The Chicago White Sox return to a National League ballpark for the first time since winning the World Series last October when they open a three-game interleague series with the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on Friday.
Chicago’s Jim Thome leads the AL with 22 homers and is the all-time leader with 47 interleague home runs, but he may see limited action this weekend with the designated hitter rule not in effect in the NL park.
The White Sox (41-25) did not have the powerful Thome last season but went 9-2 at NL parks, including two wins at Houston in the World Series.
The White Sox come to town hot, having won seven of their last 10 games while allowing three runs or fewer in six of them.
“If we pitch the way I think we’re going to pitch, it’ll be a matter of time before we start playing better,” Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. “We’re not a bad ballclub right now. If we follow each other and continue to pitch the way we’ve been pitching lately, we’ll be even better.”
Freddy Garcia (7-4, 5.13 ERA) seeks his first win since May 20 when he takes the mound for Chicago on Friday. After going 7-1 with a 3.92 ERA in his first nine starts, Garcia has gone 0-3 with a 8.10 ERA in his last four outings.
The right-hander endured his worst outing of the year on Sunday, allowing a season-high eight runs and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 10-8 loss to Cleveland. He has yielded 10 home runs in his last four starts.
The Reds (37-29) lead the major leagues with 99 home runs.
Garcia is 16-6 with a 2.29 ERA in 28 career interleague starts, the lowest ERA for any pitcher with at least 20 starts in interleague play.
He allowed three hits in eight innings in a 2-0 win in his only career game against Cincinnati, on June 19, 2002 when he played for Seattle.
Chicago has won six straight meetings with the Reds, who they have not faced since the 2001 season.
“It’ll be good to see the White Sox,” Cincinnati manager Jerry Narron said. “They are the best. It seems like we play our best baseball against the better teams. We’ll see if that can continue.”
Chicago trails first-place Detroit by 1 1/2 games in the AL Central, while the Reds are 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the NL Central lead.
Cincinnati snapped a five-game losing streak with a 3-0 victory in 11 innings over Milwaukee on Wednesday. The Reds are batting .227 (46-for-203) in their last six games.
Left-hander Brandon Claussen (3-7, 5.28) looks to remain perfect in interleague play when he takes the hill Friday.
Claussen is 3-0 with a 2.53 ERA in three career interleague starts, although he has never faced the White Sox.
The left-hander is 0-3 with a 5.96 ERA in his last four starts, though, and allowed three runs and five hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.