Regardless of everything that happened in the past month, the Brewers start the post-All-Star break portion of their schedule just a half-game out of first place.
They have a chance to get their final 71 games off to a good start this weekend against a San Francisco Giants team that has the third-worst record in the NL and is 17.5 games behind the Dodgers in the West, but is just 5.5 games out of a wildcard spot.
That could mean it’s still a couple of weeks before the Giants decide to give up on the season and start trading away parts like Madison Bumgarner, who’s scheduled to make the start in Saturday’s nationally-broadcast game on FOX.
The Giants closed the first half on a bit of a hot streak, taking 2 of 3 from the St. Louis Cardinals and winning 6 of their last 7 games. As has been the case for years, the Giants are struggling to score runs this year -- they’re 4th-worst in the majors, and just one run better than Cincinnati while having played 2 more games -- but have been getting solid pitching, albeit not as good as we’ve grown used to seeing.
Friday, July 12 - 7:10 p.m. CDT
Shaun Anderson vs. Chase Anderson
Shaun Anderson has made 10 starts for the Giants this year, pitching to contact with just 32 strikeouts compared to 61 hits in 55.1 innings. Despite that, he’s been able to put up a 4.23 ERA. The 24-year-old will be making this start on 8 days’ rest and has never faced the Brewers before.
Saturday, July 13 - 6:15 p.m. CDT
Madison Bumgarner vs. Zach Davies
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about Bumgarner as a trade target for the Brewers, but they’ll have to face him one more time as a Giant. It seems impossible that he’s only 29 years old given how long he’s been around (and how he carries himself), and how long there’s been talk about his skills declining. But Bumgarner has struck out 9.3 batters per 9 innings this year -- his highest rate since finishing 4th in the Cy Young voting in 2016 -- and has reportedly started pitching to both sides of the plate, improving his results lately. Since making the change, he’s struck out 11 batters in 6 innings and 9 in 7 innings before having to leave his last start after just 2 innings after taking a comebacker off his left arm.
Sunday, July 14 - 1:10 p.m. CDT
Tyler Beede vs. Jhoulys Chacin
A former top prospect, Beede has made 10 appearances (8 starts) this year and saw mixed results before he threw 7 innings of 1-run ball in his last start on July 2nd, with the only run coming on a solo home run by breakout slugger Franmil Reyes. Beede has struck out 43 hitters in 44.2 innings, but has run into trouble with both walks (28) and home runs (8) in those limited innings.
The Brewers’ June Swoon started by nearly getting swept in San Francisco the last time these two teams met. Milwaukee came into that series 7-3 in June, and after losing 2 of 3 in the Bay, went on to finish the month 5-8 against the Padres, Reds, Mariners and Pirates.
If it’s any consolation, the Brewers weren’t far off from a much different fortune in that series almost exactly a month ago. The first two games were decided by a total of 3 runs, with the bullpen giving up those 3 runs late in those games. The Brewers were able to escape the Golden Gate City with a win but have typically fared better against the Giants outside of the west coast. They swept the series against San Francisco in Miller Park last year, kick-starting a hot September that allowed them to chase down a division title.
Player to Watch
It’s possible Bumgarner doesn’t make his start on Saturday if trade talks advance to that point, but as mentioned earlier, the Giants are at least close enough in the wildcard race to see how they fare in the next week or so -- and see which offers come in. With a single trade deadline this year, plenty of teams may want to make a trade for the pending free agent sooner rather than later, but the Giants will likely want to squeeze everything they can out of a deal to build their underwhelming farm system.
While his numbers are a far cry from where they were in his ace days of his early 20s, Bumgarner is still an effective, above-average pitcher who’s been better than his 4.03 ERA, with a 3.90 FIP and 115 strikeouts and only 24 walks in 111.2 innings. If he truly has made an adjustment to become less predictable with his declining stuff -- and let’s be clear, his declining stuff is still better than most pitchers’ regular stuff -- he could end up being a difference maker in the second half for someone.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference