Game 1 Box Score: Cubs 10, Brewers 5

Game 2 Box Score: Brewers 7, Cubs 1

Game 3 Box Score: Brewers 3, Cubs 2

Game 4 Box Score: Brewers 8, Cubs 5

To review: the past two weekends, the Cubs had the chance to end the Brewers season, separate themselves in the wildcard race (which should only be viewed as the faintest of consolation prizes) while maintaining a gap on the Cardinals that would be easily manageable in the seven games that are left with them. And to remind you, this is a Brewers team aching to be given a lethal injection, as they’ve been nothing but .500 for 60 games now.

All the Cubs managed to do was make themselves the team that needs to be put out of its misery, keep everyone involved, and maybe make the Cardinals, the definition of a mediocre outfit, out of reach. They did so a shining example of how every level of this team has failed from the end of last season (importantly, not during it). The ownership that wouldn’t spend, the front office that needed to be bailed out by cash because of all its mistakes, the manager who doesn’t see the game or his team for what it is, and players who have refused to grow, or change, or adjust, and are simply not good enough.

I would love to tell you the Cubs are finished and you can go about your lives. My hunch is that they’ll death spasm for a week to make the last week or two matter or something, and all that will be is a chance for all of these systematic failures to rear their ugly head again.

Let’s review it all. They win the first game, because the offense isn’t quite bad enough to go quiet for four games. But then Cole Hamels, who clearly was rushed back from an injury that he had struggled to come back from before, had to hump it up to even crack 90 MPH and was labeled. Ok, that happens. It happens too much to this team but it happens.

Saturday night is everything. It was their third look in just over a month at Gio Gonzalez. Their manager, who clearly electrocuted himself in his office before the game in some bizarre experiment, starts Albert Almora at leadoff, even though he might as well go up there with a fish. Almora along with everyone else still hasn’t figured out that Gio is not going to come inside, or to the middle of the plate, or even to the outside corner, unless you make him. But there’s everyone trying to yank the baseball out to Minocqua and rolling out to third or short, including Almora in a huge spot after the Cubs got two on with no out. Inning over.

This is after you’ve learned Javy Baez is probably done for the year, and while breaking a thumb is no one’s fault, he was breaking down long before that because the front office provided no depth to get him a day off other than Addison Russell occasionally, who is too stupid to go up there with a fish (or the manager’s utter terror to even try Bote at short for a game or two). So your offense is limited, and gets shut down by Gonzalez once again. Your manager, while attempting to turn discarded sunflower seeds into wine, says that his team struggles against Gio because they keep expanding their zone. Did he bother to tell his players this? Did they not listen if he did? Either way, this seems like a flashing light about why the door is going to hit Joe on the ass on September 30th.

Still, thanks to Yu Darvish, you’re in it, and generate a rally against Josh Hader. You take the lead, but Kris Bryant can’t extend it because he’s on one leg and has been for a month at least, again because the depth provided hasn’t allowed him to get the additional week or two off he clearly, desperately needs. He hasn’t hit a fastball above his mid-thing hard for weeks. And he can’t. Somehow, Ian Happ is good enough to pinch-hit against Hader but not good enough to start against Gonzalez ahead of Almora, despite having one of the best handles on the zone on the team.

Then Joe Maddon goes to work. Brilliant, glorious, galaxy-brained work. You’re up one in the 8th of a game you really need. It’s 2-3-4. This is not a time to match up. This is not a time to get cute. You send your best guy out there, and figure out how to get the thoroughly unimpressive bottom of the Brewers order in the 9th later. You do not send out David Phelps, something you found in the Toronto storage room. You do not send out Derek Holland, who has earned nothing while being here, much less the right to face the reigning MVP in the 8th inning of a tie game. You send out Wick. You send out Kinztler, that’s all you have. And because of the mishegas in the 8th, you only assure yourself of having to face Yelich again in the 9th.

Your “backup” shortstop, the one with cold oatmeal for brains, makes an error to let a runner on. You get through Grandal by some miracle, and then you walk Yelich. He’s all that’s left. He’s basically all they have. The manager himself said he’s like Bonds now, except he didn’t treat him like Bonds. You don’t walk him, baseball thinking be damned. And when you don’t do that, you allow Yelich to do stuff like this:

That’s a good pitch. Maybe it’s a little high, but it’s barely ticking the zone. But Yelich doesn’t miss right now. He hasn’t missed in two years. There isn’t away around him. Fairly sure there’s a way around Eric Thames. Just a hunch.

