Home Series No. 19 Preview: Cubs vs. Brewers

Lucroy
Jonathan Lucroy has emerged as an NL MVP candidate. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

The Brewers’ hot start to the season may have come as a surprise, but it’s their continued excellence that’s really catching people’s attention. Milwaukee is led by its very impressive offense, which is making the Upper Midwest look a lot like the Mile High City. While the starting staff doesn’t boast a true ace, all five arms are quality rotation pieces. The bullpen came into the season as a major question mark, but it has managed to be strong thus far—though that isn’t a complete surprise considering how variable relief arms can be from year to year. The major issue for the pitching staff is the lack of depth in the minor league system. This kept the Brewers relatively quiet in the trade market, and it also likely means they won’t be able to inject much youth into their playoff push.

PITCHING
(4.0 RA/G, 9TH IN NL)

Wednesday starter Kyle Lohse has continued his late-career renaissance, as he looks to compile his fourth-consecutive sub-3.50 ERA season. As the de facto staff ace, he has delivered his usual steady performance. Tuesday’s starter Wily Peralta has also emerged as a strong mid-rotation arm. Monday night’s starter Yovani Gallardo has not have lived up to the lofty, early-career hype, but continues to produce solid starts. The bullpen has been anchored by resurgent closer Francisco Rodriguez and a breakout performance from fireballing setup man Will Smith. The biggest issue in the ’pen may be what happens if the wheels fall off for Rodriguez down the stretch.

HITTING
(4.3 RS/G, 2ND IN NL)

The Brewers trail only the Coors Field-aided Rockies when it comes to scoring runs. The offense is led by three MVP-caliber players in Ryan Braun (who isn’t firing on all cylinders, but has still been strong), Carlos Gomez (who announced his presence with an elite 2013 season on both sides of the ball) and breakthrough performer Jonathan Lucroy. The backstop gets plenty of accolades for his abilities behind the plate, but his above-.860 OPS is also impressive, along with his 18 homers and 82 driven in. His 5.0 wins above replacement total is the fourth-highest among NL hitters. That trio has overshadowed another strong season from Aramis Ramirez and a solid year from Scooter Gennett. Add the power of Khris Davis and Mark Reynolds, and this is truly one of the more impressive offensive units in baseball.

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