MILWAUKEE BREWERS (72-68)
at CHICAGO CUBS (77-63)
First pitch: Friday, 8:05 p.m. ET
Line: Milwaukee +115, Chicago -125, Total: N/A
The Brewers and Cubs continue to fight for position in the NL Central when they meet at Wrigley Field on Friday.
The Brewers are currently trailing the Cubs in the NL Central, but they now have three games in a row against Chicago to try to make up some ground. Milwaukee badly needs to win this series, but Chicago will obviously be playing with plenty of urgency as well. The Cubs are the defending World Series champions and have been disappointing to this point in the year. Fortunately for them, they have gotten themselves going a bit lately. The starters in this Friday night game are set to be RHP Jimmy Nelson (11-6, 3.59 ERA, 192 K) for the Brewers and RHP John Lackey (11-10, 4.74 ERA, 131 K) for the Cubs. One trend that stands out when looking at this game is the fact that the Brewers are 20-10 against the money line when playing a team that has beaten them in two straight games this season. Lackey’s teams are, however, 32-10 against the money line when the righty is pitching at home on a Friday. That might seem rather random, but it’s pretty clear he prefers pitching then.
The Brewers are sending Jimmy Nelson to the hill on Friday and that is exactly the guy they’ll want out there in a big series opener like this one. Nelson has been outstanding all season and he enters this one in good form as well. In his most recent start, Nelson pitched seven innings of shutout ball against the Nationals on Sep. 1. He struck out 11 batters in that one and that was his fourth start with at least nine strikeouts in the past 10 games. If he can give the Brewers six or seven solid innings then that would be big. It’s just important that he has his control in this one, as he has walked three batters in two of the past three games. On offense, OF Ryan Braun is a guy to look out for in this one. Braun has had a down year in 2017, but he is 9-for-32 with a double, two homers, and three RBI against Lackey in his career. He has a good idea of what Lackey is going to throw him and it’d be big if he can come through at the plate here. It’s also worth keeping an eye on 1B Eric Thames, who is 5-for-11 with a homer against Lackey and has some serious pop.
The Cubs are coming off of an impressive victory over the Pirates and will now try to stay hot against the Brewers. Lackey is going to take the ball for Chicago in this one and the veteran pitched very well against the Braves on Sep.1. He threw seven innings of shutout ball in that one, striking out five batters and walking none in the process. Lackey had struggled in his previous few trips to the mound, so it was big for him to get it going here. The Cubs need him to pitch well here and he should be able to do just that. He faced this Brewers team on Jul. 30 and allowed only two earned runs in six innings. As for the Cubs offense, they’ll be counting on guys like 1B Anthony Rizzo and 3B Kris Bryant here. Rizzo has been an absolute animal this season, but Bryant’s play has left a lot to be desired. Bryant has done a good job to get his average up lately, but he still has just 59 RBI. It’d be big if he can start driving in more runs soon.