5 Chicago White Sox to Watch in Round 1 of the Crosstown Classic
With both teams struggling to approach the .500 mark, the clash of North and South Sides loses a bit of its shine. However, Windy City bragging rights are on the line, and fans on both side of town can hope for a competitive weekend.
On the White Sox's side of the ledger, who are some players to keep an eye on in the three games at Wrigley Field? Here are five names to watch this weekend.
Dunn is one of the best offensive producers in baseball heading into the weekend. He knows the lay of the land at Wrigley Field, having played there often when he was a member of the senior circuit.
Will Robin Ventura use him all weekend to utilize his bat? Dunn is capable of adding to his 12 homers in this series. He's also capable of a defensive error if Ventura elects to use him in the outfield, which I suspect he will try to do.
Will we be talking about Dunn's bat or his glove after the series?
Each pitching matchup is important, of course. Phil Humber faces Jeff Samardzija in the opener on Friday afternoon, Danks opposes Ryan Dempster on Saturday and Jake Peavy goes up against Paul Maholm in Sunday's matinee.
Humber threw well in his last start, and Peavy has been one of the league's best for much of the season. Danks, however, was hit hard by Detroit on Monday and is carrying a rotation-worst 6.46 ERA. For a player who the White Sox secured to a big contract during the offseason, it would be nice to see him out-duel Dempster under the lights.
With a 1.45 ERA in 18.2 innings of relief, the rookie right-hander has been the best arm in the Chicago bullpen. In seven May appearances, he's allowed just one run.
Jones is sure to take the mound in at least one of the three games, charged either with holding a lead or keeping his team in the contest.
Cubs fans will likely reign their most fevered booing down on the White Sox backstop, but that only seems to spur on Pierzynski.
In 46 games against the Cubs, Pierzynski is hitting .304 with six home runs and 30 RBI. He's a .300 hitter at Wrigley Field, despite a poor showing there with the bat in 2011. He has raised his average 40 points in the last week, with 10 hits in his last four games.
If Pierzynski is in the lineup, he's worth watching this weekend.
Kosuke Fukudome and the Bench
On second thought, fans may let the former Cub have it even more that Pierzynski.
Regardless, Fukudome and the White Sox reserves figure to be a factor with the pinch-hitting opportunities afforded by playing in a National League park.
Not one position player on Ventura's bench is hitting over .176 after almost two months of play. That's what Eduardo Escobar is hitting. Fukudome, Brent Lillibridge and Tyler Flowers are all stuck at .167 batting averages.
It's a good bet that the bench is going to have to come up with a big hit in the late innings. Look for Fukudome or Lillibridge to spell Dunn late in games if he's used in left.