Preview: Brewers vs. Cubs
MILWAUKEE -- Any thought the Chicago Cubs may have had about possibly knocking the Milwaukee Brewers out of the NL Central race have all but gone out the window.
After taking the first two games of a critical three-game set at Miller Park this week, the Brewers closed to within three games of the division lead and could climb within two if they can finish off the sweep Wednesday night.
"At the beginning of the series, we knew we had to win the six-game series pretty convincingly to get back in it," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We're off to a good start. We still have a bunch of games against other teams, too, but this is how we had to start it. So far, so good. Another series win and now we'll try to get a sweep tomorrow."
The Brewers have won six of their last seven games, 11 of their last 15 and five straight series as they moved to 18 games above. 500 for the fourth time this season -- and the first time since July 10, when they were 55-37. But Milwaukee has also turned the tables on its division rival, winning five of the last six meetings after dropping eight of the first nine this season.
"We understand how good they are so we want to get as many wins as possible," Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain said. "To come out here and get two early is huge. I know we play them four more times, and hopefully tomorrow we come out tomorrow and get a sweep. We'll see what happens. We'll have to be ready to go because I know they'll be ready to go."
The Cubs will try and get back on track behind left-hander Jose Quintana (11-9, 4.21 ERA), who's 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA in four starts against the Brewers this season but was knocked around the last time he faced Milwaukee, allowing five runs on six hits in five innings of a 7-0 loss at Wrigley Field last month.
Quintana has allowed four total runs since, spanning three starts, including only one over six innings of three-hit ball his last time out against Philadelphia.
"In the last month, everyone is locked in," said Quintana, who is 4-2 with a 1.67 ERA in eight career starts versus Milwaukee.
The Brewers hand the ball to their most reliable starter this season in right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (14-5, 3.53 ERA).
Chacin faced off against Quintana in that meeting last month and produced a gem by striking out a season-high 10 over seven scoreless innings -- his second shutout effort against the Cubs this season.
"They've been the team to beat the last three years, and it's always good to beat them," said Chacin, who is 4-4 with a 2.84 in nine games (eight starts) versus Chicago.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he expects to have first baseman Anthony Rizzo in the lineup for the series finale. Rizzo left Tuesday's game after fouling a ball off his foot during his second at-bat.
X-rays did not show sign of a fracture.