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Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers Preview, Friday 7/22, 7:10 CT

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The Cubs visit "Wrigley North" for a weekend series.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

How important is Dexter Fowler to this team?

To be clear, those numbers are with Fowler in the starting lineup. That's a significant decrease in runs per game without him. Obviously it's not all Fowler... but a big part of it is.

The Cubs' lead in the N.L. Central going into tonight's action is 6½ games. That's the smallest lead the team has had since May 31. I think it's time to start increasing that again, don't you?

Here is your once-a-series reminder about SB Nation's daily fantasy partner FanDuel. If you want to play, click this link.

Here are today's particulars.

Cubs lineup:

Fowler CF, Bryant 3B, Rizzo 1B, Zobrist 2B, Contreras LF, Heyward RF, Russell SS, Montero C, Hammel P

Brewers lineup:

Villar SS, Gennett 2B, Braun LF, Lucroy C, Carter 1B, Nieuwenhuis CF, Perez 3B, Flores RF, Nelson P

Jason Hammel

vs

Jimmy Nelson

The good version of Jason Hammel showed up in his last start, Saturday against the Rangers. That's a good sign. He's got one start vs. the Brewers this year, May 19 at Miller Park. He allowed four runs in six innings, but struck out seven. Two Brewers homered off him that day: Chris Carter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Keep the ball in the yard, Jason.

Jimmy Nelson has an 0.71 ERA and 1.184 WHIP in two starts against the Cubs this year. In his last outing, July 16 against the Reds, he threw seven shutout innings. This one isn't going to be easy, but the Cubs can score against Nelson if they're patient. Nelson is fourth in the N.L. in most walks allowed with 50. Time to get that walk watch cranked up again.

Today's game is on CSN Chicago Plus.

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. If you do go there to interact with Brewers fans, please be respectful, abide by their individual site rules and serve as a good representation of Cub fans in general and BCB in particular.

The 2016 Game Thread procedure will be the same as the one used at the end of 2015. Here's how it works.

You'll find the game preview posted separately on the front page, two hours before game time (90 minutes for some early day games following night games).

At the same time, a StoryStream™ containing the preview will also post on the front page. The First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads will be published in that stream, as well as the recap. The recap will also live on the front page as a separate post, and at the time I write the recap I will rename the stream "Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads" so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.

You will also be able to find the preview, First Pitch Thread, all the overflow threads and recap in the box marked "Chicago Cubs Game Threads" at the bottom of the front page (you can also find them in this section link). They will also appear in the game's StoryStream™ as noted above.

The First Pitch thread will post at five minutes before game time, then an overflow thread at one hour, two hours and 2:45 after the scheduled game time.

Discuss amongst yourselves.