Brewers-Cubs Series Preview and What the Brewers Must do to Win the Series

Credit: Chicago Tribune

Both the Brewers and Cubs are coming into the weekend series as the two hottest teams in baseball.  The Cubs are coming off a sweep of the Marlins where 2 of the 3 victories were via the walk-off, and the Brewers are coming off a sweep of the Nationals where the pitching was much improved.  The Brewers are entering the series just 1 game back of the Cubs meaning their hot stretch was necessary simply to keep pace in what is arguably the toughest division in baseball this season.  We will dig into each of the three games and give you a preview of what could be one of the most important series of the season for these teams.

Friday 5/10 – Gio Gonzalez vs Jose Quintana:

Let’s face it, any way you draw it up the Brewers will be on the losing end in terms of pitching.  Quintana has been an ace throughout the past month racking up a 1.93 ERA over the course of his past 5 starts pitching 7 or more innings in three of those starts.  He really has only had one dreadful outing this season… which came in his second start of the season against the Brewers.  He gave up 8 earned in 3 innings pitched that day.  This was odd for Q considering his 2.51 ERA in just over 75 innings pitched against the Brewers.  He has always owned the Brewers EXCEPT for that start.  Gio is going into his 3rd start since returning to the Brewers.  He currently has yet to pitch past the 6th inning meaning the bullpen will likely be worked both on Friday and in the entire series.  Currently, Gio has looked quite good only giving up 3 ER in 10.1 IP and 9 strikeouts to just 1 walk.  This game will look to be a low scoring affair but I believe the Cubs will come away with game 1 of the series.  Quintana has been lights out since his last start against the Brewers.  That game was merely a blip in the radar for a Quintana who has been otherwise a Brewer’s killer.

Saturday 5/11 – Zach Davies vs Cole Hamels:

This is the match-up the Brewers will want to take advantage of.  Davies is throwing his changeup nearly double the amount he was previously in his career and the success evident.  He is one of the top starting pitchers the NL in ERA with a 1.56 ERA and barely giving up home runs.  What the Brewers do need to worry about, however, is his much higher 3.93 FIP which indicates a fair amount of luck has been going Davies’ way.  Still, he is coming into Wrigley with confidence.  Hamels, on the other hand, is struggling lately pitching a 4.32 ERA over his past three starts.  His last start against the Brewers at the beginning of the season was a good one where he went 6 strong giving up 2 earned.  This game the Brewers will come away with a high scoring win.  Davies will not have his best outing, but the Crew will put up enough runs to get the W.

Sunday 5/12 – Jhoulys Chacin vs Jon Lester:

Sunday night baseball under the lights of Wrigley. What could be better!?  This is the game where we expect to see the stars shine on the field.  We want to see some Yelich dingers and slick defense from Javy Baez.  The pitching match-up could not be more lopsided.  The ace of last season for the Brewers, Chacin, has gotten rocked this season posting a 5.03 ERA and an even higher 5.98 FIP!!  Lester meanwhile, has been incredible posting a 1.41 ERA and a very respectable 2.95 FIP.  Being Sunday night baseball, Lester will for sure be ready to put up a performance.  The Brewers will need to be aggressive on the bases to fluster him.  This not be the blowout game one would expect.  I see the Brewers hanging in this game and giving the Cubs a fight.  Chacin will bounce back with a solid outing, but the Crew will just fall short in a close Sunday night battle.

Keys for the Crew:

  1. Love the Lefties:  The Brewers are going to be seeing all left-handed starters this weekend, but that should not be a problem.  The team has a wRC+ of 117 against lefties this season, good for 9th in the league.
  2. Yelich on the road:  Yelich has not been terrible on the road, but he has not been a superstar the way he is at Miller Park.  Just 1 of his 16 home runs has come away from Milwaukee.  Still, he has a 104 wRC+ on the road.  He is just 1-12 so far this season on the road against lefties.
  3. Continued hot bullpen pitching: While the Brewers rank 14th in the league in terms of bullpen ERA, they actually are 5th in the league in wOBA.  If this turns into a bullpen game, it will be tough.  Since the beginning of May, the Cubs have the 3rd best wOBA in the league and the Brewers have the 5th best.  While the Cubs have not had to rely too heavily on the bullpen, the Brewers have thrown the most bullpen innings since the beginning of May, nearly 8 more than the next closest.  This is likely due to the marathon 18 inning game last week.

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