The surging Milwaukee Brewers are in first place in the NL Central for the first time in nearly two years. They’ll try to keep rolling as they open a four-game road series against the sinking Chicago Cubs on Monday night.
Milwaukee (38-28) has gone 24-8 since May 8 - best in the major leagues. The Brewers jumped past St. Louis and into first by completing a three-game sweep of the Cardinals with a 4-3 win Sunday.
They are atop the division for the first time since July 9, 2009.
“It’s just good right now,” said first baseman Prince Fielder(notes), who hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the sixth. “We’re playing good baseball. Like I said we haven’t been in first place for about a year or two now.”
Fielder’s home run capped a four-run sixth and was his 19th of the season. He has gone 12 for 30 with eight homers and two doubles over the last 10 games.
The slugger went 7 for 11 with two homers and three doubles as the Brewers took two of three at home from the Cubs from April 8-10. He has batted .323 with 11 home runs in 42 games at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs (25-39) went 2-8 on their just-completed road swing and have lost 13 of 16. They closed out the trip by dropping three straight to Philadelphia after winning the series opener.
The Cubs bullpen, which gave up seven runs in five innings of the final two games of the series, has gone 1-5 with a 5.60 ERA in the last 13 games with four blown saves in six chances.
The relievers’ poor results may be due in part to a heavy workload. Chicago’s bullpen has pitched at least three innings in six of the last nine games and more than that four times during the stretch.
The Cubs, though, should feel very good about their chances with Ryan Dempster(notes) (5-5, 5.96 ERA) taking the mound. After a rough start to the season, he has gone 4-2 with a 3.67 ERA in his last eight outings, allowing two or fewer runs in six of them.
Dempster, who held Cincinnati to one run and three hits in six innings of a 4-1 victory Wednesday, has dominated Milwaukee. He is 15-3 with a 2.60 ERA in 44 games - 22 starts - versus the Brewers and has won his last six decisions against them. Dempster didn’t allow an earned run over 13 innings in his last two matchups with Milwaukee in 2010.
The left-hander has posted a 2.42 ERA in his last four games, with the Brewers winning all of them.
Wolf will be looking to snap a three-start losing streak to the Cubs. He gave up six runs - two earned - in six innings of a 7-4 loss April 8.