Here’s the deal: If the Cubs find a way to sweep this four-game road-series against the Brewers, they’ll have, at a minimum, all but punched their ticket to the playoffs (depending on what the Cardinals do, they could even clinch).
And until they lose a game, I’m refusing to focus on the alternatives, for karma-related purposes (well, that, and because Brett went through every possible scenario earlier today, anyway). Either way, there are big games coming, my friends.
We’re Going Streaking
The Chicago Cubs (84-67) just ended their seven-game winning streak with a loss to the Rays yesterday, and are now 7-3 in their past ten games. They have a 3.5 game lead in the NL Central and a magic number of 8.
The Milwaukee Brewers (81-71) … have been pissing me off for weeks.
Game Times and Broadcasts
- Thursday, September 21 at 7:10 CT on CSN-C+, 670 The Score
- Friday, September 22 at 6:35 CT on WGN, ESPN 670 The Score
- Saturday, September 23 at 12:05 on FOX, 670 The Score
- Sunday, September 24 at 1:10 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.
- Jake Arrieta (3.48 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 4.05 xFIP; 2.96 K/BB) – R
- John Lackey (4.62 ERA, 5.27 FIP, 4.57 xFIP; 2.94 K/BB) – R
- Kyle Hendricks (3.22 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 3.94 xFIP; 2.84 K/BB) – R
- Jose Quintana (4.27 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 3.80 xFIP; 3.20 K/BB) – L
- Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Willson Contreras, C
- Kyle Schwarber, LF
- Ian Happ, CF
- Jason Heyward
- Addison Russell, SS
Obviously, Javy Baez will work into most (or maybe even all) of these games, depending on the match-ups.
- Zach Davies (3.89 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 4.34 xFIP; 2.37 K/BB) – R
- Brandon Woodruff (3.28 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 4.35 xFIP; 2.80 K/BB) – R*
- Brent Suter (3.41 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 4.18 xFIP; 2.76 K/BB) – L**
- Chase Anderson (4.25 ERA, 4.36 FIP, 4.74 xFIP; 1.92 K/BB) – R
* 6 starts
** 12 starts, 8 Relief Appearances
- Hernan Perez, 2B
- Eric Thames, 1B
- Ryan Braun, LF
- Travis Shaw, 3B
- Domingo Santana, RF
- Stephen Vogt, C
- Keon Broxton, CF
- Orlando Arcia, SS
- Pitcher, P
*The Brewers have used three different leadoff men and a ton of different lineups and defensive alignments over the last three days. So, your guess is as good as mine.
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Chicago Cubs – Pitching
Over his last four starts, Jose Quintana has walked just three batters while striking out 30(!), which, wow that’s impressive. He’s also given up just eight earned runs during that stretch, which is good for a 2.92 ERA and 2.75 FIP.
With that said, he’s still not getting enough soft contact and is giving up too much hard contact, but at least he’s dialed up the strikeout profile to Fire Emoji status. Hopefully, then, when he’s not striking Brewers out, he can keep the ball on the ground and stop the team with the tenth best ISO and eighth most home runs from hitting it out of the park.
It should help that the Brewers 93 wRC+ versus lefties ranks 20th worst in MLB.
Chicago Cubs – Offense
This has been somewhat unexpected:
Since returning from the disabled list, Willson Contreras has been an on-base machine (.619 OBP) thanks to a ridiculous 38.1 BB%.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) September 21, 2017
Don’t get me wrong, Contreras is pretty clearly a great hitter and has had plenty of patience before, but he’s taking this all to a whole new level, especially given how long he was out. Perhaps, as pitchers respect his power more and more, they’re staying out of the zone and he’s not biting. Hopefully, he keeps it up.
Speaking of guys who’ve been awesome fresh off the DL, Addison Russell has three hits (including a homer) and three walks in his ten plate appearances since rejoining the Cubs.
Milwaukee Brewers – Pitching
The Brewers are bookending this series with two of their best starters in Zach Davies and Chase Anderson, but the middle two games feature a couple of guys without a ton of experience in the Majors.
Tomorrow’s starter, Brandon Woodruff, for example, has made just six starts this season, while earning that 3.28 ERA (3.69 FIP). But while his last one against the Marlins was quite good, he struggled and gave up six runs in five innings against the Pirates two starts ago.
Saturday’s starter, Brent Suter, has swung back and forth between the pen and the rotation this year, to middling success. Each of his last two starts came against the Pirates, and in those 8.0 combined IP, he allowed eight hits, two earned runs, one walk, and seven strikeouts. Hopefully, the Cubs can take advantage of his inexperience.
Milwaukee Brewers – Offense
Among the Brewers best qualified hitters in the second half of the season, Domingo Santana stands out above the rest: .263/.357/.500. Despite a post-All-Star-break strikeout rate above 30%, he’s managed to be about 22% better than the average offensive contributor.
Ryan Braun’s had a 111 wRC+ in the second half of the season, but he always seems to turn it up against the Cubs. Hopefully, a heavy dose of right-handers can help neutralize him a bit.
Career v. LHP: 168 wRC+
Career v. RHP: 131 wRC+ (crap, that’s still good, isn’t it?)
This is a big scary series, Cubs fans, but remember, it should be much scarier for the Brewers, who can lose everything by Sunday.