What a difference a week makes. Going into the series against the Cardinals, the Cubs were in second place behind the Brewers, but gaining ground rapidly. Well, after going 5-2 against the Redbirds and White Sox, the Cubs are 1.5 games ahead of the Brew Crew and looking to extend their lead as they play three games in Milwaukee.
Overall, the Cubs are 11-2 since the All-Star break, while the Brewers have scuffled to a 4-9 record in that time.
What’s been responsible for this great start? Essentially, everything is going well for the Cubs. The starters have yet to allow a 1st-inning run, which was a consistent bugaboo for them in the first half. Actually, they’re are not allowing many runs in general. And the offense is averaging 6.69 runs per game, which is way above the 4.72 they’ve averaged on the season.
The one weakness so far in the second half has been their bullpen, which had been stout all season long. They almost allowed the Orioles to come back in the first game of the second half, and were responsible for the two losses the Cubs have endured.
Wade Davis has struggled a bit coming out the gate, with a 20 pecent walk rate and a 25 percent strikeout rate. He’s had control issues and I can’t count the times he has bounced pitches with guys on base. He almost relinquished a four-run lead against the Braves and walked two guys in the 9th inning of the 3-2 win against St. Louis. Needless to say, Davis has made the final frame both exciting and nerve-wracking for Cubs fans.
To say the Brewers have struggled is an understatement, and it has primarily been on the bullpen. Five of their nine losses can be attributed to the bullpen conceding late leads. As if losing wasn’t bad enough, yesterday the Washington Nationals pounded the Brewers for 15 runs on the strength of eight homers. They went back-to-back-to-back-to-back in the 3rd inning, tying a major league record for consecutive home runs.
Milwaukee’s offense hasn’t helped matters either, so the struggles in the second half aren’t completely on the pitching staff. So far they are averaging 3.92 runs per game, which is almost a run below their season average of 4.83 runs. The struggles have been a team effort.
Game Time and Broadcast Info
Friday, July 28 at 7:10 CT on CSN+
Saturday, July 29 at 6:10 CT on WGN
Sunday, July 30 at 1:10 CT on CSN and TBS
What to Watch For
- Kyle Schwarber has performed much better in the second half, slashing .278/.366/.694 with a .431 wOBA. He’s hitting the ball hard 50 percent of the time, compared to 31.3 percent in the first half. This is most likely what is responsible for the huge disparity in BABIP, which has gone from a putrid .199 to a comfortable .300. Look for the type of contact he’s making in hitter-friendly Miller Park.
- Jose Quintana looks to continue his good start as a Chicago Cub. So far in 13 innings pitched, he has struck out 19 and walked only two while allowing only three earned runs, all of which came on home runs by the Cardinals. This is a small sample size, but if he can keep up this type of overall production the Northsiders will benefit greatly down the stretch.
- Watch for how Kyle Hendricks is locating his pitches. If he’s able to keep them on the corner, like he did all last year, the Cubs will win that game against Junior Guerra. Also pay attention to how many hits are falling for the Brewers. In his last start he allowed eight hits in only 4.1 innings pitched, which was somewhat alarming.
- Finally, watch for how the Cubs hit the Brewers. If they’re smashing the ball like they have been, they should have an easy time dispatching their division rivals