It's not the race for which they wished to be involved, but it's a tight one just the same as the Milwaukee Brewers and host Chicago Cubs battle to stay out of the National League Central cellar when they begin a three-game series Friday. The Brewers, who have a one-game edge in the race to avoid last place, snapped a five-game skid with a 9-3 win over first-place Pittsburgh on Wednesday. The Cubs avoided a sweep with a 9-7 win over Miami on Wednesday but have gone 10-22 since Aug. 1.
A big reason for the Cubs' last-place standing is their poor play against the division - they are 19-37 against NL Central foes and have fewer wins against their own division than any team in the majors. The Brewers have taken advantage, winning eight of 12 against the Cubs this season - and need just two wins in the final six meetings to clinch the season series for the third straight year. Chicago has lost 19 of its last 25 home games, including a three-game sweep by the Brewers from July 29-31.
TV: 2:20 p.m. ET, WGN
PITCHING MATCHUP: Brewers RH Kyle Lohse (9-8, 3.32 ERA) vs. Cubs LH Chris Rusin (2-3, 2.74)
Lohse has allowed more than three runs only once in his last nine starts, going 4-1 with a 2.60 ERA over that span. The 34-year-old has pitched well in two turns this year against the Cubs - the team that drafted him in 1996 - allowing three runs over seven innings in a win June 25 in Milwaukee and tossing six scoreless frames in a no-decision July 29 in Chicago. He is 5-4 with a 4.77 ERA in 18 career starts versus the Cubs but has won his last four decisions against them.
Rusin has made a strong bid for the 2014 rotation since being recalled in July, as he has allowed three runs or fewer in eight of his nine starts. Nonetheless, he is winless in his last four outings thanks to poor run support - the Cubs have scored four or fewer runs in all but one of his starts. The 26-year-old hasn't faced the Brewers this year, but he pitched well against them last season - allowing one run on one hit over five innings in a tough-luck loss.
1. Brewers SS Jean Segura, who leads the NL with 39 stolen bases, was held out of the lineup Wednesday because of illness. He is expected to return Friday.
2. Cubs SS Starlin Castro has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games, going 16-for-51 with four doubles, two homers and seven RBIs. Castro is 5-for-23 with no extra-base hits versus Lohse.
3. No one on the Brewers' active roster has recorded a hit against Rusin. The six players who have faced him are a combined 0-for-10.
PREDICTION: Brewers 4, Cubs 2