The Brewers are back home to start this week after being able to snap a streak of three straight series losses by taking 2 out of 3 in Cincinnati over the weekend.
Now they face a tougher opponent, but one they’ve already swept once before this season: the San Diego Padres.
The three-game set in San Diego in April is perhaps the most impressive the Brewers have looked all year, as they held the powerful Padres lineup to just 3 runs scored all series while getting some key contributions on offense from their non-star players. It was a total team effort, and one that might need to be repeated as they face one of the NL’s favorites a second time.
San Diego hasn’t slowed down in the last month despite seeing a big chunk of their lineup — including Fernando Tatis, Jr. — miss time due to COVID-19. Those players are back now, though, and San Diego enters this week atop the NL West at 30-17, winners of 9 straight games. That streak could have been as long as 12 straight if it weren’t for an extra innings loss to Colorado in the second game of a double header.
As we learned in April, Tatis will get the headlines — and deservedly so, he’s legitimately one of the game’s most exciting players — but this is a deep lineup that is not easy to survive once, let alone two or three trips through. While Tatis has missed time with COVID and a shoulder injury this year, he’s still put up 1.7 fWAR in the 30 games he’s been able to play, hitting .309/.384/.727 with 13 home runs despite playing his home games in a pitcher-friendly park.
Trent Grisham has also been able to rack up 1.8 fWAR despite playing in just 36 games this year after the missing the first few weeks of the season, hitting .301/.383/.515 with a .388 wOBA. Sigh.
He and Jake Cronenworth (.305/.374/.463) have been doing a good job of grinding down pitchers at the top of the lineup before they even have to face Tatis, Eric Hosmer (.299/.362/.422) and Manny Machado (.225/.323/.394 overall, but .342/.438/.789 in a small sample 38 AB with runners in scoring position).
The bottom of the order doesn’t get much easier for pitchers, as Jurickson Profar is carrying a .349 OBP and Tommy Pham has a .342 OBP despite hitting just .193 so far this year.
The Probable Pitchers
Luckily for the Brewers, they have Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes lined up in another key series, just as they did in San Diego.
Woodruff will start the opener tonight against former AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell. The lefty has had an up and down first couple months in a Padres uniform after coming over from Tampa Bay in an offseason trade, but he may be rounding into form if his last start is any indication, as he struck out 11 and walked just 1 while allowing a single run over 6 innings against the Rockies. The left-handed Snell is capable of racking up big strikeout numbers — he has 60 in just 40.1 innings this year — but walks have been his big issue so far with San Diego, including a 6-walk blowup against the Giants earlier this month. That’s likely because teams aren’t chasing outside of the zone against him as much this year, but his stuff is still as wicked as ever, since he’s still putting up some elite swing-and-miss rates when opponents don’t choose to lay off.
Joe Musgrove will start for the Padres in the second night of the series, getting a showdown against Burnes. He’s continued to be an elite performer this year, combining a K% that’s in the top 10% of the league with a BB% that’s in the top 15%. He’s also one of the very best in baseball — the top 4% of pitchers — in getting batters to chase. He’s done that by making his elite slider his #1 pitch, throwing it 30 percent of the time, making it tough for opponents to tell if they’re getting the 84 mph slider or the 90 mph cutter that he also throws 20 percent of the time, while also mixing in his 93 mph fastball 22% of the time. As we saw in April, everything Musgrove throws has a ton of movement — his 95th-percentile fastball spin rate can attest to that for us statcast nerds — and teams have had a hell of a time figuring out where his pitches are going to end up, but they always end up being a strike.
Chris Paddack gets the start in game three against Adrian Houser. Since giving up 5 runs to the Brewers on April 20th, Paddack has been able to turn things around, allowing just 2 earned runs so far in May, and is coming off a 6-inning, 3-hit, 1 run outing with 6 strikeouts against the Mariners in his most recent start. The Brewers were able to jump on Paddack for a 5-run third inning in their previous meeting, including a solo home run by Billy McKinney and a two-run double by Travis Shaw. Despite those results by left-handed Brewers, Paddack actually has reverse splits this year (likely thanks to his very good changeup), with right-handers hitting .293/.349/.483 against him as opposed to .212/.264/.329 from lefties.
As of Monday morning, the Padres’ starter for the fourth game in this series on Thursday afternoon is still TBD, but the Brewers have Brett Anderson lined up. San Diego is in a stretch of playing 20 games in a row and could decide to go with a six-man rotation. If that’s the case, the Brewers could see Dinelson Lamet again instead of lefty Ryan Weathers, who started Saturday for San Diego and would be on normal rest. Lamet has been limited to two innings since getting an elbow scare against the Brewers last month, so even if he does get the starting nod, Thursday could be a bullpen game of sorts for San Diego.
Statistics courtesy of Statcast