When I previewed the Phillies’ series against the Cubs, I mentioned that the Cubs were behind the Brewers in the standings. I said that wasn’t a good look because the Brewers almost never finished in first place, managing the feat once in the past 35 seasons.
In other words, there’s a high likelihood that the Brewers’ current status of National League Central leaders isn’t going to last for too long. It might not even last this weekend as the Brewers enter the series on a three-game losing streak and their lead in the Central is down to half a game.
Phillies vs. Brewers - A Brief History
The Phillies and Brewers never faced each other before 1998 since the Brewers were members of the American League, and interleague play was not yet a thing for most of those years. Adding the Brewers to the National League has been largely beneficial to the Phillies, as they hold as 75-63 advantage, including a win in the only playoff series between the teams.
In case you’ve forgotten that series, here’s a clip of one of the highlights:
The 2018 Brewers: How Did They get Here
Aside from their historical ineptitude at finishing in first place, the success of the Brewers shouldn’t be a huge surprise. They won 86 games in 2017 and missed a Wild Card spot by one game. Then in the offseason, they added some major pieces to their lineup by signing outfielder Lorenzo Cain as a free agent, and shopping at the Miami Marlins’ fire sale to get Christian Yelich.
I think it’s a bit foolish to attribute the Brewers’ success to those players though. It’s fairly obvious that the real key to their success is another recent addition to the roster.
Holy Crap, is that Erik Kratz?
Yes, the Phillies’ beloved former backup catcher is still playing. Since leaving the Phillies, he’s floated around the major leagues, basically getting signed mid-season whenever a team finds itself in need of a backup catcher.
He’s only been with the Brewers for four games, but he’s played bizarrely well in those four games, hitting 8-16 with two home runs. I have a feeling that those numbers might not be sustainable.
You may be wondering if this is just an excuse to show Kratz’s old turkey bacon commercial. I think we all know the answer to that:
Phillies Pitchers vs. Brewers Offense
In addition to Cain and Yelich, the further development of Travis Shaw and Jesus Aguilar have given the Brewers what appears to be a formidable middle of the order. But considering the team is only 7th in the NL in OPS and 9th in runs scored, they aren’t all that formidable. The Brewers’ lineup is definitely not as imposing as the lineup the Phillies just faced in Chicago, and overall, Phillies’ pitchers fared pretty well against them.
The Phillies’ starters for the series will be Vince Velasquez, Jake Arrieta, and Zach Eflin. Both Velasquez and Eflin are coming off perhaps their best starts of the season, so the expectation is that they’ll be able to build off of that. They may have the element of surprise on their hands, as they’ve made one combined start against the Brewers.
On the other hand, Arrieta is quite familiar with the Brewers, and based on past results, he’s very comfortable facing them. In 15 career starts against Milwaukee, he has an 8-4 record and 2.74 ERA.
Here’s some more bad news for the Brewers: Seranthony Dominguez actually walked a batter on Wednesday night. Since that’s his quota for the month, if they want to get on base against him, they’re going to have to earn it with their bats.
Brewers Pitchers vs. Phillies Offense
In general, the Brewers’ rotation is very meh. Their starting pitchers are 15th in the majors in ERA, and that sounds about right. Jhoulys Chacin will be going against Velasquez on Friday, which means we’ll likely see a lot of innings by relievers. Like Velasquez, Chacin is capable of doing good things, but high pitch counts prevent him from going deep into games.
The Brewers’ bullpen probably won’t get a break on Saturday, as scheduled started Brent Suter also doesn’t last very long into games. He hasn’t made it past the sixth inning in any of his starts, but based on the mediocre results when he’s in the game, that not necessarily a bad thing as far as the Brewers are concerned.
For the second straight weekend, the Phillies’ opponents haven’t bothered to name a starter for the series finale. That might mean even more work for the Brewers’ bullpen.
This all sounds well and good for the Phillies, except that the Brewers’ relievers have been excellent this season, and are one of the main reasons they’re in first place. Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress have been strong in the late innings, while Corey Knebel has mostly handled the ninth.
It’s okay, that just means the Phillies need to batter the Brewers’ starters early in the game. Perhaps we’ll see a big weekend from Maikel Franco who has good career numbers against them (.941 OPS and five home runs in 17 games). And after his big hit on Thursday, there’s reason to believe that a breakthrough is imminent for Scott Kingery.
Boo This Man
Ryan Braun is still on the Brewers, but his present day numbers have fallen sharply from the days when he won an MVP award. (largely thanks to PEDs!) He’s carrying an on-base percentage under .300, and the Brewers have had to drop him in the lineup due to his inability to drive in runners. (Maybe the Phillies should trade for him, he’ll fit right in!)
I don’t want to say too many bad things about Braun. I still remember in 2014 when he came to Citizens Bank Park, and the home crowd really let him hear about his PED use. Braun proceeded to unleash an unholy fury on the Phillies pitching staff.
So if you’re going to the games this weekend, be sure to be very nice to Ryan. We don’t need to give him any help in turning around a disappointing season.
My past series predictions haven’t gone so well, as I predicted the Phillies would win each of the series on their recently completed road trip. (They didn’t!)
That said, the Brewers are coming in on a losing streak, and the Phillies have been better at home than on the road. So what the heck? Phillies win two of three.