Opposite dugout: White Sox dragging along while Orioles have soared since historic meeting

white-sox-logo.pngManager: Robin Ventura (4th season)

Record: 34-42

Last 10 games: 6-4

Who to watch: 1B Jose Abreu (.291/.342/.488 with 13 HR, 43 RBIs), RF Avisail Garcia (.273/.322/.391 with 7 HR, 29 RBIs), DH Adam LaRoche (.233 with 9 HR, 31 RBIs), LHP Chris Sale (6-4, 2.87 ERA), RHP David Robertson (16 saves, 2.76 ERA)

Season series vs. Orioles: 1-2

Pitching probables:

July 3: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez vs. LHP John Danks, 8:10 p.m., MASN2
July 4: RHP Chris Tillman vs. RHP Jeff Samardzija, 2:10 p.m., MASN2
July 5: RHP Miguel Gonzalez vs. LHP Chris Sale, 2:10 p.m., MASN

Inside the White Sox:

At least for the near future, the White Sox and Orioles will always be tied to the Baltimore riots that locked down the city and postponed two games between the teams. They will always be remembered for playing the first major league game that was closed to the public. The Orioles won that game in front of no fans at Camden Yards 8-2 on April 29.

The Sox and O's then made up the two postponed games in a doubleheader almost a month later in Baltimore, with fans in attendance for both games. Chicago was able to hold off a ninth-inning rally by the Birds for a 3-2 win in Game 1, but the Orioles came right back in Game 2 to earn a split with a 6-3 victory. At the end of the day, the White Sox were at the bottom of the American League Central at 21-25 while the Orioles were fairing just a little better at 22-24 and third in AL East.

Since then, however, the White Sox have gone 13-17 while staying in the Central basement, and the O's went 20-13 and shot to the top of the East standings. Over that 30-game stretch, the White Sox continued to struggle offensively. They scored a total of 99 runs (averaging 3.3 runs per game), hit just 27 home runs and batted a lowly .229. Meanwhile, over the same stretch, Baltimore scored 159 runs (an average of 4.8 per game), blasted 45 homers and hit for a .262 average.

Chicago's offense continues to mostly come from the reigning AL Rookie of the Year, first baseman Jose Abreu. He leads the team in all major offensive categories (expect on-base percentage) by slashing .291/.342/.488, hitting 13 home runs and totaling 83 hits with 43 RBIs. And he only trails designated hitter Adam LaRoche's team-leading .343 on-base percentage by .001 percentage points. LaRoche is behind Abreu with nine homers and 31 RBIs, but is only batting .233. Right fielder Avisail Garcia puts himself in the mix with a line of .273/.322/.391 with seven homers and 29 RBIs. Center fielder Adam Eaton and left fielder Melky Cabrera do what they can to contribute, each batting .251 and combining for eight home runs and 43 RBIs. So again, it is mostly Abreu doing the damage.

The White Sox will throw two left-handers in this Fourth of July weekend series, which might haunt them as the Orioles are batting .284 off lefty starters, as opposed to .255 off righties. John Danks will be the first southpaw to start for the Sox this weekend. He is 3-8 with a 5.38 ERA this season. After his first two starts of the season, Danks had a 6.97 ERA, which he worked down to 4.81 and a record of 3-4 by the end of May. However, he lost all four of his June starts and his ERA shot back up to over 5.00. He is looking to turn around his season as the calendar turns to July, the only month he is above .500 for in his career (15-7). Danks is 5-5 with a 4.28 ERA against the Birds in his career.

Righty Jeff Samardzija will start the Fourth of July celebrations at U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday. Samardzija is 5-4 with a 4.56 ERA over 16 starts this season. After a strong May, he struggled through June going 1-2 over six starts and pitching at least seven innings in each of his last five. He fares much better at home, going 3-1 with a 3.40 ERA as opposed to 2-3 with a 5.29 ERA on the road. One of those road losses was the closed game at Camden Yards in April. Samardzija pitched five innings and gave up the eight runs (seven earned and six in the first inning), 10 hits and one walk while striking out five. He surrendered a three-run homer to Chris Davis in the first and a solo shot to Manny Machado in the fifth while taking the loss.

Lefty Chris Sale is scheduled to start the series finale on Sunday, but recent reports have said manager Robin Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper are considering giving Sale an extra day of rest after his recent historic stretch. Sale tied Pedro Martinez's major league record of eight straight starts with at least 10 strikeouts in his start on Tuesday against the Cardinals. In fact, Sale has struck out at least 10 batters in nine of his last 10 starts, and would have the chance to break the record if he starts against the O's. He struck out 12 Birds while winning Game 1 of the doubleheader in May, which was the second game of his streak. Sale is 1-2 in four career starts against Baltimore in which he averages seven strikeouts per start.

The White Sox are coming off a two-game sweep in St. Louis. The Cardinals are the best team in baseball at 51-26 with a major league-leading 2.64 team ERA and 29-9 record at home. But Chicago was able to go into Busch Stadium and outscore the Cardinals 9-2. It's only two wins, but the White Sox must be coming home confident to face the Orioles, who are tied as the leaders of the AL East. If they get the offense they got in St. Louis and Sale does indeed pitch on Sunday, they could be looking at a series win.

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