White Sox-Cubs Preview

Since early in the season, White Sox leadoff hitter Juan Pierre

has been criticized for his struggles in the field, at the plate

and on the basepaths.

Suddenly, everything seems to be coming together for Pierre, and

the boos are being replaced by cheers.

After coming up with another clutch hit, Pierre looks to lead

the White Sox to a season-best fifth straight victory and a sweep

over the crosstown Cubs at Wrigley Field for the first time in a

dozen years Sunday.

Pierre broke up Matt Garza’s no-hit bid with a run-scoring

single with one out in the sixth inning in Saturday’s 1-0 win. It

was the third game-winning hit in as many days for Pierre, who had

a two-run triple in the seventh in Friday’s 6-4 victory and a

tiebreaking two-run single in the 10th inning in Thursday’s 6-4 win

at Colorado.

Pierre has seemingly been on the hot seat all season for the

White Sox (42-42), who reached .500 for the first time they were

7-7 on April 16. The former Cub has a subpar .320 on-base

percentage, isn’t much of a threat to steal and has had trouble in

left field, and fans have clamored for prospect Dayan Viciedo to be

called up.

Pierre has silenced some of his critics by batting .407 with

seven RBIs during a six-game hitting streak.

“Opportunities have presented themselves and I’ve put a couple

good swings on balls,” said Pierre, who could be poised for

another big game, considering he is 5 for 8 lifetime against

scheduled starter Rodrigo Lopez (0-2, 5.40 ERA).

Paul Konerko, who could be named to the AL All-Star roster

announced Sunday, is batting .375 with three doubles lifetime

against Lopez.

With Saturday’s victory, the White Sox won a 10th straight

interleague road series. They’ve defeated the Cubs 15 times in 20

meetings, and are seeking their first sweep on Chicago’s North Side

since June 11-13, 1999.

Ozzie Guillen will give the ball to Gavin Floyd (6-7, 4.19), who

is 0-2 with a 3.60 ERA in three career starts versus the Cubs with

the White Sox losing each time.

Floyd gave up two runs and six hits in seven innings in

Tuesday’s 3-2, 13-inning loss to Colorado. That performance was a

step in the right direction for the right-hander, who was 0-2 with

a 6.16 ERA in his previous three outings.

Floyd struggled in his previous start against the Cubs,

permitting six runs and five hits – including homers by Starlin

Castro and Carlos Pena – over five-plus innings in a 6-3 loss June

20.

The Cubs (34-50), losers of 10 of 15, wasted a stellar

performance from Garza, who threw a four-hitter.

They had plenty of opportunities but went 0 for 7 with runners

in scoring position and grounded into three double plays.

Marlon Byrd returned to the lineup for the first time since he

was hit near the left eye in Boston on May 21, causing multiple

facial fractures. He went 0 for 3 with a walk.

“Can’t go out there with fear, not in this game,” Byrd

said.

Lopez, making his first start in a month for the Cubs in the

second game of a doubleheader against San Francisco on Tuesday,

allowed four runs – one earned – and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings of

a 6-3 loss.

The right-hander, who pitched one-third of an inning of relief

at U.S. Cellular Field on June 21, has posted a 38.25 ERA in losing

his last two starts against the White Sox but hasn’t started

against them since 2006.