Crosstown Cup kicks off for Cubs, White Sox

Crosstown Cup kicks off for Cubs, White Sox
May 27, 2013, 8:30 am
Share This Post
Tony Andracki

First pitch: 6:05 p.m., Comcast SportsNet (Preceded by Cubs Pregame Live: Crosstown Cup at 5 p.m. Cubs Postgame Live follows the game on CSN.)

On the mound: Jeff Samardzija (2-6, 3.25 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) vs. Jose Quintana (3-1, 3.48 ERA, 1.18 WHIP)

Samardzija has been the Cubs' tough luck starter all year, pitching well enough to pick up at least four or five victories, but having to settle for two. He went more than a month in between wins, from Opening Day in Pittsburgh to May 15 against the Rockies at Wrigley Field.

Samardzija's last start (May 22nd in Pittsburgh) was a gem -- 7 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, 8 K -- but his misfortunes continued as the Cubs provided no run support and the Pirates pulled out a 1-0 victory.

The big right-hander has earned his place as a foundation piece for the Cubs and figures to be next in line for an extension. In 63 2/3 innings this year, the 28-year-old has 72 strikeouts and is allowing just 7.1 hits per nine innings.

Meanwhile, in the other dugout, Quintana has emerged as a building block for the White Sox in the rotation. The 24-year-old southpaw came out of nowhere last year to turn in a very solid rookie season in 2012 (6-6, 3.76 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) and has been even better this season with a 3.48 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.

Quintana has actually improved across the board, lowering his hits and walks while increasing his strikeouts and keeping the ball in the park at the same solid rate (0.9 HR/9).

Today's storyline: How will the Cubs fare against White Sox LHPs?

The White Sox will march out three straight lefties to kick off this four-game series, and the Cubs will have to figure out a way to find success against the South Siders.

As a whole, the Cubs have hit just .230/.286/.375 against left-handers and are even worse against lefty starters (.216/.262/.351). It's gotten so bad that manager Dale Sveum has discussed going with a different lineup and letting left-handers like David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz stick in against southpaws.

Veteran Scott Hairston (who boasts a career .806 OPS against southpaws) has been one of the biggest culprits, as he is hitting just .106 with a .459 OPS against lefties.

What else to watch for

Monday is the first episode of Extreme Makeover: Crosstown Cup Edition. Not only has the number of games been bumped down from six to four, but all four games will be played in a row, with two on the South Side to begin the week and then a pair of games at Wrigley Field Wednesday and Thursday afternoon.

The Cubs-Sox rivalry itself hasn't had much of an impact lately, as the city has seemed to lose interest in the Crosstown Cup. However, it's not fair to say the series has been uneventful.

Last year, Kerry Wood surprised everybody by announcing his retirement before the series opener on May 18, and then made his final appearance at Wrigley Field, striking out Dayan Viciedo before sailing off into the sunset.

That same game, Paul Konerko was blasted in the face by a pitch that got away from Samardzija and sported a nice shiner for the next couple of weeks.

Throw in Ozzie Guillen's comments on Wrigley Field pre-2012 and his famous rant in 2011, and there have definitely been some must-see moments when these two teams get together.

The last word

The Cubs had lost six straight games before Sunday's victory and sit at 19-30 on the season. With each defeat, a summer sell-off closes in, and veterans such as DeJesus, Schierholtz, Scott Feldman or Kevin Gregg could be packing their bags.