The National League Central could be decided by the end of the weekend – or it could be tighter than ever. The Chicago Cubs take a 3 1/2-game lead with them as they begin a critical four-game series against the second-place Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday.
The Brewers swept a three-game series at Wrigley Field from Sept. 8-10 to keep themselves in the thick of the race, and they need a series victory at home this weekend to preserve their division title hopes. “They got us last time and they’re not going to go away,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters. “I’ve been a fan of theirs for the last two years. I think they’ve done a lot of good things. It’s going to come down to us playing those games well.” Milwaukee is one game behind Colorado for the second wild card. The Cubs had a seven-game winning streak snapped with an 8-1 loss at Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, MLB Network, CSN Chicago Plus, FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs RH Jake Arrieta (14-9, 3.48 ERA) vs. Brewers RH Zach Davies (17-9, 3.89)
Arrieta will return to the mound for the first time since straining his right hamstring on Sept. 4. The 31-year-old has been excellent since the All-Star break, going 6-2 with a 1.98 ERA. Arrieta is 8-4 with a 2.79 ERA in 14 starts against the Brewers and has won both meetings this season.
Davies was tagged for six runs and eight hits over four innings in a loss at Miami on Saturday, ending a stretch of six starts in which he was 4-2 with a 1.14 ERA. Included in that run was an outing Sept. 10 at Wrigley Field in which the 24-year-old struck out six and gave up one run over seven frames. Davies is 5-4 with a 4.08 ERA in nine starts against the Cubs and has split four meetings this season.
1. Cubs 3B Kris Bryant is 12-for-25 with three doubles and a homer in six games at Miller Park this season.
2. The Brewers lead the season series 8-7, but the Cubs have won four of six meetings at Miller Park.
3. Brewers 1B Eric Thames has hit 20 of his 31 home runs at home but has just one homer in 11 games against the Cubs.
PREDICTION: Brewers 6, Cubs 4