The Cubs (19-15) have been hit or miss for much of the year, struggling at times to produce runs while at others scoring at will, like they did in a recent three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins. The White Sox (9-25), on the other hand, have struggled more than expected -- even for the team in the midst of a rebuild -- and have put together one of the worst starts to a season in franchise history.
So when the two crosstown rivals begin a three-game weekend series at Wrigley Field on Friday, two teams seemingly moving in different directions will face off in a series that always creates a buzz around Chicago -- regardless of where the Cubs and White Sox find themselves in the standings.
Still, the Cubs refuse to look at the White Sox as a pushover.
"We're obviously playing a team that's in a rebuild mode -- but, like I said, you can't take for granted," Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said after the Cubs' 13-4 win over the Marlins on Wednesday. "When teams come to Wrigley Field, they up their game up and we know that. It will be fun -- it will be a fun weekend."
The Cubs rebounded from a five-game losing streak with the sweep of the Marlins, against whom they scored 31 runs. Everything came together on Wednesday when Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Addison Russell all homered and four Cubs players finished with three hits.
Russell said after Wednesday's victory that the balanced offensive performance could be just what the Cubs need to get rolling.
Tyler Chatwood (2-3, 3.31 ERA) will start the series on the mound for the Cubs, and he has won two of his previous three starts. Chatwood surrendered four runs (three earned) in his most recent start when he walked five and struck out five over just four innings. Chatwood is 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA in two career starts against the White Sox and is 5-4 in 11 career interleague starts.
The White Sox will begin this weekend's series having lost five straight games and nine out of their last 10. Wednesday's 6-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates was emblematic of the frustrations felt by the White Sox this season after closer Nate Jones allowed four runs on just 10 pitches in the ninth inning as Chicago's skid continued.
Despite that, however, this weekend's renewed city rivalry with the Cubs should rev up the White Sox as manager Rick Renteria faces his former team.
"We know the fans expect us to go out here and give it our best shot and come out with a victory," Renteria told reporters on Wednesday, according to the team's official website.
Carson Fulmer (2-2, 5.02) will face Chatwood in Friday's series opener and is in search of his first victory since April 28. Fulmer has faced the Cubs just once in his career, and that was a relief appearance in 2015. He lasted just one-third of an inning and gave up four runs.
Players from both teams understand what's at stake.
"You have two teams in the same city. That adds a little extra to the game. You want to be the best in the city," White Sox reliever Nate Jones told reporters. "I'm looking forward for the guys that it's their first time for this series, to see their reactions to what the crowd is like. They are always into it, that's for sure."