Chicago Cubs (-190) vs Chicago White Sox (+180)
The Second City’s two ballclubs don’t need any additional storylines to generate interest when they get together in interleague play; the intracity rivalry adds plenty of intrigue on its own. But the Chicago Cubs (59-38, 29-22 road) and Chicago White Sox (48-50, 26-24 home) apparently wanted to do sportswriters the world over a solid.
Over the weekend, White Sox ace – and tantalizing piece of trade bait – Chris Sale decided to play arts-and-crafts with his team’s throwback uniforms, cutting them into pieces because he didn’t want to wear the apparently uncomfortable jersey. Sale has now been suspended for five games by the team.
While the White Sox will come into this series short their best pitcher, the Cubs just added the league’s strongest arm to their arsenal, trading for the Yankees’ 105-MPH fireballer Aroldis Chapman. (The central piece heading to the Big Apple in the deal is shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres.)
Chapman (2.01 ERA) gives the Cubs something they were sorely lacking: dominant lefty relief pitching. With 44 strikeouts in just 31.1 innings, Chapman is averaging nearly 13 Ks per nine innings.
The Cubs may not need his services tonight, though. They’ll send their own ace, Jake Arrieta (12-4, 2.60 ERA), to the bump. Arrieta was lights-out to start the year, then hit a rough patch, seeing his ERA rise from 1.74 to 2.68 in the span of four starts. He looked back to his old ways last time out, throwing seven innings of five-hit, one-run ball against the Mets. The Cubs’ offense didn’t materialize, however, and Chicago fell 2-1.
That was one of the few times the Cubs’ vaunted offense hasn’t held up its end of the bargain of late. The team is 6-3 since the All-Star break and once again owns the best record in the majors. A three-run double from Anthony Rizzo in the seventh inning spurred the Cubs to a 6-5 win over the Brewers yesterday.
The White Sox Miguel Gonzalez (2-5, 4.41 ERA) will have the tough task of quieting the Cub bats tonight. The former Oriole has been very average on the year, but does have four quality starts in a row, giving up a total of eight earned runs over 26 innings. He took a no-decision last time out, going six innings and giving up three earned on four hits in a 6-5 setback to the Mariners.
The Cubs aren’t exactly on a tear, but they’ve played consistently since the break, winning three straight series and upping their lead in the NL East to 7.5 games. The Chi-Sox, losers of seven of ten, are headed in the other direction and now sit 8.5 back of the Indians in the AL Central. They did take the last two from the Tigers to earn a series split, have scored just 398 runs on the year, third fewest in the AL.
It’s a bit dangerous rolling with the Cubs at -190 given that they’re on the road, but I expect another solid performance from Arrieta against the light-hitting Sox.
Pick: Cubs (-190).
(Photo credit: bengrey (flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)