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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Brewers Series Preview

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The Cubs’ seven-game homestand comes to a conclusion as they return to divisional play and face off for four games with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Watch out for these two guys.
Watch out for these two guys.
Mike McGinnis

I caught bits and pieces of Sunday's game against the Rays and I have to agree with Al: the Rays' "throwback" (or "fauxback", as they have been called) uniforms looked cool. I don't know why, but something about them made me think of the Flint Tropics in the movie Semi-Pro. And it has nothing to do with Will Ferrell.

With the 4-3 win in 12 innings on Sunday the Cubs' record moves to 50-66, percentage points behind the Arizona Diamondbacks (51-67) and still 4½ games ahead of the Colorado Rockies at the bottom of the National League standings. In case you're wondering, next up the ladder are the Philadelphia Phillies at 53-65. The Cubs now return to divisional play for the next four games, taking on the Milwaukee Brewers for the first time since June 1. Milwaukee comes into the series with a record of 65-53 after a 4-2 homestand against the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cubs are 4-5 against the Brewers this year and are 2-1 at Wrigley Field, having won the first series at Wrigley on May 16-18.

LIKELY PITCHING MATCHUPS:

Monday: Yovani Gallardo (6-6, 3.54 ERA, 1.253 WHIP) vs. Jake Arrieta (6-3, 2.80 ERA, 1.068 WHIP)
Tuesday: Wily Peralta (14-6, 3.42 ERA, 1.272 WHIP) vs. Kyle Hendricks (3-1, 2.10 ERA, 1.019 WHIP)
Wednesday: Kyle Lohse (11-6, 3.33 ERA, 1.155 WHIP) vs. Tsuyoshi Wada (1-1, 3.25 ERA, 1.229 WHIP)
Thursday: Mike Fiers (1-1, 1.80 ERA, 0.867 WHIP) vs. Edwin Jackson (6-12, 5.61 ERA, 1.557 WHIP)

This will be the first time that the Cubs will be facing Fiers this season; he is taking Matt Garza's rotation spot. Garza is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique. He and Emilio Bonifacio must have been hanging out in the same places. The Cubs have faced Fiers before, but you have to go back to August 29, 2012 for the last time; the Cubs lost 3-1 in that matchup. This will also be the first time that the Cubs will be facing Gallardo this season after missing him in the first three series between the two teams. They are 2-2 in the previous matchups this year against Peralta and Lohse, with two wins against Peralta and two losses against Lohse.

THE OFFENSE:

The Brewers offense features six starters whose OPS is at or above .750:

  • Jonathan Lucroy, C, .868
  • Carlos Gomez, CF, .842
  • Ryan Braun, RF, .834
  • Scooter Gennett, 2B, .814
  • Aramis Ramirez, 3B, .793
  • Khris Davis, LF, .785

There have been a few changes to this list since the last time the two teams met. Ramirez is a new add to the list, hitting .329 with an .862 OPS since June 1, along with Gennett, who has posted a .333 / .898 line in the same time frame. Gomez has cooled off significantly since his .987 OPS at the end of May, and Mark Reynolds has dropped off of the list, currently sitting at .714 thanks to a .207 average and .700 OPS since June 1.

The list on the Cubs' side (with last two weeks in parentheses):

  • Javier Baez, .897 (.897)
  • Anthony Rizzo, .881 (.644)
  • Chris Coghlan, .844 (1.125)
  • Starlin Castro, .756 (.705)

Yeah, it's probably a bit early to be throwing Baez into the club, but since he's going to be playing for the foreseeable future I figured I might as well give him his card now. Luis Valbuena joins Justin Ruggiano just on the other side of the door at .749 and .745; between those two and Castro there appears to be a very good chance for a lot of membership changes for the rest of the season.

GAME PROJECTIONS:

Game 1: Gallardo has been a mixed bag since the end of June, allowing four runs or more in four of his starts and two runs or less in the other three. In two of those three starts, he allowed no runs at all and pitched at least seven innings per start. The Cubs have not had much success against Gallardo in his career; he is 8-3 against the Cubs in 17 starts with a 3.12 ERA and 1.240 WHIP. The big question is how well Arrieta will rebound after getting bombed for 13 hits and nine runs in five innings at Colorado. Now that he's out of the thin air his breaking stuff should hopefully start to break better again.

Game 2: It's hard to believe that two of Peralta's six losses have come against the Cubs. They have had his number this year, getting to him for nine runs and 13 hits in just under 13 innings of work. He hasn't allowed more than two runs in any of his last five starts and has won all five of them, so there are streaks to be broken. Hendricks continues to be impressive since the Cincinnati debut; he now has four straight starts in which he has allowed two runs or less and three starts in which his game score was 65 or higher, which is really impressive given that he's not a high-strikeout pitcher.

Game 3: For as much success as the Cubs have had against Peralta, they've had the opposite amount against Lohse this season, including getting blanked in a 9-0 three-hit shutout on June 1. Lohse has been pretty consistent in his last five starts, allowing two runs or less in four of them, but he did get hit hard at St. Louis at the beginning of August. I wish that I would feel less smoke-and-mirrors-ish about Wada, and to be honest I'm not sure why I still do. Something about that San Diego start still makes me skittish, but his other four starts have all been good.

Game 4: I feel like I say this every time that Jackson starts, but there's just nothing new to say about him. Expect six innings or less and four runs or more and be pleasantly surprised by anything else. As for Fiers, this will be only his second start of the season, but his first one was a dandy, pitching eight innings of three-hit ball against the Dodgers on August 9. He has spent most of the year at Triple-A Nashville, where he posted an 8-5 record with a 2.55 ERA and 0.948 WHIP in 17 starts. Something about doom and whatnot.

RUSS' PREDICTION: It seems like every time the Cubs and Brewers have met this season, the pitching matchups have always been really tight. I'm going to play the law of averages on this one and go with 2-2.

NEXT STOP: The Cubs head out of town for a quick trip to New York, playing their final four games of the year against the Mets before returning home again for six more. Scheduling is weird business, I tell you.