Losing two games to the San Diego Padres at home isn’t the end of the world. The Chicago Cubs did the same thing last weekend, and the two teams are tied for the most wins in the National League.
It does make this weekend’s series against Atlanta -- already a potentially very important one -- even more important. Atlanta comes into this series fairly hot, having won 7 of their past 10 games, pushing their way into the second wildcard position and now sitting just one game behind the Brewers (and one game behind the Phillies for the NL East lead).
Much of what we said about the Braves a month ago is still true -- they’re a very good offensive team almost top to bottom, powered by Freddie Freeman (.318/.398/.524) and Nick Markakis (.323/.388/.499). Second baseman Ozzie Albies is still having an impressive season overall with 20 home runs and an .800 OPS, but the 21-year-old has struggled in the second half so far, hitting just .236/.236/.309 since making his All-Star appearance. That hasn’t been the case for Atlanta’s other phenom, 20-year-old Ronald Acuna Jr., who is hitting .300/.364/.643 with 6 home runs, 4 doubles and 5 stolen bases in 18 games since the break. He’s also homered in two straight games.
Still, as we saw in Milwaukee at the start of July when the Brewers pretty easily took 3 of 4 from the Braves, pitching has been mostly the problem for the Braves, which is why the tried to improve the rotation by acquiring the starter we’ll see tonight. The bullpen has also been one of the weakest among NL playoff contenders. You may be feeling bad about the Brewers’ bullpen after the San Diego series, but Atlanta’s bullpen carries a 4.19 ERA into this series, ranking 11th out of 15 NL teams.
Friday - 6:35 p.m. CDT
Freddy Peralta vs. Kevin Gausman
Saturday - 6:10 p.m. CDT
Wade Miley vs. Julio Teheran
Sunday - 12:35 p.m. CDT
Chase Anderson vs. Sean Newcomb
This will be Gausman’s first start at home since the trade that sent him to Atlanta from Baltimore. One of the (many) pitchers the Brewers were connected to leading up to the trade deadline, Gausman had an okay start in his first start as a Brave, allowing 3 runs in 5 innings in New York against the Mets. He typically doesn’t strike many batters out despite stuff you think would create more swings and misses. He had a 4.43 ERA in 21 starts with the Orioles before the trade and isn’t typically very efficient in his starts, carring a 1.388 WHIP this year, thanks in large part to allowing 10.1 hits per 9 innings.
Teheran was supposed to be the next great young ace for Atlanta, but he’s taken some big steps backwards in the past two years. After a sparkling 3.21 ERA as a 25-year-old in 2016, he struggled through 32 starts with a 4.49 ERA last year and looks to be on the same path this season with a 4.48 ERA through his first 22 starts. FIP says he should actually be quite a bit worse than that -- 5.32 -- thanks to an extremely high 4.5 BB/9 and a 12% BB% that ranks second-highest in the majors.
Teheran’s BB% is just a hair worse than Newcomb’s, who comes into Sunday’s start walking 11.5% of the batters he’s faced. Despite that, he nearly threw a no-hitter two outings ago against the Dodgers, giving up a hit with 2 outs in the 9th inning. He needed 134 pitches to get that far, though, because of his problems with strike zone efficiency. The Braves gave him a few extra days off after pushing him so hard, and the lefty threw 6 innings in his last start, allowing just 1 run against the Nationals on Tuesday. The Brewers hit him hard in Milwaukee earlier this year, though, chasing him after just 3.2 innings after scoring 5 runs on 5 hits and 4 walks.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs