Milwaukee Brewers (14-11) at Chicago Cubs (16-9)
Who's on Tap?:
April 29th: Ben Sheets (3-0, 0.96 ERA) vs. Jason Marquis (1-0, 3.47 ERA)
April 30th: Jeff Suppan (1-0, 3.48 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (3-0, 2.90 ERA)
May 1st: Yovani Gallardo (1-0, 0.64 ERA) vs. Carlos Zambrano (4-1, 2.21 ERA)
Who Should You Watch?:
As always, keep your eye on Prince Fielder at Wrigley, where he bats .280/.368/.598, which includes 7 home runs in 95 PAs. The other obvious one is Mike Cameron, but don't expect too much out of him considering he only got four rehab games and batted a woeful .200. Who you should keep your eye on is Rickie Weeks. Weeks meager .191 average has fans in an uproar, but some often favorable winds at Wrigley may do Rickie some good, though his career numbers there aren't so great. But having Cameron in the two hole might force teams to pitch him a little differently, that is, they might be forced to throw a few more fastballs now that the Brewers have a power bat 1-6.
As for the Cubs, Geovany Soto is tearing the cover off the ball. Well, the entire team is, if we're being honest, but Soto has been particularly impressive, carrying a .316 BA and a .415 OBP, but let's hope his last game where he went 0/5 with 5 Ks is an indication of the future. Also, watch out for Derek Lee who has all of a sudden recovered his power stroke this year, having 7 HRs already. Toss in a .359 BA and .432 OBP, and Lee is looking at a possible repeat of his 2005 season, which Cubs fans could only hope for.
Keys to Victory:
Walks, walks and more walks. Unless there's an overwhelming change in the Brewers offensive production, they'll need to rely on walks to get baserunners at every turn because timely hitting is relatively impossible if you're batting a mere .245 at the plate. But if you can manage a few walks, a base hit and some small ball may lead to enough to runs, especially on Tuesday and Thursday. If the Brewers rely on the long ball, they will find themselves in a lot of trouble.
As has been the case for the Cubs in years past, the starters are immensely important because 80% of their bullpen is unreliable. As expected and predicted my Opening Day Series Preview, Marmol and Wood have been solid, but the likes of Michael Wuertz and Bob Howry have struggled. Marquis is hardly a strikeout pitcher, but he'll have to stay aggressive to avoid getting knocked out early either from offense, or simply by the pitch count. Dempster needs to continue to be impress. I hardly expected him to do as well as he has so far as a starting pitcher, but the three games I have seen were something to behold. And, barring his usual 1 in 5 blow up start, Carlos Zambrano should get the job done in a pretty good duel against Yovani Gallardo. I think it'll be more fun to watch these two guys swing the bats against each other.
Ah! I've been dreading this section. As a homer, I want to say it's a series win for the Crew, but they're playing so awful that I can't convince myself a day off and Mike Cameron will really make that much of a difference. Sheets will likely take down Jason Marquis in game one. However, after that, the Brewers get knocked down a notch. Suppan will easily get outpitched by Dempster in game two and the Brewers refuse to take walks in game three, and give away the series.