The Chicago White Sox know that their sub-.500 season rapidly is coming to an end, but that doesn't mean they will roll over in their home park against their crosstown rivals.
The White Sox (61-92) will go for their second straight win against the Cubs (89-64) when the teams meet Saturday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. The White Sox won the series opener 10-4 and have split the first four games in the season series.
The Cubs have lost back-to-back games and must regroup in the final week to prevent the Milwaukee Brewers from catching them atop the National League Central standings. Meanwhile, the White Sox have won two in a row and could leapfrog the Detroit Tigers for third place in the American League Central with a strong final week.
Cubs left-hander Jon Lester (16-6, 3.43 ERA) will make his 31st start of the season. The 34-year-old is looking to pick up his 60th win with Chicago and the 176th of his career. The only active pitchers with more career wins are Bartolo Colon (247), CC Sabathia (244), Justin Verlander (204) and Zack Greinke (186).
Lester has been terrific in his last six starts, going 4-1 with a 1.73 ERA. He has walked eight and struck out 37 during that span.
However, back soreness interrupted Lester's progress. He showed no ill effects in his most recent outing Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds, but the Cubs gave him an extra day of rest heading into this weekend.
"It kind of ended up moving to my hip," Lester said to the Chicago Daily Herald. "Then, we were able to get some mobility back in there and it was fine. Like I said, good drugs and good docs, so we're all good."
In 16 career starts against the White Sox, Lester is 8-6 with a 4.15 ERA. He faced them once this season, allowing one run and four hits in 5 2/3 innings to collect the victory on May 12. He threw 56 of 92 pitches for strikes.
The White Sox will counter with right-hander Lucas Giolito (10-11, 5.77 ERA), who also will make his 31st start. The former first-round pick hit a groove in August with five quality starts in six outings, but he faced adversity his last time out by allowing six runs (four earned) and eight hits in six innings against the Baltimore Orioles.
Giolito leads the majors in earned runs allowed (106) and leads the American League in walks (83) this season. But he also has showed great potential with a rising fastball and a hard-snapping breaking ball. He remains part of the team's rotation plan along with fellow young starters such as Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and injured Michael Kopech (Tommy John surgery).
In his only career start against the Cubs, Giolito allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings for a 4.76 ERA. He collected the victory.
"Pitching up here is not about development; it's about what you can do now," Giolito said recently to the Chicago Sun-Times. "You have to produce to earn your spot. I am lucky they allowed me to work through it up here at this level. I wouldn't have had that chance in other organizations."
The Cubs will play their second straight game without shortstop Addison Russell, who was placed on administrative paid leave by Major League Baseball as it investigates allegations that he physically and verbally abused his former wife.