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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ Chicago Cubs

Two teams that have been treading water in the second half look to swing the NL Central race in their favor in a quick two-game set

Washington Nationals v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

There are probably better times to go into Wrigley Field for a pretty significant pair of games.

The Cubs are coming off the emotional high of a walkoff grand slam in front of a national audience on Sunday night. The Brewers are coming off another disappointing game that saw the the offense strand the equivalent of the greater Atlanta metro area on the bases, another blown lead by the bullpen, and another loss in a day game.

This is where I mention the two games in Chicago are both scheduled for the afternoon.

For all the doom and gloom lately, the Brewers are still 12-11 since the All-Star break and the Cubs are...13-11. The Brewers have been outscored by 23 runs since the All-Star break and the Cubs have been outscored by...21 runs. The Brewers have lost exactly one half of a game in the standings in that time.

Treading water is frustrating and the clock is ticking to make up that ground with 40 games left to play, but 8 of those are between these two teams. The Brewers have a 3-8 record against the Cubs so far this year, but they did take 2 of 3 the last time they met in June. 2 of their losses to the Cubs this year came by only a single run, and another came by 2 runs.

Trust me, as irritated as some Brewers fans may be that they haven’t been able to pick up any ground against the Cubs, there are plenty of Cubs fans irritated they can’t seem to get rid of the Brewers. Regardless of what happens in the next couple days, the race won’t be decided until September.

Probable Pitchers

Tuesday - 1:20 p.m. CDT
Jhoulys Chacin vs. Jose Quintana

Wednesday - 1:20 p.m. CDT
Junior Guerra vs. Kyle Hendricks

Okay, so facing Quintana in the first game of this series isn’t ideal, either. It’d be hard to find someone who’s owned the Brewers more than Quintana over the past year. He’s faced the Brewers three times this year, and it took until the third outing for the Brewers to score on him, when they finally were able to scratch 2 runs across in 6 innings against him on June 11th. That snapped a streak of 3 straight scoreless outings against the Brewers, including a complete game 3-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts last September that helped put a big damper on the Brewers’ playoff hopes. Quintana has had a tougher time lately, though, allowing 5 runs in 6.1 innings against the lowly Royals in his last start, and allowing 6 runs in 3 innings against the Cardinals three starts ago. Overall, Quintana comes into the start with a disappointing 4.28 ERA with a 4.62 FIP.

Hendricks is also in the middle of a disappointing year, like much of the Cubs rotation (which actually ranks 23rd in the majors in fWAR -- the Brewers rank 18th). After years of being able to induce tons of soft contact, that ability has fallen off slightly this year as he’s struggled to a 4.02 ERA and 4.26 FIP. His hard-hit rate is up by 1.3%, but the biggest difference is fewer ground balls (46.9% compared to 50.1% last year), and more balls being hit for line drives (22.2%, up from 20.8%) and in the air (30.8% over 29.1%). With that, he’s seen his HR/FB rate climb to 15.9% this year. If you’re looking for a comparison, Chase Anderson -- who’s given up 5 home runs in his past 3 starts -- has a HR/FB rate of 15.2%.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference