As of this writing, the Brewers magic number to clinch the NL Central is down to three, and the number for a playoff spot is at two. That playoff spot could be clinched as soon as on Friday, when the Brewers and Marlins begin a three-game series in Miami. A single win will guarantee that the Brewers can finish no worse than 88-74, which would be better than either the Marlins or Reds could get.
This series will be a bit of a Wild Card series preview for the Brewers, as they will line up their top three starters. With a bit of manipulation with recent bullpen starts and using effectively a six-man rotation, the top three starters are lined up to pitch in a Wild Card series. This will give the Brewers the best possible chance to secure a playoff spot and the division in Miami.
Meanwhile, the Marlins need this series to remain in the Wild Card hunt. They currently are a half-game behind the Cubs for the last playoff spot, but they do hold the tiebreaker against every other Wild Card contender except for the Giants (who are three games back). Following the series in Milwaukee, they swept Atlanta at home before losing two of three against the Mets. This is the last home series for the Marlins, but they have a favorable road trip to finish the season against the Mets and Pirates.
While the Brewers lineup has still had its share of struggles, they have been formidable in recent games. Tyrone Taylor has been on fire with four home runs, five doubles, and a 203 wRC+. After Thursday’s win, William Contreras has a nine-game hitting streak, and Mark Canha has an eight-game streak. Sal Frelick has also added on a 17-game on-base streak. They’ve been playing well despite Christian Yelich still nursing a back injury, and he’s still day-to-day entering the series.
After being held to just five runs by the Brewers last week, the Marlins offense erupted against the Braves. They scored a total of 36 runs in three games, but then were held to eight runs in three games against the Mets. Luis Arraez has been leading the offense with four home runs and a .348 batting average in the last two weeks, and Jorge Soler has been playing well in his first few games back with a .385 batting average in four games. One player that is uncertain for this series is Jake Burger, who left Wednesday’s game with right quad tightness.
Friday, September 22 @ 5:40 p.m.: Corbin Burnes vs. TBD
Corbin Burnes has been on a streak of alternating starts. In his last seven starts, here are the number of runs allowed: 5, 0, 6, 1, 4, 0, 4. If the pattern holds, he’ll have another good start to rebound from his last start, where he allowed 4 runs in 5 2⁄3 innings against the Nationals.
The Marlins have not named their starter for Friday yet, but manager Skip Schumaker said that he will use an opener for the game. Several members of the Marlins bullpen have made starts this season. Steven Okert was the most recent, but George Soriano and JT Chargois have also made starts. In terms of starting pitchers, both Johnny Cueto and Bryan Hoeing have made starts, so it’s likely we’ll see at least one of them in the game.
Saturday, September 23 @ 3:10 p.m.: Brandon Woodruff vs. Jesus Luzardo
This is a repeat of last Monday’s game between the two teams. Brandon Woodruff pitched a complete game shutout with seven strikeouts in that start. In the following start, he allowed a run in six innings of work with six strikeouts.
Jesus Luzardo was on the other end of that shutout, getting roughed up by the Brewers offense for six runs in five innings. He rebounded in his next start against the Braves, going six shutout innings with eight strikeouts. Overall he has a 3.68 ERA and 3.67 FIP this season.
Sunday, September 24 @ 12:40 p.m.: Freddy Peralta vs. Edward Cabrera
This is also a repeat from the last series. Freddy Peralta has allowed a single earned run in each of his last two starts while racking up 15 strikeouts. The Brewers went 1-1 in those two starts.
Edward Cabrera pitched out of the bullpen in Tuesday’s game between the two teams, but was effectively the starter for the game. He pitched 4 2⁄3 innings and allowed two runs, one hit, and six walks. In his last start, he allowed a run in 5 1⁄3 innings pitched. He has a 4.35 ERA and 4.52 FIP this season.
The Brewers bullpen has been as strong as ever. They allowed just two runs against the Cardinals, with one of those coming off of Colin Rea pitching after the opener. Joel Payamps has been the only reliever to allow an earned run in the past week, as he has allowed a single run in two of his recent appearances. Going back to the last two weeks, the only other reliever to allow an earned run is Andrew Chafin. However, the Brewers are without Elvis Peguero for the rest of the regular season, but he could still return for the postseason.
On the Marlins side, it’s been Tanner Scott leading the bullpen recently with four saves in the last week and a 3.38 ERA. He’s one of five active relievers with a K/9 over 10. A.J. Puk and David Robertson have had a 15+ K/9 in the last two weeks, though Robertson has also been prone to allowing walks. Okert also has a double-digit K/9 and is a potential opener for Friday’s game. Another potential opener is Chargois, who has a 2.45 ERA in the past two weeks over five appearances.
The Brewers have been playing well and just have a little further to go to lock in that third seed. Hopefully the Brewers won’t let up after that, but there’s still work to be done. The Marlins are a little scary after their offensive explosion against Atlanta, but the Brewers have the pitching to keep them in check. They’ll take two of three and get to celebrate in Miami.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs. Statistics are through Wednesday’s games unless otherwise noted.