CHICAGO -- The Cubs-Sox rivalry has gone from six games in 2018 to just four this season, giving fans on the North and South sides fewer chances to make acquaintances on the field in 2019.
The span between games won't be lengthy either, unlike last season when the teams met in May and then again in late September. Starting with the first game on Tuesday, the teams will have their four contests between then and July 7, and barring a World Series meeting, they'll be done for the year.
There are subtle changes to the Cubs and White Sox City Series for this season - the 23rd in which the teams have met in interleague, regular season play since the 1997 season. Two less games won't bring down the enthusiasm for the contests, which always generates passions from each team no matter where their places in the standings might be.
But that is just a bit different in 2019, and a lot of that is due to the White Sox.
Are they near the top of the AL Central? No. But in their third year of rebuilding, the South Siders have shown a few glimmers of needed hope as the 2019 season has gone along. The team has shaken off a few serious injuries, including those to Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon, and has boosted their record 34-36 on the year.
To put that in perspective, the White Sox were 24-46 in 2018 when they were 70 games into the season.
They've been boosted by the stunning turnaround of Lucas Giolito, who has won nine-straight games, allowed nine earned runs in those starts, striking out 72 batters while walking just 16. The 10-1 record and 2.22 ERA are a far cry from his 10-13, 6.13 in the 2018 season.
Add in improved play from younger players like Yoan Moncada (.294/.349/.504, 12 HR, 39 RBI) and Eloy Jimenez (.319/.373/.702, 5 HR, 12 RBI in June), and surprise contribution from free agent pickup James McCann (.324/.374/.509), and hope is around the White Sox as the summer continues.
As for the Cubs, it's close to business as usual for a team still in the midst of their window of success. Yes, their play on the road needs some work, as evidenced by a 2-5 road trip last week, but they remain 39-32, just on the outside of first in the NL Central.
The last two years the city series has belonged to the Cubs, who won 7-of-10 games in 2017 and 2018. That included taking 2-of-3 in each of the series last season as they North Siders made their fourth-straight playoff appearance.
They'll get the first two games at home in this year's series before the White Sox host the final two on July 6 and 7. For the moment, that's great news for the Cubs, who are 24-11 at home so far this season as Wrigley Field has brought out the best in the group.
Maybe that will be the case when they face the White Sox for the first of four times this year, and vice versa, as Chicago's teams meet again in 2019. Things are not terribly different from last year, but little wrinkles here and there could make it a little more interesting in the coming weeks.