Brewers-Cubs series could decide the NL Central race, so here are five reasons to watch
The Cubs saw their NL Central lead cut to two games over the weekend
An eventful weekend in Milwaukee and Washington has turned a three-game series in Chicago into the center of the baseball universe this week. The NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs will host the second place Milwaukee Brewers for three games at Wrigley Field.
The Brew Crew swept the Giants at home this weekend while the Cubs were rained out Friday and Sunday against the Nationals, and were swept in a doubleheader Saturday. As a result, . It was a four-game lead as recently as Saturday morning.
Here are the pitching matchups for this week's three-game series on Chicago's north side:
|Date||Time||TV and streaming options||Brewers SP||Cubs SP|
Mon., Sept. 10
8:05 p.m. ET
Fox Sports Wisconsin, NBC Sports Chicago, fuboTV (try for free)
LHP Wade Miley (3-2, 2.12)
LHP Jon Lester (15-5, 3.53)
Tue., Sept. 11
8:05 p.m. ET
Fox Sports Wisconsin, WGN, MLB Network
RHP Jhoulys Chacin (14-6, 3.59)
LHP Jose Quintana (12-9, 4.14)
Wed., Sept. 12
8:05 p.m. ET
Fox Sports Wisconsin, ABC 7, ESPN, fuboTV (try for free)
RHP Chase Anderson (9-7, 3.95)
RHP Kyle Hendricks (11-10, 3.71)
Neither club will start their big midseason trade pickup (Cole Hamels and Gio Gonzalez) this week, though we are getting some good pitching matchups. Pitchers duels are fun in their own way, don't get me wrong, but I'm a sucker for intense postseason atmosphere games decided by late rallies, which usually means against the bullpen. Can't beat late-inning drama in baseball.
"The Brewers are absolutely on fire and the Cubs have to be concerned,". "They were preparing for October knowing they'd won the division, but now they're turning around and realizing if the Brewers sweep them, the Brewers are in first place. Don't look for a sweep by the Brew Crew, but I am looking for them to win two out of three."
Here are five things to know about this week's three-game Brewers vs. Cubs series at Wrigley Field.
1. The Cubs have the season series advantage
This will be the sixth and final regular-season series between these two NL Central rivals. Here's how the previous five series have played out:
- April 5-8 at Miller Park: Cubs won three of four.
- April 26-29 at Wrigley Field: Cubs sweep.
- June 11-13 at Miller Park: Brewers won two of three.
- August 14-15 at Wrigley Field: Teams split two-game series.
- September 3-5 at Miller Park: Brewers won two of three.
The Cubs are 10-6 against the Brewers this season and have already clinched the season series -- they've outscored the Brewers 54-46 in the 16 games -- but the Brewers have won five of their last eight meetings, including winning a three-game series in Milwaukee last week.
After this series, the Brewers and Cubs do not play against during the regular season. Their next meeting would come in the NLDS, or next season. These three games at Wrigley Field are the best chance for the Brew Crew to close that two-game gap in the standings and get back in the NL Central race.
2. The Cubs have a tough schedule this week
The Cubs and Nationals were rained out Friday night, ending a stretch of 18 games in 17 days for Chicago.. Instead, the game was rained out and the two teams played a doubleheader Saturday, a doubleheader that features lots of rain. The Nationals swept the two games. Sunday's series finale was then rained out.
Because of Sunday's rainout, the Cubs (and Nationals) had to give up their scheduled off-day this Thursday to play a makeup game. So the Cubs played a rainy weekend in Washington, go home for three games against the Brewers, then fly back to Washington for the makeup game, then go back to Chicago to continue their homestand. The Cubs have only one off-day remaining this season now. They'll play 20 games in 21 days to close out the season.
Every team deals with travel problems. They're inevitable. The Cubs have had it especially bad of late. The good news? Only four of their remaining 20 games will be played outside Chicago. They have the makeup game with the Nationals on Thursday, plus a three-game series against the Diamondbacks in Arizona next week. The other 16 games on the schedule will be in Chicago (13 home games and a three-game road series against the White Sox.)
3. Rizzo and Yelich are red-hot
This series will feature two of the hottest and most productive hitters in baseball since the All-Star break. Both Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich have been a one-man army in the second half. The second half numbers:
By WAR, Yelich and Rizzo have been the third and sixth best players in baseball since the All-Star break, respectively. Here is the second half WAR leaderboard:
- Matt Chapman, Athletics: 3.6 WAR
- Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves: 3.2 WAR
- Christian Yelich, Brewers: 3.1 WAR
- Alex Bregman, Astros: 2.9 WAR
- Justin Turner, Dodgers: 2.7 WAR
- Anthony Rizzo, Cubs: 2.5 WAR
Rizzo had a very un-Rizzo-like first half, but he has been making up for it in the second half. Yelich was a deserving All-Star this year and has been even better in the second half. He's put himself right in the thick of the MVP race.
"You've got two of the top MVP candidates playing at Wrigley Field tonight. Christian Yelich has been on fire and Javy Baez wants that MVP trophy too," . "For me, whoever wins the NL Central, that's probably going to be the MVP."
4. Quintana has historically dominated the Brewers
When he takes the mound Tuesday night, Quintana will be making his 10th career start against the Brewers. He is 5-2 with a 1.78 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in 60 2/3 innings in the previous nine starts. He's held Brewers hitters to a .174/.228/.296 batting line in those 60 2/3 innings. Quintana has dominated the Brewers, historically.
Tuesday's start will be Quintana's sixth against Milwaukee this year. Here's how the other five went:
April 8 at Miller Park
CHC 3, MIL 0
April 28 at Wrigley Field
CHC 3, MIL 0
June 11 at Miller Park
CHC 7, MIL 2
Aug. 14 at Wrigley Field
MIL 7, CHC 0
Sept. 5 at Miller Park
CHC 6, MIL 4
That Aug. 14 start should give the Brewers some hope. It is the only time Quintana has allowed more than two runs in his nine career starts against the Brewers, but it is recent, and it did come against this Brewers team. We don't have to look back to 2014 or 2015 for the last time the Brewers hit Quintana, you know?
That said, wow are Quintana's numbers against Milwaukee good, including this year and even with that Aug. 14 mess. The Cubbies will be looking for more of the same Tuesday.
5. Braun usually torches the Cubs, but not this year
Ryan Braun has been in the league long enough now that he's played a full season's worth of games against NL Central opponents. He's a .322/.399/.566 hitter with 48 doubles and 35 home runs in 168 career games against the Cubs, including hitting .335/.386/.571 with 22 doubles and 17 homers in 79 career games at Wrigley Field.
Braun has historically torched the Cubs, the numbers don't lie, but this year things have been different. He's hit .208/.276/.377 in 15 games against Chicago. Not good! To be fair, Braun did have a two-homer game at Wrigley Field last month:
The Brewers are absolutely loaded with outfielders. Yelich and Lorenzo Cain are the two stars, then there's Braun, trade pickup Curtis Granderson, first baseman/outfielder Eric Thames, and organizational stalwarts Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana. Yelich has not started three of the last seven games, which could indicate he's nursing an injury. Even then, the Brewers are well-covered in the outfield.
I don't think Braun's struggles against the Cubs this season will keep him out of the lineup. He might sit for a game in favor of Granderson for matchup purposes, but I don't think we'll see a straightforward "he hasn't hit the Cubs this year so he's sitting" move. Too small a sample size and Braun, even at this point of his career, is still a productive hitter.
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