Preview: Brewers at Cubs
CHICAGO — The Milwaukee Brewers made the short trip to Wrigley Field fully believing they could leave Chicago in first place in the National League Central Division.
With a win on Tuesday, they will be locked into a tie with the Chicago Cubs, who have seen their four-game lead less than a week ago all but disappear.
The Brewers have continued to charge up the division standings and will carry a four-game winning streak into Tuesday’s game after slipping past Chicago 3-2 in the first game of a pivotal three-game series on Monday.
After keeping their focus until lately on the National League Wild Card, the Brewers have turned their attention instead to ending the Cubs’ three-year hold on the Central Division title. More confident than ever after weekend sweep of the San Francisco Giants, Milwaukee kept surging in the right direction Monday while handing the Cubs their third straight loss — scoring the game-winning run on a wild pitch.
“We’re trying hard (to win the division),” manager Craig Counsell told reporters Sunday, according to mlb.com “We can’t try any harder — we’re going to try hard — nothing changes from that perspective.”
“We’re still behind (in the standings) — we still have to try to put a dent in it and that’s what we’re going to try and do.”
Milwaukee will look to extend its win streak as Jhoulys Chacin takes the mound Tuesday for the Brewers. Chacin (14-6, 3.59 ERA) has dropped two of his previous two starts after stringing together three consecutive victories. Chacin surrendered five runs (three earned) in his last outing against the Cubs on Sept. 5. Chacin is 4-5 with a 3.09 ERA in 10 career starts against the Cubs.
Even with so much on the line, the Brewers will attempt to maintain their commitment to playing sound baseball without getting too wrapped up in what’s at stake.
“You try to do the same thing you’ve done all year — prepare the same way,” Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun told reporters Sunday, according to MLB.com. “Don’t try harder, don’t do anything different.”
While the Brewers will attempt to draw even with Chicago, the Cubs will again look to maintain what’s now a slim margin in the division. Unlike last season when the Brewers faded down the stretch, the Cubs haven’t been able to shake Milwaukee, which has won 10 of its last 12 games.
As the Cubs attempt to hold onto first place Tuesday, they’re hoping to get a couple of key contributors back for the stretch run. Closer Brandon Morrow has been out with a bruised forearm since July 13 but sounded optimistic on Monday when asked about a return as the Cubs hope will be another postseason run.
“I’m fine,” Morrow told reporters, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Meanwhile, outfielder Jason Heyward continues to make strides toward sustaining a hamstring strain on Aug. 30. On Monday, he declined to set a target date to return, but ran for the first time under supervision on Monday.
“I’m just saying I’ll do everything necessary to be smart about it, but I plan on playing baseball,” Heyward said, according to the Tribune. “…It’s too late in the year for me to have setbacks.”
Jose Quintana (12-9, 4.14) will start for the Cubs and hasn’t lost since Aug. 14 when he gave up five runs and three home runs in five innings against Milwaukee. Quintana hasn’t surrendered more than two earned runs in a start since then. Quintana is 5-2 with a 1.78 ERA in nine career stats against the Brewers.