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Brewers - Cubs Series Preview: Visiting the Friendly Confines of Wrigleyville 23.

One if by land, two if by I-94 -- that's right, friends, the Cubbies are coming to town. Chicago is a hot mess right now, having lost three of four to the Mets after dropping a home series against the woeful Houston Astros. Oh, and they just exiled a starting pitcher to the bullpen -- and his name wasn't Carlos Silva. But we'll get to that in a minute. First, the numbers:

2010 record vs. Cubs: 1-2; 19 runs scored, 22 runs allowed

Current three-game series:

  • Friday, April 23, 2010 @ 7:10 p.m. CDT. TV: FS Wisconsin (and WGN) Radio: 620 WTMJ
  • Saturday, April 24, 2010 @ 6:10 p.m. CDT. TV: WMLW (and WGN) Radio: 94.5 WLWK
  • Sunday, April 25, 2010 @ 1:10 CDT. TV: FS Wisconsin and TBS Radio: 620 WTMJ and 1510 WRRD

Cubs Probable Starters (in order):

  • Ryan Dempster (2010 vs. Brewers: 1 GS, 1-0, 7.11 ERA, 5 K, 4 BB, 1 HR allowed)
  • Ted Lilly (2009 splits vs. Brewers: 1 GS, 1-0, 2.84 ERA, 9 K, 0 BB, 1 HR allowed)
  • Randy Wells (2010 vs. Brewers: 1 GS, 0-0, 5.68 ERA, 7 K, 1 BB, 0 HR allowed)

Brewers Probable Starters (in order):

  • Jeff Suppan (2010 vs. Cubs: 1 GS, 0-0, 7.20 ERA, 4 K, 1 BB, 2 HR allowed)
  • Doug Davis (2010 vs. Cubs: 1 GS, 0-1, 16.20 ERA, 4 K, 2 BB, 2 HR allowed)
  • Dave Bush (2010 vs. Cubs: 1 GS, 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 2 K, 0 BB, 1 HR allowed)
You may have noticed a pattern with our series previews thus far: when we interview a blogger who writes about the opponent before the series, the Brewers are 6-3. When we don't interview the enemy, we're 2-4.

I've seen the light, so I sent some questions to the Cubs blog Wrigleyville 23, and he was kind enough to provide some great answers. (And a special tip of the cap to Paul Noonan of Brewed Sports, who was a big help with the questions.) On set-up men, the unfairly maligned Alfonso Soriano, and Brant Brown, after the jump.

BCB: Carlos Zambrano wasn't stellar in his first two starts, but then he went six solid innings against the Mets in a game where the Cubs were shut out ... and was rewarded with banishment to the 'pen. I understand that Ted Lilly's coming back, but your nominal No. 1 starter just became a set-up man. And other than John Grabow, the Cubs' bullpen hasn't been atrocious. What am I missing?

Z was lousy in his first, solid in his second, shaky in his third and solid in his fourth. That said, all of his troubles have been in the first three innings of games. In innings four through seven, once he settles into a groove, he hasn't given up a run.

So what do the Cubs do? Put him in a situation where he will pitch one inning at a time.

What could go wrong?

BCB: Do you think that Alfonso Soriano is unfairly denigrated?

I'm a huge Soriano fan, dating back to his years with the Yankees. I just like to watch him play baseball - especially when he's on, as he has been over the last week. The last 2/3 of last season was hard to watch, given the injury, but I'm still fully on board.

I was a season ticket holder for Soriano's one year in DC and I enjoyed watching him for the same reason he drives Cubs fans batty: He makes baseball look effortless (again, when he's on). Cubs fans much prefer players who appear to try hard and fail (think Ryan Theriot) than players who are naturally gifted.

Fans like to bitch about the contract, call him an albatross (and worse), and say he's not earning his money.

But I guarantee you if you asked Cubs fans after the miserable 2006 season: "Are you OK with the team paying $136 million to a player over eight years if it guarantees at least two division titles, even if his skills rapidly erode?" ... a huge chunk of them would say "ABSOLUTELY!"

Soriano was the primary reason the Cubs won the title in 2007. He was a huge reason they won the title in 2008. And last year? He was hurt - and played through the hurt - a huge chunk of the year and the Cubs struggled. Not a coincidence.

Consider this:

In 2007, the Cubs were 73-61 with Soriano and 12-16 without him.
In 2008, the Cubs were 69-38 with Soriano and 28-26 without him.
In 2009, the Cubs were 61-55 with Soriano and 22-23 without him.

They are 46 games over .500 with him in the starting lineup and three games under without him in the starting lineup.

In short, Soriano has been good for the Cubs and he plays through injuries (which fans normally would applaud). It's a weird dynamic with him.

BCB: For all the hand-wringing over Soriano, Aramis Ramirez has really scuffled to start the year. Is he pressing, getting old, or is just early?

None of the above. He's the Cubs new long reliever.

BCB: Favorite Ron Santo call / analysis. Go. (I'll share one: last year, light-hitting Eric Bruntlett hit a homer against the Cubs. For the next inning, Santo kept muttering: "Bruntlett? BRUNTLETT! Bruntlett." in exasperation.)

The Brant Brown call is pretty good.

BCB: Who does Jeff Samardzahafjasifjsdkgf have naked pictures of? Do they keep him around just because of the Notre Dame connection?

They paid him $10 million guaranteed and gave him a no-trade clause. And he has nice hair.

BCB: Have you been to Miller Park? Are the Cubs fans that travel different than at Wrigley? In my experience, everyone is much nicer at Wrigley than the traveling fans who show up at Miller Park.

I have not been to Miller Park. I have driven by many times.

As for Cubs fans who travel, I think you're asking about a particularly nasty thing going on between Brewers and Cubs fans. We like to poke fun at the Brewers and their fans at WV23, and it always elicits just a remarkably visceral response from the 414, 608 and 262.

I've been to Cubs games in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Philly, New York, St. Louis, Miami and Washington, and there haven't been problems like there seem to be when they go up the road in Milwaukee.

Maybe it's you people.