And the beat goes on?

As Wayne Messmer belted out the National Anthem prior to the start of Thursday’s battle between the Cubs and White Sox, a few rows of seats were noticeably empty behind the White Sox dugout at Wrigley Field. Those areas pretty much filled in by the time the White Sox were done hitting in the top of the first, but this particular scenario represents just one small reason from the first two days of this series to give pause for thought as to whether the all-Chicago competition is as electric as it once was.

“Yeah. I thought it was down a little bit,” said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, when asked after Wednesday’s victory whether the capacity crowd seemed a bit more subdued. “I think maybe the fact that we play them six times a year, once here and one there, and we played them like 10 times in Spring Training this year.

“It’s still fun to come here and still a great atmosphere, still fun games to be in. It just seemed like there wasn’t as much energy as there has been in the past for this series.”

The White Sox and Cubs actually played five times during Spring Training, including a two-game excursion to Cashman Field in Las Vegas. Other ideas presented by White Sox players for the series being toned down ranged from Tuesday’s rainout offering a bit of a buzz-kill to these games serving as just the second mid-week series in the 13-year history of the competition.

“D (Derrek) Lee and and I were talking at first, and we were saying how once you’ve been in it for a few years, it’s not downplayed but a little more mellow because you’ve already been through it,” White Sox center fielder Brian Anderson said of the rivalry. “I’m sure if you ask Gordon (Beckham), especially getting like eight ground balls in a row yesterday, he’s probably all into it.”

Regardless of a possible slight drop in the fever pitch, the White Sox players agree it’s still the best show in town and potentially the best rivalry in Interleague Play.

“There’s a better atmosphere here then any regular mid-week game, for sure,” White Sox pitcher John Danks said.

“Only a few people in this town root for both teams,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “If you’re a Cub fan, you’re a Cub fan. That’s the way it is. Like I say, a few people do that, they don’t care and root for both teams. But as long as we’re given an opportunity to play this game, it’s going to be a rivalry.”

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