After that…well who cares? Jon Lester is your fifth starter and you get whatever you can, which sometimes isn’t much. And it’s truly symbolic that in the 5th, when everything went off, was a result of the Brewers doing exactly what the Cubs refused, or can’t, or both to Gonzalez, and that is just taking those pitches on the outside to right field over and over. Eventually you’ll get the mistake you want when the pitcher is wary of that. Goodnight.

I’m genuinely angry I have to keep watching this team. They’re not enjoying it, we’re not enjoying it, and everyone wants to just go home and be done with it. Do I think an utter collapse would cause changes? Not the ones you want. The Ricketts Family told you when it became public how Tom sold the purchase to Daddy. They’ll sell out Wrigley no matter what. That’s why they bought the team. They have all the buildings now. There was an urgency once, otherwise you wouldn’t hire the best available front office mind in Theo Epstein to overhaul your whole operation. But there isn’t now. They’ve got the property, they’ve got their channel, and they’ve got their one bauble to point to to justify it all. Whatever comes this winter is more likely to resemble deck chairs, or a move backwards.

Oh sure, Maddon will go. Maybe that’s enough, but I don’t know what a new manager does with the players from the system who have proven inflexible and not up to the standard of the Dodgers or Braves, or now not even the Cardinals. Those players were threatened withe expulsion last winter, but they’re all still here. There are no young pitchers coming to save the day. Alzolay will basically have to be a mutli-inning bullpen weapon due to his lack of innings. That’s it. That’s all there is. And Gerrit Cole or an opting-out Strasburg aren’t coming through the door either.

Just shoot it, this season. End the misery.


We know in one sport that the state of Wisconsin likes to hold itself up as a beacon of “the right way” and “what football should be.” It’s nauseating as fuck and hardly true, as the career of the greatest QB of all-time goes pretty much to waste. And really, their baseball team should be more of an example to others than that. At least in one sense.

Most teams, or owners to be precise, think the way to the mountain top is to dive for the valley first. Sell off anything that’s not nailed down, acquire prospects and pool money, get high picks in the draft, take three-four years, and presto. You’re the Astros or Cubs. It worked a couple times, so many assume this is the only way. Of course, owners like this plan because they can promise fans they know what they’re doing and the reward is coming while also getting to spend nothing for a few season and soak in the profits.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, and the Brewers have proved it. You can become a contender, such as the Brewers are, by just being shrewd and making your move at the right time. You don’t need a slew of top-three picks to reconstruct a system.

The Brewers have never really bottomed out this decade. Since winning the Central in 2011, they only had one truly bad campaign, which was in 2015 where they only managed 68 wins. Which is the season that got David Stearns the GM job and kicked Doug Melvin upstairs.

But Stearns was able to profit off the work Melvin had done before, as soon the system was producing Kyle Davies, Chase Anderson, Jimmy Nelson, Domingo Santana (before he returned to the Earth’s core, apparently), Josh Hader (the latter two in a trade with the Astros). Most of these players would form the backbone of the recent Brewers teams that have been so annoying.

And it was Melvin’s picks in the past that made up the haul for Christian Yelich from the Marlins, which of course is the biggest move of all. Stearns sensed there was something there for the Brewers have an 86-win campaign in 2017, and struck. He also signed Lorenzo Cain, who was a down-ballot MVP candidate last season. At no point did the Brewers have to spend three or four seasons making up the numbers, making players up, and making everyone in Milwaukee go do something else.

More teams should probably do this, because it’s less torturous. The problem is, the boom window might not last as long, and that’s what the Brewers could be finding out.

They have little option going forward but to keep going for it, as Yelich only has three years left on his contract (two years plus a team option that is most certainly going to be exercised). As we said with the Packers, you don’t waste a perennial MVPs prime. But Cain is aging quickly, the pitching staff is in shambles, and as they’re finding out this year, a team built on a bullpen has the rockiest of foundations.

They’re also not terribly young in the field. Keston Hiura and Yelich are the only regulars who matter that are under 30. and Grandal has a mutual option in the winter so he’s no guarantee to come back (though given how free agency went for him and many others last time, he may just take the security of a paycheck). So to suggest anyone other than Hiura or Yelich is going to be as good next year is the hilt of cock-eyed.

The rotation is probably priority one, as they can no longer know what Jimmy Nelson will be and Brandon Woodruff appears to be constructed entirely of matchsticks. This team could use Gerrit Cole more than just about anyone, but he’s headed straight to Anaheim when free agency opens. Anthony Rendon would be an upgrade on the corners, though that would involve moving Moustakas to either second or first full-time. And the former isn’t really an option thanks to Hiura.

It’s also a question of how high the Brewers can go. They draw well when they’re good, and they’ve been good the past three years. But they’re already on the hook for in the neighborhood of $160M next year, and it’s hard to see them going too much higher and anywhere near $200M next season or anytime soon.

You can rebuild by patchwork and creativity. But you don’t end up with quite the base. What the Brewers do going into next season will show just how sustainable, and attractive, their option for building a team is for others.

Everything Else


RECORDS: Brewers 68-65   Cubs 72-61

GAMETIMES: Friday-Sunday at 1:20

TV: WGN Friday, NBCSN Saturday/Sunday



Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Brewers Spotlight

We should know better than to get all hot and bothered and moist over the Cubs after their sweep of the Mets. We’ve been here all second half, where they look great for a series or two, and then right about the time you’re ready to buy in, ease the seat back, reach down between your legs, they barf up a lung. It looks poised for them, because sweeping the Mets–including getting one over deGrom and Thor–after a gut-punch of a series against the Nats feels like a good recovery. It feels like a landmark. And three dates with a Brewers team that is begging for the needle seems a launchpad for something bigger. But we know better. Tread lightly.

That said, the Cubs can absolutely put the Crew out of their misery this weekend or next, as they have seven games with these goofs that have definitely gone off the boil. Since June 1st, they are 36-39, and the reason is pretty obvious. They can’t get no damn pitching. Adrian Houser and Jordan Lyles have kept the roof from collapsing, but Gio Gonzalez, Zach Davies, and Chase Anderson have looked like that kid throwing firecrackers in Boogie Nights. And those are the three the Cubs will get, so….FIRE!

You’ll be amazed that a team that got a surprise season out of a no-name bullpen and then tried to run it back again this year has found that didn’t work, but it’s true. Of late, their new additions to the pen have again been propping up the ceiling, but mainstays like Jeremy Jeffress and Josh Hader have been straight up bad. Same goes for Curse Of The Spread Matt Albers, so Craig Counsell has been making a lot of Craig Counsell faces.

Offensively, the Brewers have been fine, but when other units are less than fine they need more. Christian Yelich remains a football in the groin, and Ryan Braun has rolled back the years the past month and we know what happens at Wrigley with him (shudder, shudder). But Grandal lost his power in August, maybe due to a season behind the plate, and Lorenzo Cain might be dead. Keston Hiura and Mike Moustakas aren’t easy outs, but this is the same group the Cubs waltzed past just a few weeks ago. Not that much has changed.

The Brewers come in only three and a half games behind the Cubs, so they’re probably viewing this week as a last stand. But winning both of these upcoming series will see the Cubs likely six and a half ahead with a mere three weeks to go, and you could stick a fork in them. The Brewers had a chance to stake their place with six games against the Cardinals, and they lost four of them. And they mostly got pumped in those losses. They’re barely hanging on here, and it’s past time to stomp on their fingers and send them plummeting to the rocks below.

To the cliffs…


One would think that after being one game from the team’s first World Series in 36 years, the Brewers would have wanted to build on that this season. The offseason came, and they sort of did with the signing of Yasmani Grandal, which was certainly an upgrade at catcher. Still, the team’s bugaboo–the rotation–remained untouched. It made some sense, as full seasons from Brandon Woodruff and a returning Jimmy Nelson would have improved the team’s weak link by themselves.

