Chicago Cubs: Brewers series looming large in pennant race

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Will it all come down to this? A three-game set at home against the Milwaukee Brewers? We’ll soon know if this determines the Chicago Cubs’ season.

The Chicago Cubs are limping out of Washington after a waterlogged series against the Nats as they wrap up 23 games in as many days.  The Cubs cling to a slim two-game lead in the NL Central with the Cardinals lurking just 4 1/2 games back.  Speaking of waterlogged series I know that said in early August this would be a tsunami of games but I wasn’t being literal.

We know that both teams boast potent offenses. This series will turn on the pitching.  Right now the Cubs-Brewers series stacks up pitching-wise like this:

Monday: Jon Lester vs. Wade Miley

Lester’s last start was a rain-abbreviated fluke on Friday night.  He threw one inning but we’ll see if that impacts him in what would be a start on short rest. Really, this feels more like Friday served as a side-session ahead of today’s outing.  Wade Miley is the Brewers’ best starter lately, sporting a 2.12 ERA, 1.178 WHIP, and 3.56 FIP.   Miley held the Cubs to one run and three hits over six innings on Sept. 12 in Milwaukee.  Lester has been uber-reliable except for a brief hiccup after the All-Star Break.  Since Aug. 15, Lester carries a 1.52 ERA.

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Tuesday: Jose Quintana vs. Jhoulys Chacin

Like Lester, Jose Quintana has bounced back after a couple tough games after the All-star game.  Since Aug. 19, “Q” has a 2.38 ERA and a 1.140 WHIP in August and a 1.050 WHIP in September.  Joulys Chacin has been very good against the Cubs all year: a 1.53 ERA and 1.132 WHIP.  He has held the Cubs to a .215 BA and allowed just five runs in three games against Chicago.

Wednesday: Kyle Hendricks vs. Chase Anderson

Kyle Hendricks has had his struggles this year and Milwaukee has been a primary source of those woes.  Hendricks has a 4.00 ERA in three games with a 1.278 WHIP in 18 innings.  Chase Anderson has had his own shortcomings this year, just not against the Cubs.  His ERA against the Cubs is 1.95 compared to his 3.95 season ERA.  Similarly, his 1.164 season WHIP is good, but his WHIP against the Cubs is a ridiculous 0.750.

Does it all boil down to this?

What makes this series so critical?  The schedule.  The Brewers have the softer remaining schedule playing just one series against a team over .500 – the Cardinals.  Otherwise, they play the sub-.500 Reds, Pirates and Tigers.  Conversely, the Cubs face the Cardinals and Diamondbacks,  a makeup game against the Nats (and Max Scherzer),  then the Pirates, Reds and White Sox.

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The Cubs still control their destiny.  If they take care of their business and play up to their potential then they’ll be a lock to win the division.  If they don’t then they could find themselves looking up at the Brewers, and maybe even the Cardinals.