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View From the Other Side: Chicago Cubs

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When it’s a battle between fourth- and fifth-place teams in the Centrals, you just have to throw out the record books!

Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds
Walka-Walka-Walka: New Cub Tyler Chatwood [middle] has had some control issues.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

A few days ago, Al Yellon, the purveyor our sister Cubs site and dean of SB Nation baseball blogging, asked me to write some stuff about the White Sox in advance of the upcoming crosstown series. I believe the specific request was a “short blurb.” Well, I am not one for short blurbs, especially in the aftermath of well, ugh, April and May or something? Anyway, you can read my freeverse opus over at Bleed Cubbie Blue, where the commenters have actually been very kind when not breaking out into debates of the best current ex-Cubs lineup, Jorge Soler, Eloy Jiménez and why they have to watch the White Sox broadcast this weekend. Here’s what Al wants you to know about his guys, in advance of crosstown play:

Just so you all know, I’m not one of those Cubs fans who hates the White Sox. I think it’s great that Chicago has two MLB teams, and I don’t root for the Sox to lose, except when they play the Cubs. This year, in fact, the Sox could actually help out the Cubs because they are playing N.L. Central teams in interleague matchups — heck yeah, White Sox, please beat the Cardinals, Brewers and Pirates. (The Reds... well, sure, but that really doesn’t matter much.) [Ed: Note: Well, 0-for-4 so far this season, Al, but feel free to keep hoping!]

As for the Cubs, they were expected to take over first place early this year and run away with the division due to a solid rotation and revamped bullpen. That didn’t happen.

The bullpen has been as it was drawn up. The Cubs’ bullpen ERA of 2.71 is third-best in baseball; new closer Brandon Morrow has allowed runs in only one of his 14 appearances (his only blown save in nine tries) and Carl Edwards Jr. has become an elite setup man, striking out 30 in 17 innings of work.

The rotation, though? Still a work in progress. Yu Darvish has some Cubs fans ready to DFA him, with several bad starts and now a DL stint; he would have missed this series anyway. You won’t see your old friend Jose Quintana either, as he just had one of his better outings of the year on Thursday. Tyler Chatwood, who you will see Friday, is a couple innings short of being qualified for the rate stat lists, otherwise he’d be leading the majors in walk rate —by a lot. He’s walking 7.9 per nine innings, that’s pretty awful. Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, the other two starters in this series, have been solid after rough outings early.

The Cubs offense has been sluggish at times, great at others. They lead the major leagues in double-figure scoring games (seven), but scored only 14 runs during a recent five-game losing streak. They pretty much just finished demolishing Marlins pitching (31 runs in a three-game sweep), so perhaps they can do the same to Sox pitching. Anthony Rizzo, noted streak hitter, is 11-for-31 (.355) so far in May, with four home runs.

The weather could be a factor this weekend, it’s supposed to be rainy and chilly most of the time. Hey, if one of the games gets rained out, we could see a split doubleheader between ballparks in September. That could be fun.

Cheer up, Sox fans. It seems that no matter where these two teams are in the standings when they meet, the games are competitive. The Sox lead the all-time series 58-54, though the Cubs won three of four last year.

Pitching matchups

Friday: Carson Fulmer, RHP (2-2, 5.02 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 6.44 FIP) vs. Tyler Chatwood, RHP (2-3, 3.31 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 4.26 FIP)

Saturday: James Shields, RHP (1-3, 5.14 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 4.37 FIP) vs. Jon Lester, LHP (2-1, 2.82 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 4.80 FIP)

Sunday: Lucas Giolito, RHP (1-4, 7.25 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 6.02 FIP) vs. Kyle Hendricks, RHP (3-2, 3.02 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 4.79 FIP)