(Updated: ADDs day in first sentence)
The Chicago Cubs seem to be back on track, and just in time for a visit from the first-place Milwaukee Brewers on Friday. The Cubs aim for a fourth consecutive victory when they open a three-game set against the Brewers, who have won three straight and nine of their last 11 to climb to the top of the National League Central.
The Brewers lead the division for the first time since August 2014, thanks to a powerful offense led by some unlikely heroes. Journeyman Eric Thames has smashed 13 home runs, and Eric Sogard is batting .588 with two homers and seven RBIs in his first six games with the Brewers. The Cubs swept three games from Cincinnati to open their 10-game homestand after dropping seven of their previous nine. Chicago has taken two of three in each of the first two series between the NL Central rivals this season.
TV: 2:20 p.m. ET, MLB Network, FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee), CSN Chicago
PITCHING MATCHUP: Milwaukee RH Paolo Espino (NR) vs. Cubs RH Eddie Butler (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Espino is set for his major-league debut after shining in seven starts at Triple-A Colorado Springs. The 30-year-old from Panama has spent 11th seasons in the minors and is 4-0 with a 2.54 ERA in seven starts this season. Espino has pitched in 92 games at Triple-A across eight seasons.
Butler was stellar in his Cubs debut Friday at St. Louis, limiting the Cardinals to two hits over six scoreless innings. The 26-year-old picked up where he left off at Triple-A Iowa, where he was 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA and didn’t allow more than two runs in any of his five starts. Butler has made one start and one relief appearance against the Brewers, allowing three runs and five hits over eight innings.
1. Rookie OF Ian Happ is the second Cubs player since 1913 to record an extra-base hit in four of his first five career games, joining Jorge Soler in 2014.
2. Brewers 3B Travis Shaw is 13-for-35 with two homers and nine RBIs during a career-best nine-game hitting streak.
3. Cubs 2B/OF Ben Zobrist has reached base in 17 consecutive games.
PREDICTION: Cubs 6, Brewers 5