WARR baseball writer Kevin Luchansky writes about the Cubs and the White Sox weekly for WARR.com.
Also, check out Kevin’s daily baseball betting picks on NorthSideWire.
The Chicago White Sox won this season’s Crosstown Cup against the Chicago Cubs in convincing fashion and without much suspense, winning the first three games of a four game set that started on the North Side at Wrigley and finished at The Cell on the South Side.
The first two contests at Wrigley were the closest of the four contests, beginning with Monday night’s game that, for a while, didn’t seem like it was ever going to end.
After allowing a lead off single that would lead to a Alejandro De Aza run in the first, Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija settled in the zone and stayed there, allowing just two other singles and going nine innings, striking out seven and walking just two.
As is the case with many of Samardzija’s starts, though, the Cubs provided no offensive support for their ace, their starting lineup combining to collect just three hits, with one of those hits coming off of Samardzija’s bat. Taking the game into his own hands, Samardzija lead off the bottom half of the sixth inning with a double and would eventually come around to tie the game at 1-1 on a Junior Lake sacrifice fly.
Opposing Samardzija that night for the Sox was Jose Quintana, who has looked impressive over his last three starts. Quintana’s line wasn’t too shabby either — he allowed just one hit and struck out three. But it wasn’t enough for either team, as the bats went cold and the wind was viciously blowing in, keeping the ball in the yard on a few occasions.
Stale offense and prime pitching performances were the recipe for extra innings on this cold night, and it would take a few innings before there was any real threat of scoring by either team. Then Marcus Semien, who this year has had a knack for finding hits late in the game with runners in scoring position, doubled down the left field line in the top of the 12th inning off Justin Grimm to take a 2-1 lead for the Pale Hose. The Sox added one more for insurance on their way to a 3-1 final.
Tuesday’s nights game in Wrigley didn’t provide much in the way of offense, but second basemen Gordon Beckham finally had himself a night to remember. Beyond the obvious pleasant surprise for Sox fans to see Beckham do well, his performance also proved to be the difference in the game.
Not long after I questioned manager Robin Ventura’s decision to move the struggling Beckham up in the lineup, Gordon smashed four hits in five at bats from the two hole. None of those hits were bigger than his solo home run in the top of the 8th that broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Sox the lead for good. Not a bad opportunity to blast your first home run of the season.
A bright spot for the Cubs, who again had just four hits, was that Edwin Jackson finally turned in his first good start of the season. Though he allowed six hits, Jackson was able to spread them out and minimize the damage, completing seven innings and allowing just one run. Most impressive for Jackson was his strike out to walk ratio — 9:0 — as he’s been a pitcher with terrible control issues.
That performance for Jackson just proves he can get away with allowing a few singles here and there so long as it isn’t coupled with him handing out free passes to opposing hitters. Essentially, the Jackson of old can still be effective when he’s finding the plate.
Though he turned in just five complete innings, Sox fans and Don Cooper have to be pleased with starter Hector Noesi’s performance, especially as it was his first outing of more than four innings since his days in 2013 with the Seattle Mariners. I’m fairly certain if Cooper can get roughly the same performance out of Noesi once every six or seven days, the Sox will be in good position to win nearly every one of those games.
As the series shifted south to U.S. Cellular Field, not much of the script changed from the prevous two games. The White Sox collected 11 hits for the second straight night on their way to a 8-3 victory Wednesday.
Starter Travis Wood picked up his fourth loss of the season for the Cubs as he wasn’t able to make it out of the fifth inning before being relieved. Wood allowed eight hits, eight earned runs and walked five batters en route to an early exit. That damage brought his season ERA to 4.75, as he’s been roughed up in two of his past three outings.
Gordon Beckham and Paul Konerko, playing in his final Crosstown Cup series, supplied most of the damage with three RBIs a piece. Beckham’s damage was in the fashion of a home run, his second of the series and of the year, and came with two outs in a tie ball game in the fourth. The Sox never looked back from there, adding four more runs in the fifth inning.
On the bump, starter John Danks was far from perfect, but he was effective in his third victory of the year. A season-high eight strikeouts paved the way for him, as he completed six innings and allowed four hits, one of them a home run. With the way the Sox offense is churning as of late, Danks may only need to be “just good enough” to be effective this season, much like he was Wednesday night.
As quiet as the collective bats of these teams were for most of the first few cold nights of this series, they were equally as hot in the finale of the Crosstown Cup Thursday night.
The Cubs and White Sox combined for 28 hits and 17 runs as the North Siders came out on top for the first time in the series behind three home runs, one each coming from Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Mike Olt in a 12-5 win.
Rizzo continues to hit for a strong average this season without much a dip in power, and he added three more hits Thursday to bring his batting average to .294. Although Rizzo’s performance was the best of the night, it’s a great sign for the Cubs that Olt is really seeing the ball again.
For the second time in as many nights, Olt left the yard in a hurry, bringing his home run season total to six.
With regards to Olt, the common baseball term “Seeing the ball” is more than just that, as he isn’t too far removed from corrective eye surgery. Olt was considered one of the Rangers hottest prospect before an eye injury caused his numbers to drop severely.
Olt maintained his home run streak of three straight games that continued Friday as Olt connected on a solo shot in Cubs 3-2 loss to the Braves and concluded Saturday after he and the rest of the lineup went scoreless for the first time in a week in a 2-0 loss to Atlanta.
On the mound Thursday, Jake Arrieta’s start left a lot to be desired for the Cubs, but even his poor performance couldn’t keep the Cubs from salvaging one game. Arrieta allowed nine hits and three earned runs in just four complete.
Opposing him was Scott Carroll for the Sox, making just his third major league start. Unfortunately for Carroll, he followed up his emotional first Major League win and solid second outing with a 11-hit, six run night Thursday. Still, the Sox have a lot to be appreciative of as Carroll has been effective in his fil- in role this season. A few more starts to mirror his first two he will be doing his role in helping the Sox keep an American League Wild Card spot in striking distance.
There’s certainly a long way to go, and the Cubs maybe aren’t the best measuring stick to compare success to, but anytime you can take 3-of-4 from your city rivals, it has to feel good.
Meanwhile, the Cubs may be disappointed in losing the majority of its games in one of the few series it has to look forward to this season, but sporadic measures of promise emerged from the likes of Rizzo, Olt and Jackson.
While this series is certain to continue, it has suffered from issues in regards to its relevance as for another season Chicago baseball fans are threatened with losing season on both sides of town.
Money produced by the Crosstown Cup isn’t as regular as its been in past years and a look at any given SportsCenter during the days of the series saw its highlight package relegated to the near-end of the broadcast.
If this series, deserving of a place as one of baseball’s best rivalries, wants to keep being a headline-worthy event both sides of town are going to need to do better and perform passionately not just for one week but for most of the season to come.
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