It's the Brew Crew vs. Lou's Crew
Originally Published: July 28, 2008By Phil Rogers | Special to ESPN.com
Calendars don't lie. It is only July, with the trade deadline looming on the horizon. The baseball season remains full of an endless array of possibilities.But if you pay attention only to the standings and the sense of anticipation on the western shores of Lake Michigan, you would think it was September. That's certainly the feeling you would probably get if you were in the vicinity of Miller Park this week, watching people mingle around in search of tickets to view a battle of true heavyweights in the National League Central. It's the Brew Crew versus the Lou Crew, four games in four days, for the right not to pay more than passing attention to the wild-card standings. Truly, that's all that is on the line. But in Milwaukee, where fans had suffered through 14 consecutive seasons without a winning record before owner Mark Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin tapped into baseball's soaring national revenues to construct a contender, the end-of-July series between the Brewers and Lou Piniella's Cubs is the most anticipated series since a late-season visit by the Yankees in 1982. Ticket scalpers are asking $150 for outfield bleacher seats and more than $1,000 for ones behind home plate, a price they just might get because they aren't just selling to Brewers' fans. Thousands of fans make their way up Interstate 94 every time the Cubs play at Miller Park, often finding it easier to get tickets there than at Wrigley Field. That won't be the case this time, however. Not with the Cubs and Brewers a combined 32 games above .500. Not with CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets, Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden all scheduled to make starts, including the showpiece matchup of Zambrano versus Sheets on Tuesday. Not with the Brewers having caught fire since trading for Sabathia. Melvin beat a crowd of pursuers to the reigning American League Cy Young winner, getting Sabathia from Cleveland on July 7. The Brewers have gone 11-5 with him in uniform, including a 4-0 record in his starts. In a season in which home teams have been dominating, Milwaukee went 7-0 on a trip to San Francisco and St. Louis last week, sending the Cardinals reeling. "Right now, our confidence level is at an all-time high,'' Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun said. In an immediate sense, the Cubs can't say the same thing. They head into this week's series having gone 4-6 since the All-Star break, with a road record of 22-30. But under Piniella and ultra-aggressive GM Jim Hendry, they've had a .579 winning percentage since hitting stride in June 2007. Their overall strength, bolstered by Hendry's gamble on the high-risk, high-reward Harden, suggests they have a legitimate shot to end their 100-year World Series title drought. In the eyes of the fans and many players, the year will be incomplete if the Cubs don't win a championship.
Sabathia in 2008