Chicago Cubs

LIVE: Wells, Cubs trailing Brewers early on CSN

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LIVE: Wells, Cubs trailing Brewers early on CSN

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011
Posted: 9:05 a.m.

READ: Post-surgery, Wood will only pitch for CubsREAD: What Ricketts wants out of next GMFOLLOW: Patrick Mooney on Twitter

(AP) -- The Milwaukee Brewers are trying to get closer to an NL Central title, but they'll need to end some recent struggles at Wrigley Field.

Shaun Marcum has his own rough stretch to overcome.

Marcum will try to avoid losing a third consecutive start for the first time in his career Tuesday night as the Brewers look to regain some momentum in the middle game of their series with the Chicago Cubs.

Milwaukee (90-64) leads the Central by 5 12 games on second-place St. Louis with eight games remaining, giving the club a magic number of four to clinch its first division title since winning the AL East in 1982.

The Brewers failed to reduce their magic number Monday, falling 5-2 to the Cubs (68-86) to lose for the fourth time in their last five games at Wrigley.

"You're still just trying to take it game by game," said Chris Narveson, who started and took the loss in the series opener. "Magic numbers don't mean anything until you clinch."

Marcum (12-7, 3.40 ERA) will make his third attempt at matching his career-best win total from last year with Toronto. He's won just one of his last five starts, losing the last two while surrendering 11 runs and 17 hits, including three homers, in 11 2-3 innings.

The right-hander allowed six runs and two of the homers in five innings of a 6-2 loss to Colorado on Wednesday.

Marcum has never lost three straight starts in his career, but did suffer three consecutive defeats over four outings as a rookie with the Blue Jays in 2006.

He was solid in his only career meeting with the Cubs on July 28, giving up two runs in six innings of a 4-2 home victory.

Ryan Braun is trying to rebound from his 0-for-4 effort Monday. He's a .374 lifetime hitter at Wrigley Field, and is 10 for 24 with two doubles and a homer off Randy Wells, Tuesday's scheduled starter for Chicago.

Braun is making a bid to become the first Brewer to win the NL batting crown, hitting .333 to rank just ahead of New York's Jose Reyes at .331.

The Cubs have won six of eight at home after ending a six-game losing streak to Milwaukee in the opener of this series.

Geovany Soto connected for a pair of two-run homers Monday and finished with three hits and five RBIs Monday. He has three career multi-homer games - all against the Brewers.

Soto's 15 homers and 37 RBIs versus Milwaukee are his highest totals against any opponent.

"I heard about that, but I think it's maybe because we play against them so much," he said. "I got a lot of opportunities against the division."

Starlin Castro singled Monday, increasing his league-leading hit total to 196. The 21-year-old shortstop is trying to become the youngest Cub to reach 200 in a season and the first of any age since Juan Pierre had 204 hits in 2006. Castro is also attempting to reach base safely for a 33rd straight game, which would be the longest such streak for Chicago since Jerome Walton had a 43-game run July 21-Sept. 4, 1989.

Wells (7-4, 4.93) is 5-0 with a 3.57 ERA in his last nine starts, but his last loss was a 4-2 defeat at Milwaukee on July 27, when he allowed four runs over six innings.

The right-hander turned in a subpar outing Thursday, surrendering five runs and seven hits - two homers - in 4 1-3 innings but not getting a decision in the Cubs' 8-6, 11-inning loss at Cincinnati.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Breaking down how Cubs look at the Justin Verlander situation

Breaking down how Cubs look at the Justin Verlander situation

Theo Epstein’s embrace-debate management style means the Cubs are constantly running through different scenarios, trying to balance their win-now urges against what should be a very bright future in Wrigleyville.

The financials, the human intelligence and the analytics are all factored into the equation, which leads to this question for Epstein’s cabinet: Is there a point where the Detroit Tigers kick in enough money and the prospect cost becomes so low that Justin Verlander makes sense for the Cubs?

The Cubs haven’t definitively answered that question yet or completely ruled out the idea, a team source said Tuesday, cautioning that the defending World Series champs are still more likely to add a reliever before the July 31 trade deadline than acquire a frontline starting pitcher.

“Always looking to make the team better,” manager Joe Maddon said before a 7-2 win over the White Sox kept the Cubs in a virtual first-place tie with the Milwaukee Brewers. “Always. That’s what a GM and a president does. But I like our guys.”  

Verlander would obviously benefit from a move to the National League and feel energized in a pennant race. The Cubs could rationalize this as an immediate boost and a long-range solution while preparing for a 2018 rotation without Jake Arrieta and John Lackey.

Imagine the buzz from Kate Upton’s fiancée walking into the clubhouse and making his first start at Wrigley Field in a Cubs uniform. Verlander and Upton have been spotted enough times at Chicago Cut Steakhouse that his no-trade power might be the easiest hurdle to clear in a deal of this magnitude.

Verlander’s overall numbers are ordinary this season (5-7, 4.50 ERA, 1.444 WHIP), but trending in the right direction. The Cubs would go into it knowing that they wouldn’t get the same guy who won 24 games and American League MVP and Cy Young awards in 2011.

The Tigers also can’t just give away a franchise icon who finished second in last year’s AL Cy Young voting and has a 3.39 ERA in 16 career playoff starts

The Cubs are trying to see around corners and anticipate what the team will look like in 2018 and 2019 – when Verlander will make $28 million guaranteed each season – and what might be available in trades and on the free-agent market during those transaction cycles. Verlander is also owed the balance of his $28 million salary this season and has a $22 million vesting option for 2020.

Even if the Tigers pay down some of that commitment, that’s still a ton of exposure with a guy who has roughly 2,500 innings on his odometer and will be 35 years old around the time pitchers and catchers report to spring training next season. That’s also when the Cubs will begin the second half of Jon Lester’s $155 million megadeal – for his age-34, -35 and -36 seasons.

After stunning the baseball world with that blockbuster White Sox trade during the All-Star break, Epstein talked about how Jose Quintana’s reasonable contract – $8.85 million next season plus team options for 2019 and 2020 worth $22 million combined – creates room for another star player.

As great as Verlander has been throughout his career, are the Cubs really ready to pour that money back into a player who was born in 1983? And meet Detroit’s asking price in terms of prospects?

And go against the buy-low philosophy that attracted the Cubs to Arrieta, as well as the ageism that makes them reluctant to reinvest in their own Cy Young Award winner? And potentially close off opportunities to sign free agents from the monster class coming after the 2018 season?

Probably not, but the Cubs haven’t shut down the Verlander discussion yet.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs even up Crosstown Series with White Sox

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs even up Crosstown Series with White Sox

Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Jordan Bernfield (ESPN) and Mark Potash (Chicago Sun-Times) join Kap to talk Game 2 of the Crosstown Series.

Later, the group previews Bears camp and what's going on with the Cavaliers.

Check out the SportsTalk Live Podcast below: