The Braves have been on a roller coaster of sorts since their Opening Day loss to the Brewers.
After taking the next two wins to secure a series victory, the Braves and the Brew Crew both went on impressive hot streaks and both competed for the best record in baseball throughout April. It is now May 19th, and although both clubs remain in first place, they’ve both done it on very different terms Since the last time we saw the Crew, the Braves have bottomed out on offensive production while continuing their great run of solid starting pitching. The Brewers have, well, done both and in spite of injuries. 3rd baseman and Braves killer Aramis Ramirez is currently on the DL after a solid start to the year, and major bullpen arm of 2013 Jim Henderson is currently on the DL with right shoulder inflammation.
The Brewers offense have been holding up their end, with several as advertised performances. Jonathan Lucroy continues to show why he may be the new best offensive catcher in the National League with the departure of Brian McCann, slashing a very good .299/.372/.422. He may only have 2 homers, but with a dozen doubles in tow, Lucroy is one of the overlooked performers in this lineup. Ryan Braun continues to be Ryan Braun, and while his .311/.353/.547 line may be impressive, his most impressive swing this year may have been the one that knocked the hitting back into Jean Segura.
Although Segura hasn’t fully returned to his 2013 first half form, he has hit .283 since this accident, a far cry from his early season performance. It remains to be seen if he can return for real, but it’s better to not underestimate the Brewers shortstop.
Carlos Gomez has continued his impressive run with a .290/.369/.555 line while smacking 9 homers. If he manages to stay in the game, he will as always be a threat to the Braves, and one that our staff should try to carefully pitch to. Any on base trips for Gomez could easily score a run the Braves offense can’t respond to.
The Brewers pitching staff has picked this Brewers team and given them the chance they needed to prove that 2013 was just an aberration. While no one on the staff is currently crushing peripheral numbers, the Brewers starting rotation is a crafty one that will use the solid defense behind them to their advantage, rather than relying on overpowering hitters. And this could be a good sign for the strikeout prone Braves. Guys like Chris Johnson and Evan Gattis thrive on putting the ball in play, and this might be the rotation to do it against.
But the Braves will miss Marco Estrada, who is clearly the weakest link in the rotation at the moment, so competitive at bats against pitchers like Garza and Gallardo will be a must. Both have the potential to strike you out, but both have posted walk rates over 2.5 per 9, including Garza’s surprising 3.2. At bats like these win games (see the Braves win against St. Louis yesterday.)
On the other side of the staff, the Brewers bullpen may be the most rock solid part of their club. Francisco Rodriguez is having a career renaissance of sorts, giving up only 4 runs in 23 innings as the Brewers surprise closer. The injury to Henderson has forced relievers like Will Smith into a greater role, where they have absolutely thrived. The Fresh Prince of Miller Park has a sparkling 1.60 FIP thanks in part to a ridiculous 13.3 K/9, issuing just 9 walks in his 20 innings. Zach Duke has also resurrected his career as a situational left handed reliever, ala Oliver Perez, and has shown good results, striking out 10.9 per 9. Overall the entire Brewers bullpen save for Brandon Kintzler has been rock solid, and it will be a challenge for the Braves if they fall behind early.
7:10 PM EST, Monday, May 19th
7:10 PM EST, Tuesday, May 20th
7:10 PM EST, Wednesday, May 21st
7:10 PM EST, Tuesday, May 20th