After spending almost all of June facing off against the NL West, the Brewers return to facing division rivals with a four-game set against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Times have been tough for the birds lately, coming into this series at 29-32 and people openly wondering about the future of manager Mike Matheny after the front office started firing his assistants. That was the result of losing seven in a row to the Cubs and Reds, giving up four home runs to old friend Scooter Gennett in a single game in the process. Despite that, St. Louis comes into this series as winners of 3 in a row, and now sit just 2.5 games behind the Brewers for first place in the NL Central.
The pitching has remained solid for them, but the offense has still struggled to put much together. Jedd Gyorko, who terrorized the Brewers during these teams' last meeting, is one of the few hitting well this season, coming into the series with a .307/.351/.513 line. Tommy Pham is also hot right now, hitting .302/.406/.491 with 5 home runs and 5 doubles in 32 games. Outside of that, it's a bit rough -- Adam Wainwright actually has the 8th highest batting average on the roster.
The Brewers took two out of three from the Cardinals to start the month of May, which would kick start a month that powered the Brewers into first place. It was the first time the Brewers won a series in St. Louis since 2014, even if it came with an asterisk that one of the scheduled four games was rained out (but with actual rain, it wasn't a Chicago-style rainout). Jesus Aguilar played the hero in the series finale, hitting a pinch-hit home run -- the first homer of his big league career -- to put the Brewers ahead late. Neftali Feliz was still the Brewers' closer at this time and was able to survive the 9th inning to secure the series win.
(Note to keep in mind: the Brewers haven’t announced their rotation for the week yet, likely waiting to see how the doubleheader plays out)
Tuesday, 1:15 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin and MLB Network (out-of-market) - Brandon Woodruff vs. Lance Lynn
Lynn isn't pitching deep into games this year, but he's still getting very good results -- especially considering he missed all of last season. He comes into this series with a 2.88 ERA, but FIP doesn't like him at all (two full runs higher at 4.89). Opponents are hitting just .189 against him this year, but some of that might have to do with the incredibly low .201 BABIP he's allowed. You'd think that might be because he's forcing a lot of soft contact, but that's not really the case, either -- his soft contact rate is 18.3%, which ranks 46th in the majors. 81.7% of contact against him has been hit at a medium or hard speeds. More balls will start to fall in against him eventually.
Tuesday, 7:15 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Jimmy Nelson vs. Marco Gonzales
As part of the doubleheader, the Cardinals are calling up Gonzales to cover the start in the nightcap. A first round pick in 2013, the lefty had a 3.26 ERA in 5 starts for Triple-A Memphis, striking out 24 in 30.1 innings. He's returning to the mound after missing all of last year due to Tommy John. He last pitched in the majors in 2015, making one disastrous start in which he allowed 4 earned runs on 7 hits in 2.2 innings.
Wednesday, 7:15 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Matt Garza vs. Mike Leake
Another Cardinals pitcher significantly outperforming his FIP, Leake comes in with a team-low 2.70 ERA, but a 3.59 FIP. Like Lynn, Leake isn't going to miss many bats -- he's only struck out 18.1% of batters he's seen this year -- but he also doesn't walk anyone (14 free passes in 80 innings). Despite that, his BABIP (.257) is more closer to normal than Lynn's, and when he does allow baserunners, he's stranding the vast majority -- 81.6% -- of them. In his first start of the season against the Brewers, he allowed just 2 ER on 3 hits in 6 innings, striking out 6.
Thursday, 6:15 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Zach Davies vs. Michael Wacha
Wacha's been a perfectly average pitcher through 11 starts this year, putting up a 4.50 ERA (3.98 FIP) in 60 innings. He has increased his strikeout rates over last season (to 21.8% from 18.8%), although they're still a far cry from where they were when he burst onto the scene back in 2013 and he's also walking more (9.1% BB%, up from 7.4%). Wacha started the series opener against the Brewers back on May 1st, allowing 4 runs in 6 innings but escaping with the no-decision.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs