|Brewers visit Cubs with eight-game winning streak in tow|
CHICAGO -- The Milwaukee Brewers have experienced plenty of positivity during their recent winning streak.
But an injury to one of their major mainstays could put an emotional damper on things.
The Brewers will look for their ninth straight victory Thursday against their National League Central Division rivals, the Chicago Cubs. But they will begin the four-game weekend set at Wrigley Field without first baseman Eric Thames, who is expected to miss up to two months with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb.
In 22 games this season, Thames was hitting .250 with a .351 on-base percentage and a .625 slugging percentage.
As tough as Wednesday's news was to digest, however, general manager David Stearns told reporters the Brewers have enough depth between back-up Jesus Aguilar and Ryan Braun, who has also filled in at first, to soften the blow of losing Thames.
"Obviously, we've got guys who are swinging the bat pretty well who can play first base," Stearns said Wednesday, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "So, Eric is certainly going to be missed, but it's an opportunity for others guys to step up and play a little more regularly."
The Brewers (16-9) continued to roll Wednesday with a 6-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals when Aguilar drove in a pair of runs.
Chase Anderson (2-1, 3.25 ERA) will look to extend Milwaukee's win streak when he takes the mound Thursday. Anderson has won his past two outings but has already dropped one decision against the Cubs this season. Anderson is 3-3 in eight career starts against the Cubs, against whom Anderson has struck out 31 hitters in 41 2/3 innings.
While the Brewers will have to adjust without Thames, the Cubs (11-10) will open a seven-game homestand hoping to get third baseman Kris Bryant back in the lineup. Bryant, who was hit in the head by a pitch Sunday in Colorado, missed his second straight game Wednesday when the Cubs dropped a 4-1 decision to the Cleveland Indians.
Manager Joe Maddon told reporters Wednesday that Bryant is "fine," but will need to meet with Cubs team doctor Stephen Adams on Thursday.
"It's just one of those things," Maddon told the Chicago Tribune. "He's been seeing a doctor. There's nothing awful coming from the doctor to me or to us. It's just a matter of him getting ready to play."
With Bryant out and first baseman Anthony Rizzo struggling to get going offensively, right fielder Jason Heyward has managed to find his rhythm. Heyward was hitting .277 and had collected nine hits and driven in seven runs in his previous 20 at-bats before going 0-for-4 on Wednesday. Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis has seen Heyward make plenty of progress since the two started working together.
Now, Heyward hopes to keep things moving in the right direction. Davis said Heyward is on the right track.
"He's starting to feel it," Davis told the Chicago Tribune. "And I'm liking his aggressiveness at the plate. I didn't see him play last year, but I know he's more aggressive to pitches. And from what I've seen, he always has had a good eye at the plate and doesn't chase (pitches) a whole lot."
Kyle Hendricks (1-1, 4.09) makes his fifth start of the season and is coming off his first victory in a five-inning outing against Colorado. Hendricks is 6-4 in 16 career starts with a 3.01 ERA against the Brewers.