This is where we hope the 2019 Milwaukee Brewers are just the type of team that plays to the level of their competition.
That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of success, but it would explain why they slept-walked their way through the easiest portion of their schedule, stumbling down the stairs in the process yet somehow remaining very much alive in the playoff race.
They’ve at least played good teams close, too, including this Braves team that comes to town starting tonight. While Atlanta has pretty clearly been the second-best team in the National League to this point in the year, the Brewers were a walkoff loss with Josh Hader on the mound away from possibly taking 2 of 3 the last time these teams met.
The last time we saw the Braves, they started the series at just 2 games over .500 -- where the Brewers currently sit -- and have since gone on to enter this series at 20 games over .500. It goes to show fortunes can change drastically in just a couple of months, and the team we’re watching today won’t be the same one we’re watching on September 15th.
Of course, the Braves did that with a ridiculous month of June that saw them go 20-8 while outscoring their opponents by 47 runs, and they’ve started July 7-2 while outscoring their opponents by an additional 19 runs. Their pitching is still very middle-of-the-road even after adding Dallas Keuchel, but they’ve managed to score the most runs in the National League, outpacing the Dodgers by 8 runs despite playing in one less game.
Monday, July 15th - 7:10 p.m. CDT
Max Fried vs. Adrian Houser
Fried was always due for some regression after the way he started the year -- a 2.88 ERA in his first 12 appearances -- but it’s come at him hard at times in the past month or so. The lefty has given up 5 runs 3 times in his last 7 starts, including his last start before the All-Star break against the lowly Miami Marlins. It hasn’t been all bad, though -- he did limit the Cubs to 2 runs over 6 innings back on June 25th.
Tuesday, July 16th - 7:10 p.m. CDT
Bryse Wilson vs. Brandon Woodruff
A rookie right-hander, Wilson has been called up a couple of times for spot starts this year and has had a rocky beginning to his career, allowing 10 earned runs in four appearances covering 14.2 innings this year. The 21-year-old is coming off a good start his last time on a big league mound, though, holding the Phillies to 2 runs over 6 innings on July 3rd.
Wednesday, July 17th - 1:10 p.m. CDT
Dallas Keuchel vs. Chase Anderson
Keuchel has made 5 starts since finally making his debut on June 21st. He hasn’t looked sharp at all, but has managed to escape to this point with a 3.09 ERA despite a FIP of 4.90, thanks to 10 walks and just 17 strikeouts in his first 32 innings. Keuchel allowed 10 baserunners against the Padres in his last start, but the only run he gave up came on a solo home run.
The three-game set in Atlanta may be most remembered for the Death of Corbin Burnes (the first time), when it became clear that “Just Move Burnes Back to the Bullpen” wasn’t the simple cure-all some made it out to be. It was the first game in that series, and after Jhoulys Chacin had pitched his fairly typical 5 innings with 3 runs allowed, Burnes took the mound and promptly set his ERA for the rest of the season on fire, allowing 7 runs on 5 hits (3 of them homers) while recording just two outs.
The Brewers somehow managed to score enough runs -- remember when they did that? -- to make the final score a more respectable 12-8, and the final two games of the series were decided by one run apiece, with the Brewers winning the series finale.
Player to Watch
Freddie Freeman deserves more MVP hype than he’s going to end up getting, considering all of the attention Cody Bellinger has received this year.
Freeman enters this series hitting .302/.387/.576 with 24 home runs and 25 doubles, a .963 OPS, and a 143 OPS+. He leads a powerful Braves offense in just about every statistical category.
He also almost single-handedly wrecked the Brewers back in May, too, going 5-for-14 with 3 home runs and a double. One of those home runs was the game-winner against Hader in the 10th inning of Game 2.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference