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Series Preview: Milwaukee @ Cleveland

The Brewers head into a series against a team that’s struggled as much as them offensively

Cleveland Indians v Detroit Tigers Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

After a 6-4 homestand, the Milwaukee Brewers are back on the road this weekend in Cleveland.

While Cleveland comes into Labor Day weekend leading the tough AL Central at 23-14, the task may not be as daunting as it seems on the surface — they’re only 9-7 at home this year, and like the Brewers, are 6-4 in their last 10 games.

Their success this year has largely been due to their pitching, as their lineup has been uncharacteristically weak to this point in the season. While not quite Brewers-Bad, their lineup has similarly struggled to hit for any power (or really, hit much at all) — entering Friday, they’re hitting .229 as a team, ranking 25th in the majors, and their team OPS of .697 is only slightly better than the Brewers’ .683.

Franmil Reyes has been one of the few threats in the lineup this year, hitting .336/.388/.575, leading the team in average, on-base percentage, slugging, hits, RBI and tying for the team lead in home runs.

Jose Ramirez leads the team in WAR, hitting .250/.351/.479 while tying with Reyes for the team lead in home runs with 8. Those two are the only regulars with an OPS north of .800, although Francisco Lindor is close while hitting .283/.335/.461.

Despite that, Cleveland has the highest run differential in the AL to this point at +53, thanks in large part to the pitching and a less-than-taxing schedule. A total of 14 of their 23 wins are against teams in the bottom two spots of the Central divisions — the Royals, Tigers, Pirates and Reds.

Pitchers, Probably

Friday, September 4th - 6:10 p.m. CDT
Corbin Burnes vs. Carlos Carrasco

Saturday, September 5th - 6:10 p.m. CDT
Brandon Woodruff vs. Aaron Civale

Sunday, September 6th - 12:10 p.m. CDT
Brett Anderson vs. Shane Bieber

Carrasco opted to play this year despite being a Leukemia survivor and being considered high-risk for COVID-19. Even with teammates (well, now one teammate and one ex-teammate) that apparently didn’t care about that, he’s pitched well this year, putting up a 3.75 ERA through his first 7 starts and striking out a career-high 11.3 batters per 9 innings. He is walking batters at a higher rate than normal, but there’s a chance it may just be a small sample issue — he has 17 walks in 36 overall innings. He’s coming off an outing in which he held the Cardinals to just 2 hits over 6 shutout innings.

Civale is part of the reason why Cleveland felt comfortable moving Mike Clevinger at this year’s trade deadline. After putting up a 2.34 ERA and 204 ERA+ in his first 10 career starts last year, he’s coming into this start with a 3.72 ERA that looked a lot better before his most recent start, when he gave up 5 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks over 6 innings. It was just the second time in 7 starts in which he gave up more than 3 runs.

Bieber is probably the frontrunner for AL Cy Young at this point, with the lowest ERA in baseball at 1.20 and also leading the majors in strikeouts (84 in 52.2 innings), K/9 (14.4), ERA+ (380), FIP (1.73) and leading the AL in H/9 (5.1). After being named an All-Star last year and finishing 4th in last year’s Cy Young voting, it looks like the 25-year-old is making the leap into a legitimate ace capable of shutting down the best lineups in baseball — which is probably a problem for the Brewers, considering they aren’t.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference