RECORDS: Cubs 55-47 Brewers 54-50
GAMETIMES: Friday 7:10, Saturday 6:10, Sunday 1:10
TV: NBCSN Friday, ABC 7 Saturday and Sunday
YA HEY DERE: Brew Crew Ball
PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP
Kyle Schwarber – LF
Javier Baez – SS
Kris Bryant – RF
Anthony Rizzo – 1B
Robel Garcia – 2B
David Bote – 3B
Ian Happ – CF
PROBABLE BREWERS LINEUP
Lorenzo Cain – CF
Christian Yelich – RF
Yasmani Grandal – C
Mike Moustakas – 3B
Ryan Braun – LF’
Eric Thames – 1B
Keston Hiura – 2B
Orlando Arcia – SS
Let’s cast our mind back to 2008. At the end of July that year, a Cubs team that had stormed out of the gates had a bit of a slip, and the Brewers behind them had gotten within touching distance. A series at this time was billed as a division decider, or at least a big indicator. The Cubs proceeded to turn the Brewers brains into mush for four games, and the division was never under discussion again.
To 2015. The Cubs had gotten into the wildcard discussion, but entered a four-game series against the wildcard leading Giants three games back. They beat the Giants every which way twice for four games, moved into the wildcard spot behind the Pirates, never looked back.
2016. The Cubs had stomped all over the NL for the entire season so they never actually had to worry about this shit.
2017. A little later in the season, but a Cubs team that kind of muddled through the whole season trying to find ways to shove its head up its rectum faced six games in September against the Cardinals. They took five of them, including clinching the division in St. Louis and making them watch.
2018. The Cubs faced a decisive Labor Day weekend series in Milwaukee. They got what appeared to be a season-defining, game-turning homer from Anthony Rizzo off Josh Hader, and everything seemed poised to right itself.
Then Carl Edwards Jr. went to the zoo, and you know how the rest goes. See the difference?
It feels like the rest of this road trip is one of those moments for these Cubs. Six games against the other competitors in the Central. On the road, where they have to unfuck themselves tout suite if they have any designs of being something. A scuffling Brewers team that can’t get a start from anyone and has a couple players decaying rapidly in the outfield. The Cubs can’t end the Brewers season here, not with two months to go and the gap so small. But they can certainly make it more challenging, and they can throw some serious questions the Brewers would have to wrestle with. Although, they could end up doing the same to themselves.
Since June 1st, the Brewers are 22-24. In that time, they have a 5.22 ERA from their starters and a 4.69 ERA from their relievers, which is worse than the Cubs even if you don’t believe it. They haven’t even hit that well, though fifth in the worse-than-you-thought NL in the past seven weeks. But that’s what’s kept them somewhat afloat, though the generous nature of the division hasn’t hurt them either.
Yelich you know about. Hiura has done his part to fill in as well, but Moustakas has cooled off considerably since his mega-start. Ryan Braun will occasionally flash the form of old, and he assuredly will again this weekend because that’s what we’ve been sentenced to for our perceived sins, but a lot more of the time he looks like he got his foot stuck in a garbage can. Eric Thames has taken up the mantle after Jesus Aguilar went back to whatever upside-down he emerged from last year, but hasn’t quite matched the production of Aguilar of ’18. Lorenzo Cain died, and yet still hits leadoff for this team. You could argue Craig Counsell has been beholden to name value too much, as Braun and especially Cain probably don’t deserve to hit as high in the lineup as they have based on what they’ve done this year.
He’s got bigger problems in the rotation, though. Brandon Woodruff just went TWANG! and is out until September. Chase Anderson and Kyle Davies have kept the ship afloat of late, but Jhoulys Chacin went back to being Jhoulys Chacin and Gio Gonzalez has been meat for everyone but the Cubs for years now. The Cubs will get a chance to put that right tonight, though consider their struggles against lefties–i.e. having to play some or all of Almora, Bote, and until now Russell–don’t hold your breath. If any lefty can get the Cubs bats going, it’s Gonzalez, who is striking out all of two hitters per nine the past month.
The problems extend to the pen as well. It was never going to match last year’s dominance, because that’s not what pens do. Hader has been good, at times more so, but at other times gettable as he’s actually given up homers this season. Freddy Peralta has some scary strikeout numbers of late but also some scary walk numbers, too. You go ahead and trust Jeremy Jeffress long term if you choose, you can get your pleasure through pain, y’know. Junior Guerra? Get outta here.
For the Cubs, they made a small move today in telling Tim Collins to do one while picking up Derek Holland from the Giants. Holland’s numbers are horrific, but mostly as a starter. Here he’ll be asked to get lefties out, which he’s done pretty effectively. This is exactly the kind of move you make for a bullpen. Costs you nothing, might get something.
In addition, Ian Happ is up, though no word if he’ll go straight into the lineup or not. You’d have to believe he will though, and he’s been better this year right-handed so that’ll just about do it for Almora’s playing time for a while. He could also be playing left for Schwarber to sit against a lefty. We’ll see.
No more bullshit. The Cubs have it in their hands for the next seven days. Do the thing, get yourself out ahead, and play with a lead. Time to play like you were designed or to shut the fuck up about it.