Chicago Cubs: Crosstown Classic
The major buzz that once was a part of this 16-year-old interleague rivalry has been replaced by a more businesslike approach in this season’s four-game home-and-home matchup.
“I don’t think it is quite what it used to be,” said White Sox setup man Matt Thornton, who has participated in every Crosstown Classic since 2006. “I still think it means a lot, but for whatever the reason it doesn’t have the same feel to it.”
CHICAGO – The Cubs didn’t use a whole lot of energy Wednesday breaking down comments from White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy suggesting they had no business winning the first two games of the series.
Peavy pitched well Tuesday, but still couldn’t prevent a second consecutive Cubs victory as the White Sox dropped into second place. Afterward, Peavy made his feelings known that the White Sox defeats shouldn’t have happened.
“I don’t mean any disrespect, but a team playing the way the Cubs have been playing, we got to beat those teams,” Peavy said Tuesday night. “Please don’t take that out of context because the Cubs are a big league team and you got to show up every night because any team can beat anybody. But teams that we feel we should beat, that aren’t playing that well, we got to show up and take advantage of these opportunities.”
The sense around the Cubs locker room was they have nobody but themselves and their 24-44 record to blame for opponents making those types of comments.
“We don’t really worry about him,” David DeJesus said. “We only see them one more game and they do their thing and if we see them in the playoffs that’s awesome. But if that’s how he feels that’s how he feels. All we can worry about is how we prepare for every game and go out there and come together while the game’s going on.”
Manager Dale Sveum had no issue with it, understanding exactly where Peavy was coming from.
“Sometimes the record dictates those kinds of things,” Sveum said. “When you had won 20 games coming into the series and one team had won 35 or whatever, that’s the way it is. That’s the way you look at the schedule coming up: ‘Three first-place teams (coming up). We need to make up ground on these teams we’re playing.’
“That’s what we all do as a team and an organization. You feel you’ve got to make up grounds in these areas. ‘We better really play good ball this month because we’re playing these teams.’ That’s just the nature of the game.”
Internally the Cubs might have been fuming, but DeJesus insisted the team wasn’t going into the final game of the series with a chip on their shoulder.
“We want to go out there and win every game,” DeJesus said. “If he wants to say whatever he wants he can say whatever he wants. But ultimately when we get out there we want to win every game and we’re going to take it to them just like every team.”
Castro is hoping to make his second straight All-Star appearance on July 10 in Kansas City. The 22-year-old shortstop seems to have turned around a recent slump that sent his batting average under .300 for the first time since early April.
“What helped me get started were some lucky hits against Boston,” Castro said Monday after his second straight three-hit performance. “I am starting to make hard outs and that shows me I’m ready and doing what I am supposed to do.”
“I did get mad when my average [went] under .300,” Castro said. “In my mind I am a .300 hitter, so I go to the plate with a strong attitude and say to myself, ‘I know I am good.’”
The proof is in the record book, which says he is a .304 lifetime hitter in the major leagues after hitting .310 in the minors.
“I hit at every level and I expect to get better and believe I will at some point hit 18 to 20 home runs each year,” said Castro, who hit his sixth of the season on Monday.
Castro does not believe that his goal of making the All-Star team should be a concern for his teammates.
“I play a team game first,” Castro said. “If I play well and go to the All-Star Game it can only make the team better. I think of what we have to do to win first.”
Castro was the Cubs’ lone representative at the 2011 All-Star Game and tied a record with two stolen bases in the National League’s victory in Phoenix.
“It’s not great when your team loses a lot, but I want to be there and show people I am proud to be a Cub for my teammates.”
CHICAGO -- With the wind swirling at U.S. Cellular Field at 25 mph, with gusts up to 41, Alfonso Soriano stepped out of the visiting dugout before the game and offered his weather report.
“What the [bleep]?” said Soriano, who served as designated hitter. “I’m glad I’m not out there in left today.”
Soriano wound up taking advantage of the wind, hitting one of the Chicago Cubs' season-high five home runs in their 12-3 win over the Chicago White Sox. Soriano didn’t need too much wind. His two-run shot went 440 feet to dead-center.
But it wasn’t just the actual wind blowing on the Cell. The “Wind of Change” was howling too. And no, the Scorpions didn’t play a pre-game concert.
While Soriano served as designated hitter, Bryan LaHair went from first base to right field for the first time this season. He homered in the second inning after making a nice running catch in the first. LaHair hadn’t played the outfield since appearing there in 14 games last season, but he could find himself there often soon.
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CHICAGO -- Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 12-3 win over the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday.
How it happened: The Cubs abused White Sox pitchers on Monday. Bryan LaHair, Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto and Luis Valbuena all hit home runs for the Cubs. The Cubs sent 11 hitters to the plate and scored six runs in the seventh inning. Cubs leadoff hitter David DeJesus was hit twice by pitches in the inning. Cubs starter Matt Garza improved to 3-5 after allowing three runs in six innings. White Sox pitcher Zach Stewart struggled in his first start of the season. He allowed nine hits, six runs and four home runs in 5 2/3 innings. Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski hit home runs for the White Sox.
