Both the Reds (19-16) and Brewers (15-17) enjoyed a day of rest to prepare for this important three-game weekend series at Great American Ball Park.
A week ago, Milwaukee was only a game out in the NL Central. Then the Cardinals showed up to Miller Park and punched the Brew Crew in the mouth, sweeping a four game series. Smoking sausage casings were everywhere. (Yeah, I know, the wurst joke ever.) The Brewers then split a two-game series against the Texas Rangers.
Since 2012, the Reds and Brewers have essentially traded places on the team payroll chart. The Brewers slashed total salaries from $94 to $80 million, while the Reds have increased theirs from $82 to $101 million.
THE BREW CREW AT BAT
As always, it appears the Brewers can hit. They are second in the NL in OPS (Reds are 5th) but only a middling seventh in runs scored (Reds are second). But take Milwaukee out of the comfortable confines of Miller Field and it’s a different ball game. In road games, they rank only 12th out of 15 teams. Don’t gloat, the Reds are 13th in away games.
Here is the Brewers’ usual lineup. At catcher, they alternate Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado.
Q. Without looking it up, who is leading the Brewers in HR?
A. Ryan Braun, former MVP? No, but that’s the logical first choice, he has seven.
A. Must be Ricky Weeks then, he’s always hitting it out against the Reds. Another reasonable guess, but the Brew Crew’s second baseman only has two and is mired in a slump that has local fans calling for his outright benching.
A. Corey Hart? Hardly, he hasn’t played a single game this year because of knee surgery. Due back in late May. Try again.
A. Cecil Fielder? No, that’s a terrible guess. You’re thinking of his son, Prince.
A. Oh right, Prince Fielder? Another bad guess. He hasn’t been a Brewer for over a year. Prince is now blasting homers for the Detroit Tigers. Seriously, you don’t remember this? I bet Bronson does.
A. How about Carlos Gomez, he takes a home run cut on every swing. Nope, but not a bad guess, he has six. And he might be the hottest player in baseball, batting .494 in his last 21 games and leads the major leagues with a .386 average. During his current 14-game hitting streak, Gomez is 26-for-53 (.491) with four home runs and nine RBIs. And it may not entirely be a fluke.
A. Oh, what about Jean Segura, their slick new second baseman acquired in the Zack Grienke trade with the Angels? No. Segura is sweet, and off to a great start, but he only has four homers. Keep guessing.
A. There’s that outfielder who popped a couple of home runs against us last year, his name is Aoki, I think. He’s the Brewers lead-off hitter, and he did hit well against the Reds last year, but keep guessing.
A. Robin Yount? Ha. No, and don’t guess Paul Molitor either.
A. Oh, I know, Aramis Ramirez, former Cubs 3B. A fair guess, but shockingly, he’s been hurt most of the season and only has 27 at bats.
The correct answer is Yuniesky Betancourt, their
shortstop first baseman who has eight.
Betancourt is famous, or probably better to say infamous, for being incredibly bad at professional baseball. Don’t believe me? Check out any of these: a Brewers blog, FanGraphs, another Brewers blog, even a Yankees blog. The best take down of Betancourt was by Joe Posnanski, who in 2009, systematically explained that Yuni was the single worst player in baseball. Sadly, that Posnanski blog and all its posts appears lost forever. But is it possible that Yuni is actually better now, suddenly, as a 31-year old? Probably not. Probably not.
MILWAUKEE ON THE MOUND
The Brewers might be able to swing the bats, but they’ve been awful at that other part of the game. They rank dead last, by a wide margin, in ERA in the National League (Reds are fifth) and next to last in FIP (Reds fifth, again). Milwaukee’s main problem has been giving up the long ball. Here are the probable pitchers for the series.
- Fri. 7:10 – Yovani Gallardo (R) vs. Tony Cingrani (L)
- Sat. 4:10 – Marco Estrada (R) vs. Mat Latos (R)
- Sun. 1:10 – Wily Peralta (R) vs. Bronson Arroyo (R)
Yovani Gallardo (27) remains the ace of the Brewers’ rotation. He’ll be making his 16th start against the Reds, holding a 5-5 lifetime record. His strikeout rate this year (5.57 K/9) is far below his career level (9.03 K/9). Many aspects of Gallardo’s career are eerily similar to Homer Bailey’s. They were both selected in the 2004 amateur draft, Bailey was taken in the first round, Gallardo in the second. Their major league debuts both occurred at the age of 21. Bailey’s first game was on June 8, 2007, while Gallardo debuted ten days later. On the other hand, Homer has one more no hitter than Gallardo and if Gallardo has ever killed an African lion with a bow and arrow, I haven’t read about it.
Marco Estrada (29) has pitched much better than his record (2-2), ERA (6.05) or FIP (5.78) indicate. He’s given up fewer line drives and fly balls, but his luck on fly balls leaving the park has been poor. His xFIP (neutralized for home run luck) is 3.84, which is much more in line with his career ERA/FIP. He has a well above average strikeout rate 9.08 K/9. Estrada’s career record against the Reds is 1-3 in four starts. His matchup with Tat Latos should be a good one.
Wily Peralta (24) will be making his second career start against the Reds. The rookie right-hander from the Dominican Republic has an ERA of 5.54 and FIP of 4.45. So far, his strikeout rate is extremely low 4.62 K/9 but it has been considerably higher in the minor leagues. His one start against the Reds came in the last week of the 2012 season when he pitched 5+ innings, giving up only 2 hits and one walk while striking out six. The Brewers led that game 1-0 until their closer, John Axford (more on him in a second) blew the game in the ninth inning.
The Brewers’ starting rotation certainly doesn’t compare to that of the Cardinals, Nationals, Braves or the Reds. If you’re wondering why the Brewers probably can’t compete for the division title in 2013, look no further. Another reason is …
THE BREWERS’ BULLPEN
You may remember John Axford, the Brewers on-again, off-again closer. On Opening Day 2011 in Cincinnati, Axford gave up a two-out, walk-off home run to Ramon Hernandez. Since then, as Milwaukee’s closer, Axford has had both awesome and dreadful stretches. Right now, he’s not so good. This weekend, you’ll likely see him in the eighth inning setting up for hard-throwing Jim Henderson. Henderson (31) has converted all seven of his save opportunities so far, proving that even journeymen right-handers with one pitch can be relatively successful at closing.
If you’re worried about their lefty relievers (and given the state of the Reds’ bench, you should be), the Brewers have two decent ones. Tom Gorzelanny and Michel Gonzalez are both off to pretty good starts in 2013 and you can expect them to see plenty of late-inning action in any game the Brewers aren’t way behind or way ahead.