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Scout handicaps Cubs-Sox series
Chiacgo Cubs' Derrek Lee (25) celebrates with Michael Barrett after hitting a grand slam as White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, right, looks on during the eighth inning of an interleague baseball game Saturday, May 19, 2007, in Chicago. The Cubs won, 11-6.(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

CHICAGO - Chicago's heavyweight rematch comes this weekend at U.S. Cellular Field, with the Cubs having won two of three falls the first time around.

What can be expected the second time around?

"The Cubs are playing better,'' said a major-league scout who has seen both teams recently. "But if I was the Cubs, I would hope (the Sox) just keep swinging their bats the way they have been and don't all of a sudden catch fire over the weekend.''

There appears to be little chance of that, considering the Sox haven't won back-to-back games since the last time they actually won a series. That would be May 21-22 vs. Oakland, right after their free fall at Wrigley Field.

Here's a look at the three games Friday through Sunday:

Pitching matchup

Carlos Zambrano vs. Mark Buehrle at 3:05 p.m. Friday; Rich Hill vs. Javier Vazquez at 12:05 p.m. Saturday; and Sean Marshall vs. Jose Contreras at 1:05 p.m. Sunday.

Friday is the major matchup.

"That's a premier one,'' the scout said. "Both are quick workers, aggressive, a power guy vs. a finesse guy, although I think Zambrano is more of a finesse pitcher than people think. It's a tough one to pick because both are throwing the ball very well right now.

"I would say (Saturday) is a draw because both have been inconsistent and (Sunday) would go to Contreras if he pitches at all like he should. But his velocity is down lately.''

Offense

"I would have to give the edge to the Cubs, although I think the White Sox are starting to shows signs of getting out of their (hitting funk),'' the scout said. "I just can't believe what the Sox are doing.

"But they gain (DH Jim) Thome for this series and that's a big plus for them. That's a big edge for the White Sox no matter who the DH is for the Cubs. Thome for three games instead of facing the pitcher?''

Bullpens

"The edge would have to go to the Cubs, with the exception of (closer Bobby) Jenks,'' the scout said. "He has been consistent .''

The ballpark

"(The Cell) is a pretty good hitter's park,'' the scout said. "The ball carries well to right field.''

Normally, that would favor the homer-laden Sox lineup, "but it's just hard to believe what the Sox are hitting now. Right now it may not favor either.''

The crowd

Sox officials have tried to keep their fans from scalping tickets and have made it harder for Cubs fans to get them after the crowd a few years ago was heavily tipped toward the boys in blue. But Sox fans have turned into boo-birds and appear ready to desert the sinking ship.

The statistics

The White Sox are 5-12 when a left-hander starts and the Cubs will pitch two in Hill and Marshall.

The White Sox are 15-18 at home, while the Cubs are 17-19 on the road after Thursday's loss . With all three games being played in the afternoon hours, here are records in day games: Sox 11-20, Cubs 17-21.

And the Sox are 16-11 against the Cubs at The Cell. They never have been swept, and never have swept, but did lose three-game series in 2005 and 1999.

(c) 2007, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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