Well, no game is easy in baseball, but there are games that must be won. Our past three series were all games we should have either swept or at least taken a solid two out of three. While for the most part the Milwaukee Brewers (30-36) played well, it was a stretch of games that could have ended with a better result. Now, the games just get tougher, especially tonight starting with the Toronto Blue Jays (34-32) who have been keeping a float in the AL East, a rather hard task to do with the New York Yankees on a current nine game winning streak, the Baltimore Orioles being the on verge of 40 wins and the Tampa Bay Rays going absolutely nowhere but up. The Brewers are still sluggish and are 8.5 games out of first. Tonight’s match-up will feature Toronto’s Henderson Alvarez (3-6, 3.87 ERA) against Randy Wolf (2-5, 5.06 ERA) who has been doing much better lately, but gets no run support. This should be an interesting three game home stand.
Fortunately for the Blue Jays, Colby Rasmus has bounced back. While every hitter goes through slumps, the Blue Jays really couldn’t afford Rasmus’ slump to continue any longer. Offensively for the Jays, it’s been a bit tough with Jose Bautista only batting .230, but Brett Lawrie has rebounded from the abyss and is batting .286. Bautista however does lead the Jays in home runs (19), RBIs (47), and runs scored (42), but is just not seeing the ball well enough for constant contact. Edwin Encarnacion has been somewhat of a surprise for the Blue Jays this year. Encarnacion has really turned it around, batting .277 on the year with 17 home runs and 44 RBIs, while leading the Blue Jays in OPS at .893. He’s also fighting for the DH spot in the All-Star Game.
For the Brewers, the offense has been a much different story. Ryan Braun has practically taken the team on his shoulders and only recently has been getting support from Norichika Aoki and Aramis Ramirez. The rest of the offense has been having a major slump and unfortunately, Jonathan Lucroy’s timetable on his return hasn’t changed, leaving his return date for somewhere around mid-July. The team’s overall batting average is .240, which ranks at 24th out of 30. The slugging percentage has gone up and is currently the team’s highest offensive stat at .412, which is 11th overall in the MLB.
Pitching wise for the Blue Jays, injuries have unfortunately sprung up everywhere. Brandon Morrow is out with an oblique injury, Kyle Drabek is gone for the season and must have Tommy John surgery and Drew Hutchison has been shut down for two weeks due to his elbow. The Jays’ pitching had been highly centered around Morrow this season as Ricky Romero has just been having a tough go of things and has not been performing at all like he did in 2011. Like most other teams, the Blue Jays have also struggled with a constant closer. With Sergio Santos still out, Casey Janssen had been named the closer and it’s a role he’ll hold until Santos is back.
The Brewers pitching has been getting back on track slowly, but surely. With great performances out of pretty much all the starters, the bullpen is where the troubles still are prevalent. John Axford has had a terrible time on the mound, giving up seven runs in his last 2.2 innings pitched. Francisco Rodriguez has also had some trouble coming into the 8th, but then again, the entire bullpen aside from Kameron Loe has been that way all season. Michael Fiers has impressed with his second win of his career and of the season and is making quite a strong statement that he is ready to be a starter full time.
What the Blue Jays have to watch out for in this series how that the Brewers’ pitchers, while they do have their struggles, can strike hitters out like crazy. They also have to pitch carefully to Aramis Ramirez who has been on an absolute tear. For the Brewers, it really depends on the offense to win the games here. With Toronto’s pitching really banged up, the Brewers must strike while the iron is hot. The Brewers also must keep an eye out for the surging Colby Rasmus and the power hitters of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
Tomorrow’s match-up will see Shaun Marcum (5-3, 3.39 ERA) and Wednesday’s game will see Yovani Gallardo (5-5, 4.23 ERA) on the mound. The Blue Jays have not decided as of yet who will pitch in the next two games. Let’s hope the Brewers can pull out some magic here. Until next time, go Brew Crew!