It’s clear — as the sky be blue, troop — that the Crosstown Cup doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things (especially with no more unfortunate corporate branding placed on it), but the two teams that play for it — the Cubs and White Sox — always have and always will mean a lot to folks in Chicago.
To that end, this actually isn’t a bad time to root for either team. Only one, the interminably-hot Cubbies, seem destined for a return to the postseason this year, but its pretty clear that both the North Siders and their South Side adversaries are each playing their best ball leading up to the two teams’ second interleague series this weekend at US Cellular Field.
The Cubs have won their last seven in a row, nine of their last 10 and 14 of their last 16 since the team’s low point of the season — a stank sweep by the Phillies at Wrigley Field just before the trade deadline where Cole Hamels no-hit them and the team overall was outscored 21-8 over three games.
Since then, the Cubs club has been pounding out runs like a bunch of wanna-be Paul Bunyons, their respective axes have combined to drive in no less than three runs once in the last 16 contests, that one time was in a 2-0 shutout to close out the team’s four-game sweep of San Francisco, which first put the Cubs in the driver’s seat for the National League’s second Wild Card spot.
Not satisfied with a second wild card, the team has kept on swinging and they connected for five home runs yesterday in another impressive series closer against Milwaukee, led by Kyle Schwarber’s two bops the team seems to be producing new folk heroes every game.
Out South, the Sox haven’t been as magical, their 4-6 stretch in the last 10 has been just about the way they’ve played all year, but their most recent series was an impressive three-game sweep of the Angels, who still occupy one of the American League’s Wild Card spots and who have been in hot pursuit of first place Houston (freakin’ Houston, really?) in the AL West.
Three game win stretches aren’t something the White Sox can take for granted, but they can look back at a recent seven-game streak that buoyed the team through the end of July and is the only reason the team can actually peep the Angels in the second WC spot from five games behind (that and the overall level of “whatever” that occupies the middle of the AL standings).
I wrote recently that the Sox and their manager could stand to take on some of the traits of Robin Ventura in his youth, given the recent celebration of one of young Robin’s most memorable moments. Ventura’s current bunch of Sox extoled both the ignorance of youth and its resilience in beating the Angels on Wednesday and completing that sweep, they did so in one man, Jose Abreu.
Abreu’s horrible choice in going for a pick-off at second instead of a home base-bound runner in the ninth inning of that game tied it up unnecessarily and led to four more innings which by any stretch of the imagination should have went to the team with Mike Trout on it.
Instead, the Sox hung on and won in the 13th with a slick piece of hitting by Avisail Garcia and a hell of a run from first to home by Abreu that looked like something Mike Ditka would have done in ’63 while shedding off half the NY Giants’ defense.
Abreu’s run was flat out the most entertaining thing I saw the Sox do this year. It may not be too smart to read too much into it, but the effort was inspiring, it seemed like the kind of effort that should carry his team at least through a rivalry series at home with precious Wild Card real estate to be made up.
But the Cubs are in an even more high stakes situation in their league and their young guns have seemed to shed any inclination to back down from anyone.
It’s gonna be hot as hell this weekend in Chicago and two heated teams have something to prove to each other and the baseball world. Expect a lot of balls to fly out of US Cellular and a lot of curses to fly out of mouths in the upper deck.
One team will have to come out of this series with an advantage, but funny enough, both teams could still feel good about themselves as we head deeper into August. Dog days, smog days, we ain’t trippin’ about either right now.
Young Cubs ride hot streak into crosstown series vs. White Sox (CSN Chicago)
In Cubs-White Sox war, Jeff Samardjiza key man in black now (Chicago Tribune)
Baffoe: Cubs-White Sox Is Unconventionally Interesting Again (CBS Chicago)
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