After a spectacular performance in his first start of 2014, the Brewers are hoping for a repeat performance from Mike Fiers on Thursday afternoon as they look to split their four-game series with the Cubs.
Fiers, starting in place of the injured Matt Garza, allowed one run on three hits over eight innings in a win over the Dodgers. After a difficult 2013, Fiers couldn't have asked for a much better start to his Major League campaign in 2014.
"He's got a lot of deception," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "You saw tonight, most of his pitches are 90, 91 mph. There's a lot of 89s, but they all have a lot of life on them. When he's feeling good physically and mentally, that ball really comes out well. That's a good-hitting team. He threw a lot of fastballs that were getting by guys."
Fiers will face a Cubs lineup that has found some life as of late with the promotion of young players such as Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara and Kyle Hendricks. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said this is a good stretch for those young players because of the tough competition they'll be facing, such as the first-place Brewers.
"It's something we talked about with Javy," Hoyer said of Baez, promoted from Triple-A on Aug. 5. "You look at our schedule the rest of the way and there's only a handful of series where we're not facing contenders. Those guys are going to get a real indoctrination. They're not going to be facing another team who is out of the race. Everything we do the rest of the year will be against contenders."
How does Hoyer view the organization's progress?
"We're very satisfied with the way things have gone with our talent in the Minor Leagues. We're not even close to being satisfied with our record on the field."
Edwin Jackson will take the hill at Wrigley Field on Thursday, looking for his third straight quality start. He went six innings and allowed three earned runs against the Rays on Saturday.
Brewers: Gomez takes hands-on approach to protection
By Carlos Gomez's own count, nine of the Major League-leading 13 times he'd been hit by a pitch entering Wednesday, he was hit on the hands or wrists.
After being struck the night before on the right wrist, near the base of his thumb, Gomez wore a sleeve embedded with a protective plate into Wednesday's game against the Cubs.
"I've gotten lucky so far," Gomez said.
The free-swinging leadoff hitter also wears a protective guard on his left elbow, but his hands and wrists are often exposed because opposing pitchers pound him inside, and Gomez often begins to offer before recognizing the location and trying to get out of the way.
Cubs: Soler considered for September call-up
Hoyer said the front office is currently debating September call-ups and who will play in the Arizona Fall League. Triple-A Iowa outfielder Jorge Soler is one player being considered for both.
Soler, ranked No. 6 on MLB.com's list of top 20 Cubs prospects, was injured much of the first half of the season, but has been getting regular at-bats, and was batting .300 in 20 games.
"[Soler] has been playing great, and is locked in now, and great at-bats, great attitude, playing good defense," Hoyer said. "We have to decide if he's had enough at-bats or not."
• Cubs president Theo Epstein has received several requests to take part in the "Ice Bucket Challenge" for ALS awareness, and on Thursday, he's going to give fans a chance to dump water on him and some of the players. During Thursday's series finale between the Cubs and Brewers, fans will be asked to donate to the team's 50-50 raffle, with proceeds going to ALS research. The Cubs will determine who gets to dump the bucket of ice water on Epstein, which will take place after the game. Among those who have challenged Epstein is Blackhawks president John McDonough.
Caitlin Swieca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.