The Milwaukee Brewers are coming off yet another series victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, improving to 76-60 on the season and holding onto a 3 1⁄2 game lead over the Cubs with a little less than a month to go.
To get back to the postseason, the Brewers will need to take advantage of some of their lesser opponents down the stretch, starting with the Pirates this week.
Pittsburgh started the season 20-8 and in first place in the NL Central, but since that time, they’ve gone 43-66, sitting at 63-74 on the season and in fourth place in the division. Milwaukee is 7-3 against them this season, including a four-game split to start August.
The Pirates offense is anchored by Ke’Bryan Hayes, Bryan Reynolds, and Jack Suwinski, with Andrew McCutchen providing a valuable veteran presence. Hayes is slashing .265/.307/.433 with 11 homers and 52 RBIs this season (98 OPS+), while Suwinski is slashing .203/.330/.437 with a team-high 22 homers and 56 RBIs (106 OPS+). McCutchen and Reynolds are tied for the team lead with a 110 OPS+, as Reynolds has slashed .264/.323/.461 with 19 homers, and McCutchen has slashed .253/.377/.390 with 12 homers.
Milwaukee’s offense has a nice balance of veterans and rookies, with Willy Adames, Carlos Santana, William Contreras, and mark Canha providing regular production in recent weeks. Sal Frelick, Brice Turang, and Andruw Monasterio have all had productive rookie seasons, particularly on defense.
Out of the bullpen, David Bednar remains a mainstay, although he’s struggled to a 5.11 ERA in 12 appearances over the past month. Colin Holderman has also stepped up as a reliable arm with a 3.00 ERA over 48 innings this season, including a 1.69 ERA across his last 11 appearances.
Craig Counsell has leaned heavily on his top arms in Abner Uribe, Elvis Peguero, Hoby Milner, Joel Payamps, and Devin Williams over the past month. Former Pirate Bryse Wilson has also had a strong season, including a sterling 1.35 ERA across 13 1⁄3 innings last month.
Monday, September 4 @ 5:35 p.m.: Corbin Burnes vs. TBD
Burnes has had an up-and-down season in 2023, but he’s had a decent 3.55 ERA through 27 starts with 167 strikeouts thus far. His last four starts have alternated between shutdown (seven innings, no runs, nine strikeouts against the Dodgers; seven innings, one run, seven strikeouts against the Cubs) and rough (5 2⁄3 innings, five runs, five strikeouts against the White Sox; six innings, six runs, five strikeouts against the Twins), leading to a 3.98 ERA in five starts in August.
The Pirates haven’t yet announced their starters for the series, but they went with a bullpen game in this spot last time through the rotation. Colin Selby got the start in that one, with Luis Ortiz taking the bulk of the work with a five-inning performance. Ortiz has made 11 starts in 13 appearances this season with a 5.08 ERA, so it’s possible he’ll get the start here.
Tuesday, September 5 @ 5:35 p.m.: Brandon Woodruff vs. TBD
Woodruff had a strong month of August after returning from injury, totaling five starts with a 3.45 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 28 2⁄3 innings. In his first start back from injury in early August, he faced the Pirates and allowed two runs on four hits and no walks with nine strikeouts across five innings.
Andre Jackson got the start for Pittsburgh in this spot last time through the rotation. He’s made six appearances (three starts) since joining the Pirates in August, pitching to a 2.92 ERA over 24 2⁄3 innings. His last start was a one-run, seven-strikeout performance across 5 2⁄3 innings against the Royals. He pitched three perfect innings against Milwaukee in relief on August 5.
Wednesday, September 6 @ 11:35 a.m.: Freddy Peralta vs. TBD
Coming off an incredible August that resulted in an NL Pitcher of the Month Award, Peralta went six innings and struck out 10 batters while allowing only one run in his last start against the Phillies. After a rough start to the season, he’s dropped his season ERA to 3.85 while striking out 187 over 145 innings. He made two starts against Pittsburgh back in June, totaling 11 1⁄3 innings and 17 strikeouts while allowing five runs.
Pittsburgh’s ace Mitch Keller is set to get the start here, coming off a strong six innings against the Cardinals where he allowed just one run and struck out eight. Keller has a 3.93 ERA with 187 strikeouts in 169 2⁄3 innings this season. He’s struggled against Milwaukee this season, allowing 12 runs and striking out 12 batters across 10 innings in two starts this season.
I’ll take Milwaukee to take two of three to hold onto first place in the division heading into New York for a weekend battle with the Yankees.