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Series Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Milwaukee Brewers

That’s no baseball team. That’s a remorseless baseball-killing machine.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

There’s never a great time to face a mericless baseball-killing machine like the Los Angeles Dodgers, but you probably/definitely don’t want to do it after losing a disappointing series at home to the Miami Marlins.

Struggles at American Family Field aside, though, the Brewers always seem to rise to the occasion against the Dodgers, going back to Craig Counsell’s first series as a manager. The two teams have also built a bit of a rivalry over the past few seasons after a pair of meetings in the postseason. While last year’s sweep in the first round was a footnote on the way to the Dodgers’ first World Series title in more than 30 years, memories of a contentious 2018 NLCS remain (you can’t convince me that Craig Counsell’s starting pitcher switcheroo was not at least part of the reason why Rob Manfred instituted the three-batter minimum rule).

The Brewers are plenty banged up so this weekend may not be the best indicator of how these teams match up down the road, but Milwaukee did just sweep a San Diego team that’s given the Dodgers all they can handle early this year.

The Lineup

The Dodgers have run roughshod over the entire National League for years now largely by out-depthing everyone — both in their lineup of regulars and the guys they have who can step in without skipping a beat in case of injury.

That’s still the case this year, and they’ve gotten off to a 16-9 start by once again grinding opposing pitching down with long at-bats and then pouncing with big knockout blows. Justin Turner, who may or may not have been using the Brewers as leverage with the Dodgers this past winter, is off to a ridiculous .337/.422/.628 start with a .441 wOBA and 6 home runs and 7 doubles. Max Muncy may only be hitting .237, but he’s carrying a .437 OBP despite that and may pose the single biggest risk to Corbin Burnes’ walkless streak. Corey Seager ranks in the top 8% of the league in hard-hit percentage and is hitting .263/.352/.474 to start the year.

The Dodgers are rolling despite a so-so start from Mookie Betts at the plate, hitting .250/.362/.412 with just 2 home runs in his first 94 plate appearances, although he’s been as patient as ever — he’s seen a total of 398 pitches so far this year (only Muncy and Turner have seen more on the Dodgers), more than 30 more pitches than Travis Shaw has seen as the Brewers’ team leader at 364.

The further drive home the point the Dodgers will wait until you bleed out: they have six players in their lineup who have seen more than 300 pitches this year, while the Brewers only have three (Shaw at 364, Keston Hiura at 322 and Jackie Bradley, Jr. at 322). Meanwhile, Muncy has seen 441 pitches and Turner has seen 414, followed by Betts, Seager (369), Chris Taylor (345), and catcher Will Smith (309).

The Brewers are going to need a lot of arms this weekend and strong outings in middle relief, because efficient starts likely are not going to be a thing against this lineup.

The Probable Pitchers

Eric Lauer will get the tough assignment of making his first start this year — in what he hopes is a bounceback season — against that extremely difficult Dodgers lineup. He gets the added challenge of going toe-to-toe with the reigning NL Partial Season Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer, who has struck out 45 batters compared to 6 walks in his first 32 innings this season. FIP would indicate Bauer is once again getting a little lucky, with a 3.46 FIP compared to his 2.53 ERA, but that’s nothing new for Bauer in the last couple years.

As of now, Friday night’s starter for the Dodgers is listed as TBD, facing up against Freddy Peralta. While he got hit with a few earned runs in his last outing, Peralta still ranks among MLB’s best when it comes to strikeout rate, punching out 41.8% of the batters he’s faced so far this season.

Saturday night features a premium pitching matchup between two hard-throwing redheads in Brandon Woodruff and Dustin May. Yes, May will be pitching on May Day. He shined on Sunday Night Baseball in his last start, striking out 10 Padres before ultimately getting a no decision thanks to the wild finish in that game. Still just 23 years old, May could take a big leap forward this year after finishing in 5th place in last year’s Rookie of the Year voting. He’s off to a good start, putting up a 2.76 FIP and 151 ERA+ in his first 4 starts this season, striking out 13.5 batters per 9 innings.

Corbin Burnes will get a chance to break Kenley Jansen’s strikeouts-with-no-walks record on Sunday afternoon against Jansen’s Dodgers. He needs two strikeouts without a walk to tie the 51/0 mark and three to break the record, but it’ll have to come against a brutally patient Dodgers offense. Burnes will go up against lefty Julio Urias in the series finale. Urias hasn’t lost a decision since 2019 and has shown improved command so far this year, cutting his BB/9 down from 2.9 last year to just 1.8 through his first 5 starts this season. He’s also striking out 9.4 batters per 9 innings, and his breaking stuff could pose problems for a Brewers team that struggled against Trevor Rogers earlier this week.

Statistics courtesy of Statcast