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Cubs vs. Brewers Preview, Friday 9/10, 7:10 CT: A Blast From The Past

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Two years ago, when these two teams met in September, the Cubs were looking to clinch the NL Central and the Brewers were fighting for a wild card spot which they eventually won.

Now... not so much. The Cubs trail the Brewers by 5.5 games... for fourth place in the NL Central. If the Cubs sweep this series -- something they've already done once in Milwaukee this year -- they'll have a shot at overtaking the Brewers. Otherwise, it's probably fifth place this year. The Cubs' elimination number for the NL Central is four, for the wild card three.

The Brewers are one of two NL Central teams against whom the Cubs have a winning record (7-5; the other is the Cardinals, 5-4). This makes no sense. The Cubs' combined 14-32 record against the Pirates, Astros and Reds accounts for almost the entire 20 games under .500 overall mark the Cubs have right now (46-48 against everyone else).

It would be nice to finish the year strong in the NL Central for the next manager, whoever it turns out to be.

Tonight's lineup via tweet from CubsInsider:

UPDATED #Cubs lineup @ #Brewers (9/10): Fukudome RF, Castro SS, Byrd CF, Hoffpauir 1B, Soto C, Soriano LF, DeWitt 2B, BARNEY 3B, Zambrano P

Why is Micah Hoffpauir starting a game? Are Japanese scouts in Milwaukee watching him? The original lineup, BTW, had Baker at 3B.

Brewers lineup via tweet from Brewercom:

#Brewers vs. Cubs - Weeks 4 Hart 9 Braun 7 Fielder 3 McGehee 5 Dickerson 8 Escobar 6 Lucroy 2 Bush 1
Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Zambrano
Carlos Zambrano
Cubs
vs. Dave Bush
Dave Bush
Brewers
7-6 W-L 7-11
4.23 ERA 4.71
87 SO 95
51 BB 55
7 HR 27
vs. Mil -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Carlos Zambrano 7-6 37 15 0 0 0 0 95.2 103 50 45 7 51 87 4.23 1.61


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Dave Bush 7-11 35 27 0 0 0 0 153.0 177 95 80 27 55 95 4.71 1.52

Dave Bush is tied for second in the National League (with Ted Lilly) for most HR allowed, with 27 (Rodrigo Lopez of the Diamondbacks has given up 33). Six of those home runs have been hit by Cubs this year in three starts by Bush against them; Bush has an airline ERA (7.47) against the Cubs. Four of those were in one game on April 25 in Milwaukee, hit by Kosuke Fukudome, Geovany Soto, Tyler Colvin and Derrek Lee. D-Lee is gone, but let's hope the others have brought their hitting shoes tonight.

Carlos Zambrano has one start and two relief appearances vs. the Brewers this year, but more importantly, he has looked better with each successive start since returning to the rotation. He now has a 1.98 ERA in six starts since August 9, with only one home run allowed in 36.1 innings. While I was on the "dump Z" bandwagon when all the bad stuff happened earlier this year -- I'm willing to say I was wrong if he continues pitching with purpose and focus and concentration and good stuff and command, all of which have been clearly evident. Maybe that contract will turn out to be worth it after all. If he can hold Prince Fielder down tonight, that will say something; Fielder has absolutely killed Z with a .342 lifetime average (13-for-38, five doubles, two HR, 13 walks).

Today's game is on WGN and FSN Wisconsin. Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Brewers site Brew Crew Ball. As always, be careful over there.

Today's first pitch thread will be up at 7 pm CDT, and the overflows will post at 8:15 pm, 9:15 pm and 10 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.