Brewers, Cubs open pivotal NL Central series in Milwaukee

MLB

An extended run of success has given the National League Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers space between themselves and the second-place Chicago Cubs, who are looking to bounce back from a rough weekend.

The Brewers aim to pad their division advantage with a season-high sixth consecutive victory when they open a three-game series Monday against the visiting Cubs.

Milwaukee celebrated full capacity attendance at its home park by recording a three-game weekend sweep of road-challenged Colorado. The Cubs, meanwhile, opened a 10-game road trip by losing three of four to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

On Sunday, Keston Hiura hit his second homer in three days during Milwaukee’s 5-0 win over the Rockies. The Brewers’ current run, coupled with Chicago’s losses in Los Angeles, leaves them three up in the Central — with more than regional bragging rights on the line for this week’s series.

“We all know the importance of these games,” Hiura, batting .308 with two homers and five RBIs in four games since being recalled from his second minor-league stint, told the Brewers’ official website.

“We know it’s going to be a competitive nine innings every single day.”

For as well as Milwaukee is playing, the Cubs have averaged 2.3 runs while going 4-9 after totaling 27 runs during a five-game winning streak. They’ve also dropped six of nine to the Brewers in 2021 and could be minus star Anthony Rizzo, who is dealing with lower-back tightness.

Things likely won’t get easier for Chicago, which fell 7-1 on Sunday to the Dodgers, against scheduled Milwaukee starter Freddy Peralta (7-2, 2.11 ERA). The right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 25 strikeouts over three 2021 starts against the Cubs.

After allowing one hit and striking out 10 while overcoming four walks through six innings of a 5-0 win at Arizona on Tuesday, Peralta is 4-1 with a 1.29 ERA in his past eight starts.

There is reason, however, for the Cubs to feel confident about their chances Monday behind scheduled starter Kyle Hendricks (10-4, 3.84). Tied for the major-league lead in wins, the right-hander has posted a 2.25 ERA while winning a career-high eight straight starts. He hasn’t allowed a run over the past 15 innings, spanning three starts.

The Cubs’ offense erupted behind Hendricks for a 7-1 win over Cleveland on Tuesday. The hope would be they can do the same Monday.

“There’s going to be ups and downs,” Hendricks told the Cubs’ official website. “You know if you just keep them in it and keep it close, it’s just a matter of time until they break out.”

Hendricks has yielded just two solo home runs, eight other hits and struck out 12 with two walks over 12 innings while going 1-0 in two starts against the Brewers this season. Both came at Chicago.

Kolten Wong hit one of those homers off Hendricks, and is 3-for-3 against him this season. Wong is batting .357 with five home runs and 10 RBIs in his past 15 games.

–Field Level Media

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