Series Preview: Cubs at Brewers, April 7 - April 9, 2017

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Series Preview: Cubs at Brewers, April 7 – April 9, 2017

Chicago Cubs

Alright, alright. I can dig it.

Not only did the Cubs have the pleasure of winning a series against the Cardinals in St. Louis, the latter two wins came after a dramatic walk-off win by the Cardinals on Opening Night.

If there’s any way to crush the momentum of such a victory, it’s taking the next two games right away (or, you know, after an off-day and a rain-out).

Now the Cubs are heading out to Milwaukee to face a Brewers team that actually gave them some fits last season.

All in all the Cubs were just 11-8 against the Brewers in 2016, losing five of their final six games against them. Suddenly, I remember being annoyed and frustrated by the Brewers last year – hopefully that doesn’t carry on into 2017.

In case you missed it, the Cubs switched up their rotation ahead of the weekend. Now, Jake Arrieta will go on Sunday (which is regular rest for him) against the Brewers, pushing Jon Lester back to Opening Day in Chicago. The primary reason for the shift appears to be getting an extra lefty (Lester and Brett Anderson) into the series against the Dodgers (who’ve struggled with southpaws). But we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Let’s focus on the weekend.

It’s supposed to be a nice one in Chicago – 67 degrees and sunny on Saturday means watching baseball on TV outside with a cold beer – it’s been too long!

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (2-1) are above .500 (woot!) and tied for first in the NL Central with the Cincinnati Reds! I say most of that tongue in cheek, of course, but a series win over the Cardinals is a great way to kick off the season.

The Milwaukee Brewers (1-3) got to play four games this week – lucky – but lost all but one against the Colorado Rockies (less lucky). To be fair, their offense seemed to be clicking (17 runs over four games isn’t bad), but their pitching staff let them down. We’ll get into that later on.

Location: Miller Park

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, April 7 at 7:10 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
  • Saturday, April 8 at 6:10 CT on CSN-C+, MLBN, 670 The Score
  • Sunday, April 9 at 1:10 CT on WGN, 670 The Score

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 (2016 Stats):

  • Brett Anderson (Almost no sample. Read this for more on Anderson)
  • Kyle Hendricks (2.13 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 3.59 xFIP; 3.86 K/BB)
  • Jake Arrieta (3.10 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 3.68 xFIP; 2.50 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 (2016 Stats):

  • Jimmy Nelson (4.62 ERA, 5.12 FIP, 4.91 xFIP; 1.63 K/BB)
  • Tommy Milone (5.46 ERA, 5.40 FIP, 4.49 xFIP; 2.24 K/BB)*
  • Zach Davies (3.97 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 3.94 FIP; 3.55 K/BB)

*Just 59.1 IP as a starter.

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

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

As I mentioned in the introduction, the Cubs have switched up their rotation for the weekend, which gets Arrieta into action on Sunday, instead of Monday. But despite how closely we’ll be keeping an eye on his velocity and results, I don’t want to divert too much attention away from the Cubs’ starters who haven’t gone yet.

Brett Anderson takes the ball in Milwaukee tonight in what is his Chicago Cubs’ debut. Although he did manage to sneak in three starts at the end of last season, he hasn’t gone more than 5.0 IP since October 2015. If he can stay healthy this season, the upside is rather significant (mid-t0-upper-tier member of the rotation). We’ll see how he looks tonight, but don’t expect him to be lighting up the radar gun or racking up the strikeouts. Instead, look for grounders. Lots and lots of grounders. That is how you’ll know he’s doing his job.

Kyle “2016 NL Cy Young finalist and World Series Game 7 Starter” Hendricks makes his first start of the season on the fifth game of the year. You know his deal by now, let’s see if he can repeat a magical 2016 season.

Lastly, I didn’t forget about the bullpen, which was excellent last series. Brett has simply already covered the story (with a focus on yesterday’s game) right here.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

In game one of the season, the Cubs’ offense didn’t really get going until a ninth-inning, three-run home run from Willson Contreras, and they didn’t do much during Tuesday’s win either. On Thursday, however, they rode three walks and ten hits (including a double from Anthony Rizzo and a three-run shot from Kyle Schwarber) to six runs and a victory. We’ll have more on the home run from Kyle Schwarber later (don’t you worry), but I would like to talk about someone else in the meantime: Kris Bryant!

Yep, the reigning MVP must’ve realized that after winning Rookie of the Year, MVP, and the World Series, there aren’t many more awards he can take home in 2017. So clearly, he’s tanking this season, so that he can win NL Comeback Player of the Year in 2018. I kid, of course, but Bryant’s 0-13 start with just one walk and six strikeouts is certainly quite a hole he’s dug himself.

But, and hear me out on this, I say we give him another three games before sending him down to Iowa, right? I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Two games. Get it together, Kris.

Milwaukee Brewers – Pitching

The Brewers Opening Day starter, Junior Guerra, left his first start of the season a strained right calf and could be out as much as six weeks. The pitcher who took over him during that start, Tommy Milone, is taking his spot in the rotation against the Cubs this weekend.

Milone, 30, made twelve starts for the Braves last season and another seven appearances out of the bullpen. He was formerly a full-time starter, but his transition to the pen has been quickening over the past few seasons. Now, however, it’s looking like he may be the Brewers’ replacement for Guerra, at least in the interim. For what it’s worth, he’s been mostly split neutral throughout his career.

And on that point, the Brewers starting pitching has been an issue in the early going. Not only have they racked up a 4.42 ERA (11th worst in MLB) through the first few games of the season, they’ve also forced their bullpen to toss the most innings of any team in baseball (17.2 IP for the Brewers, compared to the Cubs’ 9.2 IP). They’ve played one more game than some teams, but that’s a whole lot of innings for the relievers this early in the season.

Milwaukee Brewers – Offense

And finally, the offense.

Ryan Braun has been hitting well so far – .250/.357/.500; 1HR – and that’s despite getting absolutely robbed by Nolan Arenado not once, but twice in back-to-back at-bats across two different games.

The Brewers’ top performer so far, however, has actually been third baseman, Travis Shaw. Through his first 16 plate appearances, Shaw has slashed .357/.438/.857 thanks to FOUR doubles and a homer … and not one single. Let’s see if the Cubs starters can quiet him down this weekend, eh?

So … What The Heck Happened Last Series?

This last series with the Cardinals was an unusually eventful one, wasn’t it?

First, Willson Contreras reminded us that these Cubs refuse to quit … and then Randal Grichuk reminded us that the bottom half of an inning counts, too. After that, Stephen Piscotty got nailed THREE TIMES on one singular trip around the bases. And somehow, that’s when things actually got weird.

Adam Wainwright made what was arguably the worst regular season pitch you’ll ever see … and then claimed it was on purpose. Okay, sure. And THEN, Yadier Molina got a ball stuck to his chest protector – but claims there was no substance there to provide the stick.

All’s well that ends well, since it led to a three-run Kyle Schwarber homer and a Cubs series win.

And now, thanks to Brett, we all can have this image in our brain forever:

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami