Brewers-Cubs Preview

The last time the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs met, the Cubs helped themselves in what was shaping up to be a tightly contested NL Central race.

Two and a half months later, there isn't nearly as much at stake.

The Cubs and Brewers square off Monday night in the opener of a four-game series between teams whose playoff expectations have faded.

Chicago (73-68) and Milwaukee (69-73) are meeting for the first time since a four-game series at Wrigley Field from July 2-5. The Cubs won three times, victories that could have made a significant difference if the division race stayed close.

However, St. Louis has taken control of the Central, and the Cubs and Brewers -- both playoff teams in 2008 -- don't look like they'll be back in the postseason.

Despite their largely disappointing season, the Brewers had something small to celebrate Sunday. Prince Fielder homered to tie Milwaukee's single-season RBI record and help the team complete a three-game sweep of Arizona with a 5-3 victory.

Fielder's fourth-inning homer, his 39th, gave him a major league-leading 126 RBIs and tied him with Cecil Cooper for the Brewers' franchise record. Cooper, currently managing the Houston Astros, first set the mark in 1983.

"It's really an honor to be mentioned with a guy like Cecil, a first baseman, especially," Fielder said. "This organization has had some great players, so it's a big deal. It's really cool."

Fielder will try to move into sole possession of the lead against the Cubs, winners of five of six. Derrek Lee homered for one of his three hits and Andres Blanco went 3 for 4 with two RBIs in a 5-2 win over Cincinnati on Sunday.

Blanco, playing a limited role primarily as a defensive replacement, hadn't had a multihit game since June 27.

"I tell you what, he's got a good glove, and he's a versatile kid," manager Lou Piniella told the Cubs' official Web site. "If the bat's there, he can help a major league team, including ours."

Ryan Dempster (9-8, 4.03 ERA) will start for Chicago on Monday. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA over his last four starts, including a 9-4 victory at Pittsburgh on Tuesday. He gave up four runs in 6 1/3 innings of that game.

Dempster is 10-2 with a 3.33 ERA in 16 career starts against the Brewers, including 2-1 with a 5.21 ERA in three this season.

Fielder has hit .318 with two homers and two doubles in his career against Dempster. A career .322 batter at Wrigley Field, the two-time All-Star has hit safely in his last seven games there, going 13 for 26 with four homers, nine RBIs, nine runs scored and eight walks.

Milwaukee will hand the ball to Jeff Suppan (6-9, 5.05). The right-hander gave up four runs in five innings to suffer a 5-1 defeat against St. Louis on Wednesday.

Suppan is 1-4 with a 5.48 ERA over his last eight starts against the Cubs. He's 0-2 with a 4.86 ERA in three games against them this season -- all Brewers losses.

Chicago first baseman Derrek Lee has hit .429 with four homers, seven doubles and nine walks lifetime against Suppan. No active player has more career hits (21) or doubles against Suppan than Lee.