Playing at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field has been a disaster for the Chicago Cubs this season. Meanwhile, Prince Fielder and the Milwaukee Brewers are making themselves at home on Chicago’s North Side.
The Brewers look to win their fifth straight game overall and sweep the Cubs at Wrigley when their three-game series wraps up on Wednesday.
National League Central-leading Milwaukee (13-7) defeated Chicago 4-1 on Tuesday, handing the Cubs (7-13) their third straight loss - all at home.
Chicago went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base, increasing its total to 28 runners stranded during the losing streak.
“It’s hard for us to score runs consistently,” said Cubs manager Lou Piniella, whose club fell to 3-9 at Wrigley. “Once in a while, we have a nice game where we put some runs on the board and we think, ‘Well, here we come.’ Then we sort of revert back. One of these days, we’ll break the barn door down and get going.”
Fielder had a two-run homer in the fourth inning on Tuesday, after hitting two solo shots - including the game winner - in Monday’s 5-4, 12-inning Brewers victory.
“I thought I hit it enough to at least get in the basket,” Fielder said of his homer Tuesday. “It had just enough.”
Fielder’s three hits at Wrigley this season are all home runs, and seven of his 11 total hits in 10 games at Wrigley since the start of last season have been homers.
Milwaukee has not had a three-game sweep in Chicago since May 9-12, 2002, and Wednesday’s starter Ben Sheets (1-2, 5.00 ERA) has struggled there lately, going 0-4 with a 4.85 ERA in his last six starts at Wrigley.
The right-hander surrendered five runs and a season-high nine hits in six innings of a 6-3 loss to the Cubs at Miller Park on April 7, and is still looking for his first win since pitching a two-hitter on opening day against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Sheets gave up just two runs in seven innings against Houston last Friday, but did not get a decision as the Brewers fell 6-5.
The Cubs counter with Ted Lilly (1-2, 2.42), who is once again hoping for better run support. The left-hander has allowed just six runs in his last three starts, but Chicago has scored only three runs for him in those games. He gave up just two runs and four hits, including a two-run homer, in seven innings of a 2-1 loss to St. Louis on Friday.
Lilly has compiled a .165 opponent batting average and has 30 strikeouts in 26 innings, but has not earned a victory since his season debut on April 4.
Chicago first baseman Derrek Lee went 2-for-4 with a double on Monday to lift his average to .367, but he’s still seeking his first home run of the season. He may have a good chance to get one against Sheets, against whom he’s batting .351 (13-for-37) with five home runs and 11 RBIs lifetime.