The Brewers head down to Wrigley Field to take on the Cubs for a three-game set beginning Monday evening. With a four-game lead over Chicago in the NL Central, this series presents Milwaukee with an opportunity to deliver a crushing blow to the Cubs divisional aspirations, as a sweep would put the Brewers up by seven games and a series win would put them up by five games.
While Milwaukee is on an eight-game winning streak that includes sweeps over the Rangers, Twins, and Padres, the Cubs have been playing well themselves. Chicago is 8-3 in their last 11 games, with three series wins, albeit coming against the Royals, Tigers, and Pirates.
Chicago’s offense is led by Cody Bellinger, who has had a strong bounce-back campaign with the Cubs. He’s slashing .321/.368/.546 with 20 homers and 75 RBIs this season (141 OPS+). Seiya Suzuki, Ian Happ, Dansby Swanson, and deadline acquisition Jeimer Candelario are also above-average bats for the Cubs offense. While Swanson has struggled to do much of anything besides hit homers in August — .172/.265/.414 with six homers and 20 RBIs — he’s enjoyed quite a bit of success against the Brewers, slashing .440/.482/.640 with 11 hits in six games.
Milwaukee’s offense has been the biggest difference during the team’s eight-game win streak, as William Contreras, Carlos Santana, and Willy Adames have all stepped up in a big way. Rowdy Tellez has also looked better in limited opportunities since returning from injury (one homer, seven RBIs, three hits, and three walks in nine at-bats). Tyrone Taylor has also had a big month of August, slashing .308/.379/.615 with three homers, five doubles, and 11 RBIs in 19 games.
Out of the bullpen, the Cubs are missing both Brad Boxberger and Michael Fulmer, who started the season as co-closers. Adbert Alzolay has taken over the closer duties, going a perfect 9-for-9 with a 3.86 ERA in the month of August. Mark Leiter has a 1.69 ERA over 12 appearances this month, and Julian Merryweather (2.31 ERA over 11 2⁄3 innings) and Jose Cuas (0.90 ERA over 10 innings) have also enjoyed strong months.
Despite a wild appearance on Sunday, Abner Uribe has continued to shine for Milwaukee, pitching to a 2.25 ERA over 13 appearances in August. Devin Williams has a 1.00 ERA over 11 appearances in August, and Hoby Milner, Joel Payamps, Elvis Peguero, Bryse Wilson, and Trevor Megill all have ERAs below 2.70 across at least seven innings pitched this month.
Monday, August 28 @ 7:05 p.m.: Wade Miley vs. Jameson Taillon
Wade Miley has been a welcome addition to the Brewers pitching rotation in 2023, with a 3.18 ERA and a 6-3 record across 17 starts this season. His last time out against the Twins, he pitched a respectable five innings, allowing three runs on five hits and one walk with four strikeouts in a no decision. In his lone start against the Cubs this season, Miley went five innings and allowed four runs on nine hits and two walks with four strikeouts in July.
Jameson Taillon has had arguably the worst season of his career with the Cubs in 2023, pitching to a measly 5.60 ERA over 23 starts. His last time out against the Tigers, Taillon went 5 2⁄3 innings and allowed four runs on four hits and a walk with six strikeouts. His only start against the Brewers came all the way back in April, when he went four innings and allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk in a loss.
Tuesday, August 29 @ 7:05 p.m.: Corbin Burnes vs. Justin Steele
Burnes is coming off an NL Pitcher of the Month Award in July, when he went 4-1 with a 1.85 ERA and 47 strikeouts across six starts. In his four August starts, he’s pitched to a 4.74 ERA, although he had a vintage performance against the Dodgers in an eventual 1-0 loss, allowing no runs with nine strikeouts across seven innings. His only start against the Cubs was back on Opening Day, when he went five innings and allowed four runs in a loss.
Steele has seemingly come out of nowhere to become an ace for the Cubs this season, pitching to a sterling 2.80 ERA with a 14-3 record and 133 strikeouts across 24 starts. The lefty has put himself in the Cy Young race and consistently pitches around six innings in each start. He’s started twice against the Brewers, totaling 12 innings and allowing three runs on 12 hits and one walk with 13 strikeouts.
Wednesday, August 30 @ 1:20 p.m.: Brandon Woodruff vs. Kyle Hendricks
Since returning from injury earlier this month, Woodruff has a 3.57 ERA with 29 strikeouts across 22 2⁄3 innings. His last time out against the Padres, he tossed a strong six innings, allowing just one run on three hits and three walks while striking out a season-high 11 batters. He started against the Cubs opposite Steele back in April, allowing one run on three hits and one walk with eight strikeouts over six innings.
While the 33-year-old Hendricks is nowhere near his former Cy Young self, he’s still pitched to a respectable 3.80 ERA across 18 starts for the Cubs this season. He’s looked good his last few times out, allowing eight runs across 23 innings (3.13 ERA) with 17 strikeouts. He started against the Brewers in July, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk with five strikeouts across six innings.
With two red-hot teams facing off with strong pitching lined up for both sides, I expect this series to be a tough battle for the top two teams in the NL Central. I’ll take Milwaukee in two of three as they stay hot heading into September.