The Milwaukee Brewers (96-66) and the Arizona Diamondbacks (94-68) will do battle in the first round of the MLB playoffs, marking the first time the two franchises have ever met in postseason action. There’s no disputing the offensive firepower that will be on hand during the enticing best-of-five series—however, it may be the unheralded pitching of both squads that will determine the outcome. Regardless, we’re in for quite a treat.
Here are five bold predictions for the NLDS Series, which opens Saturday afternoon in Milwaukee.
Ryan Braun Will Hit a Walk-off Home Run in Game 1
What a start to a series, huh?
By and large, there isn’t one single player in MLB who’s had more to do with his team’s success than Ryan Braun. In scoring 109 runs and driving home 111 RBI, Braun has accounted for a whopping 31 percent of Milwaukee’s 721 total runs scored this season. Braun’s league-leading .994 OPS and .597 SLG make him the most lethal offensive weapon of any National League team in the postseason.
But wait—there’s more. In the ninth inning this season (34 plate appearances), Braun has a .412 BA with 8 RBI, 3 HR and is slugging an insane .794 with a 1.206 OPS. Granted, he has struggled against Arizona in five seasons (.220 BA, 6 HR, 19 RBI, .742 OPS), but Braun has been clutch when it’s mattered most this season.
Justin Upton Will Struggle Against Brewers Pitching
This may not even be a bold prediction, as much as an interpretation of the past.
For his career, Justin Upton has struggled mightily against the Brewers. In 124 plate appearances, Upton has managed a .223 BA with just 6 HR and 12 RBI and has stuck out 27 times, compared to just 25 total hits. It should be interesting to see how he conducts himself in his first true go-around on the postseason stage and if he can rectify his history against Milwaukee pitching.
Zack Greinke Will Have a Chance at a No-Hitter
Zack Greinke has been lights-out at Miller Park this season, and that’s not about to change anytime soon. In 15 home starts, the former Cy Young Award winner has gone 11-0 with a 3.13 ERA in 95 innings of work. He also leads all major league starters in strikeouts per nine innings pitched (10.54), and ranks sixth in K/BB (4.47).
If Greinke is able to get off to a fast start against Arizona (a team he has faced just once in his career), he’ll have a chance just like that of former Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay last season, where he tossed a no-no in his first career postseason start with the Phillies. At home.
I’m not one to make such an audacious prediction such as this, but something tells me we’re in for history as Greinke makes his first career postseason start.
The Diamondbacks Will Take Games 3 and 4 at Home
In all honesty, the Brewers have had their fair share of struggles this season. At the All-Star break, Milwaukee limped their way to a 16-29 road record—enough to be the worst road-winning percentage of any first-place team. Granted, they’ve been able to somewhat right the ship, finishing with a 39-42 overall road record. Even so, the Diamondbacks have been largely successful at home this season, going 51-30 at Chase Field.
Shaun Marcum, who’s been nothing short of spectacular on the road this season, will likely get the nod for Game 3. But, as I see it, the Diamondbacks will get the better of Marcum in Game 3.
Milwaukee Will Take the Series in Five Games
Given the way both teams are playing heading into the postseason (Milwaukee having won five of their last six; Arizona having won seven of their last 10), we shouldn’t jump to any conclusions. Both clubs are playing exceptional baseball right now, and it should be an entertaining series with a handful of clutch plays along the way.
However, with Milwaukee wrapping up the second overall seed, they’ll key in on playing their best baseball at Miller Park—where they’ve gone an MLB-best 57-24 this season, setting a new franchise record for home wins in a season.
The dynamic duo of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder (in what will likely be their last season together), along with a slew of role-players such as Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart and Nyjer Morgan, should be enough to power Milwaukee past the red hot Diamondbacks.
The 2011 Milwaukee Brewers, in theory, could go down as the most successful team in the franchise’s 42-year history.
In the club’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night, Ron Roenicke and his record-breaking crew surpassed what was previously the franchise’s record for home wins in a season (55), with winning their 56th home victory of the season. The win would be enough to put the Brewers at a 95-66 overall mark, with one final game remaining with the postseason just around the corner.
