The Brewers were one of the better surprises in baseball last season, a team chock full of relative unknowns suddenly and rapidly becoming contenders and making a run in the postseason. The team had a lot of power, a stellar bullpen, and a starting pitching staff that was just barely holding it together, but still strong enough to win. One couldn’t help but notice the significant similarities between the Brewers and our very own A’s.
So, of course, with the success established last season, the expectations entering this season are obviously much higher. Performing at a playoff-caliber level is now the new normal, and struggles in achieving that level of performance can lead to some frustrations. Right now, the Brewers are sitting at a 56-51 record, which has them tied for first in the wins department in their division, but two games back in the loss department of both the Cubs and the Cardinals. The third place Brewers are one game out of a WIld Card spot.
But at the same time, the Brewers have a -16 run differential, thanks in large part to a pitching staff that has given up simply far too many runs. The Brewers also struggle on the road, possessing a losing record of 23-27 when away from Miller Park. The NL Central division has been a hard fought one from the start, with none of the teams in the division full-on tanking as in most others, and the road to the playoffs is just a naturally tougher one for Milwaukee. The difference between first and last in the NL Central is just slightly larger than the difference between first and second in the AL East and AL West, and is smaller than the difference between first and second in the NL West. No matter what happens, this division will remain a dogfight until the end.
The Brewers have given up the third most runs in the National League, which is a big reason as to why Milwaukee is on the outside looking in right now. Like in Oakland, there aren’t any starting pitchers who jump out as particularly elite, but some of the duds are a bit more noticeable. Jhoulys Chacin has taken a step back this season and has an ERA rapidly nearing 6.00 with a WHIP of more than 1.50. Their top starting pitcher, Brandon Woodruff, has 136 strikeouts in 118 innings pitched, with just twelve home runs allowed.
The starting pitching isn’t supposed to be the star of this team, however, it’s the bullpen, but that is where there has been a bigger step back from last year. Uncannily, just like the A’s, the ever-so instrumental bullpen from last year has taken a step back. Josh Hader is still spectacular, sure, his 95 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched are amazing, but his ERA is closer to merely “really, really good” at 2.13 than elite. However, several guys who were supposed to be integral and have been used heavily, Jeremy Jeffress, Javy Guerra, and especially Corbin Burnes have really taken Treinen or Trivino levels of steps backward this year.
On offense, of course, Christian Yelich has been almost Mike Trout at the plate since joining the Brewers, and any lineup that has him in it has a massive weapon that makes it inherently dangerous. But in addition to Yelich there is also rookie second baseman Keston Hiura, who has been making the most of his first 160 major league at bats by simply slashing .325/.390/.619, with eleven home runs and seven stolen bases as well. Mike Moustakas is nearing thirty home runs on the year.
This series should be an exciting one, featuring a good amount of offense and some strong late game pitching. With the Brewers’s struggles on the road and home run heavy offense, paired with the growing success of the A’s pitching staff as a whole, this is still ultimately a series that the A’s should win, but it wouldn’t be wise to consider any one game to be a cakewalk.
Lorenzo Cain - CF
Christian Yelich - RF
Yasmani Grandal - C
Mike Moustakas - DH
Keston Hiura - 2B
Eric Thames - 1B
Travis Shaw - 3B
Orlando Arcia - SS
Ben Gamel - LF
As of this writing, the Brewers have yet to announce their probable starters beyond tonight’s starting pitcher Adrian Houser, likely due to their being a strong possibility of trades over the next day-plus. The A’s will be pitching Chris Bassitt in game 1, Brett Anderson in game 2, and Daniel Mengden in game 3.
Game #109: Tuesday, July 30th at 7:07
Game #110: Wednesday, July 31st at 7:07
Game #111: Thursday, August 1st at 12:37
All games will be broadcast on NBCSCA.