Series Preview - Cubs at Brewers; GET ON WITH IT!!!
Kind of makes you wish they'd go back to a 154 game schedule, doesn't it?
The Cubs have played 158 so far, they will play no more than 161, but at this stage everything has been decided for them. Chicago has accomplished the best record in the NL, they've brutally beaten up on most of the teams who they might play in the post season, and we now sit anxiously, waiting for the playoffs to begin. It sure beats sitting anxiously, waiting to find out if our team will make the playoffs at all.
Much earlier this season, I lamented the stress that Cub fans endure. They never make it easy, I said. Just once, I wish they would. And although the Cubs have given us 62 losses, some of which left us feeling as though we'd been blasted in the face with duck shot, although Chicago has endured a handful of losing streaks that scared the crap out of us, they did exactly what I hoped would happen. The Cubs clinched with ease. And now here I am, stomach battling back the butterfly hoards, lamenting with great impatience the long wait for the playoffs to start. Hey, I'll take it!
Actually, this is the fun part. I doubt that Cub fans hate them the way some of us hate the Cardinals, White Sox, or Mets, but the Brewers are not on our list of favorites, either. Milwaukee is a young team with dangerous players. They went out and traded for the single-best pitcher on the market. They cut their worst relief pitcher, they fired their incompetent manager, and they've still been eating the Cubs smoke-trail all season long. If we don't hate them, their fans must hate the Cubs by now. And for that reason alone, I hope the Cubs throttle them this weekend. Deal the death blow. Let's take a look at how it breaks down:
I usually would jump straight to the pitching match-ups, but lineups are actually a topic of discussion right now, more than ever. Brewer fans are upset because the Cubs did not put forth their All Star lineup in New York, allowing the Mets to split the series and keeping them tied for the Wild Card. Actually, Brewer fans should be ecstatic - as I pointed out before, the Cubs basically trotted out the American Legion Softball Team and still the Mets barely managed to win 2. That doesn't bode well for New York.
However, to add injury to insult, Lou has said that he will be using his regulars more often this series. He denied that it was some grand conspiracy to keep Milwaukee out of the playoffs, but as he said that, Lou was winking, nodding, and making bizarre sexual gestures while also flashing a thumbs up. (This would lead me to think more that he was going senile, rather than to think that there in fact is a conspiracy). The reason Lou will be using all his starters in as many as 2 of the 3 games this weekend is because he needs to keep them warm for the playoffs, and there will be a 2 day layoff between the last game of the season and the first game of the NLDS. Makes sense to me.
Friday, Sept 26th, 7PM Central - Ryan Dempster (17-6, 2.99 ERA) vs. Jeff Suppan (10-10, 5.06 ERA)
Dempster will be going for win #18 in an epic battle with a guy who wouldn't even beat Jason Marquis for a spot in the Cubs rotation. Actually, two things may be working against Dempster tonight. First, if most of the Cubs regulars will get any time off this series, it'll be in this game. Lou will likely start everybody for the last 2. Second, Lou has said that the Cubs starters will be limited to 75-80 pitches, and while Clownsevelt has been effective, he hasn't ever been economical. He may not get past the 5th inning.
Saturday, Sept 27th, 2:55PM Central - Ted Lilly (16-9, 4.17 ERA) vs. Dave Bush (9-10, 4.25 ERA)
Lilly's ERA is not much better than Bush's, but Ted has a much better record and I'd much sooner trust our left handed starter in the playoffs. Considering the end-of-the-season pitching match-ups, this might very well be a must-win for the Cubs if they are looking to keep Milwaukee out of the playoffs.
Sunday, Sept 28th, 1:05PM Central - Jason Marquis (11-9, 4.43 ERA) vs. C.C. Sabathia (16-10, 2.80 ERA)
Jason Marquis finds himself in a rare situation. What if, on Sunday, the Brewers need to win to get into the playoffs? What if Marquis out-duels Sabathia, denying Milwaukee a trip to the playoffs? What if, immediately after that, flames shoot out of my ass? It's about as likely!
In all seriousness, Marquis is the one Cub starter who shouldn't be on a pitch count, because he's the one Cubs starter who won't be starting games in the NLDS. Sabathia has not had the best of luck against the Cubs, he's thrown an epic amount of innings this season, and and fatigue has to be settling in. Who knows, maybe the Wild Card will be determined before Sunday, but maybe it won't. It could be the biggest game of Marquis' season.
Predictions: A little while back, I predicted that the Cubs would win 99 games this season. It could happen, but it's going to be an uphill battle for them. If Chicago takes 2 of 3, then chances are Milwaukee won't be making any trips in October. Even if the Cubs take 1 of 3, then Chicago will have their highest wins total since 1945. And we all know what happened in 1945 - the war ended and everybody was very happy, except the Germans. And wasn't Milwaukee originally a German settlement? Serendipity, my friends. Serendipity.