The game would also prove to be a historic night for Prince Fielder.
In three at-bats during Tuesday night’s memorable victory, Milwaukee’s first-baseman launched three home runs off Pittsburgh pitching, marking the first time the slugger had ever reached such a feat. His three home run effort would become the third instance this season a player managed three-home runs in a game (Casey McGehee, Corey Hart).
Fielder, who has been presumably losing ground on Matt Kemp and fellow teammate Ryan Braun in the NL MVP race over the past few weeks, could have bought a few more votes after his performance on Tuesday night. With one game remaining, Fielder is now tied for the league lead in home runs (38) and is second in RBI (120).
The production out of Milwaukee’s hearty slugger this season has been enough to put the Brewers over the top and into the postseason for just the second time since 1982, and will likely be enough to make him one of MLB‘s most highly payed players next season and into the future.
For the past few months, Brewers fans have been clinging to the hope the Fielder will resign with Milwaukee this offseason. After his remarkable performance on Tuesday night, that notion will more than likely take a turn for the worse.
If you needed any more proof, here’s what Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweeted:
@Haudricourt: “That “ka-ching, ka-ching” you’re hearing is coming from Scott Boras’ office.”
With each home run, the chances of Fielder returning to Milwaukee next season only become more unlikely. I hate to dampen the mood, but enjoy it while he’s here, Brewers fans.
Fully realizing that much of Milwaukee Brewers fans’ attention is fixated on the heroics of Ryan Braun and company, I’ll make this as simple and to-the-point as possible.
September call-ups Taylor Green, Jordan Schaefer and Michael Fiers have been able to become acclimated with the major-league pace during this historic month of September. Odds are they’ll likely take on a whole new role within Ron Roenicke’s lineup, possibly as soon as next season, with a number of contract dilemmas looming for Doug Melvin and company to deal with this offseason.
Let’s take a look at five prospects we can’t wait to see in 2012.
Mat Gamel, 1B
The 27-year-old Gamel has played, up to this point, his entire career in Milwaukee’s minor-league system, excluding his short-lived stint with the club back in the 2008 season. While this may not be appealing to Brewers fans, seen as how Prince Fielder’s exit will leave a colossal hole in Roenicke’s lineup, we should have confidence with what he brings to the table. His left-handed bat will be an ideal replacement for Fielder next season and into the future. Granted, he’ll need to clean up his rather sloppy defensive habits, however there’s no questioning his raw talent and aptitude at the next-level. A quick fact-check for all Gamel doubters: Since his first full minor-league season in the Brewers’ system way back in 2005, Gamel has registered 105 HR, 503 RBI, has a .304 BA while maintaining a .873 OPS. He won’t be anything close to what Fielder has been, but he’ll be good enough.
Wily Peralta, RHP
If there was one surefire September call-up bound to come to fruition last month, it would’ve certainly been Peralta. Finishing 2011 with a combined 3.17 ERA between AA-Hunstville and AAA-Nashville, Peralta, if nothing else, would have been a solid addition to add depth to Milwaukee’s bullpen for the strech run toward the postseason. Yet, for whatever reason, that largely anticipated call-up never happened — leaving us all scratching our heads in amazement. Nevertheless, expect to see the 22-year-old Peralta in a Brewers uniform by the end of 2012. With a number of discouraging contract situations looming, such as LaTroy Hawkins, you could make the case for the young right-hander to be in the bullpen on opening day.
Taylor Green, 3B
Unlike many top-tier prospects that have emerged from Milwaukee’s farm system in year’s past, Green has taken a much more unconventional route to the majors in that he has remained relatively unheard of by most Brewers fans. Spending five surprisingly productive seasons in the minors, Green has suddenly vaulted himself into a part-time role, with a full-time role potentially waiting for him in 2012. All Green has managed to do in his six minor league seasons is amass 71 home runs, 402 RBI, 142 doubles and maintain a .831 OPS. If he can transition that success into an everyday role with the Brewers, he’ll have a chance to become a fan-favorite and All-Star candidate in no time.
