Brewers’ hunt for playoffs heats up as Cubs visit Miller Park

Buckle up.

A lot is on the line when the Chicago Cubs visit Miller Park this weekend.

For the final time this season (well, the regular season anyway), the Milwaukee Brewers will battle their I-94 arch rivals.

Heading into the four-game series, the chances of Chicago and Milwaukee winning the National League Central division are slipping fast. St. Louis has distanced itself from its divisional foes by going 20-6 since Aug. 9.

National League Central division standings (9/5)

TEAM RECORD PCT GB
St. Louis Cardinals 78-61 .561
Chicago Cubs 75-63 .543 2.5
Milwaukee Brewers 71-67 .514 6.5

But the two NL wild card spots are up for grabs. Baseball-reference.com gives a 72.1% chance to make the postseason to Chicago, which currently holds onto the second (and final) position. Things could change quickly this weekend.

National League wild card standings (9/5)

TEAM RECORD PCT GB
Washington Nationals 78-60 .565 +3
Chicago Cubs 75-63 .543
————————– ——- —–
Philadelphia Phillies 72-66 .522 3
Arizona Diamondbacks 73-67 .521 3
Milwaukee Brewers 71-67 .514 4
New York Mets 71-68 .511 4.5

If the Brewers plan on moving up the standings, they’ll need a big series from Christian Yelich. The good news is Yelich has found his power stroke again. Yelich went almost two weeks — Aug. 18 to Sept. 1 –without a home run or a single RBI. But the reigning MVP has already notched two homers and four RBI through three September games. Yelich, who leads the NL with an average exit velocity of 94.1 mph, is batting .283 with four doubles, four home runs and 12 RBI against Chicago this season.

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Whether Yelich connects with one or not, dingers will likely be aplenty this weekend. Milwaukee scores 52% of its runs via the long ball, which leads all NL teams, while Chicago is second in the NL with a 50.7% clip. The two teams combined for four homers during a three-game set last weekend.

On the other side of the diamond, Milwaukee will attack the Cubs with Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Gio Gonzalez and Adrian Houser on the mound at home, where its staff is averaging 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

Gonzalez has faced the Cubs more than any other team this season, and that’s good news for Milwaukee. In four starts against Chicago this season, Gonzalez has posted a 1-0 record, 1.40 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings. He’s held the Cubs scoreless twice — once in a 7-0 win back in May and Sunday in three hitless (and scoreless) frames as well.

Anderson, on the other hand, has been a bit rocky lately. He notched a 6.75 ERA in the month of August, not helped at all by allowing 10 runs in 2 1/3 to Washington and another five runs in four innings against the Cubs last week.

He’ll look to turn things around Thursday night in the series opener.

Statistics courtesy Sportradar, baseball-reference