Another interleague weekend beckons in Major League Baseball, and most eyes will be fixated on the Windy City
Another interleague weekend beckons in Major League Baseball, and most eyes will be fixated on the Windy City, where Chicagoís division leading clubs will go head-to-head for three games. Itís the Sox and Cubs squaring off from Wrigley Field, with local bragging rights on the line.
This will be the first time in 2008 that the north and south side rivals have squared off, but still, there is no love lost between them. Whether it comes in the form of snide remarks in the media or on-the-field skirmishes, the Sox and Cubs havenít exactly embraced sharing the spotlight. Now with both teams off to strong starts this season, the stakes are raised for this weekendís series and itís bound to be a war.
The Cubs hold home field advantage this time around, and if that plays as big of a role as it has all season for the North Siders, the Sox could be in trouble. Overall, the Cubbies are 29-8 at home this season for +16.6 units of profit. Take away six games against Milwaukee, and that record climbs to 27-4, good for a 87% winning percentage! Itís no secret as to why this team has enjoyed so much success at Wrigley Field either, boasting a batting average of .309 and an on-base percentage of .385 in those 37 games.
However, it is the White Sox that will be bringing more momentum into the series, stemming from a 3-game sweep of Pittsburgh in which 37 Sox runners crossed the plate. The most recent win, a 13-8 decision on Thursday, enabled Chicagoís A.L. representative to maintain a 4-1/2 game lead in the Central Division over Minnesota. The Cubs meanwhile, brought plenty of momentum into their weekday series against the Rays but suffered setbacks both on the field and off. In fact, ace starter Carlos Zambrano is expected to undergo an MRI on Friday to see if there is any damage to his right shoulder. That news could prove even bigger than the results of this series to playoff chances. Currently, they still maintain a cushion in the N.L. Central Division thanks to Kansas Cityís sweep of St. Louis, but Milwaukee is gaining ground fast and climbing back into the hunt.
Recent history between these teams shows the visiting team coming in on a 4-game winning streak. The Cubs swept the most recent 3-game set, a year ago this weekend at U.S. Cellular Field. They held the Sox to two runs and 16 hits in that series. Prior to that, the North Siders had taken three of four, so overall, the Cubs come in on a 6-1 run in the series. At Wrigley, the last six games have been split 3-3. Five of the last six games between these clubs have gone OVER the Total.
In terms of angles to consider for the series, hereís a few of the top StatFox Power Trends that will be in play this weekend:
* CHI WHITE SOX are 11-29 (-14.8 Units) against the money line in road games vs. a good bullpen whose ERA is 3.75 or better over the last 2 seasons.
The average score was CHI WHITE SOX 3.5, OPPONENT 4.4 - (Rating = 1*)
* CHICAGO CUBS are 19-8 (+11.8 Units) against the money line vs. a good bullpen whose ERA is 3.75 or better this season.
The average score was CHICAGO CUBS 4.9, OPPONENT 3.2 - (Rating = 1*)
* GUILLEN is 21-9 (+12.1 Units) against the money line when playing against a top-level team (Win Pct. > 62%) as the manager of CHI WHITE SOX.
The average score was CHI WHITE SOX 4.9, OPPONENT 3.4 - (Rating = 1*)
* PINIELLA is 49-25 (+15.0 Units) against the money line at home with a money line of -100 to -150 as the manager of CHICAGO CUBS.
The average score was CHICAGO CUBS 5.4, OPPONENT 4.1 - (Rating = 1*)
There is also one particular StatFox Super Situation that has produced decent profits over the years and will be in play for all three games of the series:
Play Against - Any team (CHICAGO CUBS) - with a team batting average of .275 or better on the season (NL), in June games.
(102-62 over the last 5 seasons.) (62.2%, +46.7 units. Rating = 3*)
The average money line posted in these games was: Team underdog with a money line of: +106.6
The average score in these games was: Team 5.1, Opponent 3.9 (Average run differential = +1.2)
The situation's record this season is: (17-16, +1.2 units).
Over the last 3 seasons the situation's record is: (51-36, +20.3 units).
Since 1997 the situation's record is: (316-297, +43.8 units).
Now, hereís a quick look at the pitching matchups for all three games of the Windy City War:
Game 1, Friday 2:20 PM ET, John Danks (L) vs. Ted Lilly (L)
The first game of the series matches a pair of left handers in Danks and Lilly. Danks has had a solid season but doesnít have the record to show for it. His ERA is 2.90 and his WHIP is 1.252 but he is just 4-4. In his last time out, he shut out the Twins in six innings but was the victim of zero run support as well. Lilly meanwhile, boasts a better record (7-5) than Danks minus the strong ERA (4.76) & WHIP (1.329) numbers. Considering how well the Sox hit the ball on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, then spicing it up with this trend: CHI WHITE SOX are 19-2 (+16.8 Units) against the money line vs. an NL starting pitcher whose ERA is 4.70 to 5.20 since 1997., the Sox could actually have an advantage on Friday as the +115 underdog, despite playing in Wrigley.
Play: White Sox
Game 2, Saturday 1:05 PM ET, Jose Contreras (R) vs. Jason Marquis (R)
The middle game of the series will be an early local start, 12:05 PM, and the Sox will send Jose Contreras (6-5, 3.24 ERA) to the hill to be opposed by Jason Marquis (5-3, 4.24 ERA). Contreras has done a yeomanís job so far in 2008, and minus a tough start at Detroit on June 10th, has been as consistent as any pitcher in baseball. In fact, from his last start in April through his first start in June, he put together eight very winnable games in a row for the Sox, going 5-1. Unfortunately, his teamís bats werenít clicking then like they are now, or he could have been 8-0. His ERA was 2.13 in that span. Contrerars has lost his last two starts since. Marquis hasnít allowed more than three earned runs in any of his last six starts, boasting an ERA of 3.09 and WHIP of 1.23 during that span. However, he hasnít been going very deep into his starts this season, getting through seven innings or more on only two occasions this season. If the Cubsí strong bullpen expects to see much action this series, it will likely be in this game.
Game 3, Sunday 8:05 PM ET, Javier Vazquez (R) vs. Ryan Dempster (R)
The final game of the series pits Javier Vazquez (7-5, 4.40 ERA) against Ryan Dempster (8-2, 2.76 ERA). Vazquez enjoyed a great month of May, allowing just 14 earned runs in 40 innings of work (3.15 ERA), but has since slowed. He has allowed 14 earned runs in just three starts and 17-1/3 innings in June. Despite that, he is 2-1 this month, a beneficiary of the Sox hot bats. Dempster has been the Cubsí best starting pitcher in 2008, Zambrano included. Overall, the former closer in Wrigleyville boasts an 8-2 record with a WHIP of 1.088. He has yet to lose in any of his nine home starts this season as well, and hasnít allowed more than four earned runs in any of his 15 starts. Unfortunately for him, the ESPN telecast has this game slotted for a 7:05 PM local start, negating the fact that he is 6-0 in day games, just 5-4 at night.
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