The Milwaukee Brewers will leave Chicago with at least a series victory following Saturday’s 15-2 drubbing of the Cubs, but that success will have come at a cost.
Ace right-hander Jimmy Nelson will miss the remainder of the 2017 season after suffering a right rotator cuff strain and partial anterior labrum tear while diving back into first base during Milwaukee’s 2-0 win Friday night. The 28-year-old has, statistically, been far and away the Brewers’ best player this year, totaling 4.9 WAR thanks to a 3.49 ERA and 3.03 FIP compiled over 29 starts (the Brewers’ next best player is third baseman Travis Shaw, who has 3 WAR).
“That’s a tough break for them,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s pretty much at the top of his game right now. Been watching that improve on an annual basis. They’re definitely gonna miss him.”
The Brewers, at least on Saturday, didn’t seem adversely affected by Nelson’s injury, battering Mike Montgomery and Justin Grimm during an eight-run third inning and cruising to a win that cut the Cubs’ lead in the National League Central to three games. Of course, the Brewers didn’t have to replace Nelson in their rotation on Saturday, but will next week — and how they handle having to start someone less likely to succeed than Nelson could be key in a close playoff race.
Maddon, though, wasn’t about to shovel dirt on the Brewers after they lost such a important piece to their playoff push.
“It could galvanize as much as it can be like ‘oh woe is us,’” Maddon said. “Sometimes it can be galvanizing, there’s no question. It depends on the replacement, who picks him up and if that guy fits in well. Long term … you look into the playoffs it can be much more difficult because he is that good. It’s hard to tell.
“They seem like they have a good thing going on over there in the clubhouse so I wouldn’t bet too heavily that its gonna have any kind of negative drag on them.”