Once the darlings of the baseball world and Chicago media, both Windy City squads have fallen on hard times as they limp toward the postseason on the strength of their early and mid-season success. Many had this series circled on the schedule once it came out, rightfully predicting it could have playoff implications. Exactly how the situation is playing out, though, that’s another matter.
The good news for both teams is that they’ve both already clinched playoff spots. The not so good news is that they both have division crowns and seeding still left to play for. If you can believe it, the White Sox (34-23) have fared even worse than the Cubs (32-25) over their last 10 games, going just 3-7 and getting swept by the Indians in a four-game set in Cleveland. The Cubs have at least played .500 ball in their last 10, even if they did lose three straight in Pittsburgh due to a nonexistent offense.
They scored just 10 runs over past seven games, half of which came in the series opener in Pittsburgh. Everyone not named Jason Heyward is mired in the midst of their worst career year or a prolonged slump. Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, and Kyle Schwarber aren’t even cracking the Mendoza line at the moment and Bryant is out with a litany of injury issues that have derailed his year and irrevocably shattered the confidence many Cubs fans have in the former MVP.
Rather than belabor the point about how bad things have been for the struggling offense, it’s worth noting that all of them will have their slates washed clean after this weekend when they embark on their playoff run. As David Ross recently noted, the “W” is all that matters at this point.
Yu Darvish looks to right both his and the club’s proverbial ship on Friday night in the opener. Although he hasn’t been horrible by any means, he’s lost two of his last three starts to put an end to most of the Cy Young chatter. Big Jon Lester will take the bump on Saturday night in what could be his last regular season start as a Cub. Lester has been terrific in his last three, posting an ERA of 1.06 and looking like prime BDJ. Sunday could be especially fun as José Quintana takes the bump in his old stomping grounds, likely making his last start as a Cub.
While the White Sox offense hasn’t been nearly as putrid, they’ve been stunted of late as well. That being said, they still have some enormous firepower at their disposal and something tells me neither team’s recent stats will matter much this weekend. Tim Anderson (.338 BA, 10 HR, 21 RBI) and José Abreu (.325 BA, 19 HR, 57 RBI) are still leading the way for the Sox and Abreu is probably the frontrunner for the AL MVP at this point. We all know what he did last time the two clubs played, so perhaps he’s gotten all of his home run hitting out of his system. Former Cubs farmhand Eloy Jiménez is also having a fine campaign, hitting .296 with 14 home runs and 41 RBI.
Another former Cubs farmhand, Dylan Cease, gets the ball on Friday night against Darvish. Cease has been good but has some underlying issues with walks that suggest the Cubs could take advantage. If they decide to lace up their hitting shoes, that is. Two other youngsters, right-handers Dane Dunning and Reynaldo López, get the ball from Rickey Renteria to round out the series.
Game Time and Broadcast Info
Friday, September 25 @ 7:00 pm CT on Marquee, NBC Sports Chicago, and ESPN2
Saturday, September 26 @ 6:10 pm CT on Marquee and NBC Sports Chicago
Sunday, September 27 @ 2:05 pm CT on Marquee, NBC Sports Chicago, and TBS
What to Watch For
- The Sox are 13-0 this season against left-handed starters and the Cubs are starting two lefties. What could go wrong?
- Will the Cubs break out offensively ahead of the postseason?
- Scoreboard watching will likely be a huge part of the weekend as the White Sox are one game back of the Twins and the Cubs sit three and a half in front of the Cardinals. Both teams could win their divisions this weekend.
- José Abreu is 7-for-12 against the Cubs this season with six home runs and nine RBI. In 3 games.
- Despite their recent struggles and fans’ pessimism, it is possible this series could be a preview of another one in October. As unlikely as that possibility is at the moment, for the first time in a long time, it will actually be possible with both teams in the playoffs.
- We now know that Brailyn Marquez has been added to the 40-man playoff pool. Since he’s now eligible to pitch in the postseason, why not give him a shot this weekend?