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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ Colorado Rockies

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The Brewers head out West on what could be their most challenging road trip of the season

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Colorado Rockies
Jon Gray has only allowed 1 run in his last 20 innings after spending weeks living off the land in the mountains
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Brewers embark on a mammoth 10-game, 11-day road trip tonight that might go a long way in telling us just how good they really are, at least right now. Every series will be against a playoff team from last season, and two -- the Rockies and Diamondbacks -- figure to be direct competitors to the Brewers in the wild card race.

It starts in Colorado, where last year’s Brewers won 2 of 3 games, avenging a disappointing 1-3 start to the 2017 season. But it was the Rockies who would eventually beat out the Brewers for the final wild card spot by one game, and they’ve positioned themselves well in that race early this year. Colorado comes into this series with a record of 21-16 and just had a 6-game winning streak snapped. That stretch included an impressive series win over the Cubs in Chicago.

Overall, the Rockies’ offensive numbers aren’t what you’d expect from a team playing in Denver. They’re tied for 21st in baseball with 146 runs scored, only slightly better than the Brewers’ total of 137. They’ve hit for a lower average than the Brewers as a team, although they do have an edge in on-base percentage and, predictably, slugging.

Most, if not all of that, is being carried by MVP candidates (plural) Nolan Arenado (.322/.415/.609, 8 home runs, 7 doubles) and Charlie Blackmon (.281/.387/.579, 11 home runs), who are hitting like peak Braun and Fielder, only with exceptional defense. DJ LeMahieu has also been hitting well (.288/.363/.495) despite missing a bit of time with a DL stint. Those guys have been able to cover up some really bad starts by Gerardo Parra, Carlos Gonzalez and Ian Desmond, the latter of whom is hitting just .176/.218/.360 and is still owed a minimum of $40 million over the next few years after barely pushing his OPS past .700 last year.

Probable Pitchers

Thursday - 7:40 p.m. CDT
Jhoulys Chacin vs. German Marquez

Friday - 7:40 p.m. CDT
TBA vs. Chad Bettis

Saturday - 7:10 p.m. CDT
TBA vs. Kyle Freeland

Sunday - 2:10 p.m. CDT
TBA vs. Jon Gray

Virtually the entire Brewers’ rotation is up in the air this weekend as the team waits to see if Zach Davies will be able to pitch on Friday and who will replace Wade Miley on Saturday. It’s worth noting this is the one series a year where the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate is nearby for convenient transactions.

Marquez has gotten off to a decent start, but in true Colorado pitcher fashion it’s a bit covered up by the 4.76 ERA. The truth is that damage was almost entirely done in 2 of his 7 starts -- one when he gave up 7 earned runs in 4.2 innings against the Braves, and the other when he gave up 6 earned runs in 3.1 innings against the Cubs. Any young pitcher could have a bad game against Chicago’s lineup, and his Atlanta start wasn’t helped by a bad game for walks. He issued 6 of his 16 for the year in that one start.

Marquez wishes he had the luck of Chad Bettis, who has a 2.05 ERA in his 7 starts before this series despite underlying numbers that aren’t so great. He’s only struck out 27 batters in 44 innings while walking 14. He’s done that while being a flyball pitcher (a GB% of just 43.7% this year) in Coors Field, thanks to a low .224 BABIP, well below his career average of .308. He’s coming off a start in which he shut out the Mets over 7 innings in New York.

Freeland is building off of a nice debut season in which he finished 7th in the Rookie of the Year voting. So far this year, he’s been somewhere in between Marquez and Bettis in terms of results, getting charged with a 3.95 ERA that his FIP (3.85) largely agrees with. Last year, the Brewers were able to draw 5 walks against him but he limited the damage to just 3 runs in 5.2 innings. This year, he’s managed to cut down on the walks while upping his strikeouts. He’s averaging 8.3 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9.

Gray came into the year as the Rockies’ ace and he’s pitched like it recently, holding teams to 1 run in his past 20 innings, in which he’s struck out 25 and walked only 3. He’s managed to shave 1.5 runs off his ERA in that time and is a nice bounceback after a brutal three-start stretch (7 ER in 5 IP vs San Diego, 5 ER in 5.2 IP at Washington, 6 ER in 5 IP against Chicago) that continues to put a dent in his ERA for the season.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference