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Series Preview: San Francisco Giants @ Milwaukee Brewers

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TRAP SERIES ALERT

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Cream City Nine are surging, winners of five straight series and holding onto a 2.5-game lead on a playoff spot heading into September’s first full weekend. But, to steal a concept from football on NFL kickoff weekend, this could be a series of trap games for the Brewers.

The San Francisco Giants will come to town to break up two series against the Chicago Cubs. After making a small dent in the NL Central race by taking 2 of 3 from the Cubs this week, they’ll have to avoid a letdown against the 4th-place Giants in order to make sure that second series in Chicago will still have meaning in the division race.

The last time the Brewers saw the Giants, Milwaukee took 3 of 4 as part of a very successful West Coast road trip that helped encourage David Stearns to make a push at the trade deadline for Mike Moustakas and Jonathan Schoop. That series pushed the Giants below .500 and ultimately factored into them deciding to become mild sellers.

Gone is Andrew McCutchen, and Pablo Sandoval, Jeff Samardzija and Buster Posey are now on the 60-day disabled list. They come into the weekend at 68-73 and losers in 5 straight games, having just been swept by the now West-leading Colorado Rockies. McCutchen and Posey were the leaders in most offensive categories for the Giants, meaning they’ll be left with Brandon Belt (.259/.346/.427), Brandon Crawford (slumping in the second half down to .257/.324/.400), and Evan Longoria (.244/.282/.429) to try to generate some offense. Overall, the Giants rank 26th in baseball in runs scored, 25th in on-base percentage, and 28th in slugging percentage.

Probable Pitchers

Friday - 7:10 p.m. CDT
Derek Holland vs. Chase Anderson

Saturday - 6:10 p.m. CDT
Chris Stratton vs. Gio Gonzalez

Sunday - 1:10 p.m. CDT
Madison Bumgarner vs. Zach Davies

After a terrible 2017 season, Holland has resurrected his career this year, and in many ways is actually having a career year at age 31. He’ll enter this start with a 3.56 ERA, which is his best mark since 2013 during his peak in Texas. He’s struck out 144 batters in 146.2 innings for a career-best 8.8 K/9, and he’s managed to manage his walks enough to still largely be effective. The lefty is coming off a start in which he limited the Mets to 1 run on 4 hits in 6 innings, and he hasn’t allowed more than 1 run in a month -- the last time it happened was August 10th, when he allowed 5 runs (4 earned) against Pittsburgh.

Stratton has been the victim of some bad luck this year, if you believe FIP. He’s currently carrying a 4.90 ERA in 23 games this year, but his FIP is a much more palatable 4.32. Getting unlucky with the ERA will happen when you’re only striking out 6.8 batters per 9 innings while also walking 3 per 9. With 130 hits allowed in 121.1 innings, he’s had to deal with a lot of baserunners, and quite a few of them have been able to score. He’s been better in his last few outings, though, allowing just 4 runs in his past 20.1 innings, including 8 shutout innings against postseason contender Arizona on August 27th.

After a late start to his season, Bumgarner has started to pitch like the Madison Bumgarner we’ve gotten used to seeing over the last 8 1/2 years. He’s striking out fewer batters than he normally does and the walk rate is still much higher than career averages, but he’s still been able to work out of jams and put up zeroes on the scoreboard -- explaining the large difference between his ERA (3.07) and FIP (4.08). That ERA actually took a big jump in his last start, when he gave up 7 runs (6 earned) at Coors Field, getting tagged for 3 home runs. That’s happened to plenty of good pitchers, and in his start before, he also shut out the Diamondbacks over 7 innings, allowing just 4 hits. When the Brewers visited the Bay Area at the end of July, Bumgarner limited them to 3 runs (2 earned) over 8 innings, but it was still enough for the Brewers to come away with a 3-1 win.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference