky Renteria would have done this season, of that I am certain. As if those were the only two choices.

The White Sox rotation is still really good, and if Rodón doesn’t suffer some bare-chest injury while pitching, it seems like the South Siders have the best rotation in the game. I think that bodes well for postseason play?

The bullpen, well, I’m not unconvinced that Craig Kimbrel and Ryan Tepera aren’t sleeper agents. Let’s just leave it at that.

I think that wraps it. Al charges me for every column inch I run long, and seriously, our budget is hot dog Tuesdays compared to whatever caviar ‘n’ short ribs they’re feeding Yellon & Staff over there, in fact I think I just spent our October budget on this preview for you.

(psst OK, I think Al lost interest in reading this several paragraphs ago, so seriously, if any of you want to read my 12-step pamphlet, Everything You Wanted to Know About Having Your Billionaire Owner Turn the Audacious Blueprint for a Cubs Dynasty Into Toilet Paper and Then Expect You to Thank Him for It But Were Too Hung Over to Ask, it’s free. If your browser doesn’t have the site blocked, stop by SSS and just ask.)

Fun fact

Justin Steele and Dylan Cease were Cubs draft picks in 2014 in consecutive rounds, Steele in the fifth round, Cease in the sixth. They were never teammates in the Cubs system, though, because Steele began his pro career in ‘14 while Cease, recovering from Tommy John surgery, didn’t start till ‘15.

Probable pitching matchups

Friday: Keegan Thompson, RHP (3-3, 2.42 ERA, 1.321 WHIP, 4.91 FIP) vs. Dallas Keuchel, LHP (8-7, 4.71 ERA, 1.364 WHIP, 5.20 FIP)

Saturday: Alec Mills, RHP (5-6, 4.76 ERA, 1.488 WHIP, 3.99 FIP) vs. Lance Lynn, RHP (10-3, 2.20 ERA, 1.048 WHIP, 3.21 FIP)

Sunday: Kyle Hendricks (14-5, 4.09 ERA, 1.325 WHIP, 4.63 FIP) vs. Dylan Cease, RHP (10-6, 3.92 ERA, 1.228 WHIP, 3.57 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Friday: 7:10 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network, NBC Sports Chicago (Sox announcers), MLB Network (outside Cubs/White Sox market territory)

Saturday: 6:10 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network, NBC Sports Chicago (Sox announcers)

Sunday: 1:10 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network, NBC Sports Chicago (Sox announcers)

Prediction

The Cubs and White Sox have a 24-season history of regular-season play prior to this year. In those 24 seasons, the teams have played each other six times in 17 of those seasons, four times in five of those seasons, and three times twice. Thus 2021 is the 18th time they’ll have played six games against each other.

Neither team has ever swept all the games in any of the 17 previous years they’ve faced each other six times. The closest either team has come to doing so was in 2007, when the Cubs took five of six.

I’m going to say the Sox will match that this year. The Cubs will win one of these three, likely the game Kyle Hendricks starts, and thus avoid a six-game sweep.

Up next

The Cubs have Monday off, then travel to Minnesota to face the Twins for two games Tuesday and Wednesday at Target Field.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    3
    (16 votes)
  • 8%
    2
    (14 votes)
  • 31%
    1
    (52 votes)
  • 50%
    0
    (83 votes)
165 votes total Vote Now