Who is excited for the first Crosstown matchup of Spring Training? Round one of bragging rights in my house for Wife (Sox) vs. Hubby (Cubby). The Sox are looking to break their two-game losing streak after losing 5-4 to Columbia yesterday, and add another win to their 6-5 Cactus League record. The Sox will take on the Chicago Cubs at 2:05 p.m. CT at Sloan Park in Mesa.
The Cubs were worse than the Sox in 2022 — yay — having a below-average season and finishing with a 74-88 record and third place in the NL Central, 17 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals. Pitching, both starting and bullpen, was an issue for the Cubs, with an overall team ERA of 4.00 and 1.30 WHIP. They also struggled at the plate, with a .238 team batting average, and they ranked sixth in all of baseball in strikeouts.
Looking to return to the playoffs in 2023, the Cubs did make a few offseason acquisitions with hopes for an improved long-range outlook. Jameson Taillon should significantly help the middle of their pitching rotation for the next four years. Additionally, signing 5.7 WAR Dansby Swanson, one of MLB’s elite shortstops and 2022 Gold Glove winner, to the second-largest contract in team history will no doubt improve their middle infield defense for the foreseeable future. Finally, the Cubs are looking for a bounce-back season from former 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger. At one time, Bellinger was one of the best players in the game, but significant injuries have hampered him over the past two seasons. If he can return to his 2019 self, the Cubs will significantly boost their offensive production. ZiPS is indeed projecting the Cubs to be better than last year, at 78-84 but still finishing in third place behind the Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers.
So far this spring, at 9-4, the Cubs have looked good, and are coming off of an 8-6 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Today, they will send lefthander Drew Smyly to the mound. Smyly signed a two-year deal this offseason after turning down his $10 million option with the Cubs for 2023. Despite an injury history, including past Tommy John surgery, the veteran stayed relatively healthy last season and pitched well. In 22 starts, he was 7-8 with a 3.47 ERA, 91 strikeouts, 101 hits, and 1.19 WHIP in 106 1⁄3 innings. Smyly is working out this spring, hoping to secure the fourth or fifth spot for the Cubs. It’s not starting out so well: Smyly has pitched four innings in two prior Cactus League outings, surrendering five earned runs and striking out four.
The White Sox are sending Lucas Giolito to the bump for his second Spring Training appearance. Giolito took the loss and looked a little rough in his last outing, pitching only two innings and surrendering two runs on three hits with three strikeouts. He reflected on his performance after the game, “I threw the pitch where I wanted it to be, [Betts] just smoked it,” Giolito said. “But there were other heaters I was like, ‘OK, I get that up in the zone, I’m going to get more success’ ... Continue to work on that. Happy with my off-speed for sure, continue to plug away at my daily work and get those reps every fifth day.”
Giolito is coming off of a disappointing 2022 season in which he went 11-9 with a 4.90 ERA, 177 strikeouts, 171 hits, and 1.44 WHIP in 161 2⁄3 innings. ZiPS predicts Giolito will have a better year in 2023, and projects the righty to go 10-9 with a 3.97 ERA, 172 strikeouts, 9.75 K/9, and a 2.7 WAR in 158 innings.
Here’s how the White Sox will line it up today:
Heading to Sloan Park to face the Cubs. pic.twitter.com/y3mhi7D0yX— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) March 10, 2023
Here is the starting lineup for the Cubs:
The game will be televised today on the Cubs Marquee Network and broadcast on WSCR 670 at 2:05 p.m. CT.