- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The Cubs avoided a sweep at the hands of their crosstown rivals, but they have a long way to go to match the Sox' success
Last friday morning White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen awoke to a headache. It could have been caused by his lingering cold or, more likely, the onset of another interleague series with the Cubs. He enjoys games with the crosstown rival about as much as he likes keeping his mouth shut. Most of his groaning was about having to deal with ticket requests from friends he doesn't see regularly as well as the additional media spotlight. "I'd rather play against Detroit right now than the Cubs," Guillen said. "For the players and myself, [the series] is not a big deal."
In the three games at U.S. Cellular Field the Cubs proved to be little more than a minor nuisance for the world champions. The White Sox outscored the woebegone National Leaguers by a combined 17-8, winning the first two games and further widening the disparity between the two Windy City teams. The biggest fireworks of the series came on Saturday, when White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski plowed into his Cubs counterpart, Michael Barrett, who went flying onto his back. After Pierzynski slapped the plate to reaffirm his run scored, he was punched in the jaw by Barrett and a bench-clearing melee ensued. On Sunday, behind a two-run homer by Jacque Jones, the Cubs averted the sweep, winning 7-4. Still, they limped back across town with an 18-25 record, on pace for one of their worst marks in the last 25 years. The loss dropped the White Sox (28-15) a game behind the surprising AL Central leaders, the Tigers, who have the best record in the majors.
Before the series started, there were rumors in Chicago that Cubs manager Dusty Baker, 56, would be fired if his team was swept over the weekend, but league sources said last week that his job was not in jeopardy and, in fact, that the Cubs may offer him a contract extension at the end of the season. (He's in the last year of a four-year deal.) It would be hard for the Cubs to justify firing Baker given that his franchise player, first baseman Derrek Lee, played in only 14 games before fracturing his right wrist and the club's top two pitchers, righthanders Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, had made one start between them. Prior, nursing a strained shoulder since spring training, won't return until at least early June; Wood served up three home runs last Thursday in his first start since shoulder surgery last August.
"The biggest blow to us was losing Derrek," Cubs infielder Todd Walker says of Lee, who is not expected back until late June. "He's our Albert Pujols. He made our offense go." Indeed, the lineup has struggled: The Cubs scored only 52 runs in losing 17 of 22 games through the weekend.
The White Sox, meanwhile, continued on their two-year roll, bolstered by the off-season additions of designated hitter Jim Thome (league-leading 17 home runs and 41 RBIs) and righthander Javier Vazquez (4-3, 4.22 ERA as the fifth starter). "They're definitely better this year because their pitching staff is so good," says Mariners righthander Joel Pi�eiro. "And when you throw Thome into that offense, they are really something to watch."
Fans agree. At week's end attendance at U.S. Cellular Field was up 16% from 2005, and the White Sox had already sold more than 2.5 million tickets, eclipsing last season's total of 2.34 million. "The fans have been coming out all season, but you kind of wondered how it'd be here when the Cubs came," says Pierzynski. "Last year you heard the Cubs fans. Not so much this year."
CLOSER BRAD LIDGE
A Good Tipper No More