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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Brewers series preview

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The top two teams in the N.L. Central meet in a key showdown series.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

This is the biggest series between these two division rivals since 2008, so I asked Kyle Lesniewski, manager of our SB Nation Brewers site Brew Crew Ball, to update us on his team.

Early this season, who would have thought that going into the last series before the trade deadline, that we would be talking about a Brewers team that trails the Cubs by just 1½ games in the NL Central standings? This version of the Milwaukee Nine has been quite the story this year, turning what was expected to be another "rebuilding" season into a year that they ended up becoming buyers at the trade deadline to try and supplement the roster for a playoff run.

Offense has been the main driver of Milwaukee's success this season. No National League team has hit more homers than Milwaukee's 153 and only four NL clubs have plated more than the Brewers' 502 runs in 2017. This, despite the fact that Ryan Braun hasn't played in even half of the team's games and that the league has mostly caught up to Eric Thames after his otherwordly April. Instead, Travis Shaw (24 HR, 140 wRC+) and Domingo Santana (16 HR, 123 wRC+) have been the most consistent contributors throughout the year. The offense on the whole struggled through a mini-slump during Milwaukee's recent six-game losing skid, but they appear to have mostly broken through those issues.

The pitching staff remains a question mark and will likely be what makes or breaks Milwaukee's pennant chase in the coming months. Jimmy Nelson has blossomed into a legitimate front-of-the-rotation type arm this season, and Chase Anderson was having a nice run as well before an injury sidelined at the end of June. He doesn't figure to be back for another couple weeks. Matt Garza has been surprising solid this year but just made his third trip to the 10-day DL. Zach Davies has been maddeningly inconsistent, and #2016BrewersAce Junior Guerra has battled mechanical issues, velocity fluctuations, and a near complete inability to locate the baseball while keeping a tenuous hold on a rotation spot. The Brewers just added Anthony Swarzak from the White Sox and he should help shore things up a bit in the bullpen, but this pitching staff would greatly benefit from the addition of a legitimate frontline starter to pair with Nelson (I've been praying for Sonny Gray) and another solid relief arm.

Fun fact

Since the All-Star break the Cubs are 11-2 and the Brewers are 4-9. The Cubs have thus turned a 5½-game deficit into the previously mentioned 1½-game lead, a seven-game swing over the span of just 13 games.

Pitching matchups

Friday: Jose Quintana, RHP (6-8, 4.22 ERA, 1.261 WHIP, 3.86 FIP) vs. Brent Suter, LHP (1-1, 2.84 ERA, 1.237 WHIP, 3.01 FIP)

Saturday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (4-3, 3.95 ERA, 1.242 WHIP, 4.27 FIP) vs. Junior Guerra, RHP (1-4, 5.22 ERA, 1.534 WHIP, 7.12 FIP)

Sunday: John Lackey, RHP (7-9, 4.97 ERA, 1.334 WHIP, 5.66 FIP) vs. Zach Davies, RHP (12-4, 4.45 ERA, 1.440 WHIP, 4.73 FIP)

  • Jose Quintana’s numbers above include his 18 starts with the White Sox. As a Cub: 2-0, 2.08 ERA, 0.769 WHIP, 2.68 FIP

Times & TV channels

Friday: 7:10 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Milwaukee markets)

Saturday: 6:10 p.m. CT, WGN

Sunday: 1:10 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago, TBS (no blackouts)

Prediction

The Cubs appear to have the better pitching matchup in at least two of these games. They are 5-4 against the Brewers this year and won the previous series played in Miller Park back in April and are MLB’s hottest team while the Brewers are in a tailspin. So I’m calling for the same to happen this weekend, a Cubs series win, two of three.

Up next

The Cubs are off Monday, then begin a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field Tuesday evening.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Brewers?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    3
    (127 votes)
  • 55%
    2
    (209 votes)
  • 5%
    1
    (22 votes)
  • 4%
    0
    (16 votes)
374 votes total Vote Now