Series 26 Preview: Cubs vs. Brewers
(Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty)
Not much has gone right for the Brewers this season, as Milwaukee continues its tumble from perennial contender to NL Central also-ran. The Brew Crew suffered a huge power outage in the early going thanks to a rash of injuries, starting with preseason surgeries to two first basemen—Corey Hart and Mat Gamel. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez was also shelved for most of April as he battled knee issues. But as stagnant as the offense has been, the pitching has been even worse. Milwaukee’s starters own a combined 5.00 ERA, by far the highest in the NL, and the bullpen has had troubles as well. To add insult to injury, former MVP Ryan Braun continues to deal with questions about a possible PED link to the Biogenesis Clinic in Florida. A suspension for Braun would put an exclamation point on an already disappointing season in Milwaukee.
HITTING: 4.0 Runs Scored/Game (9th in the NL)
Despite their middle-of-the-road offense, the Brew Crew have profited from one of the top one-two punches in the game, with Norichika Aoki leading off and Jean Segura having a breakout season in the second slot. Aoki’s .367 on-base percentage is one of baseball’s best from the top of the order, while Segura has been doing it all. He’s tied for the league lead in triples, leads the league in hits and is third in stolen bases. And Segura is not the only hitter who has developed In Milwaukee when given a chance to play every day. Center fielder Carlos Gomez has finally become the player many expected him to be when the speedster was a top prospect in Minnesota. On a less positive note, second baseman Rickie Weeks’ game continues to be in free fall, and the Brewers have yet to find a playable bat to man first base when Hart misses time with injury.
PITCHING: 4.6 Runs Allowed/Game (15th in the NL)
The Brewers’ initial decision to go with a youth movement in the rotation was moderated by their late-spring signing of veteran free agent Kyle Lohse. But whatever their master plan is—or was—none of it has worked in a rotation that ranks close to the bottom in quality starts. Expected ace Yovani Gallardo hasn’t been able to pitch reliably past the sixth inning; youngsters Hiram Burgos and Wily Peralta have struggled to get their ERAs south of six; and last year’s rookie breakthrough Mike Fiers lost his starting job in early April and hasn’t given the Brewers any reason to think he might earn it back in the near future. Matters aren’t much better in the bullpen, as John Axford pitched his way out of the closer’s role, and replacement Jim Henderson lost time due to injury. Despite being the relievers most often used to put out midgame fires, Burke Badenhop and Mike Gonzalez have struggled to strand even half of their inherited base runners.