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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ Chicago Cubs

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A quick trip down to Chicago for a makeup game.

Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

After completing a three-game sweep of the Orioles, the Milwaukee Brewers take a quick detour down to the Windy City before heading out the New York for their final series before the All-Star break. Today’s contest at 1:20 PM CST between the Brewers and Chicago Cubs will be a makeup of the infamous “rainless rainout.” If you’ve forgotten, this game was originally supposed to be played on May 20th, but apparently the Cubs had a ‘bad forecast’ calling for rain that never wound up coming. Craig Counsell was quoted as saying that it was “the first time our players were treated for sunburn after a rainout.”

So far this year the Cubs hold a 5 games to 3 advantage over the Brewers in the season series; they took 2 of 3 at Miller Park in early April, 2 of 3 at Wrigley in mid-April, and the teams split what ended up being a 2 game series in mid-May. The two clubs are trending in opposite directions currently, however. The Cubs haven’t played anywhere near preseason expectations, limping to a 4-6 mark in their last 10 games and an even 42-42 record overall. Meanwhile the Milwaukee Nine has won 7 of their last 10 games, surging to a season-high 7 games over .500 at 47-40. Their 3.5 game lead over Chicago for first place in the NL Central is the largest advantage they’ve held all year.

These Cubs looks like a rather middling squad, not nearly as intimidating as the World Series winning team from last year. They rank 18th in the league with 379 runs scored; Kris Bryant (135 wRC+) and Anthony Rizzo (132 wRC+) still anchor the lineup and are enjoying strong campaigns, but neither have been as good as they were in 2016. Ian Happ (131 wRC+) is having a stellar rookie season, too. But the Cubs recently DFA’d and traded their 4th-most productive hitter - Miguel Montero - after he said mean things about Jake Arrieta in the press. Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist are both underperforming their sizable contracts and have dealt with injury this year, and future-Hall-of-Famer Kyle Schwarber was briefly demoted to the minor leagues before being recalled prior to today's matchup.

On the pitching side of things, the Cubs have a collective 4.05 ERA this year, good enough for 7th in baseball and just ahead of the Brewers (4.17, 10th). Today’s scheduled starter for the north siders is Mike Montgomery, who has prevented runs at a pretty strong clip this season as a swingman. The lefty boasts a 2.80 ERA across 23 appearances (5 starts) covering 64.1 innings pitched. FIP says his ERA should be nearly a run higher though at 3.68; Montgomery is walking more batters this year (4.20 BB/9) and striking out a batter fewer per 9 (7.27 K/9) than he did in 2016. His average fastball velocity is down roughly a mile-per-hour (92.5 MPH) and he’s been the beneficiary of a low .277 BABIP despite giving up close to a league-average amount of hard contact.

Probables:

1:20 PM CST, FSWisconsin, MLB Network || Zach Davies (9-4, 5.03 ERA) vs. Mike Montgomery (1-5, 2.80 ERA)

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs