The Brewers are headed down to
Joe Robbie Pro Player Dolphins Landshark Sun Life Stadium to take on the Marlins over the weekend. In honor of this event, I reached out to Michael Jong over at Marlin Maniac in order to give our fans a series preview.
Make no mistake Brewers fans, this four-game set is going to be very interesting. Both teams share a similar storyline going through the first half of the season, and this series may turn out to be an important part of that narrative. Both the Crew and the Fish are in second place in their respective divisions but have had trouble maintaining consistent winning ways. This weekend will be an important one for both clubs to pick up a few wins and maintain striking distance.
Game 1: Friday 6:10pm CST
Randy Wolf (4-4, 3.43 ERA) vs. Ricky Nalasco (4-1, 3.82 ERA)
In the first game of this four game set, fans are going to be treated to two very different pitchers. Wolf has found his new Kottaras in Wil Nieves – he’s only allowed two runs in the last two starts with Nieves behind the dish. Nalasco, on the other hand, is looking to rebound after giving up a franchise worst 15 hits against Los Angeles in his last start. He’s also had terrible luck against Milwaukee, with an 8.66 ERA. If the Brewers are going to drop a beat down at any point, I think Friday is the day.
Game 2: Saturday 6:10pm CST
Yovani Gallardo (7-2, 3.89 ERA) vs. Chris Volstad (2-4, 5.91 ERA)
Yo may be the only seven win pitcher not getting a lot of national attention right now. His command is a little iffy this season, but overall he is on pace for another career season. He’s also quite the fisherman – Yo is 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA against Florida, including 18 K’s in just a shade over 20 innings of work. Volstad has had a few bad innings that have ruined what Marlins fans were hoping was another big year for the right-hander. He managed to stumble through just 3 1/3 innings against the D-Backs earlier this week with eight hits and five runs. But look on the bright side, Marlins Fans, he has a .73 ERA against the Crew. If these numbers hold up, Saturday’s game may the pitcher’s duel of the series.
Game 3: Sunday 12:10 CST
Chris Narveson (2-4, 4.68 ERA) vs. Anibal Sanchez (5-1, 2.57 ERA)
The Brewers are bringing Chris Narveson into the Matinee game on Sunday. Narveson has had limited success against the Marlins historically (0-2, 5.11 ERA) but the same could be said about most of his 2011 campaign. Narveson has been struggling with keeping his composure this season and that One Big Inning has been absolutely devastating to the Lefty. On the plus side, however, the current Florida line up has seen little of his stuff, and those who have played against him have had only nominal success. As for Anibal Sanchez, he’s pitched pretty well all year and boasts a 1.88 ERA in his last three starts, including a dominating performance against the red-hot Diamondbacks earlier this week. He’s also been a thorn in the side of Prince Fielder – The Big Guy has a .074 average against Sanchez.
Game 4: 6:10pm CST
Zack Greinke (4-1, 5.29 ERA) vs. TBD
In the Monday Night finale in Florida, Greinke will take the mound against a yet-unnamed opponent. So that kind of kills this pretty good structure I had going, my guess is that this spot was supposed to be Josh Johnson’s start, and the injury is causing a shift in the rotation.…Oh well. Fun Fact: No one on the Florida starting line up has ever faced Greinke, so if his stuff is on, look for a really big day from #13.
Six Pack Q&A
As promised, Michael and I swapped a few questions about our respective teams and how we felt about this upcoming series.
Colin: How big a blow will losing Josh Johnson be to the club and how serious does the injury appear to be?
Michael: It is a decent blow if he has to miss a lot of time. Right now, he’s just scheduled to miss three more starts, so it is not all that bad, but it’s beginning to shift from “he’ll be back soon” to “I hope he’s back soon” in terms of the danger of the injury. Shoulder injuries are even more troublesome than elbow injuries for pitchers given their increased severity, and what might start off as just “inflammation” has a chance to escalate to a more serious problem. [ed.’s note: I’d listen to him, he’s pre-med]
C: Do the Marlins have enough on their roster to take the NL East away from the Phillies?
M: It certainly would be a difficult task, but it does seem like the Phillies will have more trouble scoring runs this season if anything. Ultimately, I do not think the Marlins have enough, especially with injuries to Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson, to take the division. The Wild Card, however, is open for competition, and I suspect the team will be in the race into the end of the season. If healthy, this is definitely among the better teams in the National League.
C: I think the Brewers and Marlins have a similar make-up this year, what do you think is going to be the key to taking this series?
M: I’d like to see which offense takes over. Both teams are heavy on the firepower but are sending decent pitchers to the mound. Can Hanley Ramirez bounce back in this series? Will Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder continue to dominate, and will anyone else on the Brewers offense bother to contribute? A lot of questions for either teams’ respective offenses.
Here are Michael’s questions for me – which I must say sounded more professional and writer-y, so hats off to him for that.
M: Prince Fielder has dropped his strikeout and walk rates (dramatic in the case of his strikeouts). How is he doing this?
C: I really think Prince is just being more patient this year. He’s not necessarily getting anything more to hit this year with Braun doing so well, but he doesn’t appear to be swinging from his heels as much. It looks like Prince is more focused on just making solid contact this year as opposed to trying to push every ball over the fence, and it’s making a big difference. Having a contract year with a lot of attention never hurts, either.
M: Both Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo are underperforming their expectations. Where did Gallardo’s strikeouts go and when do you think Greinke’s brilliant strikeout and walk rates will catch up to his awful ERA?
C: The pitching situation in Milwaukee this year is both brilliant and frustrating. Honestly for every pitcher in Milwaukee’s roster it’s just the one bad inning that we need to avoid, or at least learn to overcome. Yovani’s K’s are still there – he’s got 60 so far this year – he just isn’t working the corners as well as we are accustomed to. For Greinke I’m confident that as the season progresses we’ll see his numbers even out. I’ve been impressed with him so far I just think he gets in his own head when things start to go wrong (not that that’s earth-shattering news for Zack).
M: What is one thing you’ll be watching for in the match-up between the Fish and the Brew Crew?
C: Right now both teams are having real trouble with situational batting. Milwaukee is hitting .236 with RISP, and the Marlins are at .237. Obviously in this series something has to give, so it’ll be interesting to see who’s bats get hot first. I’m definitely going to be looking at Hanley Ramirez coming off his injury, and I think Casey McGehee needs a good series desperately and Florida will be a good place to start. I’ll say one thing – we are in for some good baseball this weekend.
Well, that ought to make you the smartest guy in the room this weekend. I had a lot of fun working on this series preview, and I want to thank Michael again for his insight and cooperation on this. If you have some time over the weekend, be sure to pop over to Marlin Maniac and check their take on the match-up. If you’re a stat freak you ought to love the work they do over there – and if you’re not they will help you pretend that you are.
Have a good weekend and let’s go Brewers!