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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ Chicago Cubs

There’s no better way to chase down a wildcard team than to beat them directly, right?

MLB: Chicago Cubs at New York Mets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Realistically, if the Brewers are going to make another playoff run, it will take another remarkable month of September.

Last year, that meant going 19-7 to chase down the Cubs, including taking both head-to-head series in September before the deciding Game 163. The Brewers similarly have two series against Chicago this September, and they both come in the next couple weeks.

Entering Labor Day weekend 4 games behind the Cubs, the Brewers will likely have to do better than 4-3 in the last 7 games against them to make any real headway in the wildcard chase -- and that’s without having to also worry about leapfrogging the Phillies.

Perhaps luckily, the Cubs have been a team of streaks in the past month. They’re coming off a sweep of the Mets in New York, but got swept by the Nationals before that to end what was a six-game win streak (which followed a stretch in which they lost 6 of 7). The potential problem this weekend: the Cubs have been much better at Wrigley Field (44-22) than they’ve been on the road (28-39) this year.

Probable Pitchers

Friday, August 30th - 1:20 p.m. CDT
Chase Anderson vs. Jose Quintana

Joe Maddon believes the world will cease to exist if Jose Quintana does not make his ritual start against the Milwaukee Brewers (probably). Quintana held the Brewers to 2 runs on 7 hits over 6 innings during his last appearance against them at Wrigley on August 2nd. The start before that, the Brewers were actually able to get to him and chase him early, scoring 3 runs in 4.2 innings. Milwaukee has actually been able to hang a 7.08 ERA on Quintana this year.

Saturday, August 31st - 1:20 p.m. CDT
Zach Davies vs. Cole Hamels

Quintana gets the hype, but Hamels has really been the Cubs lefty to give the Brewers fits this year. In 3 starts, Hamels has held the Brewers to a total of 3 runs over 18 innings, striking out 16 while only walking 3. He had a sparkling 3.09 ERA on the season before getting tagged by the Phillies for 8 runs over 2 innings on August 14th. He rebounded to hold the Nationals to 2 runs over 5 innings in his most recent start.

Sunday, September 1st - 1:20 p.m. CDT
Gio Gonzalez vs. Yu Darvish

Every pitcher in the league has had more home run problems than usual this year, but Darvish may have had it the hardest. He’s given up an NL-leading 31 longballs in 27 starts this year, and they’ve had a tendency to come in bunches, like the 4 he allowed in 5.1 innings against the Giants on August 21st. He’s coming off one of his best starts as a Cub, though, holding the Mets to just 1 run over 8 innings (a solo home run by Pete Alonso, who leads the NL in home runs) while striking out 7 on Tuesday.

Player to Watch

The hamstring injury to Willson Contreras could have been disastrous for the Cubs, but Victor Caratini has made the most of his opportunity in the starting lineup.

Overshadowed by the big names in the Chicago lineup, Caratini has quietly put together a .274/.363/.480 line with 9 home runs and 9 doubles in 201 plate appearances. He’s been especially hot as of late, coming into today with a five-game hit streak, and collecting 7 hits in 12 at-bats during the Cubs’ sweep of the Mets. Caratini almost single-handedly helped secure the sweep last night, driving in 4 runs while hitting 2 home runs.

Caratini has gone 5-for-12 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI in 6 games (2 starts) against the Brewers this year.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference