What to watch for in the BP Crosstown Cup opening series

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What to watch for in the BP Crosstown Cup opening series

Heading into this weekend's installment of the BP Crosstown Cup at Wrigley Field, Cubs Talk blogger Tony Andracki and White Sox Talk blogger JJ Stankevitz break down what to watch for in the next three games:

JJ: Well, the White Sox haven't won a series since sweeping Seattle from April 20-21. Since then, they're 0-5-3. In the last few years, pitching has carried the White Sox against the Cubs, but this year, that doesn't seem to be the case, right?

Tony: Yeah, thats true, but part of the reason the Sox pitched so well against the Cubs was because they were led by Mark Buehrle, whose dominance of the NL included the Cubs. He is no longer a part of this serious, however. Pitching definitely a key for the Cubs, though. The starting pitching on the North side of town has been unbelievable this year, while the bullpen has leftquite a bit to be desired. There are so many guys in the White Sox offense struggling to hit their weight, so the Cubs starting trio of Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm and Jeff Samardzija could dominate. But then again, if the Sox are able to get into the Cubs bullpen

JJ: That's the key here. Dempster and Samardzija have been outstanding, and the Sox have really struggled against lefties before beating up on a wild CJ Wilson Thursday. The good news for the Sox is that Dayan Viciedo looks like he's starting to come around, but he may sit the first two games in favor of Adam Dunn -- who absolutely has to be in the lineup -- in left field. Also, don't sleep on Gordon Beckham having a big series -- while the numbers don't show it, he's shown more signs of life at the plate in May than you may think. Who's someone on the Cubs who could be primed for a big series who we may not expect?

Tony: Ian Stewart and Alfonso Soriano. Everybody will be focusing on the Cubs' 1-2 punch of Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair. But Stewart has shown signs of life lately and has looked rather comfortable at the plate for the most part over the past week or so. Part of his problem is just how unlucky he's been. He just keeps hitting balls hard, just right at defenders. As for Soriano, he may be in one of those stretches he gets into from time to time. He is no longer at the point where he can single-handedly carry a club, but he can still be a driving force behind guys like Castro and LaHair. The advantage the Cubs hold in this series at Wrigley is the White Sox will have to play Dunn in the field and lose out on one of their everyday bats. Is that a good or bad thing for the South Siders?

JJ: Dayan Viciedo has eight hits in his last 16 at-bats with three home runs and only one strikeout, so I suppose parking him on the bench for Friday and Saturday's games isn't a good thing. But it's far more important to keep Dunn in the lineup against Dempster and Samardzija, and I imagine Viciedo will get to pinch-hit at some point in both games he doesn't start. The problem here is that the White Sox lineup may have to generate quite a bit of support for the starting rotation, namely John Danks, who has really struggled this year. Philip Humber finally put together his first good start since throwing his perfect game and Gavin Floyd was torched by the Angels on Tuesday, so maybe those two guys are toss-ups, too. For a lineup that's struggled to score at times this season, a bad start by any of those guys could be big trouble for the Sox. But then again, the Sox have historically been outstanding in interleague play, so maybe this is all overblown. Got a prediction for the series?

Tony: Yeah, I see the Cubs taking two of three games in this series. I think they'll win both the Samardzija and Dempster starts, but lose the game Maholm starts. Dempster is finally going to get his first win of 2012, at the hands of the crosstown rivals. I think all three games will be close, though. As you said the White Sox offense has been struggling of late so a bad start could doom the team, but the same can be said for the Cubs all year. This Cubs team will fight tooth and nail, but their offense just isn't a powerhouse, even if they have been swinging the bats better of late. What are you thinking for this series?

JJ: I like the pitching matchups for the Cubs, plus as I said earlier the White Sox haven't won any of their last eight series. I'll say they win the opener behind a good outing from Philip Humber, but won't be able to get to Samardzija or Maholm in the next two games. That being said, I'm looking forward to a few new chapters in this series being written. Everyone remembers the Pierzynski-Barrett brawl, but how about Carlos Lee and Jose Valentin walking off against Courtney Duncan and El Pulpo? Or Pierzynski belting a grand slam into the teeth of a stiff wind five years ago at Wrigley? Or Ray Durham hitting a 14th-inning walk-off single? Those are just a few from a South Side perspective -- what are some of your favorite moments?
Tony: June 20, 2008. That's what stands out the most. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez went back-to-back in the seventh off Octavio Dotel and then A-Ram hit a walk-off shot in the ninth. Cubs won 4-3. I was at the game with my mom and sisters wearing homemade shirts that said "Friends don't let friends be Sox fans" haha. Seriously. I remember going nuts during the seventh, and then jumping out of my seat the very second A-Ram made contact. I knew it was gone right away. I'll also always remember the Zambrano freak-out on Lee as well as the Milton Bradley incident in which he lost it on Lou Piniella. And of course, The Fight. That's one of those infamous "Where were you when..." type of moments in Chicago history.

White Sox: Avisail Garcia leaves game early with sore left knee

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AP

White Sox: Avisail Garcia leaves game early with sore left knee

White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia left Wednesday night’s game with a sore left knee.

Garcia exited the contest in the top of the ninth inning when he was replaced in right field by Alen Hanson. The removal came two innings after a pickoff throw at first base forced Garcia to awkwardly dive back to the bag.

In the middle of a heavy rain, Garcia stayed on the ground for several seconds after New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez attempted to throw behind him.

The team’s best All-Star candidate, Garcia entered the contest hitting .321/.361/.516 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs in 305 plate appearances. Garcia was 0-for-2 with a walk and was hit by a pitch before he left early.

How Rick Renteria has tried to help White Sox players combat travel fatigue

How Rick Renteria has tried to help White Sox players combat travel fatigue

They’re finally at home and Rick Renteria has implored White Sox players to relax a little.

Take a nap. Go see a movie. Run some errands.

Basically, the White Sox manager has ordered his players to do anything but arrive early to Guaranteed Rate Field the past two games. For the third time already on the 10-game homestand, White Sox players were instructed to check into the clubhouse later than normal. Renteria is attempting to help his players catch up after a trying schedule that began with 44 road dates in the team’s first 71 games.

Though it won’t be a routine practice, Renteria is aware his players have to be feeling some of the effects of a schedule that has had them mostly away from Chicago before this week and wanted to correct it.

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“We have been traveling a lot,” Renteria said. “The reality is the body's fatigued, you're getting up early, you're packing every three days. I just thought (Tuesday) would be an appropriate time to give them a little breath. And then after the victory last night, going in they were talking a little bit about maybe doing it again today. Honestly, they're the ones that are playing the game. It's not something I'll probably do every single day, that would be impossible. We still have to get our work in. But I thought it kind of fit the moment and we allowed them to do it again (Wednesday).”

Though he’s unaccustomed to the practice, Todd Frazier doesn’t mind it. White Sox players have been allowed to arrive at the park on consecutive days at 5 p.m. for the 7:10 p.m. starts.

Even so, many players were already in the building by the time media access to the clubhouse began at 4:30 p.m. Frazier said players simply have to be a little more efficient in preparing for the game.

“It’s good,” Frazier said. “You get to spend more time with the family. If you can get a nap in there, that helps too. Getting to the ballpark, you feel like you have more time than you really have, but you work in the cage, get warmed up and away you go. It’s like high school. You get to the field an hour before the game, get a quick stretch, talked to the guys about what did you do last night, how’s what’s her name doing, hang around and then we go to work.”