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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ Chicago Cubs

The Brewers head off on their first road trip of the 2021 campaign

Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

After a tough opening weekend against one of the best teams in the American League, the Brewers pack their bags today for their first road trip of the 2021 season.

We’re going to be very sick of the Chicago Cubs by the end of the month, as the Brewers start the first of three (!!) series against the Northsiders over the next few weeks tonight. The Cubs, like most of the division, didn’t really try to get a ton better in the offseason — and may have actually gotten worse after trading Yu Darvish and non-tendering Kyle Schwarber.

The Cubs still have the core that was supposed to lead to a dynasty, but cheap ownership causing them to sit on their hands (when not actively trying to cut those hands off by subjecting Kris Bryant to trade rumors or lowballing Anthony Rizzo) has led to Theo Epstein quitting in favor of a corporate MLB job and the end of an era nearing.

You hate to see it.

The Lineup

Not a whole lot is different from the standard Cubs lineup we’ve gotten used to over the years. Rizzo and Bryant are still there for the time being, Javier Baez is hoping to bounce back from an extremely disappointing 2020 season, Willson Contreras is still behind the plate, and Ian Happ and Jason Heyward are still in the outfield.

Chicago did add some lefty power in the offseason, signing former Dodger (and Brewer Killer) Joc Pederson to replace Schwarber in left field. Pederson may be a defensive upgrade over Schwarber, but hits like a discount bin version of the big man and can’t hit lefties at all. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him sit against Brett Anderson.

Old friend Eric Sogard was able to secure a bench spot with the Cubs this spring and will probably hit a walkoff against the Brewers at some point this year. He’ll largely be backing up Baez and David Bote on the infield.

The Probable Pitchers

Chicago’s rotation looks quite a bit different this year after giving Darvish away to the Padres and not re-signing Jon Lester in the offseason. The first Cub the Brewers will see is still a familiar name, though — former Pirate Trevor Williams will take the ball against Brett Anderson later tonight. Williams has struggled mightily since what appeared to be a breakout 2018 season in which he put up a 3.11 ERA, crashing to a 5.38 ERA/5.12 FIP in 2019 and a 6.18 ERA/6.30 FIP in 11 starts last year that led to an end of his time in Pittsburgh. Still, Williams has a track record of success against Brewers teams in the past — in 9 outings (8 starts), he’s held them to a .209/.279/.390 line with a 3.09 ERA in 46.2 innings.

Adbert Alzolay has had a couple of cups of coffee with the Cubs over the last couple years, but the rookie has finally been given a rotation spot to start his age-26 season. There’s little doubt about his stuff — he struck out 29 batters in 21.1 innings last year — but the control has been the issue as he also walked 13. Alzolay will face off against Freddy Peralta in a matchup that will feature a couple of very good fastballs.

Kyle Hendricks will pitch the series finale. The longtime nemesis of Brewers bats, Hendricks is now the top starter standing in the Cubs rotation. He struggled a bit on Opening Day, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks over just 3 innings against the Pirates, but we saw last year just how good he can be when he’s on, when he shut out the Brewers in the delayed 2020 Opening Day. He’ll again face off against Brandon Woodruff.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference