After winning four in a row, your Milwaukee Brewers now find themselves once again just one game back of the division lead in the NL Central. Needless to say, this will be an important road trip if the Brewers hope to stay in playoff contention. Not only are they still trying to keep up with the Chicago Cubs and stay ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals, but the first leg of the trip swings through Denver, where the current NL Wild Card co-leaders reside.
While most of us have been focused on the NL Central race, the Brewers now also find themselves just 4.5 games back of a wildcard spot after the Colorado Rockies have gone 3-7 in their last 10 games. A good weekend for the Brewers could easily open up another path to the postseason, while a series loss or a sweep could ensure a division crown is the only way the Crew returns to October.
It's been awhile since we've seen the Rockies -- all the way back to the first series of the year. Back then, the Rockies took 3 of 4 from the Brewers, but we didn't know it was because Colorado was actually a good team. Since then, they've run their record to 67-54, which normally would be good enough to be in contention for an NL West title. Instead, even at 13 games over .500, they're 19 GB in the division. The LA Dodgers are ridiculous.
Friday, 7:40 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Matt Garza vs. German Marquez
Much of the Rockies' unexpected success this year has come from strong performances from their young rotation. That includes the 22-year-old Marquez, who began the year as a Top-100 prospect (#73 according to MLB Pipeline, #53 for Baseball America) and comes into this series with a 4.13 ERA in 20 starts. But as with anyone pitching in Colorado, the ERA is a bit misleading -- Marquez is carrying a FIP of 3.79, and has struck out 107 in 113.1 innings pitched. His ERA+ of 121 is higher than every Brewers starter other than Chase Anderson. He's done all of this despite relying mostly on just two pitches -- a fastball that's averaged nearly 95 mph this year and a curveball.
Saturday, 7:10 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Brandon Woodruff vs. Chad Bettis
Bettis will be making just his second start of the season after working his way back from testicular cancer that was first discovered last November. After undergoing surgery, Bettis recovered enough to participate in spring training activities before it was revealed in March that the cancer had spread. He underwent chemotherapy and is now cancer-free, throwing 7 shutout innings in his season debut on Monday against Atlanta. Here's a tip of the cap to Bettis, and to hoping for a lifetime of continued health.
Sunday, 2:10 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Chase Anderson vs. Kyle Freeland
The 8th overall pick in the 2014 draft, Freeland is the rare Rockies pitcher whose ERA (3.74) is actually outpacing his FIP (4.75). His ERA at Coors Field (3.31) is also lower than his ERA on the road (4.22). He's pretty much the exact opposite of what we expect from a Colorado pitcher. Despite a K/9 of just 5.8, Freeland has managed to put up an ERA+ of 133. He's done that due in part to a 55.6% groundball rate and a .283 BABIP -- major keys to success when you're pitching half your games in outer space.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference