The White Sox play the Cubs six times this season, including three potentially invigorating high-stakes games on the final weekend at Guaranteed Rate Field, but the first taste of the 2020 crosstown skirmish is this weekend with three at Wrigley Field.
Fans or no fans, the series is livelier when the stakes are higher for both teams, which is the case right now with playoff possibilities seen as reasonable goals for the first time in years.
“Will it be a little different without having the fans out there? Yeah, absolutely,” said Sox manager Rick Renteria, whose team has won five in a row.
Our weekly @suntimes sports poll is back. Let us hear from you — good and loud! Selected comments will appear in our Sports Saturday edition.— Chicago Sun-Times (@Suntimes) August 20, 2020
Q1: Does the Cubs-White Sox rivalry fire you up as much as it used to?
Renteria, who was let go by the Cubs five years ago before landing on his feet with the Sox, brings his best team to Wrigley as Sox manager.
“I hope to have a little bit more fun, for sure,” he said.
Renteria is only one of many in the organization who take particular joy in beating the Cubs, from ownership and the front office down to the players.
“As far as talent, I don’t think we’re lacking there compared to that team anymore,” right-hander Lucas Giolito said. “For us, there is that certain level of pride playing that team from the North Side. I’m looking forward to this series; it’s going to be a lot of fun. It does suck not having the fans. The Chicago fans really get up for that one, but it is what it is.”
Dallas Keuchel opposes Jon Lester on Friday, the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks will be matched up against an unnamed Sox starter Saturday and Yu Darvish faces Dylan Cease, whom the Sox acquired from the Cubs.
Reynaldo Lopez, who hasn’t pitched since he left his first start in the first inning with a sore shoulder, is a possibility for Saturday.
“He’s getting close,” Renteria said.
Saturday would be Gio Gonzalez’s turn, but Renteria would not say why the lefty, who dealt with shoulder issues of his own last season and was slow ramping up this spring, is not scheduled to take it.
But “Gio’s doing fine,” Renteria said. “I spoke to Gio; he is doing excellent. You will see how we proceed.”
Robert sits out again
After center fielder Luis Robert left Tuesday’s game with a sore thumb, Renteria didn’t rule out the possibility of the rookie playing the next day. But Robert missed his second straight start Thursday.
“He’s doing very, very well,” Renteria said. “Moving around, squeezing, doing everything. You’re going to see him soon, I’ll say hopefully by tomorrow.”
Dunning sent back to Schaumburg
After making an encouraging debut in a 5-3 win Wednesday, right-hander Dane Dunning returned to Schaumburg. With days off Monday and Thursday, Dunning might not be needed anyway, and the Sox are being careful with his workload.
Dunning, like Michael Kopech, Carlos Rodon and Jimmy Lambert, is coming off Tommy John surgery, and patience and caution likely will be exercised. Kopech opted out of this season, and Rodon and Lambert went on the injured list after two appearances.
Renteria offered no indication of when Dunning, who threw 73 pitches in 4⅓ innings of three-run ball with seven strikeouts, will pitch again.
“He’s going to keep working [at Schaumburg], then we’ll see where we’re at when we get to that point again,” Renteria said.
Outfielder Nicky Delmonico was called up to fill the roster spot vacated by Dunning.