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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Brewers Series Preview

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The Brewers are a lesser opponent than the Cubs' previous two, but Joe Maddon won't let this team's focus change.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

I'm actually glad the Brewers defeated the Reds Sunday afternoon, not that their win had anything directly to do with the Cubs or the Cubs' playoff chase.

It's more that the win broke a Milwaukee eight-game losing streak. I wouldn't have wanted to see them come into Wrigley having lost nine straight -- teams like that can be dangerous. Now that they've snapped that string, they can resume losing again.

Which is what they've done quite a bit of lately. On July 30, the Brewers were 44-58 entering a series with the Cubs. The Cubs swept that four-game series at Miller Park, then swept another one at Wrigley Field two weeks later. Milwaukee did have a dead-cat bounce six-game winning streak in early September, including a sweep of the Pirates (they seem to have the Pirates' number for some reason), but since that streak ended they are 3-11.

The Cubs thus have won the last seven games they have played against the Brewers. Let's hope that keeps going.

Fun fact

We won't see ex-Cub Matt Garza in this series -- at all. Garza was removed from the rotation, as sometimes happens with older pitchers having bad years, for the Brewers to look at some of their younger guys. He apparently told Brewers management he wouldn't pitch in relief so they had intended to shut him down for the year. Then he went on paternity leave, as his wife is about to have twins, and the Brewers told him just to stay home for the rest of the season.

You can bet the Brewers are going to try as hard as they can to trade the final two years of Garza's contract this offseason.

Probable pitchers

Monday: Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.73 ERA, 1.149 WHIP, 3.72 FIP) vs. Wily Peralta (5-9, 4.41 ERA, 1.480 WHIP, 4.82 FIP)

Tuesday: Jake Arrieta (19-6, 1.96 ERA, 0.923 WHIP, 2.51 FIP) vs. Brewers Bullpen Guys

Wednesday: Kyle Hendricks (7-6, 4.22 ERA, 1.235 WHIP, 3.66 FIP) vs. Zach Davies (1-2, 6.00 ERA, 1.476 WHIP, 4.77 FIP)

Prediction

The Cubs can't afford to let up in this series; every game is important. They would seem to have the upper hand in pitching matchups throughout the set, especially Tuesday when Arrieta faces an assortment of Milwaukee relievers (at this writing, it's not yet been announced by Brewers manager Craig Counsell who will start that game). That was to have been Jimmy Nelson's turn, but he's been pushed back after the scary injury last Thursday where he was hit in the head by a line drive hit by Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham. Fortunately, Nelson is OK but the Brewers want to give him more time before he starts again, so the Cubs don't have to face him or Taylor Jungmann, Milwaukee's two best starters. Also, regular Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy hasn't played since September 8 due to a concussion and might miss this entire series. Zach Davies came over from the Orioles in the Gerardo Parra deal and will be making his fifth major-league start.

The Cubs have done quite well since I promised to not predict sweeps anymore. Thus I will continue down that road for this set: more meatloaf. Two out of three.

Up next

The Cubs host the Pirates in a three-game series at Wrigley Field that could help decide where this year's National League wild-card game will be played.