Inside The Ivy: Cubs vs. Chicago White Sox

Round two, and the finale, of the Cubs (43-35) and White Sox (42-33) cross-town classic begins today at Wrigley Field in a three game series. The South siders won round one, taking two of three games from the Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field last weekend, and have won five in a row. Included in their streak is a big three-game sweep in Minnesota to move them two games into first place in the American League Central.

Playing by National League rules will be a difficult test for the White Sox. They will be without their designated hitter and will have to bench one of their first basemen, Paul Konerko or Frank Thomas, every game. This is also a different team than the Cubs saw five days ago. The White Sox acquired right-handed starting pitcher Freddy Garcia and catcher Ben Davis from the Mariners in exchange for catcher Miguel Olivo and top prospects Jeremy Reed and Michael Morse. The Cubs will not face Freddy Garcia and Ben Davis (3 for 30, .090 batting average, 2 RBI) has struggled mightily in just 14 games with the Mariners this season.

The Cubs won of two of three games in their last series against the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field. Yesterday's game was won by the Cubs in dramatic fashion. In the bottom of the tenth inning, Sammy Sosa clubbed the first pitch he saw from Astros' closer Brad Lidge into the left field stands for a 5-4 Cubs' win.

The Cubs are currently only three games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central division after the Cardinals were swept by the last place Pirates. They are also leading the National League wildcard race by a half game over the Milwaukee Brewers, which they will face after the White Sox series. Corey Patterson is arguably the Cubs' hottest hitter over the last few weeks. On June 8th, Patterson was hitting for an average of just .246. As of July 2nd, Patterson's batting average stands at .287, with 10 homers, and 34 RBI. The main complaint about Corey has always been his plate discipline, but he is really starting to work counts into his favor, showing tremendously improved patience of late. He currently has 25 walks and an on base percentage of .347 which is fifth on the Cubs.

The 2004 Chicago baseball bragging rights are on the line and the Cubs will need to sweep the Sox to win the season series 4-2.

Here is a look at the probable starters for this week's series.

Friday, July 2, 2:20 PM CT. Carlos Zambrano (8-3, 2.56 ERA) vs. Esteban Loaiza (8-3, 4.28 ERA). Fox Sports Chicago (Cubs Broadcast).

This is, without question, the best pitching matchup of the series. The White Sox hit Zambrano with authority last Saturday. Zambrano gave up eight hits and five earned runs in six innings to the Sox. He also uncharacteristically gave up two home runs, having allowed only six all season going into the game. Loaiza beat the Cubs Sunday afternoon, but gave up a whopping ten hits in just six innings. The Cubs were only able to put four runs on the board with those ten hits. Sammy Sosa supplied three of those runs with two homers.

Saturday, July 3, 12:15 PM CT.Greg Maddux (6-6, 4.49 ERA) vs. Felix Diaz (1-1, 8.59 ERA). Fox.

The White Sox absolutely hammered Maddux last Sunday. Maddux gave up seven earned runs and eleven hits in four innings to take the loss. He gave up two home runs, which has been a major problem this season. In 2003, Maddux allowed a career high 24 homers as an Atlanta Braves pitcher. That number should be shattered this year, as he has already surrendered 17 long balls. Rookie right-hander Felix Diaz was hit hard in his only two starts prior to seeing the Cubs on Saturday. He did an admirable job giving up three runs over six innings of work. On the bright side for the Cubs, Corey Patterson went 2-for-3 with a homer off Diaz.

Sunday, July 4, 8:05 PM CT. Glendon Rusch (4-1, 4.33 ERA) vs. Mark Buehrle (8-2, 4.33 ERA). ESPN.

Neither of these pitchers pitched in last weekend's Chicago clash. Rusch gave up four runs in six innings and received a no decision in Tuesday's contest versus the Houston Astros. Frank Thomas is 4 for 7 with a homer against Rusch, so it's likely that the "Big Hurt" will play first base instead of Paul Konerko in this game. After two dismal performances, Mark Buehrle responded, in a big way, with a strong eight inning performance in which the lefty allowed only two earned runs against the Minnesota wins to earn his eighth victory of the season. On June 18th at Montreal, Buehrle allowed seven earned runs in just six innings. In his following start June 23rd against the Cleveland Indians, Buehrle was crushed for a total of eight earned runs over seven innings pitched. Sammy Sosa is 5-for-11 with a home run against Buehrle.

Northsiders Report Top Stories