Series Preview: Chicago Cubs

The White Sox are about to continue their 16-game stretch with the start of a very intense 12-game stretch, going up against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Opponent: Chicago Cubs
Record: 39-32, .549, First Place (NL Central)
Place: Wrigley Field
Time & TV: Game 1: 2:20 p.m. (ESPN/FSN); Game 2: 12:15 p.m. (FOX); Game 3: 1:20 p.m. (WGN)
2002 Record vs Sox: 3-3
2003 Record vs Sox: 0-0

The Cubs have played above-average ball all season long, and as of late, even without Sammy Sosa, who recently served a seven game suspension for using a corked bat. The Cubs have won seven of their last eleven games and are in the lead in the NL Central. The Cubs are led at the dish by Corey Patterson, with a .313 average, 12 homers and 49 RBIs. On the mound, the Cubs are led by Mark Prior, whose ERA of 2.64 is second to only Kevin Brown and Esteban Loaiza in the majors. Joe Borowski is the closer with a 2.14 ERA and 14 saves. On Thursday, the Cubs traded weak-hitting Mark Bellhorn and a minor leaguer to the Rockies for Jose Hernandez.

WHO'S HOT (Last 7 days)
Moises Alou, LF: .308, 1 HR, 3 RBI, .400 OBP, 4 BB
--After a strong May, Alou has continued to stay hot in the month of June, bringing his average above .300. He also has reached base safely in his last 12 games.

WHO'S NOT (Last 7 days)
Paul Bako, C: . 000, 0 hits in 9 at-bats, 1 K
--Bako has brought absolutely nothing to the plate for the Cubs in the last seven days. The only thing he has managed to do is bring his average down to near .200.

Game #1:
Jon Garland (4-6, 4.84, 41 K) vs. Shawn Estes (6-5, 5.20, 42 K)
--Estes has calmed down of late. He has brought his ERA down from near 7.00 and has won five of his last seven decisions. He features a cutter, changeup, curve and fastball.

Game #2:
Mark Buehrle (3-10, 4.85, 47 K) vs. Matt Clement (5-6, 4.48, 71 K)
--Clement has been the opposite of Estes. Even though he has won his last three starts, his ERA has steadily risen since April. Clement utilizes a sinking fastball, which, when thrown effectively is rather nasty.

Game #3:
Bartolo Colon (6-7, 4.19, 79 K) vs. Carlos Zambrano (5-6, 3.11,76 K)
--Despite his record, Zambrano, aside from Mark Prior, has been the most consistent starter in the Cubs rotation. He receives little run support, but when put up against a lackluster offense, like that of the Chicago White Sox, Zambrano can excel and overcome it.

Be patient - both on offense and defense. The Cubs staff is one that lives on strikeouts, something the White Sox bats' do little of. While their bats get beat by strikeouts, a blessing for a weak Sox defense. The Sox must allow Cubs pitchers and hitters to hurt themselves, get to the bullpen early and be as aggressive as possible on the bases.

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