In theory, the Brewers’ hardest work is done — they took 2 of 3 games in St. Louis over the weekend in their last regular season series against a team above .500.
Of course, we say in theory, because nothing is a given in baseball (especially September baseball), and as we saw in the Brewers’ sweep in Miami last week, even series against bad Major League teams are hard-fought.
The Brewers start their final homestand of the year today, although they hope to play more games at Miller Park beyond this week. In order to do that, they’ll have to take advantage of series against the Padres and Pirates while the Cardinals and Cubs look ahead to a massive four-game set this weekend (and the Cardinals play wildcard-leading Washington ahead of that).
The Padres are far from a pushover, too. Despite coming into this series on the verge of a losing season with 81 losses, they played the Cubs tough last week, splitting a four-game series in San Diego that allowed the Brewers back in the race for the second wildcard.
San Diego is a young team that will likely be a trendy playoff pick next year, with a solid lineup anchored by old friend Manny Machado, who’s had a bit of a disappointing first year to his monster free agent contract, belting 30 home runs but only putting up a .256/.334/.463 line and a 2.8 fWAR that’s a far cry from the 6.2 fWAR he accumulated last year.
That contract may not look as bad as Eric Hosmer’s, though, who leads the team in batting average (.277), hits (159) and RBI (94) but has barely been above replacement level overall, with 0.3 fWAR. While he may not hit for a ton of power overall, he’s still a lefty bat getting ready to play a series at Miller Park, and has shown an ability to drive in runs -- even if it’s just with a single.
Hunter Renfroe isn’t that keen on the idea of hitting singles, but packs plenty of power, leading the Padres with 31 in 129 games this year. Along with his 19 doubles and one triple, 51 of his 92 hits this year have gone for extra bases -- it’s just a matter of making contact, with a .222/.290/.498 line.
The breakout star, though, had been 20-year-old Fernando Tatis, Jr., who lived up to his best-prospect-not-named-Vladimir-Guerrero-Jr. billing by hitting .317/.379/.590 with a 153 OPS+ thanks to 22 home runs, 13 doubles, 6 triples and 16 steals in just 84 games, but he’s been on the shelf with a back injury for the last month and is likely done for the season.
Monday, September 16th - 6:40 p.m. CDT
Garrett Richards vs. Zach Davies
Richards is making his Padres debut after spending this year rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. San Diego signed him to a low-rate 2-year deal last winter because of that injury, but will hope he’s a piece for a playoff push next year (or potentially a trade chip this winter). The oft-injured righty has always showed good potential ace-like strikeout stuff when healthy -- he was striking out 10.3 batters per 9 innings in 16 starts before his elbow blew out last year -- but he’s also struggled with walks in the past. He looked rusty in his 5 minor league rehab starts this year, walking 11 batters (while striking out 13) in 9.1 innings in Rookie and High-A ball.
Tuesday, September 17th - 6:40 p.m. CDT
Chris Paddack vs. Gio Gonzalez
If it weren’t for Pete Alonso and his teammate Fernando Tatis, Jr., Paddack would be getting much more consideration for NL Rookie of the Year -- although he may end up placing higher in the NL Cy Young race. He’s put up a 3.38 ERA and 125 ERA+ in 25 starts this year, striking out 144 while walking just 30 in 135.2 innings. He shut out the Cubs over 6 innings in his last start, holding them to just 3 hits while striking out 7 and only walking 1.
Wednesday, September 18th - 6:40 p.m. CDT
Dinelson Lamet vs. Adrian Houser
Lamet is also coming off of Tommy John surgery, making 12 starts so far this year with a 4.06 ERA and 104 ERA+. He’s still shown big strikeout stuff post-surgery, with 81 strikeouts in 62 innings. But like Richards, he’s also prone to walks, having issued 25 of them in 62 innings. He struck out 7 Cubs over 5 innings in his last start, but also walked 2 while giving up 3 runs.
Thursday, September 19th - 3:10 p.m. CDT
Joey Lucchesi vs. Jordan Lyles
The lefty with a funky delivery gave the Brewers fits during their trip to San Diego in June, shutting Milwaukee out for 7 innings while only allowing 3 hits in what ended up being a 2-0 Padres win. He’s been a solid mid-rotation starter all year for the Padres, but got roughed up at Coors Field in his last start, allowing 8 runs over 3.2 innings while giving up 3 home runs.
The Brewers wrapped up an 8-games-in-9-days West coast road trip in mid-June with three games in San Diego that we’d all probably like to forget but show just how pesky the Padres can be. After Lucchesi shut out the Brewers in the opener, one of San Diego’s plethora of highly-touted pitching prospects, Logan Allen, kept the Brewers’ bats quiet in a 4-1 win.
San Diego completed the sweep and climbed over .500 with an 8-7 win in the finale that saw the Brewers take a 7-5 lead in the top of the 7th before Jeremy Jeffress allowed 3 runs in the bottom half.
The Brewers’ losing streak would stretch up to 5 games before they won the finale of the following series in Cincinnati.
Player to Watch
Josh Naylor is yet another Top-100 Padres prospect getting his first taste of the majors this year, and could end up taking advantage of Miller Park’s friendly dimensions for left-handed power hitters.
Naylor could be compared to Prince Fielder in terms of body type, being listed at 5’11” and a generous 250 pounds while playing first base and left field. He’s hit .253/.321/.422 with 8 home runs and 14 doubles in his first 225 at-bats in the majors, but as with most Padres, predictably hits better away from Petco Park with a .270/.348/.444 line on the road.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference