The Brewers took 3 of their first 5 games against the St. Louis Cardinals in the last week, which helped them close the gap on the Cardinals in the standings — they’re now just a half-game behind them in the NL Central race entering the weekend.
The problem, though, is that the Cincinnati Reds have suddenly started winning. Thanks in part to the Brewers knocking off the Cardinals three times — combined with their 5-game winning streak — has Cincinnati in second place heading into the last week or so of games.
So that makes each one of the Brewers’ final 8 games of the 2020 season incredibly important. Of course, they have 3 more games before they get there.
This weekend series against the Kansas City Royals, the last series at Miller Park, may as well have a giant blinking “IT’S A TRAP” sign pointing to it.
The Brewers will have a chance to take their playoff odds into their own hands next week. But first, they need to take care of business this weekend.
The Royals enter this series at 21-29 and winners of 7 of their last 10 games, if you need another indication the Brewers need to take them seriously. Granted, the competition hasn’t been great — their last 5 games have been against the Tigers and Pirates — but they did take 3 of 4 from Cleveland on the road to start their recent hot stretch.
Offensively, the Royals have been fairly similar to the Brewers as a team — albeit with a higher team batting average (.244 compared to the Brewers’ .225), but lower OBP (.310 compared to the Brewers’ .316). Neither team has hit for much power — Whit Merrifield leads the team with 9 home runs — and have similar wRC+ totals of 91 and 90. The Royals are one of 6 teams who have scored fewer runs than the Brewers this year, although it’s close — the Brewers have scored 210 runs, while the Royals have scored 207. We could be in for another low-scoring weekend.
Friday, September 18th - 7:10 p.m. CDT
Danny Duffy vs. Adrian Houser
Saturday, September 19th - 6:10 p.m. CDT
Kris Bubic vs. Corbin Burnes
Sunday, September 20th - 1:10 p.m. CDT
TBD vs. Brett Anderson
Duffy has rediscovered his strikeout stuff through 9 starts this year, striking out roughly a batter per inning after seeing his K/9 drop below 8 last season. Control remains an issue for him, though, and is a contributing factor in his 4.24 ERA/4.76 FIP, as he’s walked 19 batters in 46.2 innings. The lefty hasn’t made a start since September 9th, when he shut out Cleveland over 5.2 innings — but still walke 4 batters.
Another lefty, Bubic entered this year on Baseball Prospectus’ Top 100 prospects list, ranking 96th. Having just turned 23 last month, he got credit for his first Major League win in his 8th career start, holding the Pirates to 1 run over 5 innings last Friday. He’s had a rough schedule for a rookie pitcher, having to face the White Sox 3 times, the Twins 2 times, and the Cubs and Reds once each before getting that start against lowly Pittsburgh.
Despite those challenges, he’s done ok, putting up a 4.50 ERA and 104 ERA+ with 37 strikeouts in 40 innings to this point. He’s largely been a two-pitch pitcher this year, using his 92 mph fastball 53% of the time and an 80 mph changeup 31% of the time. That mix has worked well enough in limiting hard contact, as he ranks in the 70th percentile in exit velocity allowed.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Baseball Savant