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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ Oakland Athletics

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The Brewers could look a lot different by the end of this series than they do at the start

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Oakland Athletics Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Brewers enter what could potentially be a really weird series to start their 9-game, cross-country road trip — and not just because these late-night west coast games tend to lead to weird results on the field.

With the trade deadline happening right in the middle of the series, there’s a good chance the team that leaves Oakland looks nothing like the team that enters it. That’s led to a lot of confusion over simple things like “who is starting any of these games” — although we now at least know Adrian Houser will be the first pitcher on the mound for the Brewers tonight. After that? Anyone’s guess, and it may be someone who isn’t even on the team yet.

As for who they’re playing, the Oakland A’s have lived in relative obscurity this year because they’re trailing the division-leading Houston Astros by 8 games even though they’re 13 games over .500 at 60-47. The AL is so stacked that even at that record, they’re still 3 games behind Cleveland for the top wildcard spot, and only a half-game ahead of Tampa Bay and a full game ahead of Boston.

They’ve outscored their opponents by 75 runs this year and have been tough at home, putting up a 33-22 record in the Coliseum, as opposed to being just two games over .500 on the road.

Probable Pitchers

Tuesday, July 30th - 9:07 p.m. CDT
Adrian Houser vs. Chris Bassitt

Bassitt is a 30-year-old right-hander in his first full year as a starter. He’s put up a 4.09 ERA/4.68 FIP while striking out 90 batters in 94.2 innings but also walking 36. He relies heavily on his 93.4 mph fastball, throwing it 63.5% of the time, while occasionally mixing in a slider and a curveball. Despite the lack of exceptional velocity, that fastball has been a plus pitch for Bassitt this year.

Wednesday, July 31st - 9:07 p.m. CDT
TBD (possibly Jordan Lyles or Gio Gonzalez) vs. Brett Anderson

Anderson comes into this start with a 4.05 ERA in 21 starts, although the underlying numbers indicate a great deal of luck. He’s not missing any bats, with just 61 strikeouts in 120 innings, averaging 4.6 strikeouts per nine innings, and allowing nearly a hit an inning. He’s relied on his groundball tendencies, although he’s induced fewer of them this year than he has in the past (52.4% this year, compared to a 56.6% career average).

Thursday, August 1st - 2:37 p.m. CDT
TBD (possibly the other one of Jordan Lyles or Gio Gonzalez) vs. Daniel Mengden

Another Oakland pitcher that doesn’t strike out a ton of batters, Mengden has battled a problem with walks at points this year. The 26-year-old has walked 25 batters in 55.2 innings while only striking out 61. He doesn’t throw very hard, either, but does offer a couple different types of fastballs with a 91.2 mph four-seamer and an 86.1 mph cutter.

Player to Watch

Khris Davis always showed pretty good power -- especially for being listed at 5’10” and 200 pounds -- but not the type of league-leading power he’s flashed in Oakland of all places. He capped things off with a 48-homer performance last year, all while famously hitting exactly .247 for four straight years.

He’s fallen off that pace a bit this year, hitting just .224/.293/.390 with 16 home runs in 89 games, and considering he’s strictly a DH, that’s led to him actually being valued below replacement level, with -0.6 fWAR to this point.

This year, he hasn’t been able to launch the ball like he has in the past, with a GB/FB rate of 1.14 -- the first time since his first year in Oakland where he’s hit more grounders than flyballs. Fewer of those flyballs are also carrying over the fence, with his HR/FB rate dropping from 24.1% last year (and a peak of 26.9% in 2017) to 18.6% this year.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs