Chicago’s rivalry between the White Sox and Cubs seems less intense than it did when interleague play began, though players on both sides still view it as more than just another series.
While retiring White Sox veteran Paul Konerko makes his final visit to Wrigley Field and Jose Abreu plays there for the first time, the Cubs go for their seventh win in eight meetings behind winless ace Jeff Samardzija on Monday night.
Although the White Sox lead the all-time series 49-45, they’ll try to snap a four-game skid as play begins for the 2014 Crosstown Cup. The rivals will play a two-game set at Wrigley before moving south for two more Wednesday and Thursday.
"When I first got here (in 1999), I think some of our fans might have even felt that winning the season series against the Cubs almost is more important than making the playoffs," Konerko told the team’s official website. "But I think as both teams made the playoffs a couple of times or we won the World Series, we had our sights set on bigger things, and so did they."
The White Sox (15-17) and Cubs (11-18) face uphill climbs as they try to snap identical five-year playoff droughts. Still, the Wrigley faithful aren’t likely to treat it as a run-of-the-mill set following the Cubs’ sweep of the 2013 season series.
They haven’t won five in a row over the White Sox since a six-game run during their playoff seasons in 2007-08.
Samardzija (0-3, 1.98 ERA) looks to open the 2014 series the way he did last season with a career-best two-hitter in a 7-0 win at U.S. Cellular Field on May 27. Thanks in part to an offense that has provided only 11 runs of support, he’s still seeking his first victory despite ranking in the majors’ top 10 in ERA.
Samardzija, however, wasn’t as sharp Tuesday when he gave up three runs and season highs of eight hits and four walks over a season-low 5 2-3 innings in a 3-2 loss at Cincinnati.
Now the right-hander will get his first look at Abreu, the Cuban rookie who hit his major league-leading 12th home run and drove in his AL-best 34th run in the first inning of Sunday’s 4-3 victory at Cleveland.
"There are guys who can hurt you more, but he is a big dude and a power threat," Tuesday’s starter Edwin Jackson said.
Dayan Viciedo could be one of those other guys with a .457 average, two homers and eight RBIs in his last nine road games. His three-run homer in the top of the ninth Sunday helped the White Sox end a four-game losing streak.
Viciedo, though, is 1 for 20 with 10 strikeouts in his last six against the Cubs.
Jose Quintana (1-2, 4.00) seeks his first victory since April 8 after allowing three runs with a season-high 10 strikeouts over six innings Tuesday. He did not factor in that decision after Detroit pushed across one run in the ninth for a 4-3 road victory.
Quintana, who will make his first start at Wrigley, gave up four runs over six innings while opposing Samardzija last season.
Anthony Rizzo is 5 for 11 with three homers in his last four for the Cubs, who had their season-high three-game win streak end in Sunday’s 5-4 loss to visiting St. Louis.
The slugging first baseman is also hitting .394 versus lefties with three homers in his last five at-bats.