I don’t know about you guys, but I sure am glad to be through with that Jays lineup. Sixteen dingers between the two teams over three games! It really is remarkable that Milwaukee took two of three (and probably should have swept) considering they gave up ten, with two apiece to Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
With that, the Brewers sit at 32-37 to begin their final interleague series of the year at U.S. Cellular Field versus their old AL Central rivals, the Chicago White Sox. Rookie manager Robin Ventura’s squad is playing a lot like we expected them to last year (36-33, a half game back of division-leading Cleveland), which in my opinion has a lot to do with Adam Dunn’s impressive comeback. Our old friend is hitting a familiar .225/.369/.554 and leads the major leagues with 23 longballs. Also in the midst of a fantastic season is Paul Konerko, in my mind one of the most underrated players of this generation and a should-be-Hall-of-Famer, leading the AL with a .354 average. Despite this, the Sox has been scuffling as of late and have dropped five consecutive series to the Jays, Astros (?!?!), Cardinals, Dodgers, and the Cubs (?!?!?!) in that order.
The Brewers have not faced them since 2009, when the Pale Hose took two of three at Miller Park.
The starting matchups are listed as Zack Greinke vs. Chris Sale tonight, Randy Wolf vs. Philip Humber tomorrow, and Shaun Marcum vs. Jose Quintana on Sunday but these are almost guaranteed to change: Humber was DL’d today with an elbow injury and many expect Marcum to be placed on the 15-day as well with elbow pain of his own.
In watching these two old foes clash, please consider the following:
Chris Sale is a Cy Young candidate. Tonight’s starting pitcher has really been a nice story for the Southsiders this year. In 12 starts he is 8-2 with a 2.46 ERA and an impressive 9.2 K/BB ratio, good for fifth in the AL and ahead of guys like C.C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander. He also boasts a minuscule HR/9 of 0.45, third smallest among AL starters, only exceeded by C.J. Wilson and Kevin Milwood (?!?!?!). In order of frequency selected, he throws a low-90s fastball along with a slider and change. Fangraphs values his fastball at 10.8 runs above average, and his slider—which he throws just over 25% of the time—at 3.9, notably better than his opponent tonight Greinke, who is known for his slider. As you might expect, this spells trouble for a Brewers lineup that lives and dies by the longball, and also for hitters like Corey Hart who traditionally struggle hitting sliders. So be on the lookout for cleverly-titled headlines relating to Chris Sale’s surname, especially if he stifles Milwaukee’s offense tonight.
Milwaukee’s run differential is starting to come back to earth. Since a 10-0 defeat at the hands of the Cubs on June 5th, the Brewers have only lost one game by more than one run (5-2 loss to the Padres on June 9th). Milwaukee is 8-6 since then, and while it included three crushing one-run defeats to Kansas City, their margin of victory in four of those wins was four runs or greater. Outscoring the opposition lately has aligned the Brewers’ Pythagorean record of 33-36 more with their actual record of 32-37. So while the general consensus is that the 2012 squad is underachieving, they are starting to underachieve less. Baby steps.
Transactions galore! Two significant moves happened for the Crew today. In the very-much-expected category, we have INF Cesar Izturis returning from the DL in place of INF Edwin Maysonet, who is likely ticketed back to Nashville. In the wildly-unexpected-and-kind-of-hilarious category, the Brewers signed free agent veteran RHP Livan Hernandez to a deal today and removed LHP Juan Perez from the 40-man roster. First off, count me as someone who would have rather kept Maysonet: the glove isn’t as good, but he has shown that he provides much more value at the dish than Izturis, which I think is more important to the team right now. Secondly, LIVAN HERNANDEZ! I’ve always had a nerdy attachment to the 37 year-old junk-baller, who always seemed to stymie Milwaukee during his many stops throughout the NL. Right now it’s looking like he will not start—which at this stage in his career is a good thing—and fill the long man role out of the ‘pen, similar what he was doing in Atlanta to start the year and to Marco Estrada’s role prior to the Narveson injury. Coupled with the probable Marcum DL stint, this means that Mike Fiers will remain in the rotation for the time being. And speaking of Estrada, he had a scoreless 75 pitches in Nashville last night and should be back on Tuesday during the Cincinnati series.
A road series win against a tough-ish AL opponent could go a long way toward righting the 2012 Brewers ship, and against inexperienced starters on Saturday and Sunday, it’s a good possibility.