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Chicago Cubs return home for key series with fast-closing Milwaukee Brewers

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Chicago Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber (12) hits a solo home run in the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 19 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI

By Jeff Arnold, The Sports Xchange
CHICAGO

The Chicago Cubs had hoped to use the past four days to maintain or pad their lead in the National League Central, but the weather certainly didn't cooperate.

Heading into a pivotal three-game series against the second-place Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs will attempt to again create some distance. The series opens a day after Chicago's scheduled series finale against the Washington Nationals was washed out by rain, which was a constant throughout the weekend.

The Cubs will attempt to bounce back after being swept in a Saturday doubleheader that was forced after Friday's scheduled game was rained out as well.

"The bright side is just getting through (the weekend)," Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters Sunday, according to the Chicago Tribune. "We've done really well through this stretch. I've been really pleased with it and it's not easy to do what we've been doing over the past couple of weeks and how well we've actually played."

Despite losing their past two games, the Cubs are 4-4 in their last eight games, which had allowed the Cubs to maintain their cushion over the Brewers. But the margin has been trimmed to two games after Milwaukee completed a three-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants on Sunday with a 6-3 victory.

The Brewers will enter Monday's series opener having won eight of their past 10 games and captured two of three from the Cubs last week. Now, with the Cubs within reach, the Brewers head to Chicago with the front-runners in their sights.

"Something we've been talking about (is) 'Don't think about the wild card -- think about the division," said Brewers pitcher Jhoulys Chacin, who will take the mound Tuesday. "We have the chance this week. It feels really important now."

Jon Lester will take the mound as the Cubs attempt to get back on a winning track after the wet weekend in Washington.

Lester (15-5, 3.53 ERA) has won three of his past four starts but hasn't pitched since Sept. 2. Lester threw six scoreless innings in his last outing against the Philadelphia Phillies when he scattered six hits and struck out seven.

Lester was scheduled to pitch Friday, but when the game was rained out, it allowed the Cubs ace to open the series against Milwaukee on Monday rather than pitch Wednesday's series finale.

Lester is 4-2 with a 2.40 ERA in seven career starts against the Brewers.

Milwaukee will counter with Wade Miley (3-2, 2.12) as the Brewers attempt to continue to close the gap. Miley has won just won of his six previous starts but shut down the Cubs last week when he allowed just one earned run in six innings while allowing just three hits and striking out five.

Miley is 5-2 with a 4.13 ERA in eight career starts against the Cubs.

Miley has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his 12 starts with the Brewers and, like the rest of his teammates, believe that catching the Cubs and capturing the division title is well within reach.

"Why wouldn't it be? Heck, yeah," Miley said after his last start, according to the Brewers' official website. "I don't think you quit thinking about it until you can't think about it no more. I think that's the way to go about it."

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Sports - U.S. Daily News: Chicago Cubs return home for key series with fast-closing Milwaukee Brewers
Chicago Cubs return home for key series with fast-closing Milwaukee Brewers
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