Brewers-Cubs Preview

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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs go for a four-game sweep of Milwaukee on Thursday as they send their ace right-hander against a rising Brewers star.

A revived Jake Arrieta (14-5, 2.55 ERA) seeks his third consecutive win since shaking out of a three-loss slump. He will oppose Milwaukee right-hander Zach Davies (9-5, 3.80 ERA).

Arrieta's focus remains on the big picture as the Cubs set their sights on the National League Central title and a lengthy postseason run.

"We know what we're capable of," Arrieta said following his last victory, a 13-2 decision over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. "Regardless of how many games you win the division by ... once you get to October, the slate's clean. That's the focus."

The Cubs (76-43) enter Thursday with a 12 1/2-game lead over second-place St. Louis, the defending division champ, and 13 1/2 games over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Arrieta faced the Brewers once this season, throwing five innings of one-run ball in a 7-2 victory at Wrigley Field on April 28. For his career against Milwaukee, he is 5-3 with a 2.31 ERA in 10 starts.

Arrieta's rebound comes at a time when the whole starting staff is performing well.

Cubs starters have allowed two or fewer runs in 12 consecutive games, the longest single-season streak in team history. The rotation owns a 1.11 ERA in that stretch, and it is 11-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 15 games this month.

Milwaukee, meanwhile, hopes to break out of a three-game losing streak in the series finale behind Davies.

Davies, in his second big league season, has been the bright spot in the Brewers' rotation. He is the lone current starter with a winning record as he makes his 22nd start of the season and second against Chicago. The 23-year-old beat the Cubs on July 23 at Miller Park, allowing one run on three hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Since going 0-3 in his first three starts, Davies is 9-2 over his past 19 appearances, and he has 11 quality starts for the year. He is 2-0 all-time against the Cubs.

"When he gets into a groove, he runs through the lineup pretty good," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said recently.

Davies is coming off a loss to Cincinnati on Saturday, when he allowed five runs on eight hits in five-plus innings during the Brewers' 11-5 defeat.

The Chicago club Davies opposes will have some different faces from the one he saw last month, as the Cubs made a series of roster moves Wednesday.

They placed outfielder Chris Coghlan (right rib contusion) and right-handed pitcher Joe Smith (left hamstring strain) on the 15-day disabled list. The Cubs also called up right-hander Spencer Patton from Triple-A Iowa. Patton was 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA in nine relief appearances for Chicago earlier this season. He shined with Iowa, recording 11 saves and a 1-0 record with a 0.77 ERA in 34 relief outings.

Trevor Cahill, activated from the disabled list to serve as the Cubs' 26th man for the Tuesday doubleheader, remained on the roster in one of the vacancies created Wednesday. He worked five scoreless innings during a 4-0 victory over the Brewers (52-67) in Game 1 of the doubleheader.

Chicago won the nightcap 4-1, then cruised to a 6-1 victory Wednesday.

The Cubs also likely will be without right-hander John Lackey for their weekend series at Colorado. Lackey experienced shoulder tightness in his last start against the Cardinals, so left-hander Mike Montgomery is scheduled to pitch on Saturday in Lackey's place.