Preview: Brewers at Cubs
CHICAGO — If there was any chance that Milwaukee was just going to concede the National League Central Division title to the Chicago Cubs, the Brewers made it crystal clear that’s not the case.
After a victory fueled by home runs on Tuesday, the Brewers will look to shrink the gap separating themselves and the Cubs when the two teams wrap up a two-game series Wednesday at Wrigley Field.
Milwaukee will enter the matinee with the chance to get to within a game of the Cubs after a 7-0 victory Tuesday. Ryan Braun homered twice and drove in four runs as Milwaukee jumped on Cubs starter Jose Quintana, who surrendered three of the four Milwaukee home runs.
Meanwhile, the Cubs managed just three hits.
The victory improved the Brewers to 4-8 this season against Chicago but came at a time when the Cubs are attempting to pull away from the rest of the division. With a victory on Wednesday, the Brewers will be right back in the thick of things. The two teams will face one another seven more times this season.
“What you get when you play a team head-to-head is more control,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Sunday. “You don’t have to rely on someone else to beat them. (Control) is what you get. That’s a good thing.”
Junior Guerra (6-7, 3.40 ERA) will take the mound for Milwaukee for Wednesday’s series finale. Guerra won his first two starts in July but hasn’t won since and has taken no-decisions in his last two outings. Guerra allowed five earned runs in 14 innings pitched in August and is 1-1 with a 1.74 ERA in eight career outings (five starts) against the Cubs.
After Quintana couldn’t keep the ball in the ballpark Tuesday, the Cubs will turn to Kyle Hendricks to try and tame the Brewers on Wednesday. Hendricks has been better of late after struggling all season with his mechanics and surrendering runs early in ballgames.
The Brewers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning on Tuesday — a trend that Hendricks (8-9, 4.02) will attempt to quickly reverse. Hendricks had won his previous two starts before taking a no-decision against the Nationals on Aug. 10 when he allowed two runs over six innings. Hendricks is 7-4 with a 2.80 ERA in 17 career starts against the Brewers.
The Cubs will attempt to bounce back on Wednesday after failing to mount any offense against Brewers pitching. With the exception of the four runs that came on David Bote’s walk-off grand slam on Sunday against the Nationals, the Cubs have failed to score in 17 of their last 18 innings of play.
Given the chance the Brewers have to cut even deeper into their lead in the Central, the Cubs hope to discover some offense on Wednesday before beginning a four-game series on the road against the Pirates on Thursday.
The Cubs did get encouraging news for their pitching future when Yu Darvish — who has been battling triceps and elbow issues — threw a 55-pitch simulated game on Tuesday. Darvish has been sidelined since May 23 but is expected to go on a minor league rehab assignment as he prepares to return to the Cubs starting rotation.
“He looked totally involved,” manager Joe Maddon told reporters. “He was absolutely competing out there, that’s the word I used. He got upset with himself when he spiked one fastball, which I kind of liked. He looked really good and was not holding back.”