Series Preview: Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers
The last time the Cubs (2-1) took on the Brewers (1-2), Milwaukee took 2 of 3 and slid barely into the playoffs. Since then, the Brew Crew have lost both aces and the Cubs have gotten stronger through the addition of Milton Bradley and the subtraction of Jason Marquis. But it's not exactly a sure-thing that the Cubs win the whole she-bang; that's why they actually play the games. Maybe the Brewers will keep up with them all year long, or maybe they'll evaporate like I expect them to. Either way, today is the first of many meetings between these teams, and they should all be exciting games to watch. Here's how they break down...
Rich Harden (no record) vs. Braden Looper (no record)
Rich Harden, also known as Mark Prior 2.0, may or may not be healthy with an emphasis on the "may not" part of what I just said. I don't think anybody - even his own mother - is expecting him to make 30 starts in 2009. He's pretty much the unanimous pick of the GROTA crew to get hurt first and stay hurt longest. And we're already sweating bullets over his less-than-dominating Spring Training. But imagine, if you will, the possibility that he stays healthy and remains effective. A guy with an ERA of 2.67 since 2005 is the Cubs 4th pitcher in the rotation. That's kind of insane.
Braden Looper, meanwhile, is a closer-turned starter who's seen a respectable amount of success. The only problem is that he's either replacing CC Sabathia in the rotation or Ben Sheets. Either way he loses. Against the Cubs he has a career 2.63 ERA, and a surprising 3-6 record. (In case you weren't sure, that would be the definition of hard-luck loser.)
Carlos Zambrano (1-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. Dave Bush (0-0, 18.00 ERA)
Ah, Carlos. I have to admit I feel stress watching the Big Moose pitch. For me it all started during the '04 season. It seemed that any time I'd tune in to watch Mark Prior or Kerry Wood take the mound, they'd mysteriously exit the games early due to some new round of elbow/shoulder pussonitis. After his bouts with soreness last year, Carlos has assimilated into that role for me. You can probably understand how relieving it was that he had a good opening day, even though he got into too much trouble and probably walked too many players. But he won! That's all that counts!
The only problem about Dave Bush is that I can't believe ESPN is right in projecting him as the Game 2 starter. After all, he was already called on once this season to pitch in relief, where he was solidly rocked to the tune of 3 earned runs. But I'm just the messenger and I'm way too lazy to look up that kind of information elsewhere. So if I'm wrong, blame our friends at ESPN.
Ryan Dempster (0-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. Jeff Suppan (0-1, 13.50 ERA)
Ryan Dempster. The 50 million dollar question mark. Put yourself in his clown-shoes for a second. You're a hard-working mediocre closer who gets the chance to start and then BOOM! you win 17 games and are offered the contract of a lifetime. What do you do with the money? Do you buy the biggest house, biggest boat, and biggest car you can find? Do you feed the starving children in Africa with their gas-bloated bellies and stick-thin limbs? Perhaps sex slaves and drug binges? Maybe he should produce his own rap video and release it. That would be an awesome way to spend his f**k-you money.
Jeff Suppan, who is apparently the #2 pitcher on the Brewers, (or maybe #3 if Yovani Gallardo is half-decent) went 10-10 last year with an ERA of 4.96, and after a single start this year his ERA is 13.50. Chances are he will improve on that ERA. Hopefully it won't be by much. Even if Dempster isn't as effective as he was in 2008, he should still be a better pitcher on Sunday than Jeff Suppan. Just sayin'.
The Brewers are partly the reason I think the Cubs could win 100. Last year Milwaukee managed to win better than 90 games, mostly thanks to the arms of Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia, both of whom are long gone. But despite their still-impressive offense, the Brewers as-assembled will struggle to be much better than a .500 team. Their pitching just isn't there.
The Cubs, meanwhile, just took 2 of 3 from Houston and will look to gain early momentum in the NL Central. But it could go one of two ways... it could be a high scoring series for both teams, or if the Cubs pitching lives up to their end of the bargain it could be amazingly lop-sided. But one thing I would be shocked to see is a series of Brewer blow-out wins in which their pitchers shut down the Cubs offense. So blame me if that happens since I said it's not bloody likely.