Whether the Brewers get a wildcard spot or not won’t be decided this weekend, even if it feels that way.
But, man, does it feel that way.
The Brewers enter this four-game series at Miller Park at 4 games behind the Cubs for the NL’s second wildcard spot with 23 games to play. With a series win, they’re right in the thick of the race and putting pressure on the Cubs not to collapse for a second straight September. Splitting the four games doesn’t count the Brewers out, but also doesn’t do them much good, still cutting down the margin of error they have for the final few weeks.
Losing 3 of 4 wouldn’t mathematically eliminate them, but puts them into “needing a historic finish” category. If they get swept? Well, at least then the team would get an early start on answering some questions heading into 2020.
But the team doesn’t seem to be thinking that way. After all, they’ve been in this position before and pulled it off. And while being 4 games back this late in the season is far from ideal, 4 head-to-head matchups this weekend provides the opportunity to make up that ground and change playoff scenarios in a hurry.
Momentum doesn’t really exist in baseball, but if it did, it’d be a good thing the Brewers are coming off a series win against this Cubs team just last weekend and played what might be the best team in baseball tough for 2 games, walking away with a split. An added factor: the Cubs are 28-39 away from Wrigley Field this year, and haven’t won a series at Miller Park since April of last year.
Thursday, September 5th - 6:10 p.m. CDT
Jose Quintana vs. Chase Anderson
Because who else would work the first game of the series for Chicago? Quintana threw 5.2 shutout innings against the Brewers last Friday at Wrigley. The Brewers have had more success against him at Miller Park this year, chasing him in the 5th inning of his last start there in July and scoring 8 times against him in April.
Friday, September 6th - 7:10 p.m. CDT
Cole Hamels vs. Zach Davies
The Brewers were able to beat Hamels last Saturday despite him holding them to just 2 runs over 6 innings, striking out 7. That pushed the lefty’s season-long ERA against the Brewers to 1.88 over 4 starts.
Saturday, September 7th - 6:10 p.m. CDT
Yu Darvish vs. Gio Gonzalez
Darvish was supposed to start last weekend’s series finale in Chicago before being scratched with forearm tightness. After a 5.01 ERA in the first half, Darvish has put up a 2.93 ERA since the All-Star Break, striking out 72 batters in 55.1 innings. He held the Brewers to 1 run over 5 innings while striking out 8 on August 4th.
Sunday, September 8th - 1:10 p.m. CDT
Kyle Hendricks vs. Adrian Houser
Hendricks has been benefitting from the Friendly Confines this year, but it’s a different story away from Wrigley, as he’s given up 42 of his 58 earned runs this year on the road (a 5.20 ERA in 14 starts). That includes giving up 6 runs to the Mets in his most recent road start, although he did throw 5 shutout innings in his last start in Milwaukee on July 26th.
In a series where both teams seemed to completely lose the ability to hit with runners on base, the Brewers were able to steal 2 games in Chicago last weekend. Things looked bleak when the Cubs took the opener of the series 7-1, but Milwaukee was able to throw back-to-back shutouts to take the series.
Winning 2 of 3 also improved the Brewers’ record against the Cubs this year to 6-7. Winning this weekend’s four-game set would keep the Brewers’ postseason hopes alive while also securing a season series win over the Cubs.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference