Forget Ali/Frazier, this week will pit a true 4-round heavyweight bout as the Chicago Cubs will travel 90 miles north to square off against their divisional rivals, the Milwaukee Brewers.
There's no question that this will be the biggest NL Central match up thus far in the 2008 MLB campaign. The Cubs pulled ahead into first place Sunday, coming back in dramatic-fashion to defeat Florida 9-6, while Milwaukee fell to Houston 11-6.
Here's a preview of the upcoming 4 game series.
Monday, July 28th
Ted Lilly (9-6) vs CC Sabathia (10-8)
No better way for Milwaukee to begin the series than with their newly-acquired ace Sabathia, who has been simply remarkable since coming to Milwaukee. Lilly and company will have their hands full, but keep an eye on Milwaukee's middle-relief this entire series. CC has completed 2 of his 3 starts thus far, so you have to wonder if Ned Yost will allow Sabathia to eat up too many innings.
Tuesday, July 29th
Carlos Zambrano (11-4) vs Ben Sheets (10-3)
Easily the best match up of the series, both teams send their All-Star aces. A potential NLCS match-up preview, both Zambrano and Sheets have ERAs under 3 in over 130 IP's so far in 2008. Sheets is 1-0 in 2 starts against Chicago, allowing only 5 hits in 11 IPs, striking out 9 while Zambrano is 0-0 with a minuscule 0.69 ERA in 13 IPs. Don't expect much offense here.
Wednesday, July 30th
Ryan Dempster (11-4) vs Manny Parra (9-3)
With the exception of Lilly, Parra is the only starting pitcher to have less than 10 victories in the first 3 games of this series. Dempster isn't too fond of pitching away from Wrigley, going 1-3 in 9 games started this season, despite a 3.42 ERA. Parra has truly flown under the radar this season, going 9-3 with an impressive 3.72 ERA, striking out 92 in 113 IPs.
Thursday, July 31st
Rich Harden (5-2) vs Dave Bush (5-8)
The finale seems to set up nicely for Chicago, as Rich Harden looks to continue his high strikeout rate, having struck out 10 batters in each of his first 3 outings as a Cub. Despite a 5-8 record, Bush has pitched well at home, going 4-2 with a solid 2.49 ERA.
You could argue that 7 of the top 15-20 NL starters will pitch in this series. It should certainly be exciting to watch, and although it's only the last week in July, the Chase for the NL Central crown could certainly change this coming week.
As always, Go Cubs Go!