There will be plenty of excitement in Chicago this weekend, and some of it will pertain to the series between the Cubs and White Sox.
With the NATO Summit converging just south of downtown, baseball fans will turn their attention to the North Side as the crosstown series kicks off Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Although both Chicago teams are off to sluggish starts, the rivalry between the Cubs (15-23) and White Sox (18-21) usually creates an electric atmosphere.
"It's not the playoffs, but it's kind of somewhere in between the regular season and playoffs," first baseman Paul Konerko told the White Sox's official website. "It always kind of has that feel - it's heightened."
The White Sox secured bragging rights in Chicago last season, going 4-2 against the Cubs. They've also won six of the last nine meetings on the North Side.
With this series taking place at Wrigley, the White Sox will be without the designated hitter, but manager Robin Ventura can't afford to take Adam Dunn's bat out of the lineup.
Dunn, who drove in two runs in Thursday's 6-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels and leads the White Sox with 12 homers and 30 RBIs, is expected to play left field. The slugger was 0 for 16 with nine strikeouts against the Cubs last season, but is 1 for 2 with a homer against probable Friday starter Jeff Samardzija (4-1, 2.89 ERA).
Samardzija has been a pleasant surprise for the Cubs in his first season as a starter, boasting an NL-best 0.81 home ERA.
The right-hander gave up one run, three hits and two walks in five innings at Milwaukee on Sunday before being lifted for pinch-hitter Reed Johnson, who ended up homering. The Cubs went on to win 8-2, but Samardzija, 2-0 with a 1.03 ERA in his last four starts, didn't get a decision.
"I think (the season) is just going in the right direction with how I feel and how my pitches are coming out," he told the Cubs' official website. "Obviously, you need to get better every time out and I think I've been trying to improve and seeing how teams approach me at the plate."
This will be Samardzija's first start against the White Sox after going 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA in three relief appearances against them a year ago.
The Cubs enter this series coming off Thursday's 8-7 loss to Philadelphia and are trying to avoid a fourth straight defeat. They seem to have the right man on the mound to end the skid, as they're 6-1 in Samardzija's starts compared with a 9-22 mark with anyone else on the hill.
The Cubs' offense has been playing well lately despite the team's overall struggles, plating at least six runs in four of the last five games. Starlin Castro has driven in five runs in the last five, and is batting .393 with five RBIs in his last seven games against the White Sox.
The White Sox will give the ball to Phil Humber (1-2, 5.77), who is coming off his best outing since his perfect game.
After going 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA in the three starts immediately following his historic outing in Seattle on April 21, the right-hander gave up one run and four hits over 6 2-3 innings while striking out seven Sunday, not getting a decision in a 9-1 loss to Kansas City.
Humber allowed five hits in seven innings of a 1-0 victory over the Cubs on July 2, his only career outing against them.