The Cubs/Brewers rivalry has become quite a good one since the Brewers entered the National League Central in 1998. At times both teams have been bad, other times both good, still other times one was in contention and the other not.
The latter scenario is where we find ourselves as July turns to August this weekend. This four-game series is quite important to the Cubs. I asked the manager of SB Nation's Brewers site Brew Crew Ball to tell us a bit about where his team is right now and where they're headed.
By the time the Brewers and Cubs play each other, Milwaukee might look very different. With the Brewers dead-last in the NL Central, the team is looking to sell sell sell before the Friday trade deadline. They've already dealt Aramis Ramirez (back) to the Pirates. Carlos Gomez was traded, then wasn't, and now is apparently expected to be dealt again. Gerardo Parra should be traded. Adam Lind, Jean Segura and Jonathan Lucroy have all received varying degrees of interest. Lucroy won't be traded, but any of the others are definitely up for grabs. My best guess is that the Brewers end up dealing Parra and Gomez. I would have originally just said Parra, but since the fiasco Wednesday night, it seems like the Brewers genuinely expect to trade Gomez as well. Which is exciting and horrible at the same time. It's been a while since Brewers fans have had to feel this way -- after a decade and a half of futility, Milwaukee has generally been in contention since 2007. It's not familiar anymore to trade away players en masse. They dealt Greinke before he hit free agency, yes, but the last player to leave that I felt as attached to as Gomez was Prince Fielder. But Fielder wasn't traded. Still, it's building for a brighter future. Wheeler and Flores -- the anticipated return in the failed Mets trade -- would have provided a ton of potential that we could pin our hopes on. It didn't work out, but if that's the caliber of return we can expect I would be pretty happy. That rumored trade was pretty polarizing, but I was happy with it. They should also be able to get nice pieces for Parra and, eventually, Lind. Segura, possibly, too. Along with some recent drafts where the Brewers have focused on drafting incredibly high-ceiling players, it's exciting to think about what the future of Milwaukee baseball could look like. We're only at the beginning of the rebuild, though, and as Cubs fans can attest it can be a difficult road until that light finally shines through. The Brewers are no good this year and they won't be good next year. Three, four, five years down the line though? Well, we can dream.
Thursday: Jake Arrieta (11-6, 2.61 ERA, 1.002 WHIP, 2.61 FIP) vs. Jimmy Nelson (8-9, 3.97 ERA, 1.292 WHIP, 4.09 FIP)
Friday: Jason Hammel (5-5, 3.20 ERA, 1.024 WHIP, 3.16 FIP) vs. Taylor Jungmann (5-2, 2.14 ERA, 1.051 WHIP, 3.23 FIP)
Saturday: Kyle Hendricks (4-5, 3.81 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, 3.36 FIP) vs. Matt Garza (5-11, 5.20 ERA, 1.545 WHIP, 4.74 FIP)
Sunday: TBD vs. Kyle Lohse (5-12, 6.24 ERA, 1.437 WHIP, 5.10 FIP)
It's been mentioned that Sunday's Cubs starter could be Clayton Richard. Personally, I hope not; I'm hoping the Cubs complete a deal before Friday's deadline for a starter and that's who will go on Sunday.
It's amazing to see how far Garza has fallen. He's 86th among 92 qualified starters in ERA this year. Lohse is 91st. So those two games... perhaps even the Cubs offense can get going against pitchers who have been that bad.
I've been hesitant about predicting sweeps or even winning series. So let me predict a split of this four-game set. Maybe that will help. The Cubs came to Milwaukee for a four-game series in late July 2008 and swept it. Since then they are 22-36 in Miller Park and have won only six of the 19 series played in that span.
Time to change all that, but given the Cubs' offensive woes, I'm not going to predict it. I'll be pleasantly surprised if the bats wake up this weekend.
The Cubs have another key divisional matchup as they head to PNC Park to face the Pirates in a three-game series starting Monday.