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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ Chicago Cubs

One team in this series is in first place and it isn’t Chicago.

MLB: Game Two-Chicago Cubs at Colorado Rockies
John Lackey scratches his head.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Your Milwaukee Brewers enter their next series leading the division. The Chicago Cubs do not.

Yeah, it's May 19th and the Cubs will probably win 10 in a row at some point, but don't let that ruin the fun.

Chicago comes into this weekend just two games over .500, but are winners of their past three games and they're currently 2 games behind the Brewers in the NL Central.

Since the last time we saw the Cubs, they called up prospect Ian Happ, who has proceeded to hit .353/.500/.824 with 2 home runs and 2 doubles in his first 5 games, because they don't have enough middle infielders who can hit. Kris Bryant is also hitting a much more Kris Bryant-like .297/.403/.554.

Previous Series

The Brewers last faced off against Chicago a month ago, taking a trip to Wrigley on April 17-19. The Brewers won the first game of the series, 6-3, after teeing off on John Lackey, but dropped the next two games of the series on bullpen collapses. In the series' second game, the offense spotted Jimmy Nelson a 5-0 lead, but he couldn't capitalize and Jared Hughes blew the lead in relief. In the series finale, the Brewers were up 4-1 at one point and clung to a 4-3 lead in the 9th inning before Neftali Feliz allowed the tying run to score and then coughed up a 3-run walkoff home run to Addison Russell.

At least John Lackey lost.

Probable Pitchers

Friday, 1:20 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Paolo Espino vs. Eddie Butler

We've spent a lot of digital ink on the Espino's journey to this game, but Butler is looking for a redemption story of his own. A former first round pick of the Colorado Rockies and Top-50 prospect, Butler never found success in Colorado, getting crushed for a 6.50 ERA in 36 games (28 starts). He was DFA’d by the Rockies over the winter and eventually traded to the Cubs, who were in a position to take a gamble on the former top prospect. This year, Butler had a 1.17 ERA in 5 starts for Triple-A Iowa before getting called up last week. In his first major league start for the Cubs, Butler threw 6 shutout innings in St. Louis last Friday, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 5. He won't strike out very many, but he does keep hitters guessing with a five-pitch mix -- a four-seamer, two-seamer, slider, curveball and changeup -- and focuses on weak contact.

Saturday, 1:20 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Chase Anderson vs. Jake Arrieta

Someone might've replaced Cubs Jake Arrieta with Orioles Jake Arrieta without telling Theo. It's still early in the year, but Arrieta has struggled through most of his 8 starts, bringing a 5.44 ERA into this weekend -- a far cry from the 1.77 mark that won him a Cy Young two years ago. He's striking out more batters than he has at any point in his Cubs tenure -- a 9.9 K/9 would be the highest of his career if it holds -- but his BABIP is an astronomical .355, he's not stranding baserunners (his LOB% has dropped from 74.9% to 60.9% this year), he's allowing a ridiculous amount of flyballs (his GB% is down to 40.2% this year after 52.6% last year) and more flyballs are leaving the park (HR/FB of 16% is nearly 5% higher). That's bad luck on multiple different levels. Of course, in his first start against the Brewers this year, he struck out 10 over 7 innings and only allowed 3 runs.

Sunday, 1:20 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Jimmy Nelson vs. John Lackey

Since the night Eric Thames took Lackey deep at Wrigley Field, he's allowed a .283/.323/.500 batting line (.823 OPS) with 6 home runs allowed in 29.1 innings. Makes you really scratch your head.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs