Chicago took four of the five games it played with rival St. Louis, including a 7-6 victory on Thursday that moved them within a half-game of NL Central-leading Houston.
“It’s too early to say if this is a turning point,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of the series against the Cardinals. “I’ll let you know in a month.”
The Cubs will try to keep their momentum going against a Milwaukee team that is playing well lately. The Brewers have won 14 of their last 16 games, including two of three at Wrigley Field last weekend.
After having a 10-game win streak snapped in the opener of that series, Milwaukee has won four of five. The Brewers will be playing the remainder of their schedule against teams vying for postseason spots—as they have play three each against the Cubs, Giants and Diamondbacks, six agains the Cardinals, and eight against the Astros.
“It’s fun to play in the pennant races, and we definitely have that opportunity to do that in the next few weeks,” said Brady Clark, who scored four times in Wednesday’s 9-6 over the Reds.
“We just want to keep doing what we’ve been doing all year long, which is going out and playing hard.”
STANDINGS: Cubs - 2nd place, 1/2 GB, NL Central. Brewers - 5th place, 11 GB, NL Central.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Juan Cruz (1-5, 5.40 ERA). The right-hander is coming off a strong effort against Milwaukee, but got the loss in the Cubs’ 2-0 setback at home last Sunday. Making his second straight start since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa on Aug. 30, he allowed two runs and six hits 5 2-3 innings. Cruz has made six career appearances—including two starts—against the Brewers, going 0-3 with a 4.15 ERA.
BREWERS PROBABLE STARTER: Ben Sheets (10-11, 4.27 ERA). Before last Friday, Sheets had been unbeatable against the Cubs, going 6-0 in his first eight career starts, including 3-0 at Wrigley Field. But the Cubs were too much for Sheets, who lost his fourth straight decision, as he gave up three runs and 11 hits in seven innings of a 4-2 loss.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cubs - Mark Grudzielanek, .308 avg.; Sammy Sosa, 32 HRs and 88 RBIs; Kenny Lofton, 81 runs and 29 SBs. Brewers - Scott Podsednik, .317 avg. and 35 SBs; Richie Sexson, 36 HRs and 105 RBIs; Podsednik and Geoff Jenkins, 81 runs.
SEASON SERIES: Cubs, 7-6.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cubs - OF Alex Gonzalez has just one hit in 16 career at-bats against RHP Sheets. … OF Moises Alou was hit on the left knee by a foul ball Thursday, while 3B Aramis Ramirez was plunked on the left side. Their status for Friday is questionable. … 1B Eric Karros is 9-for-20 in his career against RHP Sheets. Brewers - RF John Vander Wal, who left Tuesday’s game with a strained left groin after the first inning, is day to day. … The Brewers plan to go with a six-man rotation for the remainder of the season, with LHP Luis Martinez—who made his major league debut Wednesday—rounding out the staff. … OF Clark is hitting .338 in the month of August and .352 since the All-Star break.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cubs - 36-32 on the road; Brewers - 29-40 at home.
INJURIES: Cubs - 3B Ramirez (side), day-to-day; OF Alou (knee), day-to-day; RHP Dave Veres (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL; LHP Will Ohman (elbow), 60-day DL; OF Corey Patterson (knee), 60-day DL. Brewers - OF Vander Wal (groin), day-to-day; OF Geoff Jenkins (hand), 15-day DL; RHP Jayson Durocher (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Matt Ford (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Nick Neugebauer (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Ruben Quevedo (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Todd Ritchie (shoulder), 60-day DL.