The Chicago Cubs refuse to let a cool weekend forecast get in the way of their red-hot bats.
The Cubs (21-15) have won five games in a row, scoring an eye-popping 50 runs during those games, and will go for the sweep Sunday afternoon when they host the crosstown rival Chicago White Sox. The Cubs have matched a season high-water mark at six games above .500.
No hitter is hotter than catcher Willson Contreras, who has eight extra-base hits in his past three games. Contreras clubbed a two-run homer Saturday after hitting a grand slam one day earlier in the series opener.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon is not taken aback by Contreras’ recent success.
“That’s what I thought he looked like before he got hurt last year,” Maddon told reporters after Saturday’s win. “It’s no surprise to me. That’s what he is.”
Meanwhile, the White Sox (9-27) remain in a free fall. Manager Rick Renteria’s club has lost seven straight games and 11 of 12. It has the worst record in baseball, not to mention the worst start in franchise history after 36 games.
The White Sox have been outscored 19-6 in the first two games of the series.
“(It’s impressive) how dynamic they are throughout their lineup,” White Sox right-hander James Shields told reporters when asked about the Cubs’ offensive attack. “One through nine, they execute. They’re aggressive, they take pitches when they need to, and they get on base when they need to and get the runners in.
“That’s a tough lineup over there, no doubt about it, and they’re swinging the bats right now.”
Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks (3-2, 3.02 ERA) will try to keep the winning streak going when he takes the mound for his eighth start. He earned a victory in his most recent outing against the Miami Marlins, allowing only two runs in eight innings. He walked none and struck out three.
In four career starts against the White Sox, Hendricks is 0-1 with a 3.98 ERA. The Dartmouth alum has struck out 19 batters in 20 1/3 innings against the White Sox.
The White Sox will counter with right-hander Lucas Giolito (1-4, 7.25), who also is making his eighth start. The 23-year-old is looking to improve upon his last performance, in which he gave up four runs in four innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has allowed at least three earned runs in six of his first seven starts.
This will mark Giolito’s first start against the Cubs. In three career interleague starts, he is 0-2 with a 5.74 ERA.
The White Sox’s rocky start has taken a toll on the clubhouse, but their veterans remain committed to the cause. First baseman Jose Abreu said he wanted to remain as long as possible as the rebuilding effort takes shape.
“There is not any doubt about it,” Abreu said through a translator, according to the team’s official website. “My mom and dad, they taught me to always be grateful, and I’m really grateful for this organization because of all the things they have done for me and the opportunities they gave me.
“I hope with God’s will I can finish my career here. I hope I can stay here for as long as I can as a baseball player.”