The first two games with their crosstown rival haven't gone as planned for the Chicago White Sox, causing them to drop out of first place in the AL Central for the first time in three weeks.
Salvaging Wednesday night's series finale from the lowly Chicago Cubs may be a tall order with the struggling Gavin Floyd taking the hill, but at least the White Sox won't have to worry about facing Ryan Dempster.
After outscoring the Cubs 16-6 in sweeping a three-game series at Wrigley Field last month, the White Sox (35-33) have plated four runs and 10 hits in losing the first two this week at U.S. Cellular Field. With Tuesday's 2-1 defeat, the White Sox lost their third in a row and sixth in seven games to drop one-half game behind Cleveland - the first time they're looking up in the standings since May 28.
"I don't think by any means this team has lost any confidence," said Jake Peavy, who threw a complete game Tuesday. "This team has shown it can play with anybody on any given day. The bottom line is we've been a little too streaky."
As bad as things are going for the White Sox, they seem to be catching a break by missing Dempster, who was originally slated to get the start Wednesday.
The right-hander, who has won three straight starts behind a 22-inning scoreless streak, was placed on the disabled list Monday with tightness in his right lat muscle, and the Cubs (24-44) will instead turn to Randy Wells.
Wells (1-1, 4.50 ERA) made at least 23 starts each of the last three seasons, but has made just two in 2012, also filling in for Dempster when he was sidelined with a right quad strain in late April. Walks were a big problem for Wells in those outings, as he issued nine in 8 2-3 innings and posted a 6.23 ERA.
Since 2010, Wells is 0-4 with a 6.45 ERA in seven interleague starts, recording an 8.74 ERA in losing his two outings against the White Sox in that stretch. The right-hander has been hit hard by several South Siders, as Adam Dunn is 2 for 4 with a homer and three walks and A.J. Pierzynski is 5 for 6 with a double.
While the White Sox could get their offense on track in the finale, the Cubs might also be poised for a big game.
Starlin Castro is feeling right at home on the South Side, hitting .481 with two home runs and six RBIs in seven career games at U.S. Cellular, and is 4 for 9 with a homer and a triple lifetime against Floyd (4-7, 5.63).
Floyd had a 2.53 ERA on May 15 to rank among the AL's best, but his 10.38 ERA in six starts since is the worst in the majors among those with at least 30 innings pitched.
"I'm going to keep on grinding and keep on going out there and trying to win ballgames," the right-hander said after yielding five runs, eight hits and four walks in 4 2-3 innings of Thursday's 5-3 loss to St. Louis. "I know this will turn around. You don't get the results, it's tough. I mean, it's frustrating."
Floyd is 0-5 in his last eight interleague starts, and has a 6.07 ERA in his last five with the White Sox losing each time. This will be his first start of the season against the Cubs, who have won all four times they've faced Floyd.