The Milwaukee Brewers are hot.
Following a weekend sweep over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Brewers have won 12 of their last 15 games. They now head to Cincinnati to take on the Reds. The two teams last faced each other in late May in Milwaukee, resulting in a Brewers’ series win. Yet, the Reds are also coming into this series hot, having won six of their last seven games.
This now begs a question: who caves first?
Game 1 – Houser (3-5) vs. Gray (1-4)
It is nearly impossible to get a good read on Adrian Houser this season. Is he a true contributor to the rotation? Is he a bust in the making?
You could get an answer to each question based on which form of Adrian Houser shows up on Tuesday.
While he’s had a high expected batting average and high hard hit percentage this year, Houser’s pitch movement has increased in general this season. This simply means that hitters are seeing the ball better against him, despite the better pitch movement.
One reason for that could be his locations. Houser has planted his sinkers in the bottom left corner of the strike zone (catcher’s point of view) and his sliders in the bottom right corner of the strike zone nearly every single pitch this season. Also, his changeups nearly always lands in the bottom third of the zone, while his fastballs and curveballs have more various location tendencies.
The Brewers will get to face Sonny Gray in the first game of this series. A two-time all-star, Gray’s record is deceiving, as his ERA of 3.64 and 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings tell a different tale. His pitch mix is nearly one of the best in baseball, as none of his five pitches have a usage rate of over 30%. He also only throws one pitch that doesn’t move: his four-seam fastball, which has a batting average against of .310 this season. In order for the Brewers to win this game, they will have to sit on the fastball most of the game, as Gray’s above-average movement will create deception for the lineup.
Game 2 – Anderson (2-3) vs. Gutierrez (1-1)
With a WHIP of 1.53 this season, Brett Anderson has become a pitcher reliant on his defense for success. His strikeout numbers are very low this season, only striking out 21 batters this season (5.2 K/9). That being said, Anderson is a ground-ball-first pitcher, and the Reds have plenty of hitters approaching 50% ground balls on batted ball events.
Gutierrez is heading into his third start of his rookie campaign, and thus far, he has not been a great pitcher for the Reds, nor has he been a bad one. His 2.70 ERA is the second best on the team, yet he has only pitched in 10 innings this season. At the same time, in those 10 innings, Gutierrez has given up five walks and has a 37.9 fly ball percentage.
Game two should have plenty of offense on both sides, and the bullpens should expect to get loose early.
Game 3 – Peralta (6-1) vs. Castillo (2-8)
Freddy Peralta is an emerging star in the Brewers’ starting rotation. In 12 games (11 starts), Peralta posts a career-best 2.25 ERA with 92 strikeouts, a 0.875 WHIP, and a league-best 4.1 hits per nine innings. With an increase in variety in his pitch mix, including more usage with his slider, Peralta is in the 97th percentile of the league in expected batting average, sitting at .157.
If the Brewers are going to win any games in this series, it’s going to be this one.
Luis Castillo is the Reds’ projected starter for this game in the series, and boy, has he been bad this year. Castillo currently leads the league in losses with eight. He also has a 6.63 ERA over his 12 starts this season. Not only that, but Castillo has given up a league-leading 43 earned runs to go along with a career-worst 1.663 WHIP.
As previously stated, if the Brewers are going to win any games in this series, it’s going to be this one.
Notable Hitters to Watch
A bon-a-fide all-star candidate, Omar Narvaez has put together an extremely well-rounded season at the plate. He’s hitting a career-best .317 batting average with a slash line of .317/.400/.516. Despite having a below-average year defensively, Omar’s hitting has made him one of the league’s best catchers.
The current league leader in home runs and slugging percentage, Jesse Winker is putting together one of the greatest seasons this century. He’s on pace for 54 home runs and 430 total bases. That many total bases would put him sixth all time for total bases in a single season.
I should not forget to mention that Winker is 7-for-13 against Milwaukee this season with five home runs.
Christian Yelich is getting hot. He looks far more poised and controlled at the plate, is making hard contact, and is getting on base at a far better clip than previously since he’s returned from the injured list.
You can read more about Yelich’s hot streak here.
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