Travel, Pitching Matchup Working Against Brewers at Cubs in Matinee on May 19

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, May 18, 2017 11:38 PM UTC

Thursday, May. 18, 2017 11:38 PM UTC

Most Fridays when the Cubs are home, they will play the only matinee of the day. That’s the case this Friday (2:20 ET) as the neighboring Milwaukee Brewers visit Wrigley Field to open a three-game series.

MLB Season Record: 14-10

Milwaukee Brewers At Chicago Cubs (-155)

The Brewers start a three-game series at Wrigley Field in Friday’s lone matinee with a first pitch of around 2:20 p.m. ET and on the MLB Network.

NL Central-leading Milwaukee, which is an outstanding +934 on MLB betting units this season, is at a bit of a disadvantage here in that it had to fly back from San Diego on Thursday evening after winning the final three games of that four-game set Thursday, 4-2. The Brewers are without All-Star outfielder Ryan Braun, who is on the disabled list with a calf strain. It’s not clear if slugging first baseman Eric Thames, a leading NL Comeback Player of the Year candidate, will start Friday. Thames, who is hitting .313 with 13 homers and 25 RBIs, didn’t start one game in the Padres series due to strep throat but did pinch-hit Thursday so that would seem to be an indication he might return Friday.

It might surprise you to know that Milwaukee is Top 5 in baseball in runs. Braun was hitting well when he went down. Thames has been great. Then there’s second baseman Eric Sogard. He was only called up from Triple-A about a week ago and is raking. Sogard was 4-for-4 on Thursday, his second 4-for-4 game already. He’s 10-for-17 with two homers and seven RBIs. Sogard was a non-descript player with Oakland from 2010-15 and didn’t play in the majors last year (knee surgery).

There was all this panic around the Cubs as entering this week the defending World Series champions were one game under .500. However, hosting the Reds solved most everything as the Cubs swept Cincinnati by a combined score of 25-15 following Thursday’s 9-5 win. Javier Baez hit a grand slam.  He is 3-for-14 with the bases loaded in his career, and all are slams.

The Cubs remain without outfielder Jason Heyward, who is on the DL with a hand issue, but he could return this weekend. Frankly, the team hasn’t missed him thanks to star rookie Ian Happ. He’s hitting .353 with two homers, four RBIs and a .500 on-base percentage in five games. Happ is hitting so well that there’s no way the Cubs can send him back down when Heyward is activated. Happ is like Ben Zobrist in that he can play almost anywhere. He has started each position in the outfield thus far.

Chicago was won four of six vs. Milwaukee thus far. The Cubs took two of three at Wrigley from April 17-19. Thames is 8-for-17 vs. Cubs pitching with a homer and eight runs scored. Braun was 7-for-16 with two homers and six RBIs. Kris Bryant is 10-for-26 vs. the Brewers with five RBIs. Kyle Schwarber is just 5-for-26 with 10 strikeouts but has homered twice.


Friday’s Probable Pitchers

Milwaukee was scheduled to start Wily Peralta, but Manager Craig Counsell announced Thursday that he was shifting the struggling right-hander to the bullpen. Peralta is 4-2 in eight starts, but he has a 6.08 ERA. He has thrown one inning of relief in his career.

Friday’s start goes to 30-year-old career minor-league Paolo Espino, whom the Brewers signed to minor-league deal this past offseason. Espino has bounced around several organizations but never made it to the Show until now. The Panama native was 4-0 with a 2.54 ERA and 40 strikeouts in seven starts at Triple-A Colorado Springs this season. He was scheduled to start Wednesday there but scratched in anticipation of this move. A 10th-round draft choice of Cleveland in 2006, Espino has pitched 291 games in the minors, with 191 starts.

It’s only the second start in a Cubs uniform for Eddie Butler, once a touted prospect with the Colorado Rockies. Chicago is in dire need of a No. 5 starter with the injury to Brett Anderson. Butler was given first crack at it last Friday and was terrific in St. Louis, throwing six shutout innings and allowing only two hits in the victory. Butler compiled a 1.17 ERA in five Triple-A starts before being called up. He may have simply needed to get out of Colorado as Butler had a 6-16 record with the Rockies and a 6.50 ERA. Just a few Brewers have ever faced him.


Why The Pick

Always a challenge handicapping a guy who has never thrown a pitch in the majors before – I expect major butterflies -- as well as a reclamation project making only his second outing with a new team. However, the Cubs didn’t have to travel Thursday, don’t have to deal with Braun and maybe not Thames, either. Also, Milwaukee closer Corey Knebel has been used the past two days so likely is unavailable. The Brewers are 8-20 in their past 28 at Wrigley, so Chicago is the MLB pick.

Free MLB Pick: Cubs -155Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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