It's the eve of the Crosstown Classic series, that time of year when a fan of both Chicago teams nervously awaits what is sure to be a battle royale. I never really want to see either team beat up too badly, though I'm generally in favor of each team winning the series--though not necessarily sweeping--that takes place in their home park. Though it can be a nerve-racking time the overall record in this series is something that should make a fan who Swings Both Ways happy: 33-33.
That said, this week's match-up takes place in Wrigley, and I wouldn't mind if the Cubs' sputtering offense began to run smoothly against the White Sox. It wouldn't bother me at all if the Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano and especially Kosuke Fukudome, who is in another June swoon, were responsible for a few runs against the Sox. Still, I'd also like Sox thrower Jose Contreras, who is set to pitch the third game of this series, to continue his strong comeback. So, I'm going to predict and sort of hope for the Cubs to take 2 out of 3, with the Sox picking up a win Thursday (Expect something like the reverse when the Cubs head to The Cell).
Meanwhile, here's my size-up of the head-to-head match-up, and who has the edge:
Hitting: Both teams have been shut-out numerous times and have been so lackluster at the plate, I feel like neither of them deserve to win out. Both teams are missing a power-hitter due to injury (Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Quentin), and the Cubs have been more unexpectedly disappointing on offense, but from one man to the next, there is at least the idea of a threat. Meanwhile, the Sox are relying on a rookie and one or two utility men every game to finish out the line-up. I think even with a DH making this an apples-to-oranges thing, I'll take the Cubs. EDGE: CUBS
Starting rotation: Actually, another tough call, but mainly because both teams have been pretty good. On the Sox, Contreras looks fixed, Gavin Floyd has been throwing very well and Mark Buerhle has most pitched well and has kept the Sox in game when he hasn't pitched well. John Danks is still having a tough time and Bartolo Colon is injured again, but I'm sensing a strong second half from Danks. On the Cubs, Carlos Zambrano is as mercurial as ever, while Ted Lilly has been the Cubs' best starter. Ryan Dempster has been coming around toward last year's form, and Rich Harden, when healthy, has been decent. Sean Marshall and Randy Wells both have been very good in the part-time starter roles. Lately, Cubs starters have been lights-out good, though its hasn't helped them win many games. EDGE: CUBS
Fielding: The Cubs have three fewer errors as a team and they catch more base-stealers than the Sox. Each team has great defense in centerfield (Fukudome and Reed Johnson for the Cubs, Brian Anderson and Scott Podsednik for the Sox). the Sox definitely get the edge at shortstop (Alexei Ramirez), but the Cubs get it at 1st base (Derrek Lee) EDGE: CUBS
Bullpen: The Cubs bullpen has gotten better as the season has gone on, though the closer and set-up spots have been shaky, with Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg both having their share of trouble. Lefty Marshall is really a starter, and a better starter than a reliever, I think. For teh Sox, Bobby Jenks has had a spot of trouble here and there closing games, and Octavo Dotel and Scott Linebrink have been feast or famine. I think my favorite Chicago reliever overall is the fireballing lefty Matt Thornton. EDGE: WHITE SOX.
Coaching: Both Lou Piniella and Ozzie Guillen have a lot to like, though both have admitted this year to being mystified by their respective team's struggles. Ozzie usually rides his guys a little more, is more to the point with criticism and is quicker to change something he doesn't like. EDGE: WHITE SOX
Depth and Intangibles: The Cubs have had to dig into the minors to find their depth, but those call-ups have worked well. The Sox depth was such that they already have called up their top draft pick from last year, though they do have several multi-position guys. The Cubs are a bunch of nervous wrecks with a lot (too much) pressure on them. The Sox are a combination of cool customers and merry pranksters, and really do seem to find another gear when they need a late rally. EDGE: WHITE SOX.
Wow, 3-3. What did you expect?