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2019 Series Preview #22: Milwaukee Brewers @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (45-22, 1st in AL West) continue their eight-game homestand with a two-game set against a fellow division-leader, the Milwaukee Brewers (38-28, 1st in NL Central)

Houston Astros v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Recency Bias

Astros

Sup, everyone. Scott filling in for CK this week as we preview the three-game series pitting the Houston Astros against a former NL Central rival and now interleague foe, the Milwaukee Brewers. Before we dive into this week’s matchup against the Brewers, a quick recap of the previous series:

The Astros are coming off a series victory against the Baltimore Orioles in which they won two of three contests. Houston fell behind 3-0 early in the first game but rallied with two homeruns in the fifth inning to tie the game, which eventually went to extra innings.

Cionel Perez gave the Astros, who were coming off a 14-inning game in Seattle, a big boost by tossing three perfect innings in relief. Perez (1-0, 0.00) earned the win when Robinson Chirinos hit a clutch double to left that Yuli Gurriel scored on after the Orioles’ catcher dropped the throw to the plate, delivering the Astros a 4-3 victory in 11 innings.

Gerrit Cole pitched one of his best games of the year, going seven innings and allowing one earned run on four hits with 14 strikeouts and no walks. It’d be great to see Cole—who has been better than some of his surface numbers suggest this season—get rolling.

In Game 2, the Astros looked like a weary team. Framber Valdez was very effective, striking out seven in a career-high seven innings, but the game was tied 1-1 heading into the eighth frame. The Orioles loaded the bases with no outs against Will Harris in the top of the eighth, but the Astros had a chance to escape unscathed. After Alex Bregman made the first out in a rundown at the plate, Harris coaxed a groundball to Tony Kemp that looked like a potential double play. However, Jack Mayfield misfired on his throw to first and the Orioles took a 2-1 lead. Richie Martin added a two-run blast for Baltimore with two outs in the ninth to give the Orioles a 4-1 win. The lack of offense for the Astros was a bit of a surprise given that Andrew Cashner—owner of MLB’s highest hard-hit rate (49%)—was on the bump for Baltimore, but that’s baseball. The Orioles’ bullpen tossed three hitless innings in the game.

Prized Astros’ prospect Yordan Alvarez was called up to the parent club prior to the rubber match of the series, and he immediately produced. Alvarez smoked a two-out, two-run homer to the opposite field in his second career at-bat to open the scoring and stake the Astros to a 2-0 lead.

Although the Astros logged only 15 hits total in the three-game set against Baltimore, they were able to claim the series victory behind six solid innings from Wade Miley and a bases-loaded, no-out escape job by Ryan Pressly in a 4-0 triumph Sunday.

Josh Reddick remained hot this week, posting a .348 (8-for-23) batting average with a double, homer, and his 1,000th career hit over the past seven days. Reddick is having a rebound season, batting .312 with an .810 OPS, after refining his approach in the offseason.

Baltimore Orioles v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Tyler White is hitting .308 (4-for-13) in limited playing time in the past week and Kemp is tied with Chirinos for the club-lead with two home runs during the span. Both Kemp and Chirinos are slugging north of 1.000 over the last seven days (1.027 and 1.095, respectively).

The Astros’ bullpen was mostly good against the Orioles. Outside of Game 2, Houston’s relievers didn’t allow a run and only permitted one hit in seven innings of work. In fact, the only earned runs the Astros’ relief corps allowed were courtesy of Reymin Guduan, who has since been optioned to Triple-A Round Rock. Nevertheless, the Astros bullpen—especially the elite backend—has looked less invincible over the past week. Harris, Pressly, and closer Roberto Osuna all allowed runs against Seattle last week to blow a late lead. The bullpen has seen a lot of work over the past month, mostly due to close games and limited days off, which led to White making a pitching appearance during a blowout loss to the Mariners.

Injury Update: George Springer and Aledmys Diaz participated in running drills during the Baltimore series, though there is no definitive timetable on either’s return.

Baltimore Orioles v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Jose Altuve has also advanced in his recovery from a left hamstring strain and general knee soreness. Altuve ran the bases and took batting practice during the series with Baltimore.

Brewers

The Brewers are playing well heading into their series with the Astros. Milwaukee just swept Pittsburgh and has won four in a row following consecutive losses to the Miami Marlins at home. The Brewers have averaged 6.25 runs per game during their winning streak and the pitching staff hasn’t allowed more than four runs in any game during that span. Milwaukee is 38-28 on the season, 0.5 game ahead of the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central and the second-best record in the NL. The Brewers have hit the third-most home runs in baseball (114)—one spot ahead of the Astros, who have slugged 106 longballs—but have the fourth-most strikeouts in MLB (628).

Pittsburgh Pirates v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Milwaukee’s offensive attack in led by Christian Yelich, who is having an MVP-like campaign. Yelich leads the NL in homers (24), SLG (.745), and OPS (1.191), is tied for first with 14 steals and a .446 OBP, and is Top 5 in runs (50), batting average (.340), and walks (39).

