Just one month ago Cub Fans were dreaming. Dreaming of a World Series Championship and this time when they awoke dreams had a chance of becoming reality. The best record in baseball belonged to a club leading the league in runs scored and a pitching staff as good in the 1st inning as it was in the 9th. Dreams and reality were mixing, as if God had promised it. That was one month ago.
Having blown a four game lead since the All-Star break the Cubs have invited the haunting nightmares back into the bedroom of Cubs fans everywhere. With a 4 game series in Milwaukee this week Cubs fans will anxiously await nightmares or dreams.
The Cubs throw, easily, their best four starting pitchers this week in Milwaukee. Lilly, Zambrano, Dempster and Harden will take the mound for the Cubs in what is not a division deciding series but could easily end up being the foundation of a National League Central title run. With two months of baseball left nothing is set in stone and with the way things are shaping up in the NL East both of these ball clubs could easily end up in the playoffs.
Even though the Cubs are a game up on Milwaukee and need only a split in the series to remain on top, this series is HUGE for the northsiders. So why is a series with a divisional foe in July so important for the Cubs? Four Reasons. After the Jump
1. The series is on the road. It is no secret that the Cubs are excellent at home and pathetic on the road. 39-14 at home and 22-30 on the road. With 15 of their 25 games in September on the road, this ball club needs to find something to hang it’s hat on, while away from the friendly confines. A sweep or series win against the charging Brewers would provide a much needed boost for Cub Nation.
2. A Charging Brewers Club. The Brewers have gone all-in. All their chips are on the table and they’re at the table with a pretty good hand. Signing Sabathia and 2nd baseman Ray Durham demonstrate the commitment the front office has made to 2008. Unlike past years, a pretty good hand may not win the NL Central, a division that has been a push over to the rest of the National League is surprisingly the best in the NL in 2008. The Brew Crew is 8-2 since the break with a 4 game sweep of the Cardinals. Dropping a home series to the Cubs would be the first real mark on a almost flawless 2nd half for the Brewers, especially if the Cubs can hit either Sabathia or Sheets.
3. Hitting Sabathia and/or Sheets. The lack of scoring that has plagued the Cubs since the All-Star break has become a huge concern. The return of Soriano did not ignite the offense as many had hoped and facing Sabathia and Sheets in games 1 and 2 could be to the tune of 2 shut-outs if the Cubs don’t find some answers at the plate. The performance of Soriano and the Cubs on Sunday could provide the needed spark to get the offense going again. Nothing would get the offensive machine going better than getting to Sabathia, something no other National League team has been able to do.
4. No Kerry Wood. Wood who remains on the DL with a blister on his throwing hand puts a dent in the once seemingly indestructible bullpen. You can believe this series will come down some close games. Shutting down the Brewers lineup in 7th, 8th and 9th for a close series clinching win could do wonders for a struggling Howry and Marmol, not to mention the wet behind the ears former Notre Dame receiver, Samardzija.
A series win against the recently hated Brewers will not put the nightmares to rest for Cubdom but it will give Cubs fans a weekend away with dreams of World Series rings.