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Series Preview: Cubs vs. Brewers 5/19 - 5/21 (Update)

Series Preview: Cubs vs. Brewers 5/19 - 5/21 (Update)

Saturday update: Yesterday's game was weird and terrible. I understand the umpiring crew's desire to try and make sure that enough innings had been played to make it a complete game if the rain kept them from resuming later on. But, as we saw, the rain dissipated later on in the evening, so there was little chance the two teams would have been forced to halt play altogether. The most perplexing decision was probably starting the 6th inning, when it was more than evident that the conditions were not right for baseball. Just a poor decision, and I wonder if it might not have been better to just wait to start the game altogether until the early evening. No choice but to move on, I guess. Let's hope today doesn't play out the same way, as the weather is no less unpleasant.

Also, with Ian Happ in today's lineup, he's clearly not going anywhere with Jason Heyward activated again. And the move to put Kyle Schwarber behind Ben Zobrist in the batting order is interesting. I don't want to speculate that he is being removed as the leadoff hitter, but a sub-Mendoza batting average at the very top of the order can only be tolerated for so long, I suppose.

No official word at the time of this post, but it would appear that Tommy La Stella is the odd man out for now:

 


Assuming that the rain doesn't interfere too much, the Cubs have the opportunity this weekend to either accelerate their rise to first place in the division or return to where they were just a few days ago. Fresh off of a hugely successful series against the Reds, the momentum certainly seems in the Cubs' favor. And perhaps we will look back on the Yankees series as the point in the season when the futility ended.

This will depend on the surprising first place Milwaukee Brewers, something that even fans in Wisconsin can't expect to continue for much longer (right?). For now, however, they sit a game ahead of the Cardinals and two games above the Cubs. A lot of this is due to the remarkable hitting of Eric Thames, whose resurgence has sparked some (probably unfair) questions from both John Lackey and Chris Bosio, but like the Cubs' most recent opponents, the Reds, Milwaukee has a generally potent offense that extends beyond their first baseman.

The Cubs offense carried them through the Cincinnati series for the most part, and with the pitching matchups ahead of them this weekend, the bats will probably need to be relied upon again.

Today, we'll see Eddie Butler for the second time, who secured the favor of Cubs fans---temporarily, at least---by earning Chicago's only win during the series in St. Louis with six scoreless innings in his Cubs debut. Butler's major league pitching performances have not been great otherwise, but even before getting the call to come to the show, he had been brilliant in Triple-A Iowa. He goes against Paolo Espino of the Brewers, who is making his major league debut.

After Butler, it's Jake Arrieta and then John Lackey. Both have shown that they can just as easily throw a quality start as cough up several runs in the early innings. Lackey is simply too old to be consistent anymore, and Arrieta's mechanics have been betraying him for a year now. But, if the offense can keep posting football scores like they have been this week, this might not matter.

Watch/Listen:

Friday: 1:20 pm - CSN/670 AM

Saturday: 1:20 pm - CSN/670 AM

Sunday: 1:20 pm - WGN/670 AM

Lineups:

Saturday - 

Cubs:

1. Ben Zobrist 2B
2. Kyle Schwarber LF
3. Kris Bryant 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo 1B
5. Ian Happ CF
6. Jason Heyward RF
7. Willson Contreras C
8. Addison Russell SS
9. Jake Arrieta P

Brewers:

1. Eric Sogard LF
2. Eric Thames 1B
3. Hernan Perez RF
4. Travis Shaw 3B
5. Jett Bandy C
6. Jonathan Villar 2B
7. Keon Broxton CF
8. Orlando Arcia SS
9. Chase Anderson P

Friday -

Cubs:
1. Kyle Schwarber LF
2. Kris Bryant 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo 1B
4. Ian Happ CF
5. Ben Zobrist 2B
6. Willson Contreras C
7. Javier Baez SS
8. Eddie Butler P
9. Jon Jay RF

Brewers:

1. Eric Sogard LF
2. Eric Thames 1B
3. Jonathan Villar 2B
4. Travis Shaw 3B
5. Domingo Santana RF
6. Jett Bandy C
7. Keon Broxton CF
8. Orlando Arcia SS
9. Paolo Espino P

