|Cubs look to inch closer to division title|
The Chicago Cubs will try to move closer to locking up another National League Central title when they visit the Chicago White Sox to wrap up a three-game series on Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The Cubs (90-64) have a 2 1/2-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers with eight games remaining in the regular season after Javy Baez homered in Saturday's 8-3 victory. Chicago is seeking its third straight division title under manager Joe Maddon, who is 382-257 since taking over in 2015.
But a division title is not enough for Cubs fans who once suffered through a 108-year title drought but now are hungry for their second World Series championship in the past three seasons.
"What happened is we've done well the last couple of years, but the one run we had in '16 set this impossible standard," Maddon said to the Chicago Tribune. "Everybody believes you're going to run away and win 100-something games on an annual basis, and if you don't, it's going to be somewhat of a failure.
"That's the impression I see. I think we're appreciated, absolutely. The thing that happens sometimes is when you get there a couple of times, 90 wins is not enough. You have to win 100, 105. For us, it's just about winning the last game of the season. That's all we're trying to do."
The White Sox (61-93) would love to put the Cubs in a sour mood in the rubber match of the series and the final meeting of the season between the crosstown rivals, whose stadiums sit 8 miles from one another on the north and south sides of the city.
The Cubs have a 3-2 edge in the season series entering Sunday's finale.
Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks (12-11, 3.58 ERA) will make his 32nd start of the season. The 28-year-old has 50 career wins with the Cubs to go along with a 3.10 ERA. He finished third in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2016.
In five starts against the White Sox, Hendricks is 0-2 with a 4.10 ERA. He has walked five and fanned 25 in 26 1/3 innings.
The White Sox will send out ace left-hander Carlos Rodon (6-6, 3.22 ERA), who will make his 19th start. He has a career record of 26-27 with a 3.78 ERA since entering the big leagues in 2015.
In two starts against the Cubs, Rodon is 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA. He has walked nine and struck out 17 in 10 innings.
White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada leads the majors with 209 strikeouts. He is 14 shy of Mark Reynolds' record of 223 with eight games to go, meaning it is unlikely -- but possible -- that he could take the dubious record.
"I never thought about that," Moncada said through a team interpreter to MLB.com. "I just tried to play my game, enjoy the game, do the things I can do to help us win games. I don't like to strike out, but I never thought about that record."
Neither does White Sox manager Rick Renteria.
"The only talk about it is when you guys ask me about it," Renteria said. "I don't talk to him about it. I talk to him more about his approaches. (Hitting coach Todd Steverson) talks to him about his approaches, how he's attacking a particular pitcher, and then reinforce (the positive) when he does have good at-bats, even though the outcome might not be a good outcome."