The Brewers will hope for more success on the north side of Chicago than they had the last time. Milwaukee will look for the kind of results they had on the south side when they took both games in Chicago against the White Sox. Coming off a disappointing 12-2 loss to the Minnesota the Twins, the Brewers have a lot of ground to make up on the division-leading Cubs, and a four-game series is the time to do it.
Much has changed for the Brewers since the last time they faced Chicago’s north side time on MLB’s Opening Weekend. Gold Glove outfielder Lorenzo Cain has since opted out of the season, fan-favorite Logan Morrison has been designated for assignment, and the Brewers have fallen to third place in the division. The north side Cubs are currently running away with the NL Central with a record of 12-3. One of those losses was in the opening series against the Brewers, who hope to right the ship and make up ground in this four-game series on Chicago’s north side.
Brewers’ Probable Pitchers
Brett Anderson will start game one of the north side series. Anderson, who missed the first Cubs’ series with a blister, is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA this season. He has yet to pitch more than three and two-thirds innings in any of the two starts he has made this season. Most recently, Anderson lost to the Cincinnati Reds 4-1 in a game in which he went three and two-thirds innings pitched, gave up four hits (including a home run), walked two, struck out two, and allowed three runs (two earned).
Brewers’ ace Brandon Woodruff will start game two of the series. Woodruff is 1-1 with a 2.53 ERA and 0.98 WHIP so far this season. This will be Woody’s second start in Chicago this season. He was outdueled on Opening Day by Kyle Hendricks, who shutout the Crew in the first game of the season. The Brewers won Woodruff’s most recent start, though he did not get the win himself. He pitched four innings allowing two runs on three hits against the Reds. His pitch count was very high and he was replaced before he could qualify for the win.
Adrian Houser, the Brewers’ so-called second ace, will get the nod in game three on Saturday. Houser will be making his fourth appearance (second start) on the north side of Chicago, where has given up six runs and 13 hits in just eight innings throughout his career. Houser most recently took the loss in the first game of the Brewers’ series against the Twins. He made one bad pitch, which resulted in a grand slam and the Brewers offense went cold. Prior to that, Houser won a 1-0 game against the south side Sox by pitching seven scoreless innings and striking out five. He is 1-1 with a 2.65 ERA overall so far this season.
The Brewers will send Josh Lindbolm to the hill in the final game of the series. Lindbolm is 1-0 with a 5.68 ERA so far this year. The stat to watch, though, is his strikeout rate. Lindbolm has a strikeout rate of 14.2 per nine innings. He has not pitched far into games due to high pitch counts, though. If the season were to play out 162 games, he would be on track to pitch just 123.5 innings, but would strike out 203. He last pitched against the Twins in the one game the Brewers won in that series. Lindbolm did not get the win, though, as he only made it through four innings. He did, however, rack up eight strikeouts.
Chicago’s Probable Pitchers
The Cubs will send Yu Darvish to the bump to face the Brewers once again in game one. Darvish is 2-1 with a 2.12 ERA so far this season. His one loss was to these same Brewers during Opening Weekend. In that game, the Brewers tagged Darvish for three runs in just four innings pitched. Recently, Darvish has pitched very well, defeating the Pirates and the Royals. He has allowed just one run in his last 13 innings pitched to go along with 11 strikeouts.
Tyler Chatwood will start opposite Woodruff in game two for the Cubs. Chatwood is 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA on the season. His high ERA, though, is mainly the result of his last start against the Royals. In that game, Chatwood was roughed up for eight runs on 11 hits in just two and a third innings pitched. In his two previous starts (one against the Brewers), Chatwood had only allowed one run in 12 and two-thirds innings pitched to go along with 19 strikeouts. He earned wins in both of those starts.
The north side team will counter Houser with Alec Mills. Mills is having a very good season thus far, starting two games and allowing just two runs. He is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA. In his most recent start against Kansas City, he pitched seven innings, allowed no runs, walked three, and gave up three hits against four strikeouts. The only Brewers player to have ever faced Mills is Brock Holt, who has no hits against him in just one at bat. The rest of the team has never faced him.
Jon Lester, the ace of the staff, will get the start in the final game of the series for the Cubs. Lester is 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA so far this season and has yet to give up more than one run in any of his starts. He last pitched on August 11 against the Indians. In that game, Lester went six innings, allowing three hits, one run, two walks, and struck out four. Both Ryan Braun and Jedd Gyorko have had great success against Lester in the past. Braun has a .300 batting average against Lester in 20 at bats. Gyorko is even better. He has posted a .360 average against the Cubs ace in 25 at bats that includes three home runs.
The Brewers’ Woeful Offense
The Brewers have historically been a team that rakes plenty of home runs. This season, though, has been different. The team has struggled to put runs on the board outside of a few offensive outbursts in select games. Wrigley Field is a hitter’s ballpark, and hopefully the Brewers can find their stroke in this long weekend series on the north side.
The Playoff Race
The Cubs have the best record in the National League and are running away with the division. The rest of the teams are hovering around .500 (the Cardinals are 2-3 and who knows when they will play again) except for the Pirates who are 3-13. In a shortened season, it is not too early to be looking at the playoff picture.
MLB has expanded the playoffs to eight teams this season, which means the second place team from each division would make it in. The Brewers could potentially start this push by splitting the series with the Cubs. Then, if they take two of three from the Twins and Pirates, they will be at .500. In all likelihood, that will be good for second in the NL Central. This could be vital in their push for a third straight playoff appearance.