After pushing through five games with the Cardinals in three days, the Cubs come into this weekend’s matchup leading the NL Central with a 16-8 record. Their crosstown rivals find themselves in third place in the AL Central with a record of 15-11, but they’ve won five straight and have shown they can score in bunches. The White Sox have an exciting group and promise to make this an intense series.
Coming off two sets of doubleheaders in the Cards series, the Cubs got a chance to push the reset button with an off day Thursday. Their rotation remains set despite the twin bills, a function of calling up pitchers from South Bend to help out. Interestingly enough, those were the games they won on Monday and Wednesday.
The Cubs will face Dallas Keuchel, Dylan Cease, and maybe Gio Gonzalez, two of whom they know very well for different reasons. Gonzalez was with Milwaukee for a while and Cease is one of the guys the Cubs traded away to acquire José Quintana in 2017. Keuchel doesn’t have a lot of history with the Cubs, but is a quality veteran lefty of the sort this lineup usually doesn’t do well with. Let’s hope that’s not the case this weekend.
If dealing with the Sox pitchers doesn’t present enough of a challenge this weekend, the Southsiders’ lineup is deep scary. They have six guys with at least four home runs so far this year and have hit 43 on the year, second to the Yankees (45) in the AL. They’re coming off a sweep against those Tigers and they’ve scored 38 runs in their last five games.
Former Cub farmhand Eloy Jiménez has belted eight home runs and knocked in 19, Tim Anderson is hitting .379 with six bombs and 22 runs scored, and Sox mainstay first baseman José Abreu is having a fine start to the year with five home runs and 19 RBI. Rookie sensation Luis Robert will strike out a lot, but he’s also capable of hitting homers even when he falls down. The Cubs pitchers will have their hands full all weekend.
It’s a good thing they’ll be sending Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Yu Darvish to the hill in the series. That sets up especially nicely given the fact that the lineup has been feast or famine of late. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez, Kyle Schwarber, and Willson Contreras — the first five guys in the normal batting order — are all hitting below .231 so far this year, which is almost unbelievable given the Cubs record.
That being said, the Cubs have had some timely and unheralded contributions from bench and bottom-of-the-order guys David Bote (13 RBI) and Jason Kipnis (9 RBI). Oh, then there’s Ian Happ, who’s been setting the world on fire and looking like someone who wants to be added to that core position player group. His 1.5 fWAR is currently fifth best in the majors and he’s looking more and more like the real deal his manager says he is.
Game Time and Broadcast Info
- Friday, August 21 at 7:15 pm CT on Marquee, NBC Sports Chicago, ESPN (out of market)
- Saturday, August 22 at 7:15 pm CT on Marquee and NBC Sports Chicago
- Sunday, August 23 at 1:20 pm CT on Marquee and NBC Sports Chicago
What to Watch For
- Happ has been one of the best players in baseball so far, can he continue his hot start and is this for real?
- Is Bryant okay? He hasn’t looked right for most of this 2020 season and nagging injuries have hampered him in the past. Friday is the earliest he can return from an anti-inflammatory injection in his wrist and the Cubs have been reluctant to put him on the IL. If he continues to struggle through this series, maybe he needs a stint.
- The lineup has fluctuated between grinding pitchers into dust and being anemic. It’ll be interesting to see which one shows up this weekend, maybe both, as they face two veteran southpaws and a young right-hander.
- Will Lester, Hendricks, and Darvish continue their early season dominance?
- The Sox have an exciting group across town and it’ll be fun to see Robert, Jiménez, Anderson, and Cease in this series.