(Updated: UPDATING: Milwaukee’s deficit in the wild-card standings in Para 2.)
A playoff-like atmosphere served as the backdrop for the Chicago Cubs’ comeback win in the opener of a critical four-game road series against the host Milwaukee Brewers. The buzz should only grow as the National League Central rivals square off Friday with their division title hopes hanging in the balance.
Javier Baez’s tying single with two outs in the ninth inning and Kris Bryant’s two-run homer in the 10th lifted the Cubs to a 5-3 win on Thursday and a 4 1/2-game division lead over the Brewers. Milwaukee swept three games at Wrigley Field from Sept. 8-10 to pull within two games in the NL Central race, but the Cubs have won eight of nine since. The Brewers’ division hopes are fading – although they can change that by winning the three remaining games against the Cubs – but they are only one game behind Colorado for the second NL wild card. Milwaukee has lost consecutive games in crushing fashion after giving up the tying run in the eighth and a two-run homer in the ninth in Wednesday’s 6-4 loss to Pittsburgh.
TV: 7:35 p.m. ET, ESPN, WGN (Chicago), FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs RH John Lackey (11-11, 4.62 ERA) vs. Brewers RH Brandon Woodruff (2-2, 3.28)
Lackey had his last outing cut short as he was ejected after 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision against St. Louis. The 38-year-old has won just one of his last six starts after capturing five straight following the All-Star break. Lackey is 6-4 with a 3.39 ERA in 14 career starts against the Brewers.
Woodruff has been a solid addition to the rotation since being recalled on Aug. 4. The 24-year-old prospect has posted three quality starts, including one on Sunday against Miami in which he allowed three runs over seven innings of a victory. Woodruff is 1-2 with a 4.38 ERA in four starts at Miller Park.
1. Cubs LF Kyle Schwarber has homered in three consecutive starts for the first time in his career and is 9-for-26 with five blasts in his last nine games.
2. Brewers OF Domingo Santana is 14-for-37 with four home runs and 11 RBIs during his nine-game hitting streak.
3. The Cubs have hit 212 home runs, which ties them for the second-most in team history.
PREDICTION: Brewers 6, Cubs 4