NL Central rivals will finish up a three-game series on Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field with the Milwaukee Brewers taking on the Chicago Cubs. Chicago will be going for the surprising sweep after winning 6-5 on Saturday in 11 innings to cash in as a +112 underdog. Milwaukee is two games out of the final NL Wild Card spot at 63-56, while the Cubs are out of contention at 52-67.
Despite the mismatch in records, the Cubs now lead the season series 9-6 over the Brewers.
Brewers blow multiple leads in ugly lossIf the Brewers don't make the playoffs their struggles against the Cubs will stand out as a big reason why, and they couldn't hold down Chicago in the late innings of Saturday's loss. Milwaukee went up on Willy Adames' two-run homer in the eighth, Mike Brosseau's RBI single in the 10th and Kolten Wong's RBI fielder's choice in the 11th, yet it still wasn't enough to stop the Cubs from walking off.
Freddy Peralta went six innings as he works back from injury, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out five. Devin Williams suffered his first blown save of the year, while Peter Strzelecki took the loss. Adames was on base three times, while Christian Yelich scored two runs.
“We’ve kind of put our backs up against the wall a little bit, and you have to respond,” manager Craig Counsell said to MLB.com. “That’s the baseball season and that’s our job moving forward. … Every team has losses like this that feel like it stings a little bit more. But we have to come out tomorrow and understand that it’s worth the same as the game today."
Milwaukee is down a significant amount on the money line for the season while going 48-71 on the run line. Overs are 59-51-9 for the Brewers, with four of their last five games going over the betting total.
This is a top 10 scoring offense at 4.53 runs per game on a strong .729 OPS. Milwaukee pitching is solidly above average with a 3.83 combined ERA including a mark of 3.88 out of the bullpen.
Adames is Milwaukee's top position player at 2.6 WAR, posting a .738 OPS with 24 homers and 69 driven in. Hunter Renfroe is also providing strong pop, posting an .821 OPS with 22 homers and 50 driven in.
Brandon Woodruff is set to make 19th start, hoping to continue another strong season as he's 9-3 with a 3.53 ERA and 117:29 K:BB ratio across 97 innings. The 29-year-old went five innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks while piling up eight strikeouts.
Catcher Alex Jackson (sprained finger) and utilityman Jace Peterson (sprained elbow) are out. Starting pitcher Adrian Houser is recovering from a strained flexor tendon. Relievers Jake Cousins (elbow effusion), Trevor Gott (sprained elbow), Jandel Gustave (forearm discomfort), Trevor Rosenthal (strained hamstring) and Miguel Sanchez (elbow discomfort) are sidelined.
Cubs rally for fifth straight winA young Cubs team continues to play solid baseball since the All-Star break, and continued tormenting Milwaukee with a wild win on Saturday. Willson Contreras' two-run homer in the fifth was Chicago's only scoring until Nick Madrigal tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with an RBI single before Franmil Reyes came up with a clutch sac fly in the 10th and Contreras won it with a walk-off single in the 11th.
Starter Marcus Stroman was terrific, allowing two runs on two hits and four walks while striking out five across 7.2 innings. Erich Uelmen picked up the win, allowing just the bonus runner on second to score across 1.1 innings. Contreras was on base three times, while Patrick Wisdom doubled, walked, recorded one RBI and scored a run..
"Today was so great for him," infielder Nico Hoerner said about his double play partner Madrigal to MLB.com. "I felt like that was kind of his first big Cubs moment, you know? And he's put so much time and effort in.
The Cubs remain down a big amount on the money line while going 62-57 on the run line. Overs are 52-59-8 for the Cubs, with only two of their last eight games going under the betting total.
Chicago's offense is still in the bottom 10 in scoring at 4.19 runs per game despite posting an above average .714 OPS. It hasn't gone any better for Chicago pitching, which is eighth-worst in baseball at a 4.23 collective ERA including a mark of 3.99 from the bullpen.
Contreras is Chicago's top hitter with an .835 OPS, 20 homers and 52 RBI. Ian Happ is enjoying a career year with an .810 OPS, 12 homers and 55 driven in.
Justin Steele is set to make his 23rd start of the season, hoping to continue a breakout campaign as he's 4-7 with a 3.43 ERA and 111 strikeouts across 107.2 innings. The 26-year-old went six innings against the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, allowing one run on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts.
Outfielders Michael Hermosillo (strained quad) and Jason Heyward (knee inflammation) are out. The rotation is beat up with Adbert Alzolay (strained lat), Kyle Hendricks (strained shoulder), Wade MIley (strained shoulder), Alec Mills (strained back) and Keegan Thompson (back tightness) sidelined. Relievers Codi Heuer (Tommy John surgery), Ethan Roberts (Tommy John surgery), Maneul Rodriguez (strained elbow) and Brad Wieck (Tommy John surgery) are out.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Even though the Brewers have had trouble in this matchup, Woodruff is exactly the right man to get things turned around. Steele is having a great season but the Cubs aren't good enough in other facets, while Woodruff will continue his strong season with another great outing here.
Advanced metrics indicate Woodruff should be even better down the stretch as he has an 80 FIP- and outstanding 21.4 K-BB%. There's been some bright spots for the Cubs offense, but ultimately it is below average with a 99 wRC+ without enough lineup depth to sustain rallies.
While Steele is effective, the Cubs bullpen won't be able to hold as it has the 13th worst ERA in baseball and will be depleted after the long game yesterday. Back Woodruff and the Brewers to get back on track here as the Cubs won't be able to score.
Full-Game Total Pick
Steele has been one of the few bright spots for the Chicago offense, posting an 83 ERA - / 82 FIP - for the season. His biggest strength has been allowing a miniscule 3.5% barrel rate, which helps him do an elite job of keeping the ball in the yard even at Wrigley Field.
That's a problem for the Brewers, who hit a ton of homers to help their offensive numbers but are not a good team as far as average or on-base percentage goes. With two great starters going at it, bet on the under in this one.