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brewers logoThe Cubs just finished up splitting a series against the worst team in baseball, and now they head to Milwaukee to face the surprise best team in baseball, the Brewers. Seems fair.

The Series Preview gives you the rundown on what you need to know for the upcoming series. In that way, it’s kind of a preview. About a series. See how that works?

We’re Going Streaking

The Cubs lost the final two games of that four-game series with the Diamondbacks after winning the first two. And, well, I’m pretty sick about it. At 7-14, the Cubs remain the third worst team in baseball, ahead of only those Diamondbacks and the Astros.

The Brewers, as I said, have the best record in baseball, and have won five of six. Before that, they dropped three of four to the Cardinals … but, before that, they won nine in a row. They just freaking keep winning. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but it would be so very Cubs to fail to win a series nearly all month long, and then win the second-to-final series of the month against the best team in baseball.

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, April 25 at 7:10 CT on CSN+2 (yeah, that’s a thing).
  • Saturday, April 26 at 6:10 CT on WGN.
  • Sunday, April 27 at 1:10 CT on WGN.

Expected Starters and Lineups

These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what actually gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Cubs

Starters: Carlos Villanueva (10.93 ERA, 3.47 FIP; 13.00 K/BB), Travis Wood (2.52 ERA, 2.45 FIP; 7.00 K/BB), Jason Hammel (2.60 ERA, 4.49 FIP; 4.00 K/BB)

Lineup (taking a stab at a more “regular” lineup):

  1. Emilio Bonifacio, CF
  2. Luis Valbuena, 2B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Nate Schierholtz, RF
  5. Starlin Castro, SS
  6. Mike Olt, 3B
  7. Welington Castillo, C
  8. Ryan Kalish, LF
  9. Pitcher

Brewers

Starters: Matt Garza (4.50 ERA, 3.89 FIP; 2.71 K/BB), Marco Estrada (2.66 ERA, 3.97 FIP; 3.17 K/BB), Wily Peralta (2.19 ERA, 4.46 FIP; 3.17 K/BB)

Lineup:

  1. Carlos Gomez, CF
  2. Scooter Gennett, 2B
  3. Ryan Braun, RF
  4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
  5. Jonathan Lucroy, C
  6. Khris Davis, LF
  7. Mark Reynolds, 1B
  8. Jean Segura, SS
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Anthony Rizzo’s tear continues (and it could be better if a couple of “errors” into which he hit the last week were called hits, which they easily could have been). The 24-year-old first baseman is hitting .316/.424/.487, which is just fantastic. And his walk rate – 14.1% – is now higher than his K rate – 13.0%.

Also sporting a better walk rate than K rate? Luis Valbuena at 23.2%(omglol) and 19.6%, respectively.

The team leader in wOBA, at an unthinkable .589? Yeah, that’d be Travis Wood (and all 8 of his plate appearances).

Emilio Bonifacio has heated back up – .409/.500/.545 in his last six games – and his BABIP has climbed up rapidly alongside it. It currently sits at an unsustainable .414. I point that out not to dump on Bonifacio (he’s having a great year), but instead to remind you that he will regress (or, I guess, he will appear to regress as the numbers, inevitably, regress). Don’t hate on him for his next cold streak, because it might just be balls finding gloves. Because, of the things he can control, he’s been great: walk rate is up, strikeout rate is way down, his line drive rate is solid, he’s playing great defense (at two positions), and he’s had positive value on the basepaths (despite the pickoffs).

Travis Wood has just been stupid good this year, striking out 10.08 per 9, and walking just 1.44. Those are elite numbers right there, if he can sustain them.

Matt Garza is back! Well, in a game involving the Cubs, I mean. In the early going, he’s been a different pitcher for the Brewers than in years past – he’s got an elevated groundball rate, and his strikeout rate is down considerably. He hasn’t walked many, and he’s been stranding a lot of runners.

Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse have been fantastic for the Brewers this year – and the Cubs miss them both in this one. That’s good.

Offensively, the Brewers have been killing it. All of Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, and Jonathan Lucroy (easily the most underrated player in baseball) have wRC+ at 148 or better, and Aramis Ramirez, Scooter Gennett and Lyle Overbay are all above average, too.

