After surging into first place on the power of winning 11 of their first 13 games coming out of the All-Star break, the Chicago Cubs will be looking to put some distance between themselves and the Milwaukee Brewers this weekend.
There has been a seven-game swing in the National League Central since the break, with the Cubs going 11-2 and the Brewers going 4-9 over that time. That swing has given the Cubs a game and a half lead over the Brewers in the division, and they could really stretch that out if they have a good series in Milwaukee this weekend.
Head-to-head so far this season, the Cubs have outscored the Brewers 56-52 and have a narrow 5-4 edge in victories.
Friday: Jose Quintana vs. Brent Suter
In his first two games with the Cubs, Quintana has allowed eight hits and three earned runs in 13 innings, and he got the win in both starts against the Orioles and Cardinals. He has also struck out 19 batters.
Suter may not be a household name for Cubs fans, but the Chicago-native has looked strong in his last four starts. The hurler has given up just five earned runs in 23 innings of work, and while he gives up a lot of hits, he also strands a lot of runners.
Player to Watch: Willson Contreras
Few, if any, players have had as much of an impact on the Cubs as Contreras has since the second half of the season began. He smacked two home runs and drove in six RBI in the White Sox series, and he racked up six hits over that span.
He is now batting .275 with 16 home runs and 56 RBI this season, and when you combine that with his defensive abilities, he is unquestionably one of the Cubs’ most valuable players.
Saturday: Kyle Hendricks vs. Junior Guerra
In his first start back off the disabled list, Hendricks gave up one earned run and scattered eight hits in four innings of work against the White Sox. He did have solid command, striking out five and walking none, but he racked up 92 pitches in a very short amount of time, so he’ll need to be more economical in his next outing.
With a 5.22 ERA and with 22 walks conceded in his last seven starts, Guerra hasn’t had the best time of it lately for the Brewers, so the Cubs could potentially take advantage of him. Look for the Cubs to stack their lineup with lefties for the game, as they’ve posted a .255 batting average against him this season.
Righties do tend to hit for more power against him, with 10 home runs in just 122 at-bats this season.
Player to Watch: Kyle Schwarber
Could this finally be the time where Schwarber breaks out? He sure looked like it on Thursday as he smashed a pair of home runs and legged out a triple against the White Sox. He’s still batting below .200 on the season, but a good stretch could cause that average to shoot up pretty quickly.
Sunday: John Lackey vs. Zach Davies
Lackey plunked four hitters in Tuesday’s game against the White Sox, making him the first Cubs pitcher in 60 years to hit that many batters in one contest. Even still, Lackey only gave up two earned runs, continuing a run in which he hasn’t given up more than three earned runs since a disastrous start against the Nationals in late June.
Davies has had two strong outings in a row, allowing no earned runs in his last two starts. He has also struck out 11 batters in those games, so the Cubs will have to remain disciplined at the plate.
Player to Watch: Ben Zobrist
Zobrist had a solid series against the White Sox, with four hits, three runs scored, and a pair of RBI in four games against the Pale Hose. His average is still down, at just .224 on the season, but it’s slowly improving and he’ll look to keep up his hitting against the Brewers this weekend.