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Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates @ Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers look to continue taking are of business against a team they’ve consistently beaten in 2019

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into their final home series of the regular season, the Brewers control their own destiny in the playoff race, coming into the weekend one game ahead of the Chicago Cubs for the NL’s final playoff spot.

The top wildcard spot and a division title are also still within reach, too, which is more than a little crazy considering they’ve played the last 9 games without one of the most important players in the game.

They’ll hope to get those offensive numbers a boost this weekend against the Pirates, who are missing a bunch of pitchers for dramatically different reasons.

Chris Archer, Nick Burdi, Kyle Crick, Chad Kuhl and Jameson Taillon are all going to end the season on the Injured List. Closer Felipe Vazquez, you may have heard this week, is now an alleged child rapist and faces deportation. Vazquez reportedly has a green card but would be turned over to ICE after serving his sentence if he’s convicted.

Turning the discussion back to baseball, you could argue one of the reasons why the Brewers are still in this race is because they’ve largely taken care of business against the Pirates, going 12-4 against them this year, although it’s seldom been as easy as that record would indicate. There have been plenty of close calls, especially in Pittsburgh, but this is now a beat up (both figuratively and literally, since Crick hurt himself in a clubhouse fight with Vazquez) team largely playing out the string. They come into tonight having lost 6 straight games and are now 65-89, meaning the Brewers can give them their first 90-loss season since 2011

Craig Counsell’s crew takes nothing for granted down the stretch, as seen by their performance the last couple Septembers, but a stumble this weekend could still prove costly if they can’t take advantage of the Cubs and Cardinals facing eachother.

Probable Pitchers

Friday, September 20th - 7:10 p.m. CDT
Steven Brault vs. Chase Anderson

Brault has largely had a rocky season at the back end of the Pirates’ rotation with a 4.98 ERA/5.02 FIP in 103 innings, but for whatever reason, he’s been able to keep the Brewers off the board for much of this year. In 4 starts against Milwaukee, he’s held them to just 6 runs over 20.1 innings despite 16 hits and 9 walks for a 2.66 ERA. It’s the most success he’s had against any team he’s faced more than once -- compare that to the 15 earned runs he’s given up in 12.2 innings (3 games, 2 starts) against the Cubs and the 16 earned runs he’s allowed against the Cardinals in 15.1 innings (4 games, 3 starts).

Saturday, September 21st - 6:10 p.m. CDT
James Marvel vs. Zach Davies

A 25-year-old rookie, Marvel is not exactly Thor, and an elbow injury that kept him out for much of his sophomore season and all of his junior year at Duke proved he may not be Iron Man, either. But after a middling start to his pro career, it looks like he was finally able to Avenge that injury that caused him to slip to the 36th round in the 2015 draft, putting up a 2.94 ERA in 28 starts across Double-A and Triple-A before getting a call-up this September. He had a solid debut against the Cardinals, allowing 2 runs over 5 innings on September 8th. That run of luck may have been snapped by the Cubs in his last start, though, as he gave up 7 runs on 9 hits over 4 innings.

Sunday, September 22nd - 1:10 p.m. CDT
Trevor Williams vs. TBD

The Brewers did the unthinkable the last time they saw Williams, actually scoring runs against him -- 6 of them over 5 innings, in fact -- after being held scoreless by the righty in 3 starts (19 innings) last season. Of course, just about everyone has been scoring runs off of him this year, as his ERA is up to 5.59 in 24 starts this year. It appears they should have sold high on him last winter, when he was coming off a 3.11-ERA, 126 ERA+ season.

Previous Series

Things were starting to look dire for the Brewers after the first two legs of their three-city, three-timezone road trip in early August. After seeing a potential sweep in Oakland turn into a series loss with the peak of Josh Hader’s home run problem, a sweep at Wrigley Field turned the final three games of the trip in Pittsburgh into virtual must-wins.

And win they did, sweeping the Pirates with a relative offensive explosion, outscoring Pittsburgh 21-13 over the three games after mustering all of 5 runs in Chicago.

The first game of the series saw the Brewers win 9-7 after a wild final two innings in which both teams combined for 8 runs in a contest to see who could blow the game more. Hader was able to get the save in that game while giving up another home run.

The series’ second game saw Matt Albers get the save opportunity and give up a run without securing an out until Clint Hurdle decided to give the Brewers one with a sacrifice bunt to move his fastest base runner from second to third. Albers immediately picked up the final two outs to end the game, and the Brewers completed the sweep the next day with an easy 8-3 win.

Player to Watch

There’s not a whole lot to be excited about in Pittsburgh right now.

At least they have Bryan Reynolds, who has been one of the lone bright spots this year in his rookie season. The switch-hitter has proven to be a headache for the Brewers this year, and while he has virtually no chance of winning NL Rookie of the Year ahead of New York’s Pete Alonso and Atlanta’s Mike Soroka, he may end up getting some down-ballot votes after hitting .317/.383/.510 with 16 home runs and 37 doubles as of yesterday. The 24-year-old outfielder has hit .426/.500/.704 in 62 plate appearances against the Brewers this year.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference