Rival Cubs, Brewers set for key rubber match

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Emotions could run high once again as the Chicago Cubs and visiting Milwaukee Brewers square off in the rubber match of a season-opening, three-game series Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs and Brewers have intensified their rivalry during the past few seasons, with both teams competing at or near the top of the National League Central. Neither team appears willing to back down, not even during a pandemic, as cameras showed players shouting at each other from opposite dugouts during Saturday’s contest.

Umpires spoke with both managers between innings, which put an end to the jawing, at least for now.

“I think that was expected,” Cubs first-year manager David Ross told reporters afterward. “I don’t know if Major League Baseball saw it coming, but if you’re in the dugout in this environment, you’re going to expect some of that when you can hear everything that everybody says. That’s going to spark some intensity. The umpires can hear it, as well. … That’s to be expected in a season like this, in this environment.”

The teams split the series’ first two games, with the Cubs holding on for a 3-0 win on Friday and the Brewers pulling away for an 8-3 win on Saturday. The matchup was similarly even a year ago, when Milwaukee posted a narrow 10-9 series edge over its neighbor to the south.

Right-hander Freddy Peralta is set to make his first start of the season for the Brewers. The 24-year-old went 7-3 with a 5.29 ERA in 39 games (eight starts) with Milwaukee in 2019.

This will be Peralta’s first career start against the Cubs. He has faced Chicago three times in relief, going 1-0 with a 5.79 ERA after giving up three runs on five hits in 4 2/3 innings.

After spring training shut down, Peralta said, he decided to stay in Phoenix to work on his pitching skills.

“Right next to the apartment, we had a little field,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I was having practice there and doing my stuff, and I had some things I could use to work on a little bit.”

The Cubs will counter with right-hander Tyler Chatwood, who went 5-3 with a 3.76 ERA in 38 games (five starts) last season. The 30-year-old is seeking his 50th career victory.

In 12 career games (six starts) against Milwaukee, Chatwood is 4-3 with a 2.91 ERA. He was particularly strong against the Brewers in 2019, limiting them to two runs in 14 1/3 innings for a 1.26 ERA.

Ross said he likely would lean on his bullpen as Chatwood and others adjusted to a full workload.

“We’ve got a lot of arms down there right now,” Ross said. “You want to get guys some action. You don’t want them sitting for too long. Get in there, let them get back into battle, let them get that heart rate up a little bit, get used to the environment against another group when it counts.

“You need these guys, especially early on when you don’t want to stretch out your starters too far and tax them on in this shortened season. That is a delicate balance that I’ve got to manage.”

–Field Level Media

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