Bullpen Usage

cubsbullpen

brewersbullpen

Opposing Pitchers:

Friday: Paolo Espino - Like I mentioned above, this is his debut. The 30 year old was signed to a minor league contract last November, and he has impressed in the minors so far. In 39 innings with Triple-A Colorado Springs, he has gone 4-0 with a 2.54 ERA and 1.026 WHIP. It's worth noting that he's been a career minor leaguer to this point, having floated around the Cleveland and Washington systems from 2007 to 2016 before the Brewers picked him up. He has five pitches, but seems to lean most heavily on a fourseam fastball and decent curveball. We will likely also see some of his sinker, and occasional changeup and slider. The fastball does not work particularly well---it rarely avoids being put into play---so the offense will need to sit on that pitch this afternoon and capitalize when it comes.

Saturday: Chase Anderson - Anderson nearly no-hit the Cubs in Milwaukee just over a year ago, and he is an even tougher draw so far this season. Through eight starts, his ERA is down nearly a full run, his FIP is down from 5.09 last year to 3.02, and his K% his creeping up---18.6% in 2016 to 20.4% now. The most interesting thing might be his massive drop in HR/FB rate, however. It was 11.1% in 2015, 14.9 last year, but it's currently sitting at 3.8% right now. Of course, these things can level out over time, but thanks to a drop in his arm slot, they might not.

Sunday: Jimmy Nelson - Like Anderson, Nelson is turning in a strong season thus far. The strikeouts are up, the walks are down, and he, too, is giving up fewer homers. He has changed his usage and sequencing to improve on the number of walks he issued, dropping his sinker in favor of his fourseamer. The sinker, thrown 45% of the time last year, is down to 30.2%, and his fourseamer is up to 39.1% after he used it only about 24% of the time in 2016. This will be Nelson's third time facing the Cubs this season, and after throwing six one-run innings on April 7, the Cubs blew him up for seven runs eleven days later.

Final Thoughts:

Ian Happ has justifiably secured his spot on the 25-man roster, for now, but Jason Heyward is due to return from his rehab assignment in South Bend on Saturday, so this will make getting Happ into the lineup more challenging, should he stay in Chicago instead of returning to Triple-A. Understandably, we are all anxious to see him remain with the team, and given the way he has been hitting, he very well might, but he needs to play every day.

I'm convinced that keeping him on the roster only to use him sporadically would be a disservice to his development---I've said this before, I know---and thankfully his degree of defensive flexibility allows for Joe Maddon to move him around. He can play a serviceable outfield in all three spots, second base, and he has taken reps at third in the minors. If it were up to me, I'd keep him here and find a spot for him, even if that means less of Ben Zobrist and/or Javy Baez. At least for now, Happ's bat is hot, so it should stay in the lineup.

Filed under: Series Preview

Tags: Milwaukee Brewers

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Comments

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  • I have an OBP fetish, so that lineup 1-5 makes me very happy.

  • I think the only ones who likes Schwarber leading off are Joe "i am never wrong" Maddon and Binny's Beverage Depot who give away $100 for each leadoff hit.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I'm fine with it for now. Hitting in front of Bryant means that he sees a lot of good pitches, at least in theory, and I trust him to turn it around.

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    Me too. Although I was happy to see Happ in LF yesterday. I think Schwarber has struggled against lefties, and I think Baez is really good against them. So, you probably improve both the defense and offense. There are so many good players on the team. I mean, La Stella and Jay are pretty good.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I'm fine with it too. I think if he can turn it around at leadoff he'll be a better hitter for it.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I love Schwarber leading off. When he starts to hit everyone will be back on board and see the effect of Schwarber, Bryant and Rizzo as the first 3 hitters.

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    In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Thats awesome. I never thought about the Binny's angle. Perhaps Joe gets free wine for every $100 bucks he saves them, LOL

    Poor Butler. 3 innings on a day when you would think it would be nice to pitch (minus the rain) as you are going to need to club it to get it out.

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    I know it won't happen, but Russell might benefit from an option to AAA when Heyward is ready.

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    That's just crazy talk to me. Send a guy down cause he's hitting .215 in 38 games? It's baseball, players are going to go through bad stretches. Lets not panic here.