But those things didn’t happen. Both Woodruff and Nelson have been discovered to be made of leftover moving boxes and used engine oil, and rotate on and off the IL every couple of hours. Gio Gonzalez was once again scavenged from whatever forest discarded toys go to live, and the Brewers have made up the rest along the way. Jhoulys Chacin couldn’t rediscover whatever potion some witch in a hut gave him last year, and he’s hurt as well now.

But thanks to the Cardinals and Cubs also engaging in a season-long “Who can kick their own ass the hardest?” contest, the Brewers remain perched near the top of the division. Surely a move for a starter or two was in the offing. No, Zack Greinke was never a candidate, as the Brewers don’t have the system or the money to bring that aboard. But maybe they could find something with Aaron Sanchez? Or Marcus Stroman? Mike Leake would have probably been an improvement on what’s here. One or two other names would certainly be an alternative to openers and Housers and whatever other flotsam the Brewers have been sending out to the mound on a piece of driftwood.

And yet nothing. The Brewers love to claim small-market whenever possible, and yet they have one of the best attendance marks in the league and drew three million fans just last year. Certainly the profits are there, at least for a couple of months of someone.

All the Brewers did was bring in another converted-starter in Drew Pomeranz, who admittedly has looked good as a reliever. It’s just a doubling down on what went on last year, as the Brewers will essentially ask their starters not to strangle themselves and hope the hopped-up pen can take the rest.

It’s a gamble, because while Josh Hader is still striking out the world he’s been getable. Notice just yesterday his coughing up of a lead to Matt Chapman on his third day of use in a row, the first ever time he’s ever done that. He won’t be doing that again anytime soon. The Brewers also don’t have Knebel around this time, as they did last year, who was having nearly as dominant a season. Jeremy Jeffress is the perfect example of reliever roulette that a team plays when counting on anyone but the very top percentile of relievers. He can be anything on a given day.

And the Brewers might not have any future answers either. They’ll certainly have to try Woodruff and Nelson again next year, but Nelson will be 31 and Woodruff 27, so you might already know where they are. Zack Brown, their highest and closest pitching prospect, has been getting his skull turned into paste at AAA, and other pitching prospects are at least two seasons away. They very well may have to dip into the free agent market, and their fans will probably be whispering the word, “Gerrit” all winter.

Because the Brewers’ window isn’t all that big. Lorenzo Cain is already aging, and most of all Christian Yelich only has two years left on his deal before he makes the moon and maybe one of Jupiter’s as well. Are the Brewers going to pay that? Only Keston Hiura can be considered a young star, and maybe not the kind you can pivot a team around. We don’t know yet. Feels like there should have been more urgency around this deadline considering their standing.

But then again, maybe they feel like we do about the Cubs, and think if you’re knee-deep in this muck, you’re probably not that good anyway.



RECORDS: Brewers 23-16   Cubs 22-13

GAMETIMES: Friday and Saturday 1:20, Sunday 6:05

TV: NBCSN Friday, ABC Saturday, ESPN Sunday

YA HEY DERE: Brew Crew Ball


Gio Gonzalez vs. Jose Quintana

Zach Davies vs. Cole Hamels

Jhoulys Chacin vs. Jon Lester


Lorenzo Cain – CF

Christian Yelich – RF

Ryan Braun – LF

Yasmani Grandal – C

Jesus Aguilar – 1B

Mike Moustakas – 3B

Hernan Perez – 2B

Orlando Arcia – SS


Albert Almora Jr. – CF

Kris Bryant – LF

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Willson Contreras – C

David Bote – 3B

Jason Heyward – RF

Addison Russell – 2B


When these two last met, Miller Park was still in the glow of last year’s conquering of the noisy neighbors to the south, the Cubs rotation and bullpen were a mess, and to the more unhinged portion of each fanbase, it felt like a real sea change in the power structure of the NL Central. Of course, pretty much since then the Cubs have been the best team in baseball, the rotation among the best, the pen has straightened out, and the Brewers can’t get an out from a starter at all. And as has been the normal course in recent years, the North looks up to the South. As it should be, really.

