While the Chicago Cubs are pondering their long-term approach to the leadoff spot, the crosstown Chicago White Sox face no such dilemma.
Shortstop Tim Anderson is entrenched at the top of the White Sox batting order, and he’ll look to show the rival Cubs and their fans why as the teams begin a much-anticipated, three-game interleague series at Wrigley Field on Friday.
“For us, there is that certain level of pride playing that team from the North Side,” White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito said. “I’m looking forward to this series. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It does (stink) not having the fans. The Chicago fans really get up for that one, but it is what it is.”
Anderson is batting .476 (10-for-21) with four home runs and seven RBIs during the White Sox’s five-game winning streak. He belted leadoff homers in each of the first two victories of the team’s four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers this week.
In nine games since returning from the injured list after getting over a right groin strain, Anderson, the defending American League batting champ, is hitting .417 (15-for-36).
The Cubs, who have won three of four, are optimistic that Kris Bryant can fulfill manager David Ross’ vision of the third baseman in the leadoff spot.
Bryant, however, has battled both inconsistency and injury during the first month of the season. He missed the past three games after receiving an anti-inflammatory injection in his left wrist, and the team was optimistic about his return this weekend following a day off Thursday.
Typically the team’s No. 2 hitter in recent seasons, Bryant has manned the leadoff spot exclusively in 2020, but he is batting just .171 with a .271 on-base percentage. Ross said the Cubs would assess their options upon Bryant’s return.
Center fielder Ian Happ provided a spark to the top of the lineup in Bryant’s absence, reaching base four times in a Tuesday win against the St. Louis Cardinals and belting a leadoff home run in the opener of the Wednesday doubleheader.
“I trust Kris Bryant. I trust Kris Bryant anywhere in the lineup, especially at the top,” Ross said. “Do I think his struggles have anything to do with the leadoff spot? No … but if it makes us better at some point to move him down, then I’ll talk to Kris about that and get back to (the media) about that.”
Left-hander Jon Lester (2-0, 2.74 ERA) is slated to start for the Cubs. He is 11-6 with a 4.02 ERA in 19 career starts against the White Sox. Lester beat the White Sox in both of his starts against them in 2019, producing a 3.00 ERA.
Dallas Keuchel is set to get the call for the White Sox. The southpaw is 3-2 with 3.07 ERA this season and 1-1 with a 4.02 ERA in three career starts against the Cubs. In 24 career interleague appearances, including 23 starts, he is 9-7 with a 2.97 ERA.
White Sox manager Rick Renteria said center fielder Luis Robert could be back in the lineup Friday. Robert has missed the past two games after leaving in the late innings Tuesday due to right hand soreness.
White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal, who hasn’t played since leaving the Monday game with lower back stiffness, remains day-to-day.
–Field Level Media