Braun, in particular, is doing Braun things – .300/.348/.600.

Not so hot is Jean Segura, who was everyone’s favorite story last year, because he killed it in the first two months of the year. He’s bombed ever since, and he’s hitting just .247/.273/.341 on the season.

  • cjdubbya

    With as much practice as the Cubs have under their belts for bunting, I’d love to see a bunt-fest tonight. If only for the lulz.

    • Fishin Phil

      Yup, first time through the lineup, EVERYBODY BUNTS! :)

      • CubFan Paul

        Ricky should seriously consider it. Garza’s yips was *bad*

        Only one way to find out.

  • CubFan Paul

    “Friday, April 25 at 7:10 CT on CSN+2 (yeah, that’s a thing)”

    The bulls & blackhawks are screwing everyone outside of Chicago

  • Edwin

    When is Gomez serving his suspension, or has that happened already?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Great question. He appealed, which is his right, but which was also a little tacky. He probably got off light – just take it, dude (especially if you can serve it against the Cubs).

      • Chad

        Probably doesn’t want to hurt his stats so taking it against the cubs wouldn’t be good!

      • Brocktoon

        Eh, everybody appeals. No harm in taking a chance at getting it reduced.

  • CubsFanMike

    If you haven’t seen this, I promise you will enjoy. Young Greg Maddux

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3V5T6q_AyiY

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I view the brew crew as a bunch of thugs looking to take somebodies lunch money away from them. Oh and look who’s coming it’s Clark the Cub!

    • Steve Ontiveros’ Mustache

      This is why Billy Cub is the mascot we need and deserve. He wouldn’t let the Brewers take his lunch money, because THAT bear has a mean right cross.

  • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

    Get ready to be annoyed at the Brewers having a larger strike zone than the Cubs.

  • http://BN Sacko

    Need something out of Kalish and Schierholtz for a change with everyone else do what they been doing except please find somebody that can close. We win the series..Brewers have been playing out of their ass..they aren’t as good as their record.

  • Kycubs

    Braun doing Braun things. Does that include steroids, getting caught, lying and destroying someone’s life for catching him?

    • Edwin

      I’m sure the testing guy is doing fine. His life is not destroyed, and if he had actually done his job correctly in the first place, it never would have been an issue. He’s already stated that he and Braun have worked things out. I think it’s time to move on.

      • Brocktoon

        I’m a more spiteful person than Laurenzi(which is admittedly not a good quality). I would never want to see Braun’s face again after he started the anti-semitic stuff. Legal loophole, whatever, the smear campaign was disgraceful.

        • Funn Dave

          I fully agree. What Braun did to implicate that poor guy to save his own ass was pretty unforgivable.

  • Featherstone

    Man, Rizzo’s OBP right now is glorious. I dont think he can keep it up as his .avg will not be that high over the course of a season, but it’s pretty great to see right now.

  • willis

    The Cubs are going to need a lot of offense tonight. A ton.

  • blars82

    Any idea on the best BABIP season in MLB history? Any fluky batting title wins or anything like that? Guess I could do the research myself but that seems like a lot of work.

    • roz

      http://www.fangraphs.com/community/the-ten-highest-babips-since-1945/

      Looks like Rod Carew with a .408 BABIP in 1977. Slash line of .388/.449/.570, .440 wOBA and 8.6 WAR. Won the AL MVP that year too.

      • blars82

        Awesome, thanks roz! That was a very interesting list to read. I’m really trying to get into the advanced stats more so guess I just need to spend some time on sites like that. Thanks!

  • MightyBear

    I said this at the beginning of the year, the Brewers 25 is very good and could easily surprise and win the division. However, they won’t and they won’t make the playoffs. If that team stays completely healthy the entire year, they have a shot. How many teams stay entirely healthy the entire year? The Brewers have no depth and that will be their undoing. When players start dropping, so will their winning percentage.

  • ssckelley

    Why do they keep sticking Schierholtz in the clean up spot? He currently has a OPS of .490 and he has been horrible since last July. If you go back to last season his OPS is under .500 since August 31st.

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