After avoiding a sweep against the Cardinals, the Braves actually improved their record against NL Central teams to 10-5. 2 of those 10 wins came during the opening series of the 2014 campaign in Milwaukee against the Brewers. Ever since that point, the Brewers have powered to a 27-17 record, giving them the 2nd best record in the National League, and now they will be coming to Atlanta for the 2nd and final series between these two teams.
The Brewers will be heading into their 4-game clash with the Braves off of a less-than-successful trip to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field, as the Cubs took 2 out of the 3 against the NL Central leaders. However, that's absolutely no reason to underestimate them as they come to the Ted. The biggest reason for this? It's none other than our good friend Carlos Gomez, who has been swinging the hottest bat for the Brewers so far. Gomez has been hitting .290/.369/.555 with 9 HRs and 154 wRC+, which is good for 1.7 WAR according to fangraphs. The Braves will also have to deal with Ryan Braun, who recently made his return from the disabled list due to a strained oblique muscle. Braun came out of the gate scorching, and although he's slowed down significantly since his return (1-18 since making his return this past week against the Pirates), he's always liable to heat back up. In addition, Johnathan Lucroy has been a good source of offensive production, as have Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks, who currently has a crazy BABIP of .419 in addition to his .351/.403/.509 slash line. With the exception of Ramirez who is curtently on the DL, these are going to be the guys who probably give the Braves the most trouble over this series (although knowing our team's luck as of late, it'll probably be a guy like Khrys Davis who does the most damage, similarly to how Kolten Wong picked up 3 of his 8 RBI this season against the Braves yesterday, and how Eric Young of the Mets gave the Braves fits earlier this season).
As expected for a 4-game series, the Braves will be seeing the top of the Brewers rotation. Although Yovani Gallardo went into the season considered as the ace of the staff, Gallardo has come upon rough times since he pitched 6 innings of shutout ball against the Braves back on Opening Day. In fact, Gallardo has gone 7 starts without a win, and it hasn't been a Jeff Samardzija case of bum luck, either, as he's been credited with 3 or 4 earned runs in his last 4 starts. Fortunately for the Brewers, Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza have both stepped up their game as of late, and tonight's starter, Wily Peralta, has had a relatively great start to his season, as he's currently compiled 0.7 WAR after his career high coming into 2014 was 1.0. Combine that with the fact that the Brewers bullpen currently has the 2nd lowest xFIP in the NL (3.03, which is only behind the Braves' mark of 2.94), and this means that the Braves will probably receive a pretty stern test from this battery of arms.
With that being said, it's important to remember that even though the Braves offense is currently experiencing some Real Deal Holyfield struggles, they did go up to Milwaukee and take the series, and they did so thanks to strong performances from Julio Teheran and Aaron Harang. Teheran will be looking to bounce back from a disastrous performance against the Giants, and Harang has inexplicably continued to pitch pretty well since he nearly no-hit the Brewers back in March. Both men will be joining Mike Minor and Ervin Santana on the mound this week, as this foursome hopes to keep the Brewers bats at bay and give the offense a chance to stay in the games that will be played. After scoring 6 runs yesterday for the first time in what feels like ages, the Braves are hoping that this could be the catalyst that sparks a bit of an offensive rally.
Either way, this figures to be an extremely competitive series and should be closely contested. Here's hoping that we don't see any of the nonsense that popped up in the Brewers' last visit to the Ted (but I still included a photo and video of the incident because it was hilarious to watch and I'm a hypocrite), and instead we'll just see two talented teams square off in what should be a pretty entertaining series.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Monday, May 19th at 7:10 PM EST
Wily Peralta (MIL, 4-2, 2.05 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 0.7 WAR)
Mike Minor (ATL, 1-2, 4.24 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 0.1 WAR)
Tuesday, May 20th at 7:10 PM EST
Yovani Gallardo (MIL, 2-2, 3.07 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 0.4 WAR)
Julio Teheran (ATL, 2-3, 2.20 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 0.3 WAR)
Wednesday, May 21st at 7:10 PM EST
Kyle Lohse (MIL, 5-1, 2.88 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 0.8 WAR)
Ervin Santana (ATL, 4-1, 2.76 ERA, 2.28 FIP, 1.2 WAR)
Thursday, May 22nd at 7:10 PM EST
Matt Garza (MIL, 2-4, 4.83 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 0.9 WAR)
Aaron Harang (ATL,4-4, 2.98 ERA, 2.37 FIP, 1.5 WAR)