The crosstown interleague rivalry between the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox is a tight one, with the South Siders boasting a 60-58 edge in the 22 seasons since the annual games took hold on the schedule.
After winning the season series in 2017 and 2018, the Cubs have bragging rights for two consecutive campaigns for the first time. Still, the White Sox are brimming with confidence as the teams prepare to open a two-game series at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night, poised to keep their rebuild ahead of schedule while testing themselves during an extended stretch of games against playoff contenders.
"We can be one of the best teams in the league," White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito said. "We 100 percent have the talent. We have more talent on the way developing in the minor leagues. The sky's the limit for us. Absolutely."
The White Sox split a four-game home series against the New York Yankees over the weekend to open a daunting stretch that includes visits to the Cubs and defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox, as well as a home series against the Minnesota Twins, the AL Central leader, to close June.
Chicago hopes it set a tone in Thursday's series opener against the Yankees, rallying from a 4-0 deficit to win 5-4.
"They fight, they battle, they try to put at-bats together," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "I don't think they worry about falling behind. They try to do what they're capable of doing."
"We only won two," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Bothersome. We're better than that. We know we're better than that. We've got to keep pushing it."
Left-hander Cole Hamels is set to get the start for the Cubs on the heels of his latest strong outing. Pitching on June 12 in Colorado, Hamels (6-2, 2.98 ERA) threw seven shutout innings of six-hit ball, striking out nine and walking one.
Hamels boasts a 0.00 ERA over his past three starts, scattering one unearned run and 23 strikeouts in 22 innings. He is 2-1 in five starts against the White Sox with a 4.32 ERA.
Righty Ivan Nova (3-5, 6.28 ERA) is expected to start for the White Sox. A former Pittsburgh Pirate, Nova is making his sixth career start at Wrigley Field, where he is 3-1 with a 5.13 ERA. He is 4-2 overall in eight starts against the Cubs, with a 3.97 ERA.
Tuesday's game continues a stretch of 51 games in 52 days for the Cubs entering the All-Star break. The Cubs are 29-22 during that span thus far, and are leaning on the experience of a similarly grueling 2018 test, when they played 42 games in 43 days.
"If we play poorly, no one is going to feel bad for us," Cubs reliever Steve Cishek said. "It's our job to make sure we're ready every single day, no matter how difficult this stretch can be.
"No one is complaining about it. Everyone is focused, and last year definitely helped. We remember how tough of a stretch that was, and we're able to reflect on that and learn from that experience. Just to push forward is a big help."
--Field Level Media