Chicago Cubs vs Milwaukee Brewers series preview

MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 01: Corey Knebel /

On Thursday, the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers will kick off a crucial four-game series in Milwaukee. With the Cubs leading the Brewers by 3.5 games coming into the week, this series may decide who wins the NL Central.

It all comes down to this. With just two weeks remaining in the 2017 MLB regular season, the race for the NL Central is down to two teams- the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers. A series win or sweep can decide or intensify the race for first place.

Both teams’ paths to this point have been polar opposites. The Cubs came into 2017 with sky-high expectations, as they were fully expected to be one of the MLB’s top teams. The Brewers were expected to finish under .500 and were not at all viewed as a contender before the season. But here they both are, with the postseason on the line.

The season series between the two teams have been pretty even. The Brewers have won 8 of 15, despite chasing the Cubs for most of the season. This is the last time the Cubs and Brewers will meet during the regular season, further emphasizing the outcome of the series.

Neither teams have announced a single probable starter for any game of the series. There’s likely no meaning behind this, as the series is too crucial for any debuts or surprise starts. Both teams have had issues with consistent starting pitching this season, an area of the game which might just define the outcome of this series.

Players to Watch:

Chase Anderson 

With Jimmy Nelson out for the season and the Brewers lack of a true ace, Chase Anderson needs to have a huge final two weeks. Anderson has had a great season to this point, pitching to a 10-3 record with a 2.83 ERA. Although probable starters haven’t been announced yet, Anderson lines up to start on Sunday. If the Brewers are going for a series win or sweep, Andersons start could be the biggest of the season.

Jake Arrieta

Jake Arrieta hasn’t made a start since September fourth due to a hamstring injury. After a bullpen session Tuesday, the righty is reportedly ready to make his return on Thursday. It’s unknown whether Arrieta will have any sort of limit on Thursday, but it’s still a big start regardless. With a winning start from Arrieta, the Cubs can set the tone for the remainder of the series with a win in game one.

Corey Knebel

Corey Knebel has been the Brewers biggest surprise this season, and quite possible thier best player. Knebel, The Crew’s only All-Star, has saved 36 games with a stunning 1.30 ERA. This series expects to be a closely contested one, with the potential for a few save chances for Knebel. Knebel will need to save any opportunity that he gets if the Brewers want a magnifying series win.

Addison Russell

Addison Russell had been out since August 3rd with a foot injury before returning on Sunday. Russell made an immediate impact, blasting a solo bomb in his first game back. Russell has been and must continue to be a huge boost for the Cubs lineup. If Russell can come through with hits in big at-bats, the Chicago Cubs will have a great chance to win.

Next: Albert Almora should get more playing time soon

All in all, the winner of this series (especially if it’s a sweep) has a better chance of finishing in first than the other. If the series ends up being as closely matched and competitive as thought, we’re in for a true showdown this weekend. It goes without saying, but this series is the biggest of the season for the Chicago Cubs.