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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers vs Atlanta Braves

It’s a rematch of last season’s NLDS at Truist Park

Syndication: Journal Sentinel MARK HOFFMAN/MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Brewers, fresh off a 5-1 homestand, hit the road Friday for their longest road trip of the season. The 9-game trip will kick off in Atlanta, as they take on the Braves for three games. This will be the first time the two teams have faced each other since the Braves knocked out the Brewers in the 2021 NLDS. Last year when these two met, the Brewers' lack of hitting cost them the series, as they scored just six runs across four games. This year, they enter the series with one of the hottest offenses in the league. Currently, they are top five in home runs (1st), runs (T-1st), RBIs (T-1st), .SLG (4th), strikeouts (5th) and .OPS (5th), mostly thanks to a hot few weeks after a slow start to the season.

A major reason for the Brewers' recent success is due to the resurgence of Christian Yelich. In his last 7 games, Yelich is slashing .417/.517/.875 with three home runs, eight RBI, and an .OPS of 1.392. According to Statcast, he is fourth in the MLB in hard hit% at 58.5%. The combination of Yelich and Willy Adames at the top of the lineup has been lethal as of late, as the pair have combined for seven home runs and 17 RBIs over the team’s last seven.

Meanwhile, the Braves are experiencing a bit of a World Series hangover to start the season. Entering the series with a 12-15 record, the Braves have struggled to find their footing in a competitive NL East. They made news this offseason when former MVP Freddie Freeman left to go to the Los Angeles Dodgers in free agency. They did find a replacement for Freeman in former Oakland Athletic Matt Olson. The career .254/.350/.510 hitter has been one of their most productive hitters so far, leading the team with a .283 average.

Lineups

  1. Ronald Acuna Jr. RF
  2. Matt Olson 1B
  3. Austin Riley 3B
  4. Marcell Ozuna DH
  5. Ozzie Albies 2B
  6. Travis D’Arnaud C
  7. Adam Duvall CF
  8. Guillermo Heredia LF
  9. Dansby Swanson SS

In 2021, the Braves had one of the scariest lineups in baseball. Austin Riley, Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies all hit over 30 home runs, with the three of them collecting Silver Slugger Awards. Former Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna was primed for another breakout season, winning National League Player of the Month in April, before an ACL injury ended his season.

The somewhat-new-look Braves have been led by Austin Riley and Matt Olson so far this season. Olson is slashing a team-best .283/.395/.485 while Riley leads the team in home runs.

The biggest reason for the Braves' earlier struggles is the lack of production from their outfield. Acuna Jr. missed the first 22 games of the season rehabbing his torn ACL. Now back in the fold, he is batting just .200 in 25 at-bats. His early struggles are to be expected after missing nine months, but what isn’t expected is the struggles of his other outfield teammates. Ozzie Albies and Adam Duvall are both batting under .220 this season, while DH/left fielder Marcell Ozuna is batting just .224 with 10 RBI. If they are going to be successful this season, it will come from that quartet of players.

Probable Pitchers

Game 1 Friday, 6:20 CT: Eric Lauer vs Jesse Chavez

Eric Lauer has been one of the many bright spots in this elite rotation so far this season. The left-hander recorded back-to-back 11-plus strikeout performances his last two times out. So far this season, his K% is 36.6%, while his BB% is just 5.4%.

The 38-year-old Jesse Chavez will take the mound for game one against the Brewers. The Braves picked up Chavez for the third time in his career in April. The right-hander was a Brave in 2021 and is now back in 2022 following a brief stint with the Cubs. This will be a bullpen game for the Braves, so don’t expect to see Chavez in there very long.

Game 2 Saturday, 6:20 CT: Corbin Burnes vs Max Fried

The Brewers ace will try to continue his dominance in game two of the series. Burnes has been magnificent as of late, striking out 10-plus batters in each of his last three starts. His 0.73 WHIP is third in the league while his 43 strikeouts put him second.

The Braves will counter one ace for another, as Max Fried will be handed the ball on Saturday. After a slow start to the season, Fried has recorded three straight quality starts. This season, Fried has been effective in limited hard-hit balls, with opponents averaging an exit velocity of just 84 mph this season.

Game 3 Sunday, Sunday 12:35 CT: Aaron Ashby vs Charlie Morton

Ashby will make his third start of the season on Sunday, following a relief appearance on Tuesday. This year, Ashby has shown plenty of promise while bouncing around from long reliever to starter. His last start saw him carry a no-hitter into the sixth, finishing the day with a season-high six punchouts but also a season-high five walks.

Charlie Morton gets the start for the Braves, and it has been a struggle so far for the right-hander. Morton has yet to find the win column for a second time after he won his first start against the Reds. He enters Sunday with a 6.85 ERA and just 18 strikeouts so far.

You can watch all the games on Bally Sports Wisconsin, or listen to them live on the Brewers Radio Network.

All stats courtesy of MLB.com, Statmuse.com, and Statcast.