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Series Preview: Brewers at Cubs, April 17 – April 19, 2017

Series Previews

Well that wasn’t much fun, was it?

The Cubs suffered their first series loss – a sweep, at that – of the season against the Pirates at home this weekend.

It won’t be their last three-game losing streak, but this early in the year, at home, and at the hands of the biggest divisional contender sure does sting a bit. Oh well, onwards and upwards.

The Cubs will now be hosting the second-place Brewers (the standings are so very strange right now), after having just taken two of three from them in Milwaukee a week and a half ago.


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Then, there’ll be an off-day on Thursday before two more NL Central (Reds and Pirates) series get underway (on the road). There’s a whole lot of baseball to be played, my friends.

We’re Going Streaking

After winning their first three series of the season, the Chicago Cubs (6-6) lost three straight to the Pirates at home (and have won just once in their past five). They’re, of course, still in good shape, but are technically tied for third place in the Central (or fourth, depending on your optimism).

The Milwaukee Brewers (7-6) are half-game up on the Cubs, after having finally slowed those pesky Cincinnati Reds. They took three out of four from the Reds in Cincinnati, and come into Chicago fairly hot, having won five of their past six games.

I think it’s time for the universe to correct itself a bit, yes?

Location: Wrigley Field

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Monday, April 17 at 7:05 CT on CSN-C+, 670 The Score
  • Tuesday, April 18 at 7:05 CT on WGN, 670 The Score
  • Wednesday, April 19 at 1:20 CT on WGN, MLBN, 670 The Score

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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 Lineup or Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Chicago Cubs

Starters:

  • John Lackey (3.00 ERA, 2.43 FIP, 2.81 xFIP; 3.40 K/BB)
  • Brett Anderson (0.84 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 4.56 xFIP; 1.20 K/BB)
  • Kyle Hendricks (5.73 ERA, 4.48 FIP, 3.85 xFIP; 3.00 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Kyle Schwarber, LF
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Ben Zobrist, 2B
  5. Addison Russell, SS
  6. Jason Heyward, RF
  7. Willson Contreras, C
  8. Pitcher
  9. Albert Almora/Jon Jay, CF

(Javy Baez will obviously work in, as well.)

Milwaukee Brewers

Starters:

  • Chase Anderson (0.69 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 3.88 xFIP; 2.75 K/BB)
  • Jimmy Nelson (1.38 ERA, 2.62 FIP, 3.47 xFIP; 6.50 K/BB)
  • Tommy Milone (7.36 ERA, 4.29 FIP, 3.96 FIP; 7.00 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Jonathan Villar, 2B
  2. Eric Thames, 1B
  3. Ryan Braun, LF
  4. Travis Shaw, 3B
  5. Domingo Santana, RF
  6. Keon Broxton, CF
  7. Jett Bandy, C
  8. Orlando Arcia, SS
  9. Pitcher

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Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

Although his record says 1-1, Kyle Hendricks has gotten off to a bit of a slow start this season. His 5.73 ERA wasn’t entirely earned, but the 4.48 FIP doesn’t do much to get you geeked, nor does the 19.6% strikeout rate.

But with that said, his walk rate (6.5%) is in a good place, and opposing batters are hitting just .256 off Hendricks. It seems the two home runs in his first start of the season have really hurt his early season numbers. There is, of course, no reason to be concerned at all, yet, but I thought it was worth pointing out.


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John Lackey, on the other hand, has gotten off to a great start in 2017. He leads all the Cubs’ starters in strikeout rate (33%) and trails only Jon Lester in WAR (0.6 to 0.4) – though Lester has one more start under his belt. Lackey doesn’t get as much attention as the other Cubs starters, but his success in the rotation can carry the team a very long way.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

It may not seem like Jason Heyward is hitting the ball very hard (.333 SLG), but that’s not necessarily true. His 27.8% hard-hit rate trails only Kris Bryant (34.8%) and Kyle Schwarber (30.8%) among qualified Cubs hitters … which, more please

In addition, he’s still getting his hits (.286 AVG) and seeing the ball well (.348 OBP), which combines for a solid start to the season. Given where he was last year, I don’t think there’s anything to complain about.

And despite the fact that none of the seven qualified Cubs are hitting over .300 (actually Heyward’s .286 is the closest anyone comes), five are getting on base at a .348 clip or greater. As soon as the power starts to show up (their .126 ISO is bottom five in MLB), the runs should pour in. Patience is not just for the hitters.


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Milwaukee Brewers – Pitching

The Cubs are getting two pitchers they saw just over a week ago in Jimmy Nelson and Tommy Milone, but the guy on the mound tonight, Chase Anderson, has been one of the Brewers’ best so far.

In his first two tarts (Rockies and Blue Jays), he’s allowed just one earned run over 13.0 innings pitched – and his last start was an especially good one: 7.0 IP, 3H, 0ER, 2BB, 7 Ks. The Cubs can get to him (especially with their right-handed hitters), but this might not be the Brewers pitching staff you remember from 2014-2016.

HOWEVA, while their bullpen has a top 10 ERA (2.96), they also have a weakness: walks. Their 14.1% reliever walk-rate is second worst in baseball and aligns nicely with the Cubs’ greatest strength. So if you’re looking for an offensive strategy this week, grinding down the starters and being patient with the bullpen is likely the answer.


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Milwaukee Brewers – Offense

And if the Brewers’ rotation is not the one you remembered, neither is their lineup. Of their five qualified batters, four (Eric Thames, Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana, and Travis Shaw) have been above average hitters.

Eric Thames has continued to be especially impressive after coming back over from Japan, slashing .368/.455/.921, with a league-leading six home runs on the early season. And then, of course, there’s Ryan Braun who’s working with an 18.0% walk rate and .317 ISO to earn a 152 wRC+.

And if you really want to be sick, here’s what Braun has done against the Cubs for his career: .335/.410/.586 (.996 OPS) with 30 home runs in 602 plate appearances. Last season, the AL MVP, Mike Trout, had a .991 OPS in 681 plate appearances overall. So yes, when he’s playing against the Cubs, Ryan Braun has basically been the 2016 version of Mike Trout.

YUCK.


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Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.