Jun 1, 2021 5 min read

Your favorite Chicago baseball team is in first place

Your favorite Chicago baseball team is in first place

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Good morning, frents!

And welcome to June. I hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend and is ready to tackle the summer ahead.

A special shoutout to all the new subscribers who signed up after reading the Pink Hat Guy update. I would've called Jim Anixter much earlier if I knew writing about him would get this big of a reaction.

Monday's results
Cubs 7, Padres 2
Sox 8, Indians 6 (Gm 1)
Indians 3, Sox 1 (Gm 2)

Today's schedule
Sox at Indians (5:10, NBCSCH)
Padres at Cubs (7:05, Marquee)
Mercury at Sky (7, ESPN2)

Two in first on June 1st


Two months down. Four to go.

Make that five, actually, if all goes well and Chicago's baseball clubs finish in first, which is where the Cubs and Sox both start the month of June.

Memorial Day is always an important date on the baseball calendar since it usually allows us to sort out the mediocre clubs who got off to fluky good starts (we see you, Royals) and the good teams who got off to slow ones. (Anyone remember the Sox starting 6-8?)

The holiday can also be a good predictor of how the standings end up. According to Elias, 84 of the 143 teams (59 percent) who were in sole possession of first place on Memorial Day from 1995-2019 went on to win their division.

  • The Cubs lead the Cards by a half-game in the NL Central thanks to a blistering 19-8 performance in May and a Dodgers win over the Cardinals late on Monday night. It's the first time this season the Cubs have been in sole possession of first place.
  • The Sox, meanwhile, have the second-best record in the AL and lead Cleveland by 3.5 games in the AL Central. They're on track to make the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in the franchise's 121-year history.

It's somewhat remarkable that both teams have gotten off to these starts given the injuries on both sides of town and some front office-imposed challenges in the offseason.

But they've fought through it all to get to where they need to be at this point of the season, which is all you can ask for.

Here's a reset for both teams as they head into the meat of the season.

Sox

USA Today Sports

Record: 33-21
Run differential: +80
Playoff odds (538): 79 percent

MVP so far: All apologies to the Yerminator, but I have to split this one between Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon. A year after the team's rotation was Lucas Giolito and four question marks, both pitchers have transformed the Sox's rotation into one of the league's best. Both men sport sub-2 ERA and sub-1 WHIPs.

Biggest surprise: OK, this one goes to Yermin Mercedes, who has been the biggest reason the Sox lineup has withstood the long-term absences of Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. The 28-year-old rookie is hitting .311/.366/.480 with seven homers and 30 RBI.

Toughest stretch left: The Sox schedule sets up pretty nicely. While there are 10- and 9-game road trips left, both involve trips to Detroit and there are still 16 games against the Tigers left. A four-game series against Cleveland in late September could prove important, but the division could also be decided by then.

The Sox will make the playoffs if ...:  they keep doing what they're doing. It's not too big of a secret that the AL Central is a lousy division and it'd be a colossal screwup if the team somehow doesn't take it. Every move over the next four months needs to be made with bringing the possible best team to the playoffs in mind.

Cubs

USA Today Sports

Record: 30-23
Run differential: +32
Playoff odds (538): 45 percent

MVP so far: Kris Bryant is not only at the top of the Cubs MVP discussion, but the National League debate as well. He's hit 12 homers and 15 doubles with an OPS of 1.016 and started games at five different positions. If he's heading toward a split with the Cubs, he's making it as difficult as possible.

Biggest surprise: The bullpen.

Toughest stretch left: They might be headed into it with 13 games against the three best teams in the NL West in June plus big series against the Mets, Cardinals and Brewers. Eighteen of the team's 28 games in June are on the road with only two off days.

The Cubs will make the playoffs if ...:  the team stays in contention and prevents Jed Hoyer and Co. from submitting to a selloff at the deadline. The Cubs hanging around near the top seems likely given the middling nature of the NL Central, but ownership can increase the team's chances by paying attention to the returning crowds at Wrigley and giving Hoyer its financial blessing to acquire an impact starter and bat. (Which won't be Shohei Ohtani, but it'd be cool if it was.)

Today's pitching matchups
Sox: Dylan Cease (3-1, 2.98) vs. Shane Bieber (5-3, 3.13)
Cubs: Kyle Hendricks (5-4, 4.63) vs. Ryan Weathers (2-1, 1.31)

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  1. Justin Fields has three of the top five selling jerseys on NFL.com. A tight end who may not make the Jaguars has the other two. BearsWire
  2. The top 30 NBA free agents. NBC Sports Chicago
  3. John Grochowski takes a closer look at TLR and the Sox's Pythagorean record. Sun-Times
  4. This is awesome: The Red Stars are part of a 200-card NWSL set, the first of its kind. The Athletic
  5. Tom Musick on the ex-Cub who's still living his baseball dream with the Chicago Dogs after a successful run in Japan and Korea. Sun-Times

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Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk
Kevin is the founder of Midway Minute.

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