Series 7 Preview: Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Carlos Gomez has been a key part of the Brewers’ success this season. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
No one expected much of the Brewers this season, but they got off to the fastest start in baseball and haven’t looked back. Coming into this series with the Cubs, Milwaukee has the second-best record in the National League (a half game behind the Giants), and they are five games up on St. Louis in what was supposed to be a very competitive NL Central. The Brewers stayed relatively quiet for most of the offseason, but made a splash late in January when they signed former Cubs pitcher Matt Garza to a four-year, $52 million deal. The addition of Garza, who adds some upside to a solid rotation, makes Milwaukee an intriguing team in an already deep NL Central. While there is certainly potential in both the staff and the offense, the Brewers have little depth. They’ll also need several players who had surprising seasons in 2013 to continue to progress this year if they hope to remain in contention all season long. Ryan Braun, returning from a 62-game PED suspension and a load of bad publicity, has continued to crush the ball.
PITCHING (3.6 Runs Allowed Per Game, 6th in NL)
Garza has remained healthy, but his ERA is nearing 5.00, and his production isn’t quite what the organization had in mind when they signed him to the big-money deal. The good news for the Brewers is that Kyle Lohse has continued to be solid as the club’s ace. He has a 4-1 record, a 2.75 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP through eight starts. While Yovani Gallardo may never live up to the promise he displayed early in his career, he gives Milwaukee a third known commodity. He’s throwing better than he has in a while, with a 3.07 ERA in nine starts. Marco Estrada looks to be coming into his own a little later in his career. The 30-year-old righty, who has posted back-to-back seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA, has taken another step forward this year, posting a 3.28 ERA in eight starts. Veteran Francisco Rodriguez has been huge in the back end of ballgames, leading the league in saves while keeping base runners to a minimum.
HITTING (3.9 Runs Scored Per Game, 5th in NL)
The offense has a chance to continue it’s high-octane output, but the Brew Crew needs several players to build off breakout 2013 seasons. Carlos Gomez has continued his 2013 power surge, ranking toward the top of the NL in home runs while still possessing game-changing speed. Braun has picked up right where he left off, hitting .316 with six homers through the first quarter of the season. The only major stumble has come from shortstop Jean Segura, who’s hitting .248 on the year and has gotten caught stealing a league-best five times already. The unheralded Jonathan Lucroy has been a key to the offense, batting .304/.377/.437 (AVG/OBP/SLG), exceptional numbers from a backstop. Though Mark Reynolds doesn’t get on base a ton, his eight homers negate a lot of his statistical weaknesses.