Miller Time for Cubs: Showdown in Brew Town opens 15-game test

Of course the Cubs are scoreboard-watching.

“There’s no denying you do that,” manager Joe Maddon said, less than 24 hours after his Cubs took over sole possession of first place in the National League Central for the first time since May. “I do that. We all do that.”

It’s especially tempting when the now-second-place Milwaukee Brewers play early, as they did Thursday, losing 15-2 against the Washington Nationals before the Cubs saw a pitch against the White Sox.

But the hottest team in the division can skip the scoreboard for the next three days; the Cubs descend on Milwaukee for the start of a 15-game stretch that could help define their second half.

Jose Quintana makes his third start for the Cubs in Friday’s opener of their big series against the Brewers.

On paper it’s easily the toughest part of the schedule the rest of the way for the Cubs — including six against the wild-card-positioned Arizona Diamondbacks and three against the NL East-leading Nationals after the Brewers.

After the Cubs finish the second of their two series against the Diamondbacks on Aug. 13, only nine games remain against any team that currently has a winning record. Seven of those are against the Brewers, along with two in September at Tampa Bay.

“It might be only contenders [in that stretch]. It’s a really good time to [try to] stay in first place,” Cubs newcomer Jose Quintana said.

Quintana, who’s 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts since being traded from the Sox, talks with excitement about the first pennant race of his career as he prepares to start Friday in Milwaukee to open the key stretch.

“It’s a really good series, a big series for us,” he said. “But our approach never changes. We just keep going, man. Trying to stay hot in the second half.”

The Cubs certainly have done that since the All-Star break. Their 6-3 win over the Sox on Thursday gave them an 11-2 record since the break and a 1½-game lead over the Brewers in the division. They have made…

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