The White Sox enjoyed a dominant four-year run in their rivalry with the Cubs, but the tide appears to be shifting more recently in favor of their National League counterparts.
The Cubs hope that trend continues as Joe Maddon makes his first foray into the Crosstown Classic on Friday night when these teams open a three-game series at Wrigley Field.
The South Siders went 16-8 against the Cubs from 2009-12, winning each season series to take a 52-46 advantage in the all-time series. The Cubs, however, have won five of eight meetings since the start of 2013, and currently hold the NL’s second wild-card spot while the White Sox own a worse record than all but two AL teams.
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Maddon has plenty of experience managing against the White Sox, going 30-37 with the Rays from 2006-14.
"Coming from the American League I’ve known (the White Sox) for a long time, I know what they’re all about," Maddon told MLB’s official website. "But it will be exciting to see this rivalry firsthand."
Though the Cubs (46-38) have raised hopes on the North Side playing better than expected – they will reach the All-Star break above .500 for the first time since 2008 – they enter the series on a sour note. They swept a doubleheader Tuesday versus St. Louis, but settled for a split of the four-game set after a 6-5 loss Wednesday. Pedro Strop surrendered the go-ahead home run with two outs in the ninth inning.
At 39-44, the White Sox have been one of baseball’s biggest disappointments, but they are surging to the finish of the season’s first half. Thursday’s 2-0 victory against Toronto was their seventh in nine games, a span in which the pitching staff owns a 2.12 ERA.
Melky Cabrera, who homered against the Blue Jays, is slugging .568 over his last 20 games after he slugged a major league-worst .277 through his first 62 contests. Alexei Ramirez is 10 of 28 in the last nine games, Avisail Garcia is batting .370 over his last 12 and Jose Abreu has hit safely in 11 straight.
"If we go out and do our job, we know what the outcome is gonna be," said Jeff Samardzija, who threw a four-hitter Thursday. "If we don’t, and we don’t have a strong last couple weeks of the month, we know what results gonna be, too.
"It’s in our hands here in the clubhouse and we need to take care of it."
Taking the mound are two young hurlers whose seasons appear to be heading in opposite directions.
The Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks (4-4, 3.82 ERA) has weathered a rough five-start stretch from June 2-24 in which he went 1-3 with a 5.88 ERA. He has given up eight hits over 13 1-3 shutout innings in back-to-back wins over the New York Mets and Miami, bringing a career-best 15 1-3 scoreless innings streak into this game.
Carlos Rodon (3-2, 4.18) is 1-2 with a 7.32 ERA over his last four outings and has surrendered three home runs in his last two after allowing one all season previously. He walked four and allowed four runs over five-plus innings in a 9-1 loss to Baltimore on Sunday.
"I’m not really happy about much," he told MLB’s official website. "No one likes to lose."
The White Sox are 6-6 in interleague play while the Cubs are 5-5.
Chris Coghlan is batting .387 in his last nine against AL teams, while Anthony Rizzo is 8 for 21 with four homers in his last five.