(Photo credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)
The Chicago Cubs' wild-card hopes run directly through Milwaukee, beginning Friday night when they open their final series of the season on the road against the National League Central champion Brewers.
Right-hander Kyle Hendricks (6-8, 3.66 ERA) is expected to start for the Cubs, while right-hander Colin Rea (6-6, 4.74) gets the nod for Milwaukee.
The Cubs (82-77) lost at Atlanta 5-3 on Thursday, capping a three-game sweep by the Braves. Chicago, 6-13 in its last 19 games, is a half-game behind Miami (82-76) for the final NL wild-card spot. The Marlins' game vs. the Mets on Thursday night was suspended due to rain. Miami owns the tiebreaker over the Cubs.
"We obviously didn't play well enough to win any baseball games," Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson told Marquee Sports Network in Atlanta. "We weren't able to come through when it mattered. It's definitely a frustrating series for us."
Milwaukee (90-69), which clinched the division title on Tuesday when the Cubs lost at Atlanta, defeated St. Louis 3-0 on Thursday, lifting starter Corbin Burnes after 66 pitches with a 2-0 lead.
Hendricks is 2-2 with a 2.90 ERA over his last seven starts. In his last start, he allowed three runs, one earned, in six innings, but took the loss in an 8-6 defeat vs. Pittsburgh.
Hendricks will be making his 34th career start and third this season against the Brewers. He is 10-8 with a 3.40 ERA against them in his career, and he is 0-0 in two games this season, allowing three runs (one earned) in 12 innings. Hendricks is 4-3 with a 3.59 ERA in 16 career starts at Milwaukee's American Family Field.
The Cubs, who have split 10 games this season with Milwaukee, will avoid the two other members of the Brewers' pitching big three - Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta.
"Woodruff and Peralta are not going to pitch," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "Woody will throw, we've got a bunch of pitchers throwing tomorrow and he will take part in something pregame tomorrow, and we're just going to skip Freddy."
Milwaukee, which will host all three games of the wild-card series, has not named a starter for Saturday. Right-hander Adrian Houser (7-5) will start the final game.
Rea, who has been optioned to Triple-A Nashville three times over the final two months, will be making his career-most 22nd start. Rea is 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA in five September appearances, including two starts.
Rea has faced the Cubs only once, allowing four runs in five innings back in 2016.
Milwaukee got a boost from speedy outfielder Garrett Mitchell, activated off the injured list after missing 140 games with a left shoulder injury sustained on April 18. Mitchell, who hit .188 in eight rehab games at Triple-A Nashville, doubled in his first at-bat Thursday and also walked twice in his bid to make the postseason roster.
Outfielder Christian Yelich, who missed 12 games in September with lingering back issues, is batting .400 (8-for-20) over his last five games with three doubles, two homers, six RBIs and seven runs scored.
"He feels good, it's normal," Counsell said. "Feeling good, obviously got a little rest there, the back is feeling good, so he's in a good spot."
--Field Level Media