Michael Fiers, RHP
If you haven’t already heard of him, you might want to change that. The 26-year-old Fiers was recently named Milwaukee’s minor-league 2011 pitcher of the year, holding true to a combined 1.86 ERA with AA-Hunstville and AAA-Nashville. In 10 starts with the Sounds, Fiers went 10-0 with a stifling 1.11 ERA and 69 SO in 64.2 innings of work. His successes in 2011 were enough for the Brewers to bring him up from the minors, making his MLB debut on September 14, where he struck out two while allowing two hits in an inning of relief. Like Peralta, Fiers will more than likely get his shot at Milwaukee’s bullpen by 2012.
Logan Schaefer, OF
Though you’re probably more likely to recognize him from one of Sports Center’s most bizarre plays than for his on-field productivity, we shouldn’t lose sight of what the 25-year-old center fielder brings to the table. His 6’1″, 180-pound frame has enabled him to roam the outfield with great efficiency for three of Milwaukee’s top minor league affiliates in 2011. His bat isn’t half bad, either. Maintaining a .315 BA while accumulating 5 HR, 43 RBI and 16 SB this season, Shaefer was recalled from AAA-Nashville, adding another left-handed bat to Roenicke’s lineup, not to mention add some much-needed speed on the bases. With Nyjer Morgan’s contract situation yet to be handled, Shaefer could potentially be included in Milwaukee’s opening-day depth chart. We’ll have to wait and see.
Follow Alec Dopp on Twitter: @alecdopp.
If there’s one thing Brewers fans have learned over the course of this marvelous 2011 regular season, it’s that Prince Fielder’s inevitable exit will sting. A lot.
Assuming Fielder’s ill-timed comments in an interview with TBS earlier this month prove to be valid, Milwaukee natives must live with the fact that they will be without their star-studded first baseman for the foreseeable future — for better or worse.
Wait a minute…doesn’t this sound eerily familiar? It does, as a matter of fact.
One could make the argument Fielder’s stay in Milwaukee is comparable to that of LeBron James’ in Cleveland.
James, whose rookie season came all the way back in the 2003-04 season with the Cavaliers, stood pat in Cleveland for seven full seasons until his rookie contract dissipated at the end of his 2009-10 campaign. He then, as we all know well-and-full, took to the free-agent market. Amid the persisting speculation and controversy, James decided to (literally) air a live show on ESPN, declaring once and for all where he would “take his talents” for what would presumably be the remainder of his historic career.
While I can’t say Fielder will hold a live press conference announcing where he plans to play for the next decade, I can say this: the loss of Fielder, no matter how likely or unlikely it may be at this juncture, will be catastrophic for the city of Milwaukee. What No.28 has been able to accomplish over his six full years as a Brewer (.281 BA, 226 HR, 648 RBI, .536 SLG, .924 OPS) will never again be replicated — just like that of James’ stay (40.1 MPG, 27.7 PPG, .328 3P%) in Cleveland.
Sure, Fielder has (through last season) never successfully won an MVP award like that of James. But, statistics aside, Fielder is every bit as valuable to the city of Milwaukee as James was to the city of Cleveland, and his departure will be treated as such.
Here’s to the hope that Milwaukee doesn’t burn Fielder’s jersey after he cashes in this winter.
Alec Dopp is a Milwaukee Brewers featured columnist on Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @alecdopp
Prince Fielder’s untimely comments have officially been blown out of proportion, not to the surprise of Milwaukee Brewers fans. The fact that Fielder would bring up such a sensitive topic when his own team is in the midst of a deeply competitive pennant race won’t bode well with Brewers fans, either.
Will his comments derail what was once a steamrolling Milwaukee ballclub off the path of success? Is there still an outside chance of Fielder resigning with the Brewers in 2012? Is he still a vegetarian? These are all merely insignificant topics for discussion at this point.
Maybe I’m simply speaking out of utter disgust, but here are six reasons the Brewers are better off without Fielder in 2012.
They Won’t Have to Deal with Any More “Beast Mode”
Okay, so it was cool the first 200 times. Now it’s just straight up uncalled for.
