It doesn’t matter that the Brewers haven’t been alone in first place since July 12th.
It doesn’t matter that the Brewers have trailed the Cubs every day from August 1st to September 29th.
It doesn’t matter that the Brewers are only 8-11 against the Cubs this year.
All that matters is who wins today.
The Brewers can put all of that past them and win their first division title since 2011, and just their fourth in franchise history, with a win this afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Standing in their way is the biggest nemesis the Cubs have been able to put in front of them for the past year and a half: Jose Quintana.
The Brewers played the Cubs 6 times in September. The only games the Cubs won were started by Quintana. Since acquiring Quintana last July, the Cubs have won 6 of the 8 games they’ve thrown him against the Brewers, and Milwaukee has only really had one successful day against him in that time:
Jose Quintana against the Brewers
Aside from consistently keeping the Brewers off-balance, Quintana has been good against just about everyone in the past couple months. In his last 8 starts, he has a 3.05 ERA since making a mechanical tweak. In his last outing against the Brewers, he switched up his approach after the Brewers were finally able to get to him in his previous outing against them.
Asked why Quintana has had so much success against the Brewers, Travis Shaw offered this explanation to Adam McCalvy:
“I know personally, when you have success against a pitcher or off a team, any time they roll in, you’re ready to go. You don’t think anything bad’s going to happen,” Shaw said. “I assume that’s how he feels with us.
”I don’t think it’s anything in here. I don’t think we’re scared to face him or anything like that. He’s got good mojo against us and he seems to execute every time he pitches against us.”
It’ll be up to the Brewers to show Quintana that bad things can in fact happen when he’s looking at a navy blue shirt in the batters’ box. In order to do that, they’ll have to find a way to hurt left-handed pitching, which has been a challenge at times this year. The Brewers’ ideal offensive lineup, with both Shaw and Mike Moustakas playing, doesn’t work as well against a left-handed starter.
As for who starts the game opposite Quintana, the Brewers waited to make that announcement, but Jhoulys Chacin is on normal rest and will be getting the call, as the Cubs expected as early as yesterday afternoon.
It’ll be interesting to see if Craig Counsell manages his bullpen in a traditional way or turns to someone like Chase Anderson to pick up another few innings after Chacin. Anderson has been better on the road than at home this year, and has had success against the Cubs this year. He’s allowed just 1 run in 18 innings against Chicago this year, although he did have to white-knuckle his way through 4 scoreless innings in his last outing against the Cubs, working around 2 walks and 3 hits before Counsell went all-out with his bullpen usage.
Either way, there’s a game after today, and that’s something Craig Counsell will have to balance as he navigates this game and pieces together his 27 outs from the pitching staff. As tempting as it would be to pitch Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress for two innings each if he has a lead after 5 innings, if it doesn’t work out and they lose the lead — and the game — he’s in a situation where Hader and Jeffress are likely unavailable in the true elimination game.
With that said, the only pitcher in the bullpen that’s likely ruled out of Tuesday if they’re used on Monday is Hader. If the Brewers find themselves with a lead in the 7th inning, it’s probably safe to assume we’ll see Corey Knebel, Joakim Soria and Jeremy Jeffress in some order after that, without too much worry on if they’d be available the next day in a win-or-go-home game.
The Brewers have two chances to advance to the NLDS. They’d prefer to punch their ticket today, but even if they don’t, they’ll be returning to a loud crowd that’s helped them put up a 51-30 record at home — tied only with...Chicago.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference