CHICAGO – In early June, it looked like both teams in the city might be fighting for a chance to make the playoffs while adding to their clubs at the trade deadline.
The Cubs and White Sox were both in first place in their respective divisions as last as June 24th, but as July 11th arrived on Sunday, only one of those teams remained.
Despite numerous injuries that have forced backups and young players into the lineup, the White Sox enter the All-Star break with an American League-best 54-35 record. That’s got the club an eight-game lead in the AL Central division as four members of the team – shortstop Tim Anderson, pitchers Liam Hendricks, Lance Lynn, Carlos Rodon – head to the All-Star Game in Denver.
No bad or a group that’s not had Eloy Jimenez the entire season so far, had Luis Robert for a month before an injury, lost starting second baseman Nick Madrigal for the season, and will now have to make due without Yasmani Grandal for at least a month. That doesn’t include a number of others who’ve had stints on the injured list.
Yet midway through the season, the White Sox are where many expected when the season began despite all those injuries. Manager Tony La Russa credited his team’s “resilience and relentlessness” for getting through the stretch without players successfully, especially in Sunday’s game in Baltimore.
Hendriks blew the save in the ninth inning yet the team rallied in the tenth, as Adam Engel’s three-run homer was the difference in a 7-5 victory over the Orioles.
“In the Top of the 10th, there was no frustration, discouragement, giving in,” said La Russa of the team’s attitude. “I just think it’s a real good example of how tough-minded we are.”
As the White Sox look forward to adding to their roster when the injured players return, the Cubs and their fans are wondering who will be left on theirs after a June-July swoon that’s changed the look of their season. Tied for first after the combined no-hitter against the Dodgers on July 24th, the Cubs have lost 13 of 15 games and now sit eight games behind the Brewers in the NL Central.
That included a 6-0 loss on Saturday night at a rainy Wrigley Field Saturday night, which was their last game of the half after weather postponed Sunday’s finale. It’s dropped them to 44-46 on the season, and instead of buying at the deadline, the Cubs will most certainly be sellers.
With Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Craig Kimbrel, and Anthony Rizzo on the last year of their contracts, it’s likely one of those key players will likely be headed out of Chicago before the July 31st deadline.
On Saturday night, Willson Contreras was critical of the team’s effort in the six-run defeat to St. Louis, believing their minds weren’t in the right place as the All-Star Break neared.
“No, I don’t, to be honest,” said Contreras when asked if the Cubs’ effort Saturday was good from everybody on the team. “I feel like everybody was off, everybody was distracted, I don’t know why. Probably because the All-Star break was really close. Tomorrow (Sunday) is the last game of the first half.
“I don’t think that way. I don’t think we were on today.”
They weren’t on for most of the last two weeks, and their chances of contending in 2021 for a playoff spot may have very well have disappeared.