The Chicago Cubs look to keep pace in the National League Central, while the Milwaukee Brewers just look to stay alive in the playoff hunt when the two division rivals meet at Miller Park on Friday night. The Cubs took the first game of the four-game series on Thursday, topping the Brewers 10-5.
The win kept Chicago within 2.5 games of the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the NL Central title. The Cubs are also currently sitting in the second Wild Card spot in the National League, two games behind Washington for the top spot and 3.5 games ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks, their closest pursuer. The Brewers have fallen five games behind the Cubs for the Wild Card spot, with the Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies sitting between them in the standings and the New York Mets tied with them five games back.
The moneyline for this contest has the Chicago Cubs -125 and the Milwaukee Brewers +115. The over/under has been set at 9.5.
Needing To Stay Hot
As good as the Cubs have been playing of late, winning seven of their last 10, they’re still trailing the rival Cardinals, who show no sign of cooling off, having won seven of their last 10 as well. Still, every win gets Chicago closer to clinching a Wild Card spot, which is just as important. Cole Hamels will take the mound for the Cubs in this contest, looking to earn just his second win since June 12. Hamels missed more than a month with a left oblique strain but is just 1-2 since returning from the injured list in early August. He’s coming off a loss to the Brewers last weekend in which he went six innings, allowing five hits and two runs but getting no run support. He’s now 7-5 with a 3.69 ERA on the season.
The Cubs had been struggling on the road but winning at home, but that has turned around over the last few weeks, and Chicago is shooting for its seventh straight road win in this one. Over the six-game winning streak, the Cubs are averaging 6.1 runs, and they’re hoping that offensive production will continue in this one. The depth of the Chicago batting order was shown in Thursday’s win, as Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber, batting fifth and sixth, respectively, combined for six hits, six RBI and two home runs, including Schwarber’s grand slam that broke the game open.
Milwaukee will start Zach Davies for the 27th time this season on Friday, as the right-hander looks to snap a personal five-game losing streak. Davies nearly broke the streak last weekend, facing Hamels and the Cubs, when he went 4 2/3 innings and shut out Chicago on four hits, in the Brewers’ 2-0 victory. Davies is 8-7 on the season with a 3.76 ERA, having struck out 87 and walked 45 in 136 1/3 innings of work.
The Brewers have been going through a gauntlet of a schedule, playing either the Cardinals, Cubs or Houston Astros over the past nine games. Milwaukee has held its own, going 4-5, but it needs to do a lot better, especially against the teams that it’s trying to catch in the division and Wild Card races. The Brewers need a late-season surge from Christian Yelich like they got a year ago, but he’s been struggling of late and against the Cubs in general. Yelich is batting just .200 over the last seven days, though two of his five hits have been home runs. Against Chicago this season, Yelich is hitting .262 with four home runs and 12 RBI in 65 at-bats.
Milwaukee Breaks Through
This pitching matchup played out last weekend in Wrigley Field, and the Brewers got the best of it then, even on the road. Knowing how much they need wins, Milwaukee will get to Hamels again in this one. Davies needs to be as good as he was last week and keep the Cubs’ bats quiet, or doubt will start to creep in the minds of Milwaukee players yet again. I’m betting he can do it, and I’m taking Milwaukee +115 to pick up the victory.