A three-game battle for bragging rights in the Windy City begins Friday night when the Chicago White Sox head to Wrigley Field to face the Chicago Cubs. On the road, the White Sox are a slight favorite with a moneyline of -115 compared to +105 for the Cubs.
The White Sox enter the weekend series as one of the hottest teams in baseball. The South Siders have won five in a row after a four-game sweep of the Tigers during the week.
Of course, it’s worth questioning whether the winning streak is a sign of things to come or merely an indication of how bad the Tigers are this year. Nevertheless, the White Sox are in the hunt for a playoff spot in the American League.
Meanwhile, the Cubs continue to hold a comfortable lead atop the NL Central. The North Siders won three out of five games against the Cardinals this week, keeping them four games ahead of St. Louis. The Cubbies have evened out lately after a fast start to the season. But they are clearly the team to beat in the NL Central and could be a threat in the postseason.
Jon Lester will get the start for the Cubs on Friday. The 36-year-old started to show some signs of aging last year, but he’s responded with a great start in 2020. Through four starts, Lester is 2-0 with a 2.74 ERA. His strikeout rate is down considerably, but he’s still finding a way to get batters out.
Of course, his last outing was his worst of the season. Lester allowed five runs on nine hits, including a pair of home runs, against the Brewers last week. On the bright side, he gave the Cubs six innings, which he’s done in three straight starts.
On Friday, Lester will face a White Sox lineup that heated up during the week against the Tigers. Shortstop Tim Anderson has been red hot since returning from the IL earlier this month, hitting .417 with an OPS of 1.378 in August. The White Sox also pack plenty of punch in the middle of the order. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez has hit seven home runs in his last 19 games.
Despite veterans, Yasmani Grandal, and Edwin Encarnacion underperforming this year, the team’s youth movement has carried them. In addition to Jimenez, Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert are having great seasons. Jose Abreu is also having a solid 2020 campaign and is 8 for 21 (.381) in his career against Lester.
Dallas from Chicago
The White Sox will counter Lester with their own veteran lefty, Dallas Keuchel. Through five starts, Keuchel is 3-2 with a 3.07. He’s doing exactly what the White Sox hoped he would do, providing a stable veteran presence at the top of their rotation. Much like Lester, he’s pitching to contact but has shown himself capable of going deep into games and giving the White Sox a chance every time out.
Of course, since he’s spent most of his career in the American League, he doesn’t have much experience against the Cubs. It’s been a different story for the Cubs this year, as Javier Baez and Kris Bryant are both hitting under .200 on the year. Instead, Ian Happ and Jason Heyward have been the team’s most productive hitters this year with Kyle Schwarber starting to come around.
Lester’s struggles in his last outing are troubling, especially against a powerful White Sox lineup. Meanwhile, the Cubs aren’t quite clicking offensively right now, which bodes well for a smart and experienced pitcher like Keuchel. With that in mind, bet on the White Sox to beat the Cubs on Friday.