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Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates @ Milwaukee Brewers

After exorcising their demons against the Cubs in the past two weeks, the Brewers look to do the same against another division opponent who’s given them fits this year

Miami Marlins v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The last remaining tough stretch of the Brewers’ 2018 regular season is over, and with two series wins against the Chicago Cubs pulling them within a game of the NL Central lead.

From here on out, the Brewers face one winning team, and that won’t come until the second-to-last series of the season when they play their final road games of the schedule in St. Louis. With the way the rest of the NL playoff race has been shaping up in the past week or so, it’s entirely possible those games ultimately end up being relatively meaningless -- at least when it comes to securing a playoff spot of any kind.

But first, the Cream City Nine has to keep taking care of business. Now winners of 7 straight series, that hasn’t been a problem so far, but now they’ll look to continue to exorcise some demons against a Pirates team that has (perhaps weirdly) had their number this year. Now that the Brewers have won 7 of their last 10 games against the Cubs, the Pirates are now the NL team the Brewers have the lowest winning percentage against this year with a 4-9 record.

The Brewers did win 2 of 3 the last time the Bucs sailed into Miller Park, the second of those 7 straight series wins. That series included a crazy 15-inning walkoff win in the series opener which you could argue truly started this late-season run (the series win streak started against the Reds, but really...they’re the Reds), proving this is a team that will not go down easily.

This time, Pittsburgh will come to town after dropping 2 of 3 in what ended up being a high-scoring series in St. Louis. Before that, the Pirates had actually won 7 of 10, although the bulk of that came against Cincinnati and Miami. They also recently got bad news with Gregory Polanco, who was a terror against the Brewers in the last series in August and leading the team with an .839 OPS, being ruled out for the rest of the year with a dislocated shoulder.

Probable Pitchers

Friday - 7:10 p.m. CDT
Chris Archer vs. Gio Gonzalez

Saturday - 6:10 p.m. CDT
Ivan Nova vs. Zach Davies

Sunday - 1:10 p.m. CDT
Trevor Williams vs. Jhoulys Chacin

It might be unfair to say the Pirates have buyers’ remorse with Chris Archer, considering they have him for several more seasons after this year, but the trade clearly hasn’t worked out as they would have liked so far. The worst of it likely came the last time these teams faced eachother, when the Brewers tagged him for 6 runs on 7 hits (including 2 home runs) and 2 walks. Since then, Archer has started pitching exclusively from the stretch, and has started to see some better results. He held the Braves to 1 run on 2 hits over 6 innings on September 1st, then turned in another quality start in his last outing, giving up 3 runs over 6 innings against the Marlins on September 7th. All 3 runs came on a home run he surrendered to old friend Lewis Brinson.

Nova, meanwhile, has largely been very good for much of the second half. That turnaround actually started just before the break, when he held the Brewers to 1 run despite scattering 7 hits over 4.2 innings in The Series That Shall Not Be Named. From that start on, he’s put up a solid 3.51 ERA in 48.2 innings, although true to the form he’s shown for awhile now, he’s very rarely struck anyone out -- he only has 26 strikeouts in 8 second-half starts. Despite barely missing any bats, he’s managed to find a way to work around the hits he gives up, although he is a bit prone to home runs, having given up 24 longballs this year. He shut out the Marlins on 3 hits over 6 innings in his last start.

Williams has quietly been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last two months. In his last 10 starts, he’s allowed a grand total of 8 (EIGHT) runs in 59.2 innings, translating into a 1.21 ERA. It’s only that high because he’s coming off a start in which the Cardinals got to him for 4 runs in 5 innings in his last start. Before that, the last time he gave up that many runs was on July 6th against Philadelphia. Prior to that start in St. Louis, Williams hadn’t given up more than 1 run in a start since August 5th. Like Nova, Williams doesn’t strike out many batters -- only 108 in 153.2 innings, making this recent run even more impressive -- but he does generate a lot of ground balls and, unlike Nova, doesn’t give up many hits, either.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference