New on Sports Illustrated: Pirates hope to slow White Sox's power surge

August 25, 2020 at 09:11AM

After taking two of three from the National League Central-leading Chicago Cubs over the weekend, the Chicago White Sox will host the division cellar-dwelling Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday in the opener of a two-game interleague series.

In case the Pirates hadn't noticed, the White Sox -- winners of seven of eight and on a prolific home run tear -- are jelling. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo can attest to the South Siders' surge firsthand.

"The team has been building and there's been a lot of hype," Rizzo said. "It's obviously tough to be on the losing side of it. But when you see teams come together like that, it's pretty scary."

The White Sox have drilled 28 home runs in their past eight games, including 12 over the weekend. Now the club returns to Guaranteed Rate Field, where it has homered 30 times in 15 games.

Chicago leads the American League with 55 home runs, and a team-best 11 belong to first baseman Jose Abreu, who tied a major league record over the weekend by homering in four successive plate appearances.

Chicago's young core has rallied behind the veteran and his work ethic. The White Sox have compiled two winning streaks of at least six games this season as they aim to reach the postseason for the first time since 2008.

"I'm never satisfied with what I do," Abreu said through a translator. "I always think I can do better, I can do more. That's why I work so hard."

Pittsburgh comes to Chicago on a roll of its own. The Pirates nearly doubled their season win total by earning a three-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers over the weekend.

"It's nice in all facets of the game," Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. "During this series, not only did we do a lot of good things offensively, we pitched pretty well. ... There were a lot of good things that happened."

Right fielder Gregory Polanco, who entered the weekend with a .070 batting average, paced the Pittsburgh attack with a 5-for-10 series that included two home runs, two stolen bases and five RBIs.

Polanco credits a simplified offensive approach for his success.

"Just throw your hands to the ball, that's my mindset right now," he said. "Not try to do too much. I'm catching the ball on the barrel."

The Pirates encountered potential injury adversity on Sunday, however. First baseman Colin Moran (evaluation for a possible concussion) and shortstop Kevin Newman (abdominal discomfort) both left the series finale.

Right-hander Lucas Giolito (2-2, 3.89 ERA) is slated to start for the White Sox on the heels of a dominant outing. On Thursday against the Detroit Tigers, he spaced three hits, one walk and 13 strikeouts in seven shutout innings.

Giolito has faced the Pirates once in his career, taking a no-decision in May 2018 after scattering four runs and seven hits in four innings.

Lefty Steven Brault (0-0, 3.00 ERA) is set to get the call for Pittsburgh as he continues to stretch his innings and pitch count. Brault blanked the Cleveland Indians over a season-high five innings on Wednesday, allowing two hits with one walk and three strikeouts.

Brault has pitched against the White Sox once in his career, logging two innings of one-hit, four-strikeout relief in May 2018.

--Field Level Media

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