What it means: The Cubs snapped the White Sox’s three-game winning streak over them. The White Sox have now lost five of their last seven games. The Cleveland Indians, who defeated the Cincinnati Reds on Monday, moved within half a game of the Sox for first place in the American League Central.
Outside the box (White Sox): Konerko has often produced during interleague play. With Monday’s home run and two RBIs, he’s up to 57 home runs and 162 RBIs in interleague play. He’s second all-time in both categories in interleague play.
Outside the box (Cubs): Castro had consecutive games of at least three hits for the first time this season. The last time he had three hits in consecutive games, he did it in three straight Aug. 1-3 of last season, all in games against the Pirates. That was in the midst of a run when he had four three-hit performances in a span of five games. Castro’s three hits Sunday, combined with his fifth-inning home run Monday, gave him the cycle over two days.
Play of the game: White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez dove for a grounder up the middle, fielded it, spun on the ground and threw out Darwin Barney at first base in the second inning.
Up next: Jake Peavy (6-2, 2.91) will start for the White Sox on Tuesday, and the Cubs will counter with Travis Wood (0-3, 4.58). Game time is 7:10.
Sorry, Sori-haters. He didn’t draw any blood.
Soriano, the public scapegoat of Chicago Cubs fans’ lingering misery, drew their ire again Saturday night when he failed to run out a dropped liner to third. It was a bang-bang play, but Soriano got booed for the rest of the game. His manager Dale Sveum, who is trying to instill a return to fundamentals, excused Soriano, saying there’s “not a player that ever played that wouldn't have done the very same thing."
Occasional brain cramps and errant defensive backpedals aside, Soriano’s offensive output this season on a bum knee should be inspiring, not deflating. Kerry Wood even brought up Soriano’s toughness in his first retirement press conference.
And while fans like to heckle Soriano, here’s something you might find mildly interesting, he’s playing to entertain them. Well, that and for the $18 million he makes annually.
When I asked Soriano on Friday what makes the second leg of the Cubs-Sox series, starting Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field, important to the Cubs, he said they should be playing for the fans, not for themselves.
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The only other time the Cubs used a DH this season, in a series last weekend at Minnesota, Soriano crushed the ball in the Twins’ spacious ballpark. He went 6-for-13 in three games with three home runs, a double and six RBIs.
Soriano started play Sunday with 12 home runs, tied for 10th in the National League. He stood just out of the top 10 in RBIs with 41. Most of his run production, and all of his home runs, has come in a red-hot stretch since May 15.
He has the most home runs in the National League since May 15 and has a .294 batting average, seven doubles, 24 RBIs, a .688 slugging percentage and a 1.041 OPS in that 30-game stretch. He has cooled off of late, though, with just one hit and no RBIs over his last three games.
Sveum mentioned Reed Johnson as an option to start in left field against the White Sox, but didn’t say that he would start there in all three games.
The first time the Cubs and White Sox met this season, May 18-20, the White Sox pulled off a three-game sweep by outscoring the Cubs 16-6 in the series.
MINNEAPOLIS – Not only was Anthony Rizzo not on the roster for a Cubs series in an American League park, he won’t be on it for the second and final one either.
Manager Dale Sveum said Friday that Rizzo isn’t expected to be called upon when the Cubs play across town at U.S. Cellular Field against the White Sox in a three-game series that starts June 18.
It was just last month when Sveum suggested Rizzo could get his first chance in a Cubs uniform when the club used the designated hitter in American League parks. That first series started Friday against the Twins.
Sveum said last weekend, when the team was at San Francisco, that Rizzo wouldn’t be coming up, going against his previous suggestion. So was there ever any consideration of Rizzo playing in the current series?
“We thought better of it and obviously we didn’t do it,” Sveum said. “And there are no plans to do it against the White Sox either.”
Rizzo is still working his way back to full strength after missing a few games with a sore wrist. He is back in the lineup at Triple-A Iowa but hasn’t hit a home run since the injury occurred.
“I think we have to be careful thinking he’s going to hit a home run every other day,” Sveum said. “When you have those kind of numbers after 200 at-bats you’re going to be hard pressed to get something to hit.”
There was some suggestion that perhaps Rizzo was not being considered for the series at Minnesota because Target Field isn’t very accommodating to power hitters. But that idea is nixed since he won’t play at the White Sox’s power-friendly park.
While it may not seem like it to some Cubs fans, there is a plan to eventually give Rizzo a chance.
"It’s just more of when that day is going to happen, when is the right time and all of that," Sveum said. "You don’t sit down and say should we do it tomorrow. We haven’t done anything like that. It’s obviously a subject."
The White Sox captain was concerned about possible vision loss after getting hit in the head by Jeff Samardzija.
“In the first 20 seconds I had blurred vision and was a little worried,” Konerko said. “Once I realized it was skin that had swelled up over the eye and not the eye itself I was OK in my mind.”
Konerko missed the last two games of the Cubs series over the weekend as he waited for the swelling and bruising to subside around his left eye.
“It was definitely tough not to play those other two games with the wind blowing out 100 mph,” Konerko said. “You don’t want to miss those ones, but that’s the game we play -- sometimes you get hit and have to sit out.”
Konerko totally exonerated Samardzija for the pitch. The Cubs pitcher called Konerko in the Sox clubhouse on Saturday afternoon to see how he was recovering.
While the Chicago White Sox headed south with some momentum following their three-game sweep in the first of two crosstown series, the Cubs had simply notched their sixth straight loss, their fans left with the same gnawing emptiness they are expected to tolerate for the unforeseeable future.
There are no real surprises here that in late-ish May, the Cubs are scraping the bottom of the National League Central with one of the worst records in baseball. We knew it was going to be this way, didn't we? But after being handled as easily as the White Sox made it look this weekend, you get the feeling that Cubs fans, still showing up in respectable if not sellout numbers, did not necessarily think it would feel quite this bad quite this soon.
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Sure they had scored just one run in eight separate games, but they'd at least avoided getting blanked.
That all came to an end in a 6-0 loss to a dominating Jake Peavy and the cross-town White Sox. Actually it nearly came to an end Saturday, but the Cubs managed to score four runs in the ninth inning to at least make things a little interesting.
The Cubs scored 15 total runs in their just-completed five-game homestand, losing all five of the games.
“You know Peavy’s going to be tough, he’s one of the best pitchers in the league, but with that wind the way it was blowing you thought there would be some contact that would get up in that kind of wind and at least get a solo home run or something,” Sveum said. “We had our chances. We had the bases loaded a couple of times and didn’t do too much."
In the 27 innings against the White Sox this weekend, the Cubs scored in just three of them.
“After going through a pretty good two-week stretch, now we’re on a week stretch of no wins and obviously being swept by the White Sox at home is about as low as you’re going to get,” Sveum said.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox went to the power game for a second consecutive day, finishing off the series sweep Sunday with a 6-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
How it happened: With the wind blowing out of Wrigley Field for the first time this season, only the White Sox took advantage, hitting three home runs. It was the second consecutive day the White Sox hit three home runs in a game, matching their season high. Jake Peavy gave up just three hits over 6 1/3 innings. Cubs starter Paul Maholm, who had won his last four decisions, gave up five runs for the first time since giving up six runs in each of his first two starts.
What it means: The White Sox’s domination of the Cubs continued as they improved to 18-6 in the last 24 games of the series. It was the third White Sox sweep in the series and first since 2008. The Cubs have four sweeps in the series. Interleague play on the road seems to agree with the White Sox, who have now won 20 of their last 24 games in NL parks. The White Sox are 10-1-1 over their last 12 interleague series on the road.
Outside the box (Cubs): The Cubs haven’t posted a winning record in interleague play since 2007 and didn’t help themselves this year with the three-game sweep at the hands of the White Sox. The Cubs are now 103-120 all time in interleague play, which started in 1997. They were 5-10 against the American League last season. They went 8-4 in that 2007 season, the last time they had a positive interleague record.
Outside the box (White Sox): Dunn hit two home runs against the Cubs during the weekend series and now has 43 career homers against them. It’s the most home runs Dunn has against one team. The Milwaukee Brewers rank second with 34 home runs. He has also hit 27 career home runs at Wrigley Field. Dunn’s current club remains the only team he has never hit a home run against.
Off beat: In the eighth inning, a Wrigley Field usher in the upper deck managed to get cheers from fans of both teams. When he took away a broom from a White Sox fan celebrating the sweep, he was cheered by Cubs fans. But as he walked the upper deck with it in hand, White Sox fans cheered the broom as it went past.
Up next: The Cubs will take on the Houston Astros on Monday with Matt Garza (2-1, 2.58 ERA) facing Bud Norris (4-1, 3.58) in the 7:05 p.m. start from Minute Maid Park. The White Sox will have an off-day Monday and then take on the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday with Gavin Floyd (3-4, 3.44) taking on P.J. Walters (1-1, 3.65) in the 7:10 p.m. start from U.S. Cellular Field.
That seemed to be the thinking of a couple getting married on a rooftop outside of Wrigley Field before the Cubs-White Sox game on a perfect 91-degree Sunday afternoon.
As the Wrigley Field stadium organ was playing 10 minutes before game time, the couple stood with its back to the field and against the railing of the Murphy’s Bleachers rooftop in right-center field while the ceremony took place.
But after spending a majority of his first four major league seasons with the Cubs, Fukudome now wears black and finds himself on the White Sox’s side of the yearly crosstown rivalry. While there are the obviously differences from a year ago, Fukudome didn’t feel as if his return to Wrigley Field was anything unique.
“It’s just coming back to another ballpark, nothing different,” Fukudome said through translator D.J. Masumoto. “I had some good memories in here, of course, because I used to play here, but now I’m playing for the Sox. I would like to make some memories with the Sox.”
So far, Fukudome hasn’t made many of those on the South Side. After signing a contract with the White Sox in the offseason, he’s played in mostly a pinch-hit role and has struggled at the plate this season.
Entering Sunday’s game with the Cubs, Fukudome had six hits in 36 at-bats and had a .167 average for the season. His start in right field on Sunday marked his first start since May 7.