The Milwaukee Brewers are coming off a series loss for the first time since Opening Weekend and will now head west for their first late-night road series of the year.
They’ll be facing their biggest test since that first series of the year against the Minnesota Twins with a three-game set against playoff San Diego tonight. The Padres had a bit of a bumpy week, losing 2 of their last 3 games against the Pirates to split a four-game set before dropping 2 of 3 to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a highly-competitive series in a playoff-like atmosphere at Petco Park.
There’s no doubt the Padres are one of the most talented teams in the National League — especially with Fernando Tatis, Jr. off the injured list after an early-season shoulder scare — but the Brewers will hope to prove they belong in the conversation, too. While west coast road trips never seem to go well for the Crew, there may be a chance to catch the Padres with in a sort of post-contentious series hangover (similar to how the Brewers came out a bit flat in their first game after the most recent Cubs series).
Tatis is the rightful face of the franchise, one of the most exciting players in baseball, and yet...there’s some concern early in his career that he may be injury-prone. He only played in 84 games as a rookie in 2019 due to injury, likely causing him a chance at winning Rookie of the Year that season (although Pete Alonso’s 53 home runs in New York would have been hard to top regardless). After signing a long-term deal to stay in San Diego, Tatis hurt his shoulder on a swing in the season’s first week, suffering what was described as a “minor labral tear,” and injury that doesn’t seem like it should ever have the word “minor” in front of it.
Time will tell how Tatis fares playing through the injury, but the early results are a bit rough. Returning for that high-intensity Dodgers series, Tatis went just 1-for-13 with 6 strikeouts over the weekend.
Even if he’s not quite right, the Padres have plenty of other bats capable of carrying the offense. Eric Hosmer was the big hero on Sunday and is hitting .344/.412/.574 with 3 home runs, 5 doubles and 14 runs driven in during his first 16 games this year. Milwaukee Nemesis Manny Machado has also hit 3 homers so far this year, hitting .290/.408/.468 with as many walks as strikeouts (13) in 17 games. One of last year’s top rookies, Jake Cronenworth, is off to another strong start by hitting .313/.382/.463, and even the oft-criticized Wil Myers his carrying an OPS in the high .900s with a .327/.417/.577 line.
Old Friend Trent Grisham got a late start to the season, not making his debut until the team’s 8th game of the year on April 9th, but hasn’t shown any signs of rust, either, hitting .323/.447/.645 at the top of the San Diego lineup.
Basically, it’s easy to see why the Padres would be the clear favorites in any other division in baseball — there are very few weak spots in this lineup. Even new catcher Victor Caratini, who is struggling with a .551 OPS to start the year, has a history of hurting the Brewers in his days as a Cub.
The Probable Pitchers
The Brewers at least have their best lined up this week against that San Diego lineup.
Brandon Woodruff has had to step up in some big pitching battles already this year, going toe-to-toe with the likes of Kenta Maeda and Kyle Hendricks in some outings with very low margins for error. Tonight may be another one, as he faces Joe Musgrove in the San Diego native’s first home start since throwing the first no-hitter in franchise history. Musgrove may be the latest pitcher to leave Pittsburgh and see his career take off. Even before the no-hitter, he was off to a hot start this year, and has only allowed 1 run and 2 walks all season while striking out 24.
Of course, Corbin Burnes has also only allowed 1 run and has ZERO walks allowed to go with his 30 strikeouts over his first three starts. He’ll take the ball in night two against another highly-touted young arm in Chris Paddack, although Paddack has been less consistent over the last year or so. After a breakout 2019, he struggled with a 4.73 DRA (Deserved Run Average) per Baseball Prospectus last season. He’s started the year with a 4.15 ERA/3.76 DRA after allowing 3 runs in all of his starts so far in this young season, although he’s done a decent job of preventing hard contact with his fastball-changeup combo.
Adrian Houser will start the series finale for the Brewers, while the Padres have yet to announce a starter. That’s because they’re evaluating whether the electric Dinelson Lamet will be ready to make that start as he works his way back from a strained UCL that cut an impressive 2020 short. Lamet ended up finishing 4th in the NL Cy Young voting last year after striking out 34.8% of the batters he faced while finishing the year with a 2.09 ERA. He’s had some of the nastiest stuff in the league while flying under the radar the last few years, partially due to the fact that he plays in San Diego and partially due to the fact that he’s run into multiple arm issues. If he can make the start on Thursday, the Brewers will face a tough challenge in trying to get a series win.
Statistics courtesty of Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus and Statcast