A pair of newly named All-Stars will square off when the Chicago White Sox welcome the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night to open a two-game series at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Chicago (30-60) has lost five straight in a season that has been filled with struggles, but first baseman Jose Abreu has been a consistent source of production at the plate and leadership in the locker room. The 31-year-old from Cuba is hitting .259 with 12 home runs and 50 RBIs, along with a team-leading 27 doubles.
Abreu will return to his home field for the first time since being named an All-Star starter for the American League. He is the first White Sox position player voted into the starting lineup since Frank Thomas in 1996.
"That made this moment even greater," Abreu said through a team interpreter to the Chicago Tribune. "Like I always said, I like to represent this organization. I like to wear these colors. I always do my best to represent this team. It's a really, really big honor. When you receive news like this, it's like a relief."
But Abreu cannot afford to relax for too long as a difficult series looms.
St. Louis (46-43) has endured an up-and-down season in Mike Matheny's seventh year as manager, but the club is desperate to string together some wins before the All-Star break to stay within range of the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs in the National League Central. The Cardinals are 4-3 on their road trip, which will wrap up in Chicago.
Opposing Abreu and the White Sox will be another All-Star: Cardinals right-hander Miles Mikolas (9-3, 2.63 ERA). The 29-year-old spent the past few seasons in Japan and signed with St. Louis during the offseason as a relatively anonymous free agent, but he has proved to be a terrific find as he ranks in the NL's top 10 in victories and ERA.
Mikolas never has faced the White Sox. He is 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA in five interleague games (three starts).
Matheny said Mikolas has established himself among the league's most effective pitchers.
"I think any guy who has to be in that conversation -- we have a number of guys in that conversation -- that's an elite group," Matheny said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Miles has been in that conversation since early on. I think he's very proud of stepping back in, wanting to get back to this league and make an impact and be talked about in that way. Always happy to have guys come in and have a story that's obviously helping us in a big way."
Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter also has a shot to make the midsummer classic. The 32-year-old is part of the NL's final vote competition, which includes Jesus Aguilar of the Milwaukee Brewers, Max Muncy of the Los Angeles Dodgers and others. Carpenter is hitting .258 with 17 home runs and 41 RBIs in 84 games.
White Sox right-hander Dylan Covey (3-4, 5.54 ERA) will try to silence Carpenter and the rest of the Cardinals. Covey started well but has tasted adversity as of late with an 0-3 record and a 13.20 ERA in his last four starts.
This is Covey's first appearance against St. Louis. He is 0-2 with a 7.16 ERA in five interleague games (four starts).
The White Sox are 16-27 at home this season. The Cardinals are 23-21 on the road.