More Money to Sign More Players
The MLB winter meetings were extremely kind to the Milwaukee Brewers last year. They were able to acquire Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, among others, to bolster a lagging starting rotation, despite Fielder’s already massive $15.5 million 2011 salary.
What GM Doug Melvin plans to do this offseason will be uncertain at best.
That being said, without Fielder’s contract eating up roughly 20 percent of Milwaukee’s payroll, Melvin will (finally) have the opportunity to test a promising free agent market and/or trade for any number of quality, cost-effective players.
Mat Gamel Won’t Be as Good, But He’ll Be Good Enough
The 26-year-old Gamel was one of the few top-notch prospects the Brewers didn’t deal away in acquiring Greinke or Marcum last offseason. Since being drafted by Milwaukee back in 2005, he has worked his way up through the minors while making a few forgettable MLB appearances along the way.
However, don’t let a few meaningless major-league at-bats get you down. Gamel has tremendous power, accumulating 28 HR, 96 RBI with a .942 OPS in 2011 alone, and will fill the left-handed void in Ron Roenicke’s lineup once Fielder is out the door.
Gamel has arguably been one of the most promising young prospects in the minor leagues over the past few years, and he will be an exceptional talent at the major league level when given a realistic opportunity.
Brewers fans: don’t fret. Help is on the way.
Less Unwanted Media Attention
Don’t get me wrong — Fielder is a once-in-a-lifetime-type player that will likely never be replicated anytime soon. However, the unwanted media attention No. 28 has brought is probably a bit too much for Roenicke’s liking (or mine, for that matter).
By and large, the Brewers have never been a flashy, in-your-face type of organization (Tony La Russa may disagree, but that’s beside the point). They’ve come to be more known as a darkhorse/underdog type of team; probably because they’re MLB’s smallest TV market.
Not to say that I don’t appreciate Fielder’s antics, but there’s no disputing how much redundant media attention Fielder has brought to the Brewers.
It won’t be missed.
The Brewers Can Finally Play Ron Roenicke’s Style of Baseball
Milwaukee’s rookie manager Ron Roenicke is a sure-fire candidate for NL manager of the year. Taking over a team that largely underachieved under Ken Macha each of the past two seasons (80-82 in 2009, 77-85 in 2010), Roenicke has incorporated his aggressive style of baseball into the Brewers this season.
So far, it’s worked handsomely, with exception to Fielder.
Roenicke pushes the limits of base-running on a regular basis, leading to a dramatic improvement in team stolen bases from last season to this season. Collectively, the Brewers stole 81 bases in 2010. In 2011, Milwaukee already has 88 — even with Fielder in the lineup.
From a dynamic base-running standpoint, Fielder isn’t the typical athlete. With him out of the picture next season, the Brewers will be much more lethal on the bases.
They’ll Be Able to Focus on Winning…Not Someone’s Contract Status
The Brewers are in the midst of what could become an all-time great season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean winning is the only thing on their minds.
Clearly, Fielder’s free agency status has impacted everyone associated with the organization as a whole.
That won’t be an issue in 2012.
Follow Alec Dopp on Twitter: @alecdopp.
It’s been a long, somewhat tumultuous season for the Milwaukee Brewers and their rookie manager Ron Roenicke.
After starting 2011 on a 0-4 note, the Brewers managed to rally around the timely hitting of both Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder toward the top of the NL Central standings. Finishing with a wholesome five game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals at season’s end, the Brewers captured their first division title in franchise history since making the switch from the AL East back in 1995.
This season has also brought about many award-winning performances.
From the stellar pitching of the starting rotation to the MVP-caliber production from Milwaukee’s dynamic-duo, 2011 has been, from a performance standpoint, outstanding.
We’re here today to hand out many traditional awards, along with a few unconventional honors, to some of the most valuable players in the 2011 roster.
Best Player Acquired Via Free Agency or Trade: Shaun Marcum
GM Doug Melvin clearly saw something special when he sought to trade for Marcum in the offseason.
