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The First "Big Series" Of The Summer: Cubs vs. Brewers Preview, Thursday 7/2, 7:05 CT

By this time a year ago, the Brewers had already played two series at Wrigley Field. Instead, in 2009, the Cubs have played two series in Milwaukee -- splitting the six games -- and welcome the visitors from up I-94 to Chicago for the first time in 2009. The Cubs had the best ERA in the NL in June -- 3.18 -- but, for reasons we are all well familiar with, had their second losing month of the year (yesterday, I posted that it was the first losing month since August 2007, but the Cubs went 10-11 in April 2009). If the bats can get turned on and the pitching remains consistent, wins will follow.

And, though I suppose we shouldn't expect the "old" Aramis Ramirez back right away -- even he says he's not 100% -- he's headed for a rehab assignment starting tomorrow, and:

If all goes well, the plan is to bring him back for the start of the series with the Braves on Monday.

That's ten days earlier than I had hoped he'd be back (right after the All-Star break), and the Cubs can use an A-Ram at even 85-90% of efficiency.

Interesting take from Chris DeLuca on the dynamic between Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella. I wasn't in favor of signing Raul Ibanez last off season; apparently Lou was, but Hendry wasn't:

Piniella's preference on the free-agent market for a left-handed bat was Raul Ibanez. And despite a recent poll suggesting many of today's players would rather avoid working for Piniella, Ibanez was not among them. They know each other well from their days together with the Seattle Mariners, and Ibanez told the Sun-Times last winter he loved playing for Piniella and was interested in the Cubs.

But Hendry focused on Bradley right out of the box and struck a handshake deal with the controversial player in December, though a final deal couldn't be completed until Hendry took care of some payroll shuffling.

This is not to suggest Hendry and Piniella have drifted off the same page, but the dynamic seems to have changed.
Today's Starting Pitchers
Ryan Dempster
Ryan Dempster
vs. Seth McClung
Seth McClung
4-5 W-L 3-1
4.09 ERA 3.55
80 SO 30
42 BB 25
11 HR 6
vs. Mil -- vs. Cubs

2009 - Ryan Dempster 4-5 16 16 0 0 0 0 99.0 93 49 45 11 42 80 4.09 1.36

2009 - Seth McClung 3-1 29 1 0 0 0 1 45.2 42 18 18 6 25 30 3.55 1.47

Seth McClung's numbers this year look decent. And his career numbers vs. the Cubs look very good (17.2 innings in 10 relief appearances, 2.55 ERA). And then you look at his career numbers starting (16-24, 5.71 in 50 career starts) and tonight's chances look much better. It would be another good day to sit Alfonso Soriano, who is 1-for-15 lifetime vs. McClung. Kosuke Fukudome is 4-for-6. McClung has never started against the Cubs and he didn't throw too well in his only start so far this year, five days ago vs. the Giants. (And would someone please give him some smile pills?)

Ryan Dempster has faced the Brewers twice already this year, winning on April 12 and losing on May 9. Lifetime he's 8-2, 2.45 vs. Milwaukee and the only one of the Brewers who really pounds him is, strangely enough, Jason Kendall (16-for-43, .419, 3 doubles, 5 walks).

Tonight's game is on CSN Chicago and FSN Wisconsin. For other games today see the Mediacenter. Gameday game preview

SB Nation game preview

Here is where I usually link to the opponent's SBN site. I'm going to do it anyway, even though I know BCB readers haven't been welcomed with open arms at the "other" BCB. Brew Crew Ball.

Overflow comment threads will post today at 7 pm, 8 pm and 8:45 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.