|August 3: Brewers 2, Phillies 1 WP: Gallardo (4-1) LP: Kendrick (5-2) S: Cordero (33)|
|August 4: Brewers 6, Phillies 5 W: Turnbow (3-4) L: Gordon (1-2) S: Cordero (34)|
|August 5: Phillies 8, Brewers 6 (11) WP: Myers (2-3) LP: Parra (0-1) S: Mesa (1)|
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After an agonizing but ultimately uplifting win in Chicago to secure a split against the hot Cubs, the Phillies continue their tour of the upper midwest this weekend with three games in Milwaukee. As you might have heard, the Brewers have fallen on some hard times lately, going 4-10 in their last four series against the Giants, Reds, Cardinals and Mets. Frustrations boiled over in yesterday's 12-4 loss to New York, as catcher Johnny Estrada and manager Ned Yost nearly came to blows. After leading the NL Central virtually wire to wire, the Brewers are now percentage points behind the Cubs; like the Phillies, they'll be rooting for their erstwhile opponents this weekend as the Mets play three at Wrigley.
Despite their recent struggles, the Brewers are a talented and dangerous team. Their lineup is powered by NL home run leader Prince Fielder, who would be among the game's highest profile players were Milwaukee a bigger media market. Fielder is especially dangerous at home, with 17 HR and a 1.020 OPS in 199 at-bats. The Phillies have handled him fairly well in his short career, allowing just one home run in 36 at-bats, though he's also hit 5 doubles against them. Milwaukee also boasts the likely Rookie of the Year in third baseman Ryan Braun, who's hit .343 and bombed 18 homers in 248 at-bats. Veterans Corey Hart, Geoff Jenkins and Bill Hall, back from a recent DL stint, are all potent bats. Shortstop J.J. Hardy, all but unstoppable in the first two months, has struggled with a .563 OPS since the all-star break.
But Milwaukee's recent problems by and large have come on the mound. Ace Ben Sheets is on the DL with a dislocated finger, and veteran lefty Chris Capuano has been ineffective for months. Highly touted rookie Yovanni Gallardo has filled in admirably for Sheets, and he gets the start tonight against Kyle Kendrick. (Does it seem to anybody else that Kendrick is constantly matched up against higher-profile rooks? Homer Bailey, Chad Billingsley, Mike Pelfrey, John Danks...) Vets Jeff Suppan and Dave Bush, however, have struggled with ERAs approaching 5, and the Phils will see them both later this weekend.
The Brewer bullpen, a huge source of strength early on, has scuffled of late as well. Closer Francisco Cordero has a 6.23 ERA since June 1, and hard-throwing setup man Derrick Turnbow has been inconsistent. Milwaukee traded--and, many feel, overpaid--for Scott Linebrink before the deadline; he's unscored upon in two appearances for the Brewers thus far.
I never know quite what to think about facing "a team in chaos." Two months ago, the Cubs looked dead in the water; after their own dugout brawl, between ace Carlos Zambrano and since-traded catcher Michael Barrett, they caught fire. Could the Estrada-Yost fracas do the same for the Brew Crew? On the surface, this seems to be a good matchup for the Phillies, who seem to be holding up well despite the astounding barrage of injuries. If they can win this series and head home for a big week of games against the Braves and Marlins, knowing that Shane Victorino will return a week later and Chase Utley perhaps ten days after that, 2007 could yet feature a September to remember.
Chat here all weekend about the action and anything else you feel like spouting off about.