Perhaps it's a product of not growing up in Chicago, but I have never had any strong negative feelings toward the White Sox, but the reverse can't often be said for the south side fans I've come across. But whatever the case, I don't harbor any real ill will for that team (except Hawk Harrelson. I don't know how they listen to him.) No more so than any other American League team, really. At best it's mild amusement, curiosity, and even a faint glimmer of rooting for them from time to time; usually just in cases like early this season when they were doing so well. I think it's more fun in Chicagoland when both teams are doing well (2008 was a fun season in that regard), and I just don't hold ill feelings toward the other team from Chicago at all. Even after losses like last night's. I'm more frustrating by the bad baserunning, to be honest. I'll take solace though in the fact that they rallied to tie it all. That's worth something, I suppose.
In the second game of this four game set that's split between U.S. Cellular and Wrigley Field, the Cubs take another step further in reordering their bullpen, one that saw the addition of Mike Montgomery last week, and Aroldis Chapman just yesterday. The Chapman trade has been covered from multiple angles here already, so I won't comment on it directly other than that it appears as though he might be available out of the bullpen tonight or tomorrow.
More immediately, the Cubs call upon steady-as-he-comes Kyle Hendricks in tonight's game. I've noted it before, but Hendricks has quietly been the anchor to this pitching staff and has probably earned himself the right to take the ball in a playoff game. Hendricks is steadily putting together a season in which he should top last year's 3.4 fWAR total, as he sits at 2.5 currently. He hasn't given up a run in either of his past two starts, against Texas and New York, and he was especially sharp against the Mets on July 20, striking out 7 in 6.1 innings and walking just one. He's excelling at limiting hard contact and unless offenses adjust to what he's doing, Hendricks has become a very hard pitcher for other teams to beat.
Among the White Sox batters, Todd Frazier has seen the most of Hendricks because of his time in Cincinnati, but that's just 11 plate appearances, which he's mustered a pair of doubles and a walk. Adam Eaton will be worth keeping an eye on, as he has 2 hits (including a home run) in 5 at bats. Justin Morneau and Tyler Saladino are both 2 for 6 against Hendricks, and Jose Abreu is 1 for 3 with a walk.
7:10 pm CT on CSN and 670 AM on the radio
Kris Bryant DH
Ben Zobrist LF
Javier Baez 2B
Adam Eaton RF
Tim Anderson SS
Jose Abreu 1B
Justin Morneau DH
Todd Frazier 3B
J.B. Shuck CF
Tyler Saladino 2B
Opposing pitcher scouting report:
RHP James Shields (115.1 IP, 126 H, 48 BB, 81 K, 4.99 ERA, 5.26 FIP)
Shields came over from San Diego at the beginning of June, and he was brutally bad at first. I have to think that White Sox brass were looking for their receipt at least until his start against the Red Sox on June 23, in which he looked sort of like a major league pitcher again. To his credit, he's bounced back since then and has been pitching rather well of late. In his two most recent starts, he threw 8 innings of one run ball against the Angels on July 16, and then a quality start against the Tigers on July 21.
The Cubs offense doesn't have a particularly impressive resume against Shields, boasting a collective .678 OPS, but here's how it breaks down:
- Dexter Fowler: 2 for 11, HR, 4 K
- Kris Bryant: 1 for 6, 4 K
- Jason Heyward, 1 for 5, HR, BB, 4 K
- Anthony Rizzo: 2 for 5, 2 2B, BB, K
- Ben Zobrist: 1 for 5, BB, K
- Miguel Montero: 1 for 5, 2 K
- Addison Russell: 1 for 2, BB
Shields has an array of pitches, but a couple (slider and slow curve) are used very, very sparingly. Even without those, he has 5 other pitches in his arsenal, but it's the classic four seam fastball that gets the most use. In general, his changeup gets swings and misses at a pretty good rate, as it is offered at about 57% of the time and missed about 19% of the time. When hitters do put that pitch in play, it has a nice groundball rate of just under 11%.
What to watch:
- It does appear as though Chapman will be in uniform tonight, so the big question will be whether or not he gets an opportunity to make his debut with the Cubs. Again, the moral quandary here is thick, so I'll leave it at this and focus on the fact that, whether it's tonight or not, we will soon be watching him pitch in a Cubs uniform for the first time.
- Dropping last night's game was a product of a few things, but one that's still a thorn in my side today was the baserunning. There were a few very key gaffes there, and I think that's an area that needs to be addressed, and soon. The White Sox are not a powerhouse, but even middling teams can capitalize when you grant them free outs like that.
- Jason Heyward is getting harder contact, and maybe his double last night is a product of that. While we're all probably past the point of holding out hope that he'll pull it together and make a run at the plate this season, noting that his BABIP is way, way down from last year and the exit velocity on his hits is climbing (soft contact is often a contributor to low BABIP numbers) might be reason enough for a tinge of hope that he'll make some progress this year. We'll see.