Know Your Enemy: Chicago Cubs
This is it, fam. We're in the last series of the year before the playoffs and somehow it's fitting that it's against the Northside Baby Bears. With the postseason in sight for both sides of Chicago, expect to see the managers test their roster combinations for efficiency to plan how it's going to work in the playoffs. If they're smart.
If they're not smart, they'll keep business as usual and leave [insert name of player you hate here] in the line-up.
The Northside Ivy Munchers, who currently are facing their own September slump.
On top of injuries galore that are plaguing most teams this year, the Cubs relievers aren't great. Which happens when your billionaire owners are broke, don't spend much in the offseason, and get the bare minimum done at the trade deadline.
The Cubs are coming in to this series after posting a 7-0 loss to the Pirates, winning only one game in that series. They've scored three runs in their last three games and lost straight games while scoring three or less runs.
Ian Happ is currently leading the team in batting average (.257), home runs (12), RBIs (28), and hits (49). Happ is filling the offensive hole that's been left by Kris Bryant's continuing injury struggles (and he's still their best option at third base). Injuries plague the rest of the Cubs defense with both local boy Jason Kipnis and David Bote having undisclosed injuries, Willson Contreras being hit by pitches at a regular rate, and Happ's ankle issues.
The Cubs' magic number is three (to the White Sox's four) and the Sox looking to reinvigorate their final series of the season would be a sweet set of wins to roll in to the playoffs with.
Your Enemy's record
Both teams come in to the series needing a win. The Cubs have lost five of their last six. The White Sox are on a five-game losing streak, scoring nine runs in their last three games.
The Cubs not taking the series against the worst team in their division has put them in a tough position, and risk them losing the division entirely. This rings familiar to last season where the Cubs managed to tank enough to land in third place behind the Brewers and Cards. Joe Maddon isn't around to complain about days off this year (though we could point out to him that the Cards have played 19 games in 15 days in a wild COVID makeup schedule).
Friday is Yu Darvish vs. Dylan Cease. Darvish has appeared to have worked the kinks out of his post-Tommy John years, much to the consternation of opposing teams. He the Chicago ace and Cy Young candidate, with seven wins, a 2.22 ERA, and 88 strikeouts this season. Cease threw 10 pitches in the first inning during Sunday's loss to the Reds, and still ended up with seven walks. Darvish won the last meeting between these two, so we might be looking at a Cease revenge game.
Saturday is going to be Jon Lester vs. Dane Dunning. Lester threw six shutout innings against the Pirates on Monday, striking out one and walking one. Lester has a 4.40 ERA this season with 39 strikeouts, but has a 1.06 ERA in 17 innings. Facing a lefty has definite potential to break the Sox's offensive slump—and the White Sox murdered Lester in their Wrigley meeting this year, which was the worst opponent start against the White Sox all year. The White Sox are 5-1 in Dunning's games (despite his no-decision on Monday). He's struck out 33 and walked 10 in 31 innings.
Sunday sees Reynaldo López vs. Adbert Alzolay. Lopez has a 2.35 ERA since returning from Schaumburg, and he's looking to earn a postseason role after a shaky early season. His 2020 ERA is 4.68, with 21 strikeouts and a 1-2 record. Alzolay most recently did four relief outings piggybacking on José Quintana so it looks like the Cubs might be having a bullpen day on Sunday. He has 21 strikeouts in 16 ⅓ innings and a 3.31 ERA this year.
Key to the series
Swing the bat, make some contact, and show those Cubbies who's boss.