If it seems like the Cubs (57-51) and Brewers (57-53) just played, it’s because they did. Back-to-back home and home weekend series at Miller Park and Wrigley Field will give both teams an idea where they stand as we head into the stretch run. Right now, they’re in second and third place in the NL Central with a game separating each team, and the Cubs a game back of first place St. Louis.
The Cubs know they’re not very good on the road right now, that much is clear. Jon Lester, after another rough loss in St. Louis, said it best when he lamented, “obviously we like Wrigley and we don’t like anywhere else.” That being said, the Cubs are home (where they’re 36-18) for this weekend series against the Brewers and then a series with the Athletics, so it’s time to make hay while the sun shines. Speaking of, it’s supposed to be beautiful in Chicago all weekend, with temperatures around 80 degrees for three straight day games.
The Cubs played a tough series in Milwaukee last weekend, losing two of three in the process. Although they lost two one-run games, they did end the series on an optimistic note when Kyle Schwarber blasted them to a blowout 11-4 win with two bombs. Joe Maddon quipped upon the arrival of the newcomers after the trade that “it’s big-boy time,” so the lineup construction will be interesting to say the least..
Since leaving Milwaukee, the Cubs dropped two of three in St. Louis, capping another woeful road trip in which the Cubs went 3-6. The Brewers haven’t fared much better, dropping two of three to the Athletics in Oakland. Matt Chapman hit a two-run bomb to straight-away center off Josh Hader in the 8th inning Thursday night to giving the A’s the lead and a series win at home.
Hader, pretty much untouchable most of the time for the Brewers, gave up the Chapman home run and a walk-off to Matt Olson on Tuesday in Oakland. In fact, he gave up a highly uncharacteristic five home runs in July alone.
While Hader and the pen has been a bit taxed of late, the Brewers’ offense has looked sluggish and tired as well. 2018 NL MVP and hopeful-2019-MVP, Christian Yelich, and phenom Keston Hiura are the only Brewers hitters striking fear in opponents’ hearts at the moment.
Yelich is having another banner year with 36 home runs and 81 RBI, while slashing .332/.426/.692. Hiura, the Brewers’ prized rookie who you’ll recall hit the walk-off laser beam against the Craig Kimbrel last Saturday, is slashing .409/.480/.803 since the All-Star break.
The Brewers will be deploying Zach Davies, Gio Gonzalez, and Adrian Houser on the mound this weekend. Davies, who was on the mound for Kyle Schwarber Day last Sunday, actually threw two good games against the Cubs this season before that clunker. In fact, on May 11, he pitched 6.1 IP and gave up only one run in a 2-1 Cubs win.
Gonzalez has had two good starts against the Cubs this season, with the Brewers winning both. The Cubs have struggled against lefthanders this season, so it would be fortuitous to score early and often in that one. Houser has had middling results as a starter, but just threw five innings in Oakland, giving up only three hits and one earned run.
The Cubs will send José Quintana, Cole Hamels, and Yu Darvish to the mound over the weekend. Quintana has been up and down, though he seems to keep the Cubs in the game each time out. Hamels will be making his first start since hitting the IL on June 28, so the goal there will be making sure he gets through his outing healthy and right. Darvish has been excellent in the second half so far, so there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue that trend.
Game and Broadcast Info
- Friday, August 2 at 1:20 on NBC Sports Chicago and MLB Network
- Saturday, August 3 at 1:20 on NBC Sports Chicago
- Sunday, August 4 at 1:20 on WGN and TBS
What to Watch For
- A sign of life from the Cubs’ offense. After an offensive explosion at Miller Park in the last game of the series last weekend, it would be nice if the Cubs could hit like that a few more times.
- Is Hamels the same guy he was before he went on the IL? Is he completely healthy? A solid outing on Saturday will go along way towards answering those questions. Hopefully, they are both a resounding yes.
- Darvish has been excellent since the All-Star break. Look for him to continue with much of the same.
- Will Yelich kill the Cubs? Only if we pitch to him. Let’s stay away from that Hiura kid too.
- A patented Cubs-under-Joe Maddon second half push that sees them go on a run and win 15 of 20 would certainly put a lot of queasy feelings about the team and Maddon to bed.