The Brewers muddled along through April, with just a 14-13 record which allowed the Cubs back into and then through it. They’ve been better since the calendar flipped, going 6-2 in May to get past the Cardinals and be the stalkers to the Cubs’ pace, and those six are all in a row. And much like the Cubs, the schedule didn’t hurt, as May kicked off with the Mets who can’t stop being the Mets, and the Nationals who can’t seem to get right either. So yeah, it all sets up with either team having the possibility of being in first when Monday rolls around, or even tied. These games are just going to have a little extra spice all season.

If you think you know the story with the Brewers, it’s because you do. Pretty decent offense, but not other-worldly, a rotation that makes Baby Jesus cry, and the pen pulling Houdini acts to bail out the former. Christian Yelich hasn’t dropped off from last year, at least he hasn’t at home. He’s putting up a 300 wRC+ at Miller Park, which should be illegal, and a .630 wOBA, but away from Wisconsin he’s been just average. This is probably just a quirk and both will straighten out soon enough, but for now it’s something to hang on to.

He’s had to be that good, because the rest of the crew isn’t coming with him as much as they did last year. Lorenzo Cain has been glove-only pretty much all season. It took Grandal forever to get going. and he’s hit .151 over the last two weeks. Jesus Aguilar and Travis Shaw have been nothing short of disasters. Needles McGee (Braun) is just a guy now, but don’t worry, he’ll find a killer homer or two this weekend because that’s just a thing he does here. Eric Thames is starting to gobble into Aguilar’s playing time, and they’ve tried to find more ABs for Ben Gamel to get Yelich more support. It’s not quite the same as last year, at least not yet. Considering the age of Cain and Grandal, this could be a touch more than just a bad month. Also, the Brewers haven’t been able to shift their way out of some pretty porous infield defense as they thought they could.

At least the offense is better off than the rotation, which smells of elderberries at the moment. They’ve used nine different guys to start a game already, though that’s inflated by going to an “opener” at times. Chase Andeson is hurt again, and they’re still waiting on Jimmy Nelson to return from an injury he suffered in 2017. Zach Davies has been really good, but is riding the fortune train again because as good as his control is, he doesn’t get strikeouts or ground-balls but isn’t giving up a ton of hard contact either. Brandon Woodruff is on the other side of the BABIP Dragon as he’s suffering through a .385 BABIP while he’s striking out over 11 per nine. Gio Gonzalez has somehow put two good start together after being called in to rescue this outfit but he’s still Gio Gonzalez. He’s not going to keep his walks under one per nine innings for much longer at 33. Chacin and Peralta have been matches and vodka. When Anderson returns and Nelson finally emerges from the crypt, along with Woodruff getting the rub of the green for once, this unit should be pretty decent. It’s getting there that’s the problem, and when Gonzalez and possibly Davies go boom at the same time, they might just be stuck here.

Modern baseball sure is a thing, because the Brewers have gotten out of it mostly with their pen, which has already used 17 guys! Josh Hader is still an instrument of death, striking out 60% of the hitters he sees. But he’s also been homer-prone, which he wasn’t last year, giving up four already when he gave up only nine last year. Because even if you throw 97 all the time, if you’re only throwing fastballs–which Hader seems to be doing this year–MLB hitters are eventually going to time you up. And unlike last year, there haven’t been as many to join him in the Doomsayers Lounge. Matt Albers and the hoagie he brings to the mound have been very good, but that’s about it. Jeremy Jeffress can’t find the plate. Neither can Jacob Barnes. Junior Guerra has been…fine? Once you survive or duck Hader you can actually get at the pen a bit. That wasn’t the case last year.

Be nice to close out this homestand with some Brewer-kicking. Let’s do that.



RECORDS: Cubs 1-5   Brewers 6-1

GAMETIMES: Friday 7:10, Saturday 6:10, Sunday 1:10

TV: WGN Friday, NBCSN Chicago Saturday and Sunday

THE GOOD LAND: Brew Crew Ball


Jose Quintana vs. Brandon Woodruff

Cole Hamels vs Corbin Burnes

Kyle Hendricks vs. Zach Davies

Probable Cubs Lineup

1. Ben Zobrist (S) RF
2. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
4. Javier Baez (R) SS
5. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
7. Albert Almora (R) CF
9. Jason Heyward (L) RF


