Cubs' Pitching Strength To Be Tested This Week

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- After a torrid 13-3 start, the Cubs returned to earth with three straight one-run losses to the Brewers over the weekend.

That trimmed their NL Central lead from 6.5 games to 3.5 ahead of a hectic stretch. Beginning late Monday afternoon, Chicago hosts St. Louis for five games over the course of three days, with seven-inning doubleheaders bookending a single nine-inning game Tuesday.

The schedule will test one of the Cubs' strengths -- their starting pitching, which had a 3.17 ERA through Sunday, the second-best mark in MLB, per Fangraphs. 

After ace right-hander Kyle Hendricks starts the opener Monday, 25-year-old right-hander Tyson Miller will get the ball in his MLB debut in the nightcap.

"We are excited to see Tyson come up and pitch," manager David Ross said. "We will watch him closely and with fresh eyes on him in this environment. We have put a lot on our bullpen as of late and extended them a lot. Five games in three days is a lot. So bullpen management and watching the new guys in this environment for the first time will be important."

With left-hander Jose Quintana still working back from thumb surgery in early July and right-hander Tyler Chatwood on the injured list with a mid-back strain, right-hander Adbert Alzolay and right-hander Colin Rea are likely to get starts sometime for the Cubs too this week.

"We are in communication with a lot of people daily," Ross said. "We are on top of the (alternate camp at South Bend) situation to see who is starting, who is ready.

"The staff has done a good job of staggering the schedule. It's just about planning if we need a pitcher at the last minute."

How the Cubs fare with 11 games over the next 10 days could play a factor in how the front office approaches the trade deadline on Aug. 31.

"We are starting to get a good picture of what kind of team we have," Ross said. "We have have a lot of confidence in the group we have. The key factor for us going forward is health."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.