As Jon Lester gets his first taste of the Crosstown Classic in a Saturday showdown with Chris Sale, we penned letters introducing the lefty to the rivalry -- and Sale to the new-look Cubs.
Dear Jon Lester,
You certainly don't need me to tell you that Saturday should be that proverbial walk in the park and there is no reason you shouldn't be walking off the field a winner against the White Sox.
All you need is a stat sheet to know that the White Sox are one of the worst hitting teams in baseball. You know their organization well from your days at Boston and Oakland, and this year's White Sox crew is as disappointing as it gets. They are last in the American League in runs with 286, last in slugging percentage at .357 and last in OPS at .653. Piece of cake.
And as for that issue you have throwing over to first base to hold on runners, the White Sox have the second-lowest stolen base total in the AL at 22, and the worst stolen base percentage at 54.17. Let 'em run and they'll probably get lost on the way to second base.
This should be the most stress-free outing of your career.
Sure you're squaring off against Chris Sale, one of the most dominant pitchers in the game right now, who is plucking off strikeouts as if they were apples from a tree. But you don't actually face Sale, right? You just pitch against the opposing lineup. That's what pitchers say all the time anyway, so it's like Sale doesn't even matter out there.
Plus, you have already pitched in the greatest rivalry known to man when your Red Sox faced the Yankees. Everybody knows that Red Sox and Yankees is a modern day Hatfields and McCoys, so this Chicago stuff will be child's play.
As for coming to the plate, you finally know what it's like to get a hit, so why worry about that Sale three-quarter delivery and trying to determine whether it's a sweeping slider or a 98 mph fastball? Hint: They'll all be fastballs, so even getting on base will be easier now.
All in all, Jon, there really doesn't seem like there is anything to worry about. You can thank me later. Maybe over a glass of your CabernAce wine. I'll bring some homebrew. See you there.
Dear Chris Sale,
If you want to start up that double-digit strikeout streak again, you've come to the right place. The Cubs lead the National League in whiffs while playing the fewest number of games in the NL.
Yeah, they'll strike out for you just as the Houston Astros did 14 times against you last month. The Cubs are the Astros of the National League.
Don't take them too lightly, though -- they entered the series 9-4 when a lefty opposes them, and considering you guys are 5-11 against lefties and hit an AL-worst .226 off them, maybe Jon Lester does have the advantage on Saturday afternoon. But wait a minute, that .226 batting average going into the weekend is exactly what the Cubs hit in day games, so maybe you do have the upper hand. Now I know opposing lefty batters are just 9-for-51 (.176) with six walks off you this year, but don't relax on the Cubs' best of the best.
Anthony Rizzo is an on-base machine off left-handers. He has 10 walks and seven hit-by-pitches to just eight strikeouts off lefties this year while getting on base a whopping 46 percent of the time. If you come inside to him, he'll either jack one out of the park or take one on the forearm. Either way, he gets on base.
And while rookie Kris Bryant hasn't faced many lefties in his short career, he hits a home run off them once every 12 at-bats. That ranks seventh in baseball. Not bad for a first-year player.
If you're looking for easier outs, they could come in the bottom half of the Cubs' order. Though Lester just earned his first career hit, you're not going to get much of a fight from him while Addison Russell is hitting just .146 with 12 strikeouts in 48 at-bats off left-handed pitching since being called up -- so Nos. 8 and 9 in the Cubs' order shouldn't be an issue for you.
We can spin this matchup a lot of ways, but if strikeouts are your game then the Cubs will certainly oblige -- but in between might be a tougher time than you've had lately. That's the hope of Cubs fans, anyway.
Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs)