Friday: Paolo Espino (MLB Debut) v. Eddie Butler (6.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 7.50 K/9)
Espino is the story of the weekend, and it finds the Brewers trying to repeat the magic of last year’s surprise success story, Junior Guerra. Unlike Guerra, who had a couple of innings under his belt before bursting onto the scene last year, it’s a true MLB debut for the 30-year-old Espino. Drafted by Cleveland in 2006, Espino has pitched 1503.2 innings for 11 different teams, including three foreign winter leagues. He has earned his chance at the big leagues with an outstanding run at Triple-A Colorado Springs: a 2.54 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 39.0 innings. Check out a detailed scouting report on Espino from Brew Crew Ball’s Kyle Lesniewski here.
Eddie Butler used to pitch for the Rockies, but they’re a first place team with standards so he wasn’t good enough to play there, so they shipped him over to the Cubs, who aren’t in first place because they field substandard players. Butler pitched six shutout innings in his 2017 debut against St. Louis (thanks fam), but he owns a 6.26 career ERA and tends to be susceptable to the home run, which is not a good thing to be against Milwaukee.
Saturday: Chase Anderson (44.2 IP, 3.43 ERA, 7.86 K/9) v. Jake Arrieta (44.2 IP, 5.44 ERA, 9.87 K/9)
Arrieta has not been anything near his former Cy Young self this season, and he brings some ignoble numbers into his second start against Milwaukee of 2017. Generally an effective ground ball pitcher, Arrieta has seen his GB% fall nearly ten points off his career average this year. Almost all those grounders have turned into fly balls, and a good portion of those new fly balls are leaving the park; his 1.61 HR/9 is almost exactly double his career rate (0.82).
Anderson is still trying to get back on track after straying from his blistering start to the season. He allowed just three earned runs in his first four starts, but has been battered for 14 in his last four and has twice failed to get out of the fifth inning. If there’s anything that can cure his woes, it’ll be a date with the hapless (but not Happ-less) Cubs offense, which ranks 19th in the league with a 93 wRC+
Sunday: Jimmy Nelson (44.1 IP, 3.86 ERA, 8.32 K/9) v. John Lackey (47.1 IP, 4.37 ERA, 9.32 K/9)
Facing the prospect of being replaced in the starting rotation by the returning Guerra and/or the nearly-ready cadre of prospects at Triple-A, Nelson has turned his season around over his last three starts. He’s allowed just two earned runs this month, striking out 18 in 15.2 innings. This fresh version of Good Jimmy Nelson debuted against Pittsburgh in a three inning outing that was cut short by a two-hour rain delay (put a damn roof on your house, dummies). He was perfect through those three innings and induced a 62.5% ground ball rate.
Lackey has been on a roll this season when it comes to cannibalism if friend of the brand Aaron is to be believed:
— MLB Insider Dinger (@atf13atf) May 17, 2017
2017: 2-4 (1-2 in Chicago)
All-Time: 154-163 (73-85 in Chicago)
The last time we saw Chicago, the Brewers took game one and probably should have swept the defending champions but for a couple of poor outings for the bullpen. The series finale exactly one month ago was a particularly stinging defeat, as erstwhile closer Neftali Feliz allowed four runs in the ninth to hand the game back to the home team, capped by a three-run walkoff shot from Addison Russell.
Are the Cubs good?
Look, yes. It’s fun to poke fun at the current state of the NL Central, where the Brewers are in first place and the Cubs in third. It’s fun to point out that the Brewers have scored the second-most runs in the major leagues, while the Cubs are being outscored by Tampa Bay. It’s fun to note that if the playoffs started today, the Brewers would travel to Colorado in the NLDS while the Cubs would travel to their respective homes to watch from the couch. It’s fun to realize that Milwaukee could walk into Wrigley Field this weekend, get swept, and still own a winning record.
But yes, the Cubs are good. They’ll be fine. Enjoy this while you can, Brewers fans. Enjoy it while you can.
Milwaukee Broadcast Information:
Friday: 1:20 pm on FS Wisconsin and 620 WTMJ
Saturday: 1:20 pm on FS Wisconsin and 620 WTMJ
Sunday: 1:20 pm on FS Wisconsin and 620 WTMJ