Probably Brewers Lineup

1. Lorenzo Cain (R) CF
2. Christian Yelich (L) RF
3. Ryan Braun (R) LF
4. Travis Shaw (L) 3B
5. Jesus Aguilar (R) 1B
6. Mike Moustakas (L) 2B
7. Yasmani Grandal (S) C
8. Orlando Arcia (R) SS
Everything is wrong. Everything is ruined. So why not face the team that’s given your whole front office and fanbase a psychosis when you’re at your absolute lowest? Maybe it’s a weird kind of immersion therapy. Have the booze nearby.
Despite how Cubs fans have acted all winter, the Brewers and Cubs were exactly as good as each other last year. In fact, the Brewers needed a historic finish over the last month to even catch the Cubs, rather than the Cubs “losing” it. But the difference in winter maneuvers is probably what has everyone on edge. The Brew Crew identified a weakness, catcher, and went and got just about the best possible solution to it in Yasmani Grandal (who at the moment has only succeeded in torpedoing my fantasy team, but that won’t last forever). And this wasn’t a bad lineup to begin with.
Of course, the Brewers main weapon is the bullpen. Josh Hader was so bored with just striking out everyone that he spent the first week seeing how long he could get away with throwing just fastballs. He threw his first breaking ball on Wednesday, after something like 48 straight fastballs. He’s striking out two per inning anyway. The Brewers won’t miss Cory Knebel when they just make Hader throw with his right hand on his off-days. Alex Wilson and Matt Albers are also carrying ridiculous strikeout rates. Jacob Barnes has been the only flashpoint so far out of there, and you can bet they’ll find more. It’s what they do. Knebel will be a miss, but if they’re the ones who end up with Craig Kimbrel, the self-defenestration count around town is going to quadruple.
I still don’t buy the Brewers rotation, but I suppose when it doesn’t have to do much more than four or five innings, you don’t have to buy it. Jimmy Nelson has yet to return and he’s something of the trump card. If he’s what he was, that gives them at least a genuine #2 starter in this league and a day off from throwing four innings for the pen. Brandon Woodruff impressed out of the pen last year, but he and Peralta’s record suggest they walk too many guys to ever be dominant. You’ll never convince me Jhoulys Chacin isn’t Jhoulys Chacin, and Zach Davies’s Kyle Hendricks impression has only ever looked good against the Cubs. The Brewers do the best they can to take their rotation out of the equation, but it has to sting at some point. At least that’s the hope.
None of this matters if Christian Yelich continues to be a Lantern. A 1.500 OPS so far on the season is pretty much everything you need to know. Mike Moustakas has also hit the ball hard when he’s hit it, and Lorenzo Cain is Lorenzo Cain. Jesus Aguilar has been wielding a pool noodle so far, but I’ll still hide behind the couch every time he’s up. Needles McGee in left also will come up with some annoying, game-changing homer at some point, which he’ll do against the Cubs until he’s 74 (though parts of him will remain in their 20s).
The Cubs are clearly not really equipped to deal with the Brewers at the moment. Jose Quintana has held a voodoo sign over the Brewers since switching sides of town, and he’ll get his first start of the year. Q looked good out of the pen to save Darvish last Saturday, and we’ll see if he means it about incorporating his change far more this season. Maddon’s biggest mistake last year might have been pulling Q in  Game 163 out of fear of a third trip through the lineup, ignoring the facts that Q held down the Brewers all year and he didn’t have a bullpen at that point. Good thing he doesn’t have a pen now and we can see what he’s learned.
The Cubs can claim that things will shake out better with this relief group, but there’s no reason to believe that. Other than Pedro Strop, none of these guys have a track record of sustained success, and it’s here last year where Carl Edwards Jr. broke on Labor Day. You’ll remember the previous inning, Anthony Rizzo had solved Hader for a homer that gave the Cubs the lead and felt like a defining, season-turning moment. Then Edwards turned his curve into performance art and the lead was immediately lost. He’s never recovered, and very well might not ever. There’s nowhere for Maddon to turn until Strop, who has been curiously held for saves that never come. Maybe stop with that?
This being baseball of course, the Cubs could march up there and sweep the Brewers because it’s April and it’s weird and why not? We could use it. Or the Brewers could really rub the Cubs’ nose in it and wouldn’t that make for a comfy home opener the next day? What you got to say then, Theo?