  • In reply to Ozzie24:

    38 games is not panic but reality. As he has gotten to .215 he has continued to regress. Remember he was hitting pretty well earlier but is currently plummeting to that .215. When Schwarber gets to .215 it will be because he is hitting a current .280. Russell needs time away to clear his head. As I said earlier it's not as punishment but as a chance to relax a little, shorten up and go to RF a little bit. If not that at least a few days on the bench. Did well for Zobrist.

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    Dude. No.

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    My thoughts exactly. He's looping his swing trying to be a big-time power hitter, taking first pitch strikes right down the middle, swinging at balls in the dirt as if never seen a breaking ball. In addition his defense is suffering. Don't send him to Iowa as punishment but as a chance to clear his head and get back to playing the game the right way. His home-run to RF the other day is a perfect example on what he needs to concentrate. Shorten up, meet the ball and go the opposite way. Iowa is the place where that can best happen.

  • In reply to veteran:

    His defense is suffering to the tune of 8 DRS, second in MLB.

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    While we are at it, why not send Bryant down to work on his throws to first.

  • Ha ha I remember saying they should send him down to start this season - right after game 3 of the NLCS. Just one more reason why I am a fan not a GM I guess.

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    Butler has been squeezed this 1st inning. He easily could have been out of it 15 pitches ago. I know the weather is bad, but he isn't throwing the 95 or 96 MPH he did before, now it's 92 or 93. I have to give the Brewers credit though, they're Cubbing us like we did last year--taking a lot of pitches and running up the pitch count.
    OK Zo. Good play, now let's start coming back.

  • Looks like it's going to be a long day for the bullpen.

    But hellofa catch by Schwarber

  • Baez ends up at second on dropped ball: respect 90 baby!

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    Happy can not be stopped.

    Crooked number coming in the 4th gentleman

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    Up to Zorilla and Willy

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    Least the umpire has been consistent. Butler was squeezed early and now Espino is getting squeezed.........time to get him Counsell

    Told you bad things were coming

  • Was that a Javy brain fart? Pitcher up next? No time for him to bunt?

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    In reply to KJRyno:

    Need Jay to bail him out and me on my crooked number prediction.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    I thought it was okay. Just because it didn't work doesn't mean it was a bad idea.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Now if he had done one of his John Daly swings and tried to hit a 500 foot HR into the cold and wind, that would have bothered me! So, i thought was smart.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I would have taken the 5oo foot HR swing that only hit a ball 401 feet today. Bunting to bring up the pitcher is not smart.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Weren't there no outs? If he had bunted for a hit, it would have worked. Heck, you could argue that the entire Dodger series last year turned on a Zobrist bunt hit.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Zobrist bunt hit was not with two men on and the pitcher up next. Big difference. Anybody other than the pitcher up next it isn't a bad idea.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Yes, that was a bad baseball play. Time and place for everything. And a bunt with guys on and the pitcher on deck is is bad decision.

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    In reply to KJRyno:

    Agree...that was frickin stupid. That was a rally killer.

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    Javy has been hot too. I can only think that he was trying for a hit. I would have rather he tried to go to RF instead. At least we have the lead.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Have to believe Javy was thinking of the pitcher/catcher fielding a bunt on the wet grass. If he gets it down we're all heralding his baseball IQ. Just didn't execute.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    And the pitcher was pulled the very next inning.

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    In reply to Cubswin09:

    The pitcher was bleeping toast and wasn't going to make it thru the inning.

  • What about sending Almora down so he can play everyday for a while Happ stays up and continues to rake.

  • Well, were trying to give another game away.
    Walks and errors....

  • In reply to mwillie:

    Feels like the Cubs are the only team playing in the rain.

  • This game should've been in a rain delay at the top of the fifth. The conditions looked awful on tv. I can't believe they let it go as long as they did.

  • In reply to Mom2futurecubs:

    I was there. The Real Feel temperature at game time was 38; dropped to 34 during the rain delay.

  • Did the brewers not play in same conditions.

  • WOW! I looked out the window this morning and believe it or not but, i saw pigs flying. Then I looked at the Cubs lineup and sure enough Schwarber was moved from the leadoff spot batting second. Let's see if this get him going.

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