The Brewers begin their first road trip of the season today, starting a quick two-game series north of the border in Toronto.
This will be the Blue Jays' home opening series, and they're always tough to beat at the Rogers Centre Formerly Known As SkyDome. Last year's Jays went 46-35 at home (on their way to 89-73 overall), outscoring opponents by 38 runs in their home confines. Their 401 runs scored at home were topped by only 5 teams last season (Colorado, Boston, Cleveland, Texas and Arizona).
Like the Brewers, the Blue Jays have a lineup that could again prove to be very good, but have struggled to start the year. Toronto comes into this series at 1-5, but again like the Brewers, have been competitive just about every night. Two of those losses have already been of the walkoff variety -- one on Opening Day in the 11th inning against the Orioles, and the other on Saturday in 11 innings against the Rays. Only one of their losses has been by more than three runs.
This might be a team desperate for a couple of wins, they're back at home in front of a strong fanbase, and there's still plenty of power (Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Kendrys Morales, Troy Tulowitzki) up and down the lineup to give Brewers pitching a scare.
Tuesday, 6:07 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Wily Peralta vs. J.A. Happ
Despite what it might feel like always happens when the Brewers face a soft-tossing lefty, Milwaukee has actually hit Happ pretty hard during his career against him. Seeing him frequently as a member of the Phillies and Astros, Happ has a career 6.13 ERA and a 1.656 WHIP against the Brewers in 54.1 innings (11 appearances, 10 starts).
But something happened last year in his return to Toronto -- the guy who used to just be an average innings eater turned into a guy who was legitimately good. Maybe not as good as his 3.18 ERA or the ridiculous ratio of decisions he was awarded (20-4, thanks to Toronto's offense always providing very good run support), but still good, carrying a 3.96 FIP and being good for 4.5 bWAR/3.2 fWAR/1.8 WARP. He doesn't throw hard and doesn't strike out a ton, but he also hasn't made many mistakes in the past couple years.
Happ struck out 9 over 7 innings and only allowed three runs in his first outing of the year against Baltimore, but was still hung with the loss in a 3-1 game on April 5th.
Wednesday, 6:07 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin+ - Chase Anderson vs. Marcus Stroman
After tearing his ACL a month into the 2015 season, Stroman returned to the Jays rotation last year and was saddled with the pressure of replacing David Price as the team's ace. He struggled at times in his first season back from the injury, putting up a 4.37 ERA, but his FIP (3.71) and Deserved Run Average (3.87) showed he may have been a bit unlucky last year.
A smaller guy -- he's generously listed at 5'8" and 180 -- Stroman can still bring a good cutter, slider and curveball, even if he only strikes out about 7 per 9 innings. The pitch selection leads to a pretty significant ground ball rate -- 60.1% last year, and 58.2% for his career. If the Brewers aren't careful, they could end up keeping Tulowitzki and Devon Travis busy on Wednesday night.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs, and Baseball Prospectus