Two pitchers coming off their strongest efforts of the season will face off Thursday afternoon when the Cubs finish their three-game series against the Brewers at Miller Park.
Milwaukee's Wily Peralta and Chicago's Matt Garza both turned in strong performances Friday, although they find themselves in much different situations. While the 24-year-old Peralta is trying to establish himself as a long-term fixture in the Brewers' rotation, Garza's days in a Cubs uniform could be numbered. The veteran will be one of the names most mentioned in rumors before the July 31 Trade Deadline.
Garza is 2-1 with a 4.25 ERA in seven starts since coming off the disabled list on May 21. He set season-highs with eight innings and eight strikeouts in his last outing against the Astros, and has held opponents to one run over his past 15 innings.
"His fastball had life and [he had] command of it, down and away, and in," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said after Garza's last outing. "He got his ground balls. His slider got better as the game went on. He did a great job."
Peralta (5-8, 5.59 ERA) has struggled for much of the season, but not in his last start. He tossed seven scoreless innings against the Braves, giving up two hits and four walks while striking out four. It was the first time this year he has held the opposition to fewer than two runs.
"This is the guy that we hope we see," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "With having great stuff, if you're throwing it over the plate, you've got a really good chance. He made some really big pitches today."
Peralta will try to continue Milwaukee's strong play against its division foe to the south. The Brewers have taken five of seven in the season series, although a loss on Wednesday brought the teams back into a tie for fourth place in the National League Central.
"We haven't played well against them at all. We've had some of our worst games against them," Sveum said. "Even though our records were exactly the same as of [Tuesday], we've struggled to keep their offense intact. We've pitched pretty well against some other teams, but for some reason, we haven't matched up too well against them."
This despite the fact that the Cubs haven't seen the Brewers at full strength. Milwaukee missed Aramis Ramirez in the teams' previous series, and now they're without Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez.
"They have a pretty nice supporting cast," Sveum said. "Even Gomez was out [Tuesday], and they put up eight or nine runs. [Jean] Segura is the best shortstop in baseball right now, does it all. I've seen [Caleb] Gindl play and thought he'd be a really good Major League player. [Logan] Schafer has done a good job. Scooter Gennett is up here now, and I've seen him play and know he can hit. They've always been able to produce hitters in that organization."
Brewers: Gomez on comeback trail
Gomez has made significant progress since suffering a left shoulder strain Sunday. He said he would be available off the bench Wednesday and sounded optimistic about playing Thursday, although Roenicke wants to wait and see how Gomez feels before the series finale.
"The day it happened to now, I move forward," Gomez said. "Nothing set back, so I feel good."
Gomez took 30-40 dry swings in the batting cage before Wednesday's game, and Roenicke said he might take batting practice Thursday.
"The offensive part, we'll see how it goes and how much we need him," Roenicke said.
Cubs: Sveum impressed with Segura
Segura has been one of the breakout stars of the 2013 season, hitting .333 with 11 home runs, 24 stolen bases and an .891 OPS. Sveum has taken notice of the 23-year-old's diverse set of skills.
"Right now, he's the best in the game," Sveum said. "It's a combination of everything -- the speed, the ability to steal bases, the range, he's able to slow the game down on defense. Obviously, his hitting has gotten to another level in the short amount of time he's been in the big leagues. To do what he's doing is pretty impressive. He's the full package right now and probably the best shortstop in baseball."
• Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro went 2-for-5 with a run scored Wednesday after getting a rare day off on Tuesday. It was his third multihit game since May 27.
• Garza, with a 4.32 ERA in three career starts at Miller Park, will face the Brewers for the first time this season.
• Peralta started twice against the Cubs in April and gave up two earned runs over 6 2/3 innings in both games. He struck out eight.