The National League Central has been a tight division all season long, and entering this weekend, three teams are all within two games of each other at the top. Two of those teams, the Chicago Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers, will play a three-game series at Miller Park starting Friday night.
The Cubs are currently tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the top spot in the division, and the two are also tied with Washington for the two Wild Card spots in the National League. Meanwhile, the Brewers sit just two games behind the Cubs and Cardinals, so they could make a big move in the postseason scramble with a good weekend.
The moneyline for this contest has the Chicago Cubs -110 and the Milwaukee Brewers +100. The over/under is set at 9.5.
Needing A Win
The Cubs will turn to Kyle Hendricks to open the series on the mound, with the right-hander looking for his first win since June 9. Hendricks has made only five starts since then, spending time on the injured list with a shoulder problem. The veteran hasn’t been bad since returning at the start of July, giving up two earned runs in each of his four starts since then, but he has yet to get a victory, as the Cubs have lost all of his starts.
Chicago comes into this series having dropped three of four, though two of those three were one-run affairs that the Cubs lost late in the contest. This team certainly has the firepower to go on an offensive tear, but the offensive output has been inconsistent this season, with not a single regular batting as high as .300 on the season. Shortstop Javier Baez leads four Cubs with 20 or more home runs with his 25, while first baseman Anthony Rizzo leads the team with 69 RBI.
Milwaukee was hoping that a six-game homestand was going to help turn its fortunes around, but the Brewers started by dropping two of three against Cincinnati prior to this series. The Brewers hope to get back on track with Gio Gonzalez taking the mound for the opener. Gonzalez is making just his eighth start of the season and second since spending nearly two months on the injured list with arm fatigue. Gonzalez is 2-1 on the season with a 3.60 ERA, and one of those starts — his longest of the season — was a shutout performance against the Cubs, holding Chicago to two hits over 5 2/3 innings.
The Milwaukee offense starts with Christian Yelich, who ranks in the top five in the National League in home runs (35), batting average (.335), RBI (77), runs (77), stolen bases (23) and slugging percentage (.707). He’s gone four games without a home run, driving in just two over that span, so he’s definitely due for a breakout performance against the Cubs. Mike Moustakas is having a great season as well, though he’s often overshadowed by Yelich’s production. The third baseman has 26 home runs, 60 RBI and 62 runs scored, second on the team to Yelich in each category.
Brewers Take Opener
These two teams are going to become very familiar to each other over the next week and a half, playing six times in their next nine games in a stretch that could help determine one or both teams’ postseason fates. Gonzalez has had success against the Cubs already this season and should be able to keep their offensive output to a minimum in this one. I’m taking Milwaukee +100 to win the series opener.