The Chicago White Sox begin a three-game series against the host Chicago Cubs on Friday in need of a spark.
The White Sox still own a commanding lead in the American League Central, but they’re 9-11 since the All-Star break while averaging 3.85 runs per game.
After losing two of three to Kansas City, the White Sox could use a strong outing from ace Lance Lynn in the series opener.
The Cubs, who have dropped seven of their last nine games, counter with 13-game winner Kyle Hendricks.
With the teams playing in a National League park, White Sox manager Tony La Russa is looking to keep designated hitter Eloy Jimenez in the lineup.
Jimenez, who broke an 0-for-13 skid with an RBI double in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Royals, missed four games with right groin tightness earlier this week but could play all three games in left field if his legs respond well.
“I like to be in the field because I feel more in the game. I feel more in the game, and I like to talk with the fans and all that,” Jimenez said. “When I’m DH, I can’t do anything like that. If you don’t play and you are DHing, sometimes it’s boring. For me, not for other guys. But for me, it’s boring.”
The rebuilding Cubs have a number of new players in the lineup, but Hendricks (13-4, 3.71 ERA) gives them a true ace at the front of the rotation.
The 31-year-old won his 11th consecutive decision last Saturday, allowing one run on four hits over seven innings in a 6-3 victory over Washington.
The right-hander is tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Julio Urias for the major league lead in wins.
Jose Abreu is 9-for-16 with a home run against Hendricks, who is 1-4 with a 3.74 ERA in eight career starts against the White Sox.
Abreu is batting .348 with 10 home runs and 25 RBIs in 30 career games against the Cubs.
The White Sox will turn to Lynn (10-3, 2.07), who is 3-0 with a 1.91 ERA and 36 strikeouts in his last six starts across 33 innings.
The 34-year-old right-hander received a no-decision after allowing three runs over five innings against Cleveland. He gave up seven hits and struck out seven while throwing 104 pitches.
Lynn owns a 6-7 record and 4.96 ERA in 21 career games (20 starts) against the Cubs.
The Cubs are looking to bounce back after losing two of three to Colorado. One bright spot was the play of leadoff hitter Rafael Ortega, who is 12-for-26 with four homers and nine RBIs over his last six games.
“He’s on fire,” said manager David Ross. “He’s been such a catalyst at the top of the lineup for us since moving up there. He’s a really big bat off the bench, he’s locked in. Big, big problem at the top of our lineup for other teams.”
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, who ranks first in the majors in innings caught (760), is not expected to be in the starting lineup for the series opener.
Ross said he plans to give Contreras more rest as the season winds down. The 29-year-old is 4-for-21 with three RBIs over his last six games.
–Field Level Media