The Milwaukee Brewers have won five games in a row to jump to grab the National League's best record, 6-1.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs are sliding in the opposite direction with five straight losses after an Opening Day win.
An weekend series between the teams could help to set the tone for the early part of the season. The Cubs will visit the Brewers on Friday night to kick off a three-game set.
Milwaukee right-hander Brandon Woodruff (1-0, 3.60 ERA) will make his second start of the season and the 14th start of his career. The 26-year-old Mississippi State product allowed two runs on six hits in five innings in his season debut against the St. Louis Cardinals last Saturday.
In four career games (two starts) against the Cubs, Woodruff is 0-0 with a 5.91 ERA.
The Brewers have won five games by a one-run margin and one game by a two-run margin. Closer Josh Hader has proved to be particularly effective with the narrow leads as he already has racked up four saves.
Hader has 10 strikeouts in five innings and routinely has overpowered hitters with his fastball.
"For me, it's not really about what the radar says," Hader said recently in comments published by mlb.com. "It's about the execution of the pitch."
The Cubs will counter with left-hander Jose Quintana (0-0, 0.00 ERA), who will make his first start of the season after a four-inning relief appearance Saturday against the Texas Rangers. Quintana has a lifetime record of 6-2 with a sparkling 1.62 ERA in 11 starts against Milwaukee.
Chicago is in sore need of an effective performance from Quintana. Its pitching staff has been shelled for six-plus runs in all five games of its losing streak, including a 9-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday.
The Cubs' slow start has prompted team president Theo Epstein to face scrutiny from media members. Epstein acknowledged the importance of bouncing back quickly in a talent-laden division.
"The margin for error is really small," Epstein told reporters. "The team that shows up ready to play and execute on a consistent basis night in and night out ultimately will be rewarded. No team is good enough to show up when they want to or wait until they're in trouble or show up and succeed in this division or this league.
"Controlling the things we can control -- like our attitude and preparation -- that's really important. And I give our guys a ton of credit for doing that."
Epstein is confident that his team can regroup and compete for the postseason yet again.
"Everything that our players and we were talking about this offseason sort of relates to attitude and preparation, and that is really good," he said. "Our guys are showing up wanting to put their best foot forward and wanting to repeat that every night.
"It's still baseball. ... It's 162 games, and things are going to happen."
Milwaukee is 3-1 at home. Chicago's slow start has all occurred on the road, with the Cubs scheduled to play their home opener Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
--Field Level Media
Streaking Brewers welcome skidding Cubs
More TOP STORIES News