The Brewers just faced the Dodgers so this preview is going to be a little abbreviated. To my delight, as well as surprise, Milwaukee took 2 out of 3. That was pretty huge considering they faced both Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. Unfortunately, they're going to have to face those two pitchers again. It wasn't a fluke that the Brewers won that series. They have a legitimately damaging offense. Still, winning a series when you face those two pitchers isn't easy for any team. This time, however, they'll be facing Dan Haren instead of Roberto Hernandez. That's not exactly a bad thing for the Brewers. Haren hasn't been good this year, but more on that in a bit. Also, Hanley Ramirez is officially on the disabled list this time around. He only had the 1 plate appearance so it's not much of a change.
Friday, August 15 9:10 pm CT: Jimmy Nelson vs Zack Greinke
The Brewers fared quite well against their former ace. In six innings they scored 4 runs, including 2 home runs. Dodger Stadium is a lot friendlier to pitchers than Miller Park so home runs are going to be harder to come by. Greinke's last start was against the Brewers and I'm always intrigued to see how a pitcher responds to these situations knowing the batters have so recently seen all his pitches. Greinke has been excellent this year so I'm not expecting the same outcome. However, as I mentioned above, the Brewers offense is legit and they've shown they can hit him before. I'm not ready to count them out as easily as I did last time.
Of note for the Brewers: Jimmy Nelson is also making back-to-back starts against the same opponent. This marks the first time he's making a second start against a major league opponent which is always a big test for a pitcher. Nelson has hardly used his change-up at the major league level. Now that he's facing a team for the second time, and in such quick succession, I'll be interested to see if he tried to incorporate the pitch more than he has. Nelson held the Dodgers to 2 runs across 6 innings, but he also gave up 8 hits and a walk. So despite solid results, he did struggle a bit. I'm really excited about Jimmy Nelson's future, but this could be a growing pains game.
Saturday, August 16 8:10 pm CT: Yovani Gallardo vs Clayton Kershaw
The Brewers had a fair amount of base runners early in the game against Clayton Kershaw. Unfortunately they had about as many outs on the bases too. I was at this game and boy was it frustrating. I went in expecting a dominating pitching performance from Kershaw so I was ready for a loss. I wasn't ready for a bunch of really dumb things to happen. On the bright side, the Brewers did put the ball into play against Kershaw a lot more than I was expecting them to. He only got 6 strikeouts and in fact the Brewers were able to draw 2 walks. It was, by far, the lowest K% in a game for him all season. That's actually quite encouraging.
Sunday, August 17 3:10 pm CT: Kyle Lohse or TBD vs Dan Haren
Dan Haren was a beast in 2011 (6.2 fWAR). Since then he's been pretty awful. While his walk rate (4.9%) is really great, his strike out rate is pretty medicore (17.8%) giving him one of the worst K%-BB% of his career. His BAA (.267) is really bad, but thanks to that BB% his WHIP is league average (1.29). His HR/9 has been terrible for 3 straight years and he's not been pitching in bandboxes. I'd say all this bodes well for Brewers batters.
Of note for the Brewers: Kyle Lohse tweaked his ankle 3 starts ago in St. Louis. It was apparently bothering him ever since. Then he re-aggravated it batting in his last start. Therefore, this start is in limbo and the Brewers have said they might just utilize off days to skip his turn in the rotation. It's possible Mike Fiers could start this game on short rest. It's also possible Marco Estrada could make a spot start.
I'm uncertain which I'd prefer. I know the majority of you would say it should obviously be Fiers. He did hold the Dodgers to 1 run in 8 innings. I think he'd be fine pitching on four days rest too. However, Marco Estrada has been pretty solid in relief (even though he did give up 2 runs to the Dodgers recently). If Lohse (and Garza) have to miss more time than is hoped, it might be good to get Estrada stretched out now, especially since he recently pitched 4 (scoreless) innings (which just so happened to be in Lohse's abbreviated start). I suppose it's also possible they could piggy back the two starters if they don't want to push Fiers too hard on short rest. They could give him 4-5 innings and Estrada 2-3. I don't know if that's something they'd try though, just a thought.
I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, the Brewers fared quite well against the Dodgers in the first series and that gives me hope. On the other hand, Greinke and Kershaw are both excellent pitchers and it's not an easy task toppling either one. My heart tells me they'll win 2 out of 3. My head tells me they'll drop 2 out of 3. My gut tells me it's lunch time. So to wrap this up, I think the Brewers will play 3 games against the Dodgers this weekend.
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Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs