The Chicago Cubs are off to a 2-1 start to the 2021 season after winning their first three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on MLB’s opening weekend.
They’ll now shift their focus to another NL Central opponent as the Milwaukee Brewers visit Wrigley Field for a three-game set. The Brewers began the season by dropping two of three to the Minnesota Twins over the weekend.
The weather is heating up and so is baseball season, so let’s dive right into a preview of the Cubs vs. Brewers three-game series at the Friendly Confines.
Game 1: Trevor Williams vs. Brett Anderson
Trevor Williams will make his Cubs debut in front of the home crowd, but he is already familiar with facing the Brewers due to spending the beginning of his career with the Pirates. The key to success for Williams will be limiting the damage against the middle of the Brewers lineup. Williams has typical lefty/righty splits, so keeping Christian Yelich and Kolten Wong off the bases is going to be crucial for him. Sporting a career groundball rate of 42.3%, Williams can benefit immensely from the Cubs outstanding infield defense if that trend continues.
As for Brett Anderson, the Cubs do not like him and he does not like the Cubs. He was a brief member of the organization in 2017 and it did not go well, to say the least. He joined the Brewers in 2020, so several current Cubs players have faced him. In 2020, Anderson faced the Cubs once and finished with a final line of 4.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 5 K. He touts somewhat reverse splits — lefty bats have a .291 average against him and righties hit .268. Don’t be surprised to see a struggling Joc Pederson, who is still seeking his first hit of 2021, get another chance against a left-handed hurler. If Pederson or Jason Heyward were to get the day off against a lefty, Jake Marisnick would likely fill in.
Game 2: Adbert Alzolay vs. Freddy Peralta
2021 marks the first time Adbert Alzolay has made the Opening Day roster, and his relationship with Jake Arrieta seems to be quite strong. Arrieta has taken him in and Alzolay was even seen taking notes during Arrieta’s start on Saturday. Honestly, we don’t know much about Alzolay yet, but from what we’ve seen he has strong poise on the mound and plus breaking pitches.
Freddy Peralta has pitched both out of the bullpen and in the rotation for the Brewers during his young career. He is a hard thrower and strikeout pitcher. In a two-inning appearance already in 2021, he struck out six batters. Peralta carries a career K/9 of 12.21 and his arsenal consists mostly of fastballs (52.8%) and sliders, but he mixes in a changeup and curveball occasionally. He has dominating stuff but has yet to stick as a starting pitcher. Don’t be surprised to see him used for only one time through the order, two times maximum.
Game 3: Kyle Hendricks vs. Brandon Woodruff
The rotation will flip over for both teams as they go back to their respective aces in the series finale. Both Kyle Hendricks and Brandon Woodruff are coming off underwhelming Opening Day starts. Hendricks only lasted three innings and gave up three runs with an uncharacteristic three walks, while Woodruff also gave up three runs over his four innings of work.
Hendricks should feel much better on the mound this time with the weather warming up. His Opening Day start was a cold and windy day in Chicago and he never appeared comfortable during his short outing. Hendriks has enjoyed great success against the Brewers in his career, so let’s see if he can get back on track against a division rival.
Woodruff appeared out of nowhere a few years ago and has been absolutely dominant for the Brewers. The hard-throwing righty will have no problem striking out the very K-friendly Cubs. Woodruff keeps the ball in the ballpark (0.95 HR/9) and typically doesn’t allow many free passes (2.47 BB/9). It will be important for Cubs hitters to limit strikeouts against him and continue to create runs on the basepaths as they did in the first series against the Pirates.
The Cubs and Brewers get underway at 6:40 PM CT on Monday in the first night game of the season at Wrigley Field. Tuesday’s contest will begin at the same time before a 1:20 PM CT first pitch in the series finale on Wednesday.
Stay up to date on the Cubs all season by tuning in to the Cubs On Tap podcast for postgame shows plus additional analysis and commentary.