After a series split with the Chicago Cubs, the Milwaukee Brewers move on to a crucial series against the red-hot St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals have gone 9-1 in their last ten games, including a current eight game winning streak.
As it currently stands, the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies hold the two Wild Card spots, but the St. Louis Cardinals sit just a game behind both of them. Depending on how this series goes, the Brewers could gain some separation in the Wild Card race or find themselves on the outside looking in.
Over this three game series the Milwaukee Brewers will face Cardinals pitchers Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, and John Gant. So let’s take a look at each of these pitchers individually before the big series begins.
Up to this point in the season, the right-handed Flaherty has accumulated a 6-6 record with a 3.22 ERA in his 19 starts. Over his last two starts, Flaherty has been throwing really well. In those two starts he has a 2-0 record and an ERA of just 1.38. However, those starts have come against the struggling Kansas City Royals and the slumping Pittsburgh Pirates. So we will have to see if he can have that kind of success against a Milwaukee Brewers offense that has been swinging the bats well.
An unusual stat this year for Flaherty is that right-handed hitters have a batting average of .219 against him, which is over 30 points higher than against lefties. Usually, a right-handed pitcher is going to have more success against right-handed batters than lefties and vice-versa for a left-handed pitchers. It will be interesting to see if Craig Counsell takes that into consideration when putting his lineup together or sticks with the traditional left-handed hitter v. right-handed pitcher matchup.
An area of opportunity for the Milwaukee Brewers will be the second and third times through the lineup against Flaherty. When pitching in the fifth inning this season, he has an ERA of 5.82. He also has an ERA of 4.50 in the sixth inning. After the first time through the lineup, the Brewers should have a good opportunity to put some men on base and hopefully drive them home.
The Milwaukee Brewers Saturday evening matchup is against the right-handed Mikolas who comes into the series with a 2.85 ERA in 24 starts. Mikolas could prove to be a tough matchup for Milwaukee. In his 151 1/3 innings pitched this season, he has only given up 11 home runs. This could be problematic for the Brewers, as a lot of their run production comes via the long ball.
Unlike Friday’s matchup, Counsell will put out a lefty heavy lineup for the Brewers against Mikolas. In Mikolas’ starts this year, left-handed batters have an average of .276 against him. That’s nearly 100 points higher than his batting average allowed against right-handed batters. Hopefully the Brewers star lefties, Christian Yelich, Mike Moustakas, and Travis Shaw can take advantage of Mikolas’ weakness.
If the Brewers are going to strike against Mikolas, it most likely will need to happen early in the game. In the first inning this season, he has an ERA of 3.00. In the fourth inning, after players have seen him once, his ERA jumps to 6.38. Both innings are much higher than the others in which he pitches. It’s absolutely necessary for Milwaukee to get the bats going early against Mikolas.
In the series finale on Sunday, the Milwaukee Brewers will face Gant. He will enter that outing with a 5-4 record and an ERA of 3.74 on the year. Gant has made a few appearances out of the bullpen for St. Louis this year as well. Once again the Brewers lineup will be loaded with lefties as they face another right-handed pitcher who hasn’t pitched well against lefties. Just like on Saturday, the Brewers will need productive games from Yelich, Moustakas, and Shaw, amongst others.
Gant is another pitcher the Brewers need to jump on early. He carries a first inning ERA of 4.91 and an ERA of 4.63 in the third. Just like in the first game of the Cubs series, the bats need to get rolling from the first pitch.
Gant is a pitcher that may not last too long into the game, most of his work is done in the first through fifth innings. And he currently holds an ERA of 9.64 in the sixth. This could lead to more work for the Cardinals bullpen.
Similar to Saturday’s starter Miles Mikolas, Gant doesn’t give up many home runs. In his 74 2/3 innings pitched this season, he has only allowed six home runs. The Milwaukee Brewers are going to have to manufacture runs this series rather than rely on the home run ball in order to win games.
How important is this series for both teams?
As stated above, this series could have a huge impact on both teams playoff chances, depending on how the games turn out. The Milwaukee Brewers need to attack early with the bats and rack up these pitcher’s pitch count to get to the Cardinals bullpen. The St. Louis relief corps has been vulnerable at times. The bullpen collectively will enter the series with a 4.31 ERA on the year.
If we take a look at the Brewers starting pitching this series, they are going to need good performances from Freddy Peralta, Wade Miley, and Jhoulys Chacin. The Cardinals offense is hitting very well right now and has given their pitching staff great run support. So it will be important for the Brewers starting rotation to not let the games get out of hand early.
This is a huge series for both teams and could go a long way in determining their playoff fate.