Mike Moustakas has also had a big year at the plate. The Brewers infielder has split time between second and third base for his club this season, but it hasn’t affected his productivity. Moustakas has 20 homeruns, the most by a primary second baseman, to go with 43 RBI and a .930 OPS. He has hit 11 of those homers in his past 24 games and has a 1.039 OPS during that time.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Brewers’ catcher Yasmani Grandal is tied for the NL lead amongst catchers with 13 homers and has hit seven in his past 24 games. Though the Brewers strike out a lot, they are also adept at drawing walks, where they rank fifth in MLB.

Outfielders Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain have had uncharacteristic seasons at the plate so far this year. Braun’s disappointing season is largely the result of a slow start in which he batted .196/.250/.381 through the first month-plus of the season. Braun turned it around in May, though, slashing .363/.427/.588 and putting up a 169 sOPS+ (which is relative to rest of the NL) to deliver about league-average production so far this season.

Cain has trended the opposite direction. After a relatively average start offensively, Cain produced a 70 sOPS+ in May with a .234/.282/.355 slash line. Nonetheless, Cain is still a major asset in the outfield, where he has recorded 9 outs above average (OAA) and a catch percentage added of 6%, according to Statcast. For reference, Jake Marisnick has 7 OAA and a 6% Catch Percentage Added.

Jesus Aguilar is having a horrific season offensively. A year removed from a 35-homer, 108-RBI, 135 OPS+, All-Star campaign, Aguilar is amongst the worst first basemen in baseball. Aguilar has a .196 batting average and just four homers nearly 60 games into the season and his OPS+ of 61 would rate as league-worst at his position, if he had enough plate appearances to qualify (Aguilar has 179 PAs in 2019).

Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Brewers’ pitching has been mediocre, if not below average, this season. Milwaukee has a couple starters on the injured list (Jhoulys Chacin and Gio Gonzalez) and hasn’t been able to get consistent length from its rotation beyond the top two guys (Zach Davies and Brandon Woodruff, who the Astros will see Wednesday). Josh Hader has become the primary closer for the Brewers this season. Hader is 1-3 with a 2.20 ERA but has still been quite dominant. He has 66 strikeouts in just 32 2/3 innings pitched to go with a .118 BAA and has converted 16 of 17 save opportunities for the Brewers. Hader has surrendered six homeruns, however.

Javy Guerra and Jeremy Jeffress have had nice seasons out of the ‘pen for the Brewers as well. Jeffress has an ERA below 3.00, Guerra has limited opposing batters to a .181 average, and both relievers have registered about a strikeout per inning. The Brewers’ staff is capable of punching out batters but is also prone to the longball and walks.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Brad Peacock, RHP (5-3, 3.20 ERA) vs. Freddy Peralta, RHP (3-2, 5.11 ERA)

Peacock has pitched well for the Astros, especially of late. In his last five starts, Peacock is 2-1 with a 1.67 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and .188 BAA with 29 strikeouts in 27 innings. Peacock gave up two runs over five innings against Seattle his last time out but took the loss in a game the bullpen let get away. Peacock has yet to face the Brewers.

Peralta won for the first time since early April in his last start when he allowed one run over six innings to defeat the Marlins. Peralta was winless in his four starts prior to that victory and had an ERA over 10.00, though he has bounced back and forth between the bullpen and rotation. For the season, Peralta has 52 strikeouts in 44 innings and has allowed eight homeruns. He has never faced the Astros in his career.

Game 2: Justin Verlander, RHP (9-2, 2.31 ERA) vs. Brandon Woodruff, RHP (8-1, 3.87 ERA)

Verlander is in the midst of yet another Cy-Young caliber season (whom he recently surpassed in all-time strikeouts). In his last start, Verlander went 6 1/3 innings, giving up three runs and striking out seven against the Mariners. Though he’s given up 14 homers in as many starts, Verlander has been able to limit the damage inflicted by those longballs; most have been of the solo variety. The strikeout numbers are still there for Verlander, who ranks fourth in baseball with 110 K’s. Verlander is 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA in two career starts against the Brewers and 11-8 with a 2.64 ERA in 32 starts overall at Minute Maid Park.

Woodruff, who tossed six innings of three-run ball and struck out ten against the Pirates his last time out, has been solid for the Brewers. He was particularly good in May, when he went 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA in five starts and allowed only five earned runs all month. For the season, Woodruff ranks in the NL’s Top 10 with 90 strikeouts. He’s had a more difficult time with lefties, who are batting .269 with more homers and walks and fewer strikeouts against him than righthanded batters. Woodruff has never faced Houston in his career.

Fun Fact(s)

This is the first matchup between the former NL-Central foes since 2016, when the Brewers took two of three from the Astros in Milwaukee. The Astros are 10-0-1 in their last 11 series, with the split coming against the Chicago White Sox.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Tuesday, June 11th @ 7:10 pm CDT

Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM, 94.5 FM, La Ranchera 850 AM / Brewers – WTMJ 620 AM

Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Brewers - FSWI / MLB.TV

Game 2: Wednesday, June 12th @ 7:10 pm CDT

Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM, 94.5 FM, La Ranchera 850 AM / Brewers – KLAA 830 AM, KTMZ 1220 AM

Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Brewers - FSWI / ESPN / MLB.TV

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    Astros Sweep 2-0
    (110 votes)
  • 49%
    Split 1-1
    (121 votes)
  • 6%
    Brewers Sweep 2-0
    (15 votes)
246 votes total Vote Now