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Jun 3, 2024 8:18 pm

Struggling Cubs match up with MLB bottom-dwelling White Sox

Imanaga

The Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs open a two-game series on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in what is dubbed the Crosstown Classic.

Considering the two teams’ recent performances, however, a better slogan might be the “Crosstown Not-So-Classic.”

The Cubs come in having dropped six straight series after a 5-2 loss to visiting Cincinnati on Sunday. They have dropped four of their last five games and are 2-9 in their last 11 contests.

That’s a hot streak compared to the White Sox, who bring in an 11-game losing streak — the team’s longest since 1956 — and have dropped 15 of their last 16 games.

The White Sox are a Major League Baseball-worst 15-45 — the worst start in franchise history — and have an eye-popped minus-138 run differential, 56 runs worse than the second-worst team, the Miami Marlins (minus-82).

Right-hander Chris Flexen (2-5, 5.50 ERA) will try to give the White Sox their first victory since a 5-0 win at Toronto on May 21. Flexen is 0-1 with a 7.56 ERA in six career games (three starts) against the Cubs, including 0-1 with an 8.74 ERA in five games (two starts) at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs enter Monday in third place in the National League Central, 7 1/2-games behind division leader Milwaukee and just one-half game out of a wild-card spot despite their recent struggles. They will counter with left-hander Shota Imanaga (5-1, 1.86).

Imanaga signed a four-year contract with the Cubs in January after pitching eight seasons with the Yokohama DeNA Baystars in the Japan Central League. He became the first Cubs pitcher since 1901 to open his career with nine straight starts allowing two earned runs or less.

The streak was snapped in his last outing, a 10-6 loss to the Brewers last Wednesday when he allowed seven runs, including a pair of two-run homers to Christian Yelich and Blake Perkins, on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings.

Imanaga had entered that loss at Milwaukee with a major league-leading 0.84 ERA and 58 strikeouts. He had had an 11-day break between starts before that contest as the Cubs decided to skip his turn in the rotation as he makes the adjustment to the MLB grind.

“He just wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen in the past,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said. “They hit his mistakes and they got the ball in the air good. So it just wasn’t a great night for Shota.”

The 30-year-old Imanaga, through a translator, declined to blame the poor start on the long layoff.

“It was good for recovery,” Imanaga said. “I got my training in and I felt good. I think there really wasn’t an issue with that. I felt really recovered.”

“I guess the historic start is over, (but) the great start is still there,” Counsell said. “Nothing changes from my perspective. He’s been a joy to watch.”

The White Sox would seem to be the ideal team to try for a bounce-back start. The injury-plagued ChiSox, who could get All-Star center fielder Luis Robert Jr. (right hip flexor) back for the series, rank last in MLB in average (.214), runs scored (172) and homers (43). A loss Tuesday would match the third-longest losing streak in team history (12) set in 1927.

White Sox manager Pedro Grifol told MLB.com that he expects Wrigley Field to be buzzing for the two games.

“There’s not much love there, even though it’s the same city,” Grifol said. “But it’s a big-time rivalry. It’s fun. It’s a good playoff atmosphere in the middle of the season.”

–Field Level Media

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