It's a division rivalry in the truest sense of the words, a collision of two teams closely matched in geography and in the standings. When the Cubs and Brewers meet each other in Friday's series opener, they'll be celebrating the start of a new season and a shared destiny, a sense that either team will have to beat the other to have a successful year.
The Cubs haven't lost the season series to Milwaukee since 2005, and they've gone 45-34 against the Brewers over the last five years. Chicago had been 3-2 before Wednesday's loss, and that's only noteworthy because the Cubs hadn't been over .500 since the end of the 2009 season. The Cubs were at .500 four times in 2010 but never pushed to a winning record.
Now they find themselves with a chance to push ahead again, with only one of their closest rivals standing in the way. The Cubs took nine of 15 games from the Brewers last season and have gone 93-82 in this series in the last 10 years. Still, if you ask around the Chicago clubhouse, you'll find that the individual Cubs have a lot of respect for the Brewers.
"That whole staff, that whole lineup, that team -- top to bottom, new manager -- they have energy over there," said Chicago outfielder Marlon Byrd. "You have to go up there and play hard. We need to keep doing what we're doing: pitching, defense and get some timely hitting. It's going to be a long road trip, and we need to come back with a winning record."
Indeed, the Cubs will play nine games in a 10-day trip to Milwaukee, Houston and Colorado before they return to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. All six of Chicago's games this season have been decided by three runs or fewer, and they'll go into Friday's series opener with a matchup of veteran starters in Carlos Zambrano and Randy Wolf.
Zambrano is 13-8 with a 3.66 career ERA against the Brewers, and he went 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in this series last year. But the Cubs hope he's fully recovered from the right hand and hamstring cramps that forced his exit in the seventh inning of his first start this season.
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