Brewers-Cubs Preview

The Chicago Cubs have been starting fast during their surge, frequently sending the opposing starting pitcher to the showers early.

Jason Hammel is coming off a short start of his own, but is in good position to bounce back.

The Cubs seek a 12th victory in 13 games Wednesday night when Hammel looks to improve to 8-0 against the visiting Milwaukee Brewers.

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Milwaukee rookie Taylor Jungmann was pulled with two outs in the third inning after throwing 81 pitches in Tuesday's series opener as Chicago eventually won 6-3. Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler each drove in two runs for the Cubs (63-48), who pulled within 2 1/2 games of wild card-leading Pittsburgh with a fifth straight win.

"It's contagious," said Rizzo, batting .405 with a 1.349 OPS and 15 RBIs in 11 games against the Brewers this season. "We just want to keep it going. Get the next guy up and have them take care of their business."

The Cubs are making a habit out of knocking out the opposing starter early, with each of the last eight going less than six innings and six lasting less than five. Opposing starters have a 7.68 ERA in the last eight.

It was Hammel, however, who got the quick hook Thursday against San Francisco.

With his team leading 5-2, Joe Maddon lifted Hammel (6-5, 3.17 ERA) after he walked the first two batters in the fifth inning. Hammel was none too pleased but smoothed things over with Maddon after the 5-4 win.

''As a competitor, I want to be out there and clean up my own mess," Hammel said.

Six days earlier in Milwaukee, Hammel gave up a run over 5 2-3 innings in a 4-1 win to improve to 7-0 in nine career starts against the Brewers. The right-hander has a 2.18 ERA in those games - easily his lowest ERA against any opponent.

Hammel has two of the three 7-0 or better records against a single opponent among active pitchers. He is also 9-0 against Washington while Edison Volquez is 7-0 versus the Cubs.

To no big surprise, Hammel has regularly shut down Ryan Braun (1 for 9), Jonathan Lucroy (1 for 8) and Adam Lind (2 for 9).

Braun is expected to return after sitting out Tuesday because of a back problem. He is batting .417 in seven home games against the Cubs this season but hitting .080 in his last seven at Wrigley Field.

The last-place Brewers (48-66) announced before the opener that Doug Melvin is moving into an advisory role after 13 years as general manager.

Matt Garza (6-12, 4.95) takes the ball looking to build on one of his best starts as he tries to avoid joining Philadelphia's Aaron Harang and teammate Kyle Lohse as the majors' only 13-game losers.

Pitching under the Wrigley lights may not help, however, as Garza is 1-8 with a 6.21 ERA in 11 starts at night.

Facing San Diego on Thursday afternoon, Garza yielded a run and two hits over seven innings in a 10-1 win. It marked just the third time this season the veteran righty lasted seven innings.

''When I'm healthy, it's a different story,'' said Garza, who was making his fourth start after a three-week stint on the disabled list.

Against the Cubs five days earlier, he permitted three runs - all on a Rizzo homer - and three other hits while walking four over six innings of a 4-2 loss. He has a 2.77 ERA in two 2015 starts against his former team, but this will be his first at Wrigley, where he posted an 8.10 ERA in losing a pair of outings last year.

Rizzo is 3 for 6 against Garza this season while Miguel Montero is hitting .421 in 19 career at-bats against him.