Much of the story of the 2016 season has been written in the Windy City, and the two teams that have blown past all the rest so far will put Chicago in the spotlight again on Friday with marquee series openers.
The Cubs, their historic start hitting its first two-game losing streak, play host to the Pirates, their National League Central pursuers. The White Sox, leading the AL Central by a five-game margin that is second only to the Cubs' seven-game division lead, begin a big-city matchup as they bring their hot start and a rolling ace to Yankee Stadium.
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Here is a look at what to watch for today in the Majors (all times ET):
Central of attention: PIT@CHC, 2:20 p.m.
The two contenders from last year's NL Wild Card Game meet for the second time this season, the Cubs hosting the Pirates after sweeping them at PNC Park earlier this month and outscoring them, 20-5. The Cubs lost back-to-back games for the first time this season when the Padres swept a Wednesday doubleheader, and the Cubs look to veteran Jason Hammel to steer them back in the right direction. He'll be up against Bucs lefty Francisco Liriano, who is 5-2 with a 2.27 ERA in 11 career starts against the Cubs, including a 4-1 record and a 1.56 ERA in five starts at Wrigley Field. The two teams renewed some tensions during that earlier Cubs sweep, but both are focused on the task at hand: winning games against an NL Central rival.
"It's just a matter of us going out there and playing our game, and we can beat any team any time we want to," Pirates catcher Chris Stewart said. "Just playing our game, focusing on our abilities, not letting another team -- the Cubs are good at getting us off our track."
Stat that matters: After a slow start, Pirates star Andrew McCutchen is riding a six-game hitting streak. McCutchen is a career .319/.408/.517 hitter in May, and he is off to a .306/.390/.528 start for the month.
Sox in the Bronx: CWS@NYY, 7:05 p.m.
Chicago brings its brand of Sox to New York as the White Sox take their white-hot start to the Bronx for the first of three against the Yankees on Friday night, and they've got one of the game's top aces in lefty Chris Sale for the opener. Sale has been brilliant every time out this year and comes into the game undefeated at 7-0 in seven starts with a 1.79 ERA and a .165 opponents' batting average in 50 1/3 innings -- and he wants more.
"If you ask anybody who's done anything -- world champions, boxers, heavyweight title guys, Cy Youngs, whoever -- everyone's always trying to do better than the last time out," Sale said.
The Yankees will counter Sale with right-hander Luis Severino, who by contrast is 0-5 in his six starts thus far this season. The Yankees are 5-2 on their current 10-game homestand, having taken two of three from those other Sox from Boston and then three of four from the defending World Series champion Royals.
Stat that matters: Sale is the first White Sox pitcher to win each of his first seven starts since Jon Garland won his first eight in 2005.
October memories: TOR@TEX, 8:05 p.m.
A May home-and-home between teams that got after it in a five-game AL Division Series last October resumes this weekend in Texas. The Blue Jays took three of four north of the border at the beginning of the month, and both teams enter this series as defending division champions looking up in the standings at early leaders. It will be lefty Martin Perez on the mound for Texas against Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
Stat that matters: Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus is 0-for-14 off Dickey, which are his most at-bats without a hit against any pitcher in his career.
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John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.