Baldwin would be treated to an early seat in the dugout.
After promising days earlier that "we're not going to wait very long with J.B. if he doesn't have it," Manuel offered this before the game: "If he doesn't look good early, he might not have as long a leash as he would normally have."
As it turned out, the leash was too long.
The Cubs rocked Baldwin in their 6-3 victory Sunday night before another capacity crowd of 43,115 at Comiskey Park. Glenallen Hill's three-run homer in the third gave the Cubs a 5-0 lead and ended Baldwin's night.
Although the Sox clinched bragging rights Friday by winning their fourth straight against the Cubs, North Siders can point out that the Cubs ended the series on a two-game winning streak.
And for that they can thank Steve Trachsel, who ended a per-sonal eight-game losing streak by winning for the first time since May 15.
"I'll finally be able to sleep well tonight," said Trachsel (3-12).
He won't be the only one. "That was a very much-needed win," said manager Jim Riggleman. "Obviously the story of the game was Trachsel. The whole series put an exclamation point on how important it is to have good pitching."
In contrast to Manuel, Riggleman said before the game that despite having a rested Terry Mulholland in the bullpen, he wouldn't be trigger-happy if Trachsel struggled.
"That might be my approach with a spot starter," he said, "but (Trachsel) has earned that right (to stay in the game)."
Trachsel justified that faith by yielding three earned runs over 7 1/3 innings. He gave up just six hits and struck out eight batters, his season high. "He got a lot of outs with the slider," Riggleman said. "It was a more Trachsel-like performance."
That wasn't an insult, although Trachsel heard many of them from Sox fans while he warmed up in the bullpen before the game.
"They even got my mother involved," he said. "Maybe that fired me up."
Baldwin could have used a few insults himself. He fell to 4-9 this season and a stunning 0-7 at Comiskey with a 7.48 ERA in those games.
"We have a decision to make with James," Manuel said. "We'll take a look at that situation over the break and decide whether he'll return (to the rotation) or not."
Baldwin consistently made good pitches to get ahead of hitters only to falter deep in the count. Baldwin issued a leadoff walk to Mark Grace on a 3-2 count before giving up back-to-back singles to Henry Rodriguez and Glenallen Hill on two-strike pitches.
After Jeff Reed flied out, Baldwin walked Jose Hernandez on a 3-2 count. Curtis Goodwin's sacrifice fly made the score 2-0, and then Baldwin walked Mickey Morandini on a 3-2 pitch. Tyler Houston's bases-loaded popup halted the damage.
It was more of the same in the third. Baldwin issued back-to-back walks to Grace and Rodriguez before hanging a 3-2 curveball to Hill, who deposited it over the left-field wall to make it 5-0.
The Sox rallied in the third for two runs, but fell short when Carlos Lee grounded into a double play. Chris Singleton homered in the eighth and Frank Thomas singled, but reliever Terry Adams induced a double-play ball from Magglio Ordonez.
The Sox's bullpen limited the Cubs to a Tyler Houston solo home run over the final six innings, but the damage had been done. The Sox could not overcome the hole Baldwin dug them.