I have to say, despite being somewhat nervous for these next few weeks, it’s pretty freakin’ exciting that the Cubs will play the Brewers and Cardinals in a combined eleven more games before the season is up. Both teams are five games behind the Cubs, which is a large deficit, but the remaining head-to-head matchups make anything possible.
In other words, we’re headed for some seriously meaningful baseball starting this weekend at Wrigley Field.
We’re Going Streaking
The Chicago Cubs (77-63) just pulled off a brilliant escape act in Pittsburgh, getting out of town with a series split after dropping the first two games against the lesser two pitchers. Thanks to losses elsewhere, the Cubs have a 5.0 game lead in the Central, which is their biggest of the season.
The Milwaukee Brewers (72-68) season took a HUGE hit over this past week, as they were swept by the Reds in three. Had they won just one of those games, they could’ve come into Chicago with a chance of leaving just one game behind. Now, the best they can hope for is a two-game gap after Sunday. It wouldn’t be a bad consolation, but it feels disproportionately larger than a one-game difference.
Game Times and Broadcasts
Location: Wrigley Field
- Friday, September 8 at 7:05 CT on WGN, 670 The Score
- Saturday, September 9 at 3:05 CT on CSN-C, MLBN (out-of-network only), 670 The Score
- Sunday, September 10 at 1:20 CT on ABC-7, 670 The Score
Expected Starters and Lineups
These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Lineup or Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.
- John Lackey (4.74 ERA, 5.31 FIP, 4.56 xFIP; 2.91 K/BB) – R
- Mike Montgomery (3.38 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 4.32 xFIP; 1.83 K/BB) – L
- Kyle Hendricks (3.29 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 3.99 xFIP; 2.74 K/BB) – R
- Jon Jay, CF (or Ian Happ)
- Kyle Schwarber, LF
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Ben Zobrist/Tommy La Stella, 2B
- Alex Avila/Rene Rivera, C (Willson Contreras might be back, too)
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Javy Baez, SS (or Ben Zobrist, or Mike Freeman)
- Jimmy Nelson (3.59 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 3.14 xFIP; 4.17 K/BB) – R
- Chase Anderson (3.06 ERA, 3.69FIP, 4.58 xFIP; 2.84 K/BB) – R
- Zach Davies (3.77 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 4.44 xFIP; 2.26 K/BB) – R
- Hernan Perez, 2B*
- Neil Walker, 1B
- Ryan Braun, LF
- Travis Shaw, 3B
- Domingo Santana, RF
- Stephen Vogt, C
- Keon Broxton, CF
- Orlando Arcia, SS
- Pitcher, P
*Sometimes Jonathan Villar and Eric Sogard play second and lead off
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Chicago Cubs – Pitching
The good news is that each of John Lackey, Mike Montgomery, and Kyle Hendricks have been pitching well lately and I’m not necessarily nervous about any of their starts. Seriously, I think they’ve each (quite recently, to be sure) earned the benefit of the doubt.
However, each pitcher is carrying some baggage, too.
I’m sure the relative importance of these games is causing my brain to be a bit more anxious than usual, but I can still see Lackey’s general unevenness this season, Montgomery’s recent home in the bullpen, and Hendricks’ stint on the disabled whenever I close my eyes.
The Cubs need only win one of these games to make the weekend not a total failure, but given the pitching matchups (we’ll get to that in a second), I’m just not confident.
Chicago Cubs – Offense
Here’s something weird:
Among the qualified hitters in September, the Cubs wRC+ leader is …
Jason Heyward (115 wRC+).
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) September 8, 2017
I followed that tweet up to point that both of Ian Happ (168 wRC+) and Javy Baez (121 wRC+) have Heyward beat, even though they just barely missed the cutoff for qualifying. And it’s also worth pointing out that Anthony Rizzo (113 wRC+) is right behind him, but yeah, the Cubs’ offense could stand to dial things up.
Unfortunately, that might not be easy against the trio of Brewers starters the Cubs pulled.
Milwaukee Brewers – Pitching
Indeed, it appears the Brewers have the advantage this weekend:
With the exception of Hendricks on Sunday (better ERA, tied FIP), Brewers appear to have the pitching advantage on the Cubs this weekend. pic.twitter.com/T2PiBYFkur
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) September 8, 2017
Obviously, that’s a REALLY broad stroke for a much more nuanced conversation, but at the highest level, we can definitively say that the Cubs drew the short straw in terms of Brewers pitching.
Nelson, in particular, has had a brilliant season, and has the SIXTH best FIP in baseball, just one spot behind Clayton Kershaw. So be prepared for some frustration tonight, but also thrilled if the Cubs can grab a couple of runs before they push into the Brewers bullpen.
Milwaukee Brewers – Offense
On a MUCH more positive note, the Brewers offense has been dead last by wRC+ in the second half of the season (the Cubs rank first in the NL, second in MLB).
Indeed, over the past two weeks in particular, Neil Walker has been just average (100 wRC+), while Ryan Braun has SLUMPED massively (.231/.244/.359; 48 wRC+).
At the same time, Domingo Santana has kept the Brewers afloat with some video game numbers (.333/.429/.722; 14.3 BB%, .389 ISO), which are supported by equally strong peripherals (50% hard hit rate, 8.3% soft-hit rate, 33.3% ground ball rate). Let’s see if the Cubs’ pitchers have anything special to cool him off, or if they can at least avoid letting him do too much damage.
Okay, big series, friends. Let’s see if the Cubs can really kick the Brewers out of it.