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
PROBABLE BREWERS LINEUP
Lorenzo Cain – CF
Christian Yelich – RF
Ryan Braun – LF
Yasmani Grandal – C
Jesus Aguilar – 1B
Mike Moustakas – 3B
Hernan Perez – 2B
Orlando Arcia – SS
PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP
Albert Almora Jr. – CF
Kris Bryant – LF
Anthony Rizzo – 1B
Javier Baez – SS
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.