Brewers at Cubs: Game Three Preview

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Nearly half of the 20 games both the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs have played thus far in 2021 have been against one another. These heated division rivals have split the first two games in each of their three series, with both series finales going the way of the Brew Crew. Those two Milwaukee victories are the difference between the first-place Brewers (12-8) and the Cubs (10-10), who enter Sunday’s action tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for second in the National League Central.

Milwaukee looks to go three-for-three in rubber matches as they take the field for a Sunday matinee at Wrigley Field. Craig Counsell’s men have been on a tear this week, winning four of five including a three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres. Another rubber-match victory would send the Cubs back under .500 and give the Brewers a 6-3 season edge over the North Siders.

Milwaukee Brewers Starter: Brandon Woodruff (1-0, 1.96 ERA)

Brandon Woodruff takes the bump against the Cubbies for the third time this season, looking to extend a run of success that has seen the big righty shut down Chicago’s bats. Woodruff has allowed just four hits and a single earned run in 13.0 innings against the Cubs this season, fanning 14 and walking just a single Chicago batter.

Sunday’s tilt is the first time Woodruff takes the field against the Cubs since reliever Ryan Tepera threw behind Woodruff to send a message in Chicago’s 3-2 victory on Apr. 13. The Cubs were not happy that Woodruff hit catcher Willson Contreras earlier in the game and responded in kind. Tepera was handed a three-game suspension for the incident.

Woodruff’s success against the Cubs extends beyond this young season. Most of Chicago’s starters have a career batting average against Woodruff below the Mendoza Line and only one, Ian Happ, has taken Woodruff deep in his career.

Chicago Cubs Starter: Jake Arrieta (3-1, 2.86 ERA)

While Woodruff looks to continue his winning ways against the Cubs, Chicago’s starting pitcher will be looking to shake the memory of his last start against Milwaukee.

Jake Arrieta pitched 5.0 innings at American Family Field two weeks ago, allowing three runs (all earned) and four hits before taking the loss in a 7-0 Milwaukee victory. Arrieta leveraged his changeup early and often in his last outing, a 3-1 victory over the New York Mets, and could look to do so against a lineup that has a history of success against the 35-year-old right-hander.

Once a fearsome arm for the Cubs, Arrieta continues his steady decline despite solid counting statistics this season. Arrieta’s fWAR has gone down year over year since 2015 while his xERA has risen over the same time period. Arrieta’s 2.86 ERA is nearly half of his xERA of 5.21. This suggests Chicago’s former ace has gotten lucky this season, something the Brewers could look to exploit this afternoon.

Brewers Lineup

Manager Craig Counsell chose to shake up the lineup a bit for today’s series finale, swapping outfielder Tyrone Taylor and shortstop Luis Arias out after both started in yesterday’s 4-3 victory.

Avisail Garcia takes Taylor’s spot in right field. Garcia has struggled of late, tallying only a pair of hits in his last 17 at-bats. One of those hits, however, was a solo home run in last Sunday’s extra innings loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Another struggling Brewers hitter will get a chance to right his ship this afternoon in Chicago as Daniel Robertson steps into the starting role at short. Robertson has just a single hit in his last 13 at-bats and sports a paltry .111 batting average on the season.

Cubs Lineup

The Cubs will look to get off to a hot start against Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff, with Ian Happ, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant ready at the top of Chicago’s batting order today. Happ, Rizzo and Bryant are the only three Cubs starters with any semblance of success against Woodruff, with Happ the only one to take the 28-year-old right-hander deep in their career.

Manager David Ross looks to rekindle some of the magic his Cubs found Friday when Chicago tallied 17 hits en route to a 15-2 pasting of the Brewers. Six of the eight Cubs who started Friday will once again get the start today as the Cubs try to take a series from the Brewers for the first time in 2021.

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