The Free Play: Five things to know about the Brewers’ homestand against the Cubs and White Sox

By Jalen Maki

It was a pretty dang good week for Brewer fans.

Milwaukee won three of a four-game series against the Cubs that started on Memorial Day, and they followed it up by sweeping the White Sox in a three-game series over the weekend.

Here are five things to know about the Brewers’ homestand against MLB’s Chicago squads.

The Crew has some breathing room atop the NL Central

As of Sunday night, the 36-23 Brewers had won five in a row and held a seven-game lead over the second-place St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central. The Cubs sat seven-and-a-half games off the division lead in third place, and the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds rounded out the Central at nine and 10 games back, respectively.

I gotta admit that I’m a little worried about the Cardinals. After a rough start to their season, the Cards were winners of eight of their last 11 games as of Sunday, largely because it looks like they might’ve gotten their bats figured out. Personally, I’d prefer not to see guys like Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt heat up, and if Sonny Gray (3.00 ERA, 45 hits, 77 Ks), stays the course, St. Louis could be trouble going forward.

Milwaukee currently has a 6-1 record over St. Louis in the season series. Cardinals fans champing at the bit for some revenge will have to wait a while: the two teams don’t face each other again until late August.

Meanwhile, it’s been a rough go of it for the Cubbies as of late. As of Sunday, Chicago had dropped nine of their last 11 games, including two to St. Louis, three to Milwaukee and two to the Reds. You won’t hear me complaining about the Cubs hitting a skid, especially with the Cardinals surging.

The Cubs had the opportunity to right the ship this week – after a two-game series at home against the league-worst White Sox Tuesday and Wednesday, the Cubs will head to Cincinnati to take on the Reds in a four-game series that could impact division standings for both teams.

Counsell’s return to Milwaukee was not a warm one

On Memorial Day, in his first game back at American Family Field since jumping ship for the Cubs last November, former Brewers manager Craig Counsell was honored with a brief video shown on the (absolutely colossal) new centerfield scoreboard.

While the clip was a tip-of-the-cap to Brewers’ all-time-winningest skipper, the sellout crowd of just fewer than 42,000 wasn’t feeling quite as sentimental. A chorus of boos rained down not only during the tribute video, but also when Counsell was introduced in the starting lineup and each time Counsell took the field for the rest of the game (and the rest of the series).

I’ll always have a soft spot for Couns’, since he was involved in some of the best baseball memories of my life, but I can’t say I expected him to have a warm reception. Had he ended up with the New York Mets or the Cleveland Guardians as had been rumored, he might’ve been welcomed back to Milwaukee with (relatively) open arms. But, you can’t join a division rival and expect the welcome wagon. Brett Favre could tell you that.

Bobby Gas might be That Dude

The Brewers’ Robert Gasser got the start in the first game of the Cubs series, and the man was absolutely superb.

In just his fourth career start, Bobby Gas struck out seven with no walks through six innings. Gasser gave up only three hits, with two of them coming at the top of the seventh inning, before he was pulled for reliever Bryan Hudson.

As of the end of the game, Gasser, boasting a 1.96 ERA, was one of three Brewers pitchers in the last four decades to have an ERA below 2.0 in their first four starts. The other two are a couple dudes you might’ve heard of: Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta.

Hit parade

In Friday’s 12-5 win over the White Sox, the Brewers logged 23 hits – the most in a single game in the Majors up to that point.

Leading the charge was Christian Yelich, who had five RBIS in his fifth five-hit game of his career (that’s a lot of fives). Brice Turang, William Contreras, and Sal Frelick each contributed three hits, and Jake Bauers, Rhys Hoskins, Joey Ortiz, and Blake Perkins had a pair of hits apiece. The only Brewer in the lineup without a hit was Willy Adames, who drew two walks and scored a run.

An interesting tidbit: the Crew’s offensive explosion featured no home runs.

No rest for Contreras or Adames

Those who checked the Brewers’ lineup on Sunday morning might’ve noticed the absence of a pair of everyday guys.

Originally, manager Pat Murphy gave William Contreras and Willy Adames the day off, but that plan didn’t stick for long. The two went to the skipper and were adamant that they wanted to play, and Murph obliged, tweaking the lineup to bring the veterans back into the fold.

On paper, the move might’ve looked like it didn’t have much of an impact on the game – William and Willy went just 1-7 at the plate combined. However, one of Contreras’ outs included White Sox centerfielder Dominic Fletcher’s robbery of what would’ve been a three-run bomb in the seventh inning, and Adames just missed a long ball of his own in the third after it hooked foul. Willy’s base knock in the eighth led to a pair of runs coming across the plate, which helped the Crew seal the sweep.

What’s on deck

Following the stellar homestand, the Brewers have some needed momentum heading into their road trip this week.

The Crew will start a three-game series against the NL-leading Philadelphia Phillies on Monday. On Friday, the Brewers will kick off a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers.

Jalen’s columns, “The Free Play” and “Movies You Gotta See,” can be found online at

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