A 3-game series of sub .500 teams kicks off Monday night when the Braves travel to Milwaukee to face the Brewers at Miller Park. The Brewers (15-16) struggled early in the season, but had a big weekend in Arizona scoring 26 runs in their 3-game sweep of the Diamondbacks.
Offense is the name of the game for the Brew Crew. They feature one of the most potent 3-4-5 trios in baseball with Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee and do a good job of driving in leadoff man Rickie Weeks who is surprisingly off to a strong start. Their weakness, similar to most teams, is the lower half of the lineup. Catcher Greg Zaun is one of the worst hitting catchers in the NL and shortstop Alcides Escobar has struggled in his first full season at the plate.
As a team, the Brewers lead the NL in team BA, SLG and OBP (that's pretty impressive.) They hit the long ball better than most, hitting 37 so far this season and are 2nd in the NL in doubles. The Brew Crew are probably the best team in baseball at steals, stealing 22 bases in 24 attempts. Brian McCann and David Ross will be tested all week and they really help our pitchers out if they're able to throw a few runners out.
So if the Brewers are so good offensively, why are they 15-16? Their pitching is really bad. They rank 12th in the NL in ERA and are 5-for-12 in save opportunities. So in other words, if the Braves trail early, the game certainly isn't over. They're led by ace Yovani Gallardo, but don't have much besides him. Veteran lefty Randy Wolf has been pretty solid, but Dave Bush and Doug Davis have been awful so far.
Their bullpen hasn't been very good either. Besides Todd Coffey and Carlos Villanuva, who have already made a ridiculous 31 combined appearances this season, they've been victims of bad or inconsistent pitching. Trevor Hoffman should've retired after last season and relievers Vargas and Hawkins have all been horrible this season. Let's see if the Braves bats can wake up against these struggling pitchers.
Pitching match-ups after the jump.
Game 1, 8:10EST - Tommy Hanson vs. Doug Davis
Hanson's Stat Line: 2-2 2.83ERA 35IP 12BB/38K
Davis' Stat Line: 1-3 8.13ERA 27.2IP 12BB/28K
Hanson's Last Start: Big Red was decent against the Nats on Wednesday. He went 6 innings, but gave up 9 hits and allowed 4 runs. Tommy struck out 5 and walked 2 against the -- ahem -- tough Natinals lineup.
Davis' Last Start: Davis got lit up in his last start. In only 4 innings, he gave up 6 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks.
Advantage: Hanson; if the Braves can't win this game, well, I'm not too sure what'll happen.
Game 2, 8:10EST - Tim Hudson vs. Dave Bush
Hudson's Stat Line: 2-1 2.82ERA 38.1IP 12BB/16K
Bush's Stat Line: 1-2 4.19ERA 34.1IP 15BB/19K
Hudson's Last Start: Huddy pitched very well against the Natinals in his last start, but the offense failed to score and the Braves lost 3-2. Tim threw 7 strong innings and struck out 4 while walking none.
Bush's Last Start: Bush was a victim of bad defense in his last start, as he allowed 3 runs (only 1 earned) in 5 innings against the Dodgers. He gave up 4 hits and walked 3 last Wednesday.
Advantage: Hudson; the Braves really should win this game. Bush hasn't pitched well all season and Huddy has gotten better with each start.
Game 3, 1:10EST - Derek Lowe vs. Yovani Gallardo
Lowe's Stat Line: 4-3 6.16ERA 38IP 19BB/23K
Gallardo's Stat Line: 4-2 3.07ERA 41IP 20BB/50K
Lowe's Last Start: Ha. Ha. Ha. Go look it up if you want a good laugh.
Gallardo's Last Start: Yovani was filthy, but not very efficient in his last start against the DBacks. He struck out 10 hitters, but walked 4 and only went 5 innings. The DBacks have a potent lineup and holding them to only 2 runs is no easy task.
Advantage: Gallardo; this game is similar to the Hanson/Davis match-up in Game 1. If the Brewers don't win this game, it would be a big blow to their confidence and a huge boost for the Braves.
Questions of the Series:
1. Will the Braves be able to rough up Doug Davis and David Bush?
2. Will Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson continue their dominance?
4. Will the Braves continue their poor play on the road or will the break the slump in Milwaukee?
The Braves have been bad on the road this season, but they have a good chance at winning 2 out of the 3 games in the series. Bush and Davis are both very beatable and even Gallardo can struggle if his control is off. A series win would be huge for the Bravos who'll begin a 7-game home stand starting Friday night.