After a series sweep of the Royals over the weekend, the Brewers dropped two of three to the surging Cardinals to begin the week, including a lopsided loss on Monday night. Sitting at 24-19 with a one game lead over the Pirates in the NL Central, Milwaukee now heads to Tampa to take on the Rays, who started hot and have stayed hot with an MLB-best 32-13 record, even with a 4-6 mark over the team’s last 10 games.
Owen Miller has continued to provide offense even as the Brewers have struggled to score runs (four runs over the team’s last three games). His hitting streak is now at 10 games, including six hits across the three games in St. Louis, raising his batting line to .350/.376/.488 this season. After getting hot to start May, Christian Yelich is now day-to-day with a back injury. Brian Anderson has been consistent over the last week, slashing .267/.421/.467 with a homer in his last five games, while Rowdy Tellez has the second-best batting average over that period (behind Miller) at .333 over his last 15 at-bats.
The Rays have been so successful in no small part due to their offense. They have multiple players hitting above .300 in Randy Arozarena (.317/.402/.553), Yandy Diaz (.321/.429/.593), and Josh Lowe (.306/.368/.637). Those players have also combined for 30 homers on the season, with Brandon Lowe (eight) and Luke Raley (eight) right behind them for the team lead. Combined, the Rays lead the league in just about every major offensive category, including homers (87), average (.273), OBP (.348), slugging (.506), and runs scored (277), while also sitting in second with 47 stolen bases.
Probable Pitching Matchups
Friday, May 19 @ 5:40 p.m.: Adrian Houser (0-0) vs. Shane McClanahan (7-0)
Through two starts this season, Houser has a 5.19 ERA, although Milwaukee has managed to get the win in both games. He’s allowed five earned runs across just 8 2⁄3 innings, tossing 87 and 88 pitches against the Giants and Royals, respectively. While he’s allowed just two walks, he’s given up 15 hits over that period, putting his WHIP at 1.96 across the small sample size. That’s not a welcome sign against a heavy-hitting Rays offense, so he’ll look to improve on his first two outings on Friday night.
After an All-Star appearance and a sixth place Cy Young finish in 2022, McClanahan has only gotten better in 2023. His ERA is at a career-best 2.34 through nine games (50 innings) while he’s struck out 61 batters and pitched to a perfect 7-0 record. The Rays are 8-1 in games he’s started, with their first loss coming at the hands of the Yankees last weekend.
Saturday, May 20 @ 3:10 p.m.: TBD vs. Zach Eflin (5-1)
The Brewers have not yet announced a starter for Saturday’s matchup, although it could fall to Colin Rea and/or Eric Lauer, who combined for nine innings in a series finale win over the Royals on Sunday. Rea is currently at AAA Nashville, but the Brewers may opt to call him up again if needed, especially with the shortage of arms in the rotation after injuries to Miley and Woodruff.
Eflin has a career-best 3.38 ERA so far this season across seven starts (40 innings). He has allowed four runs in each of his last two outings, but he’s managed to get through at least five innings in each start this season despite a limited pitch count early.
Sunday, May 21 @ 12:40 p.m.: Freddy Peralta (4-3) vs. TBD
Peralta is coming off of his worst outing of the season on Monday night against St. Louis, allowing six runs across 5 1⁄3 innings in the team’s 18-1 loss. He allowed a season-high five walks, which continues his trend of command issues, as he’s now walked 10 batters over three May starts compared to just nine walks across five April starts. While he’s still getting at least a few strikeouts every game (at least four in all eight starts), he’ll need to do a better job of avoiding bats and walks against the Rays on Sunday.
With injuries in the Rays rotation, it’s possible they go with an “opener” and utilize the bullpen rather than a starter in this game, as they’ve done so often in recent years.
Milwaukee’s bullpen ERA ballooned after the team’s 18-1 loss to the Cardinals on Monday but then did great in what turned into a bullpen game on Tuesday after Wade Miley left in the second with an injury. Joel Payamps continues to be a cornerstone with a 2.57 ERA across 19 games (21 innings), moving to 2-0 on the season after earning the win on Tuesday, while Williams is now 6-for-6 in save opportunities across 14 innings this season, including his first career five-out save Tuesday night. Elvis Peguero has done well since getting called up, allowing just two runs over 12 2⁄3 innings (1.42 ERA).
If there’s one thing to complain about for the Rays so far this season, it’s the bullpen. Tampa Bay ranks 14th with a 3.85 bullpen ERA, with Colin Poche leading the team with a 1.72 ERA over 18 appearances. Jason Adam leads the team with five saves, but he’s also blown three opportunities, totaling a 3.00 ERA over 19 games. Pete Fairbanks is 3-for-4 in save opportunities, totaling a 2.25 ERA over nine appearances, although he allowed a three-run walk-off homer to the Mets on Wednesday. Kevin Kelly (17), Jalen Beeks (17), and Ryan Thompson (15) also rank near the top in appearances, although all four of those pitchers have an ERA of at least 4.70 (Beeks).
I expect Milwaukee’s starting pitching injuries and inability to create offense consistently to come back to bite them this weekend, so I’ll take Tampa Bay to win two of three at the Trop.