Brewers’ Yelich cruising into clash with Cubs

Over his last 15 games, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich ranks fourth in the National League with a .449 on-base percentage. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
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Christian Yelich is in the middle of his best stretch as a Milwaukee Brewers outfielder — just in time for the divisional clash with the rival Chicago Cubs.

On paper, it’s just a three-game series in early June, but the stakes are high in the National League Central already. Milwaukee holds a slim 1/2-game lead over the Cubs, a team that’s won eight of its last 10 and has a recent history of dominating the Brewers.

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The two rivals, separated by a mere two hours on Interstate 94, matched up eight times in April. The Cubs went home winners in seven of them by a combined score of 29-9. In fact, Chicago has won 10 of the last 12 games between the two franchises, dating back to last season.

Yelich missed Milwaukee’s initial four-game series against Chicago in April when he was on the 10-day disabled list with an oblique injury. He started all four games later that month at Wrigley Field but struggled, whiffing five times while collecting one hit in 16 plate appearances.

That performance against Chicago is more of an outlier when looking at his work against the Cubs during his five seasons in Miami. Yelich owns a career .269/.320/.407 slash line with 12 RBI and five stolen bases against the Cubs, numbers he’ll need to get back to if Milwaukee plans on avenging Chicago’s sweep in April.

Based on recent play, it looks like Yelich will be a problem for the Cubbies.

Over his last 15 games, Yelich leads the NL in runs scored (18), which can be attributed to his .449 on-base percentage as well as sluggers like Jesus Aguilar and Ryan Braun producing behind him in the lineup. Yelich has collected at least one hit in 13 of his last 16 games, and his .377 batting average ranks sixth in the NL in that span.

Yelich has his work cut out for him Monday night when he faces Chicago starter Jose Quintana for the second time this season. The outfielder went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts when they matched up April 28.

NOTABLE

— Ryan Braun has caught fire since returning from the disabled list in mid-May. He went 6-for-12 in Milwaukee’s series with Philadelphia over the weekend, compiling two hits in all three games. Four of his six hits went for extra bases.

— As a team, Milwaukee has a .229/.308/.376 slash line against left-handed pitchers this season.

— Clash of the titans: Chicago’s Quintana has a career 0.63 ERA against the Brewers in six starts, the lowest for any opposing pitcher against the Brewers all-time. In four career starts against the Cubs, Milwaukee’s Junior Guerra has posted a 1.61 ERA and has yet to allow a homer to Chicago as a starting pitcher.

— Since May 1, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is batting .302/.391/.574 with nine homers and 36 RBI.

Statistics courtesy STATS