The former Toronto Blue Jay has anchored Milwaukee’s refurbished 2011 rotation to the tune of a 12-6 combined record, 3.25 ERA (first among Brewers starters) and 145 SO in just 183.0 innings of work.
Marcum has been a model of consistency for the first-place Brewers, and will be key in Milwaukee’s quest back to the World Series.
Fan Favorite: Nyjer Morgan
This one isn’t even close.
Throughout the course of this 2011 regular season, Milwaukee’s outspoken center fielder has made a tremendous impact on the field, accounting for 4 HR, 34 RBI with a .310 BA to boot.
However, it may be Morgan’s post-game antics that will most be remembered.
Long live Tony Plush.
Most Disappointing Player: Casey McGehee
It’s been an comprehensive struggle for McGehee this season.
Last season, the Brewers’ third baseman batted .285 with 23 HR and led the team in RBI (104). In 2011, he just hasn’t been able to get things going.
A .234 BA, 12 HR and just 66 RBI are enough to classify McGehee as an utter disappointment. On the bright side of things, McGehee will have his shot at redemption in the postseason.
Most Valuable Reliever: John Axford
John Axford had his share of skeptics before the season (myself included) but with all things considered, he’s been an absolute gem for the Brewers.
Milwaukee’s “go-to” man in the ninth inning has accounted to 40 saves in 42 opportunities in his first full season as a big-league closer, and has amassed 78 SO in just 66.2 innings of work.
It remains to be seen how well he will pitch in the postseason, but, for now, he’s clearly Milwaukee’s most valuable reliever of 2011.
Cy Young: Yovani Gallardo
No surprises here.
Milwaukee’s team leader in wins (16), strikeouts (183), innings pitched (194.0) and quality starts (20) Gallardo is in the midst of another outstanding season with the postseason just ahead.
Ron Roenicke’s 25-year-old ace set a career-high in wins in 2011, and will presumably be the Brewers’ No.1 starter in a deep rotation in the playoffs.
Co-MVP: Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder
This probably seems a bit cliché, but it’s simply too difficult to choose between the two.
Over the past few seasons, Braun and Fielder have staked their claim as one of baseball’s most lethal offensive one-two punches, but 2011 has clearly put the two in a whole new category of greatness.
Both are making impressive cases to become this year’s NL MVP, but when it comes down to what each have been able to accomplish for Milwaukee this season, it’s near impossible to name a clear-cut MVP.
Follow Alec Dopp on Twitter: @alecdopp.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ 2011 season is nearing it’s collective climax, but if you’re anything like me, you can’t help but take a quick glance into the future.
In case you haven’t already noted, All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder is set to become an unrestricted free-agent at season’s end. Speculation around the league says he — along with Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols — will undoubtedly be the hottest free agent strolling the market. To no surprise, analysts and skeptics believe the Brewers won’t be able to afford their attractive superstar.
Who could blame them? Milwaukee’s roughly $85 million payroll was just enough to trade for Royals ace Zack Greinke and Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum in the offseason, much less acquire Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez prior to the non-waiver trade deadline.
Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has defended his stance that Milwaukee will be able to afford their slugging cleanup hitter at season’s end. Whether or not Milwaukee is able to resign Fielder this winter is irrelevant at this point. There are plenty of question marks hampering next season’s outcome.
Let’s run down 10 free-agents the Brewers should consider signing this winter
First Things First: Positional Concerns
Before we begin, let’s get a general overview of what needs to be improved.
As it stands, LaTroy Hawkins, Craig Counsell, Yuniesky Betancourt (who maintains a 2012 option) and Fielder are all set to become free-agent this offseason. It shouldn’t be too hard to fill their shoes — with exception to Fielder’s — but moves will need to be made and signings are imminent.
Third Base: Is Casey McGehee the answer?
Milwaukee’s primary third-baseman had a career 2010 campaign, compiling 23 HR, .285 BA, .801 OPS and beat out both Ryan Braun and Fielder for the team lead in RBI (104). Expectations may have proved to be a bit too high in 2011, as McGehee’s .238 BA, 12 HR, 65 RBI and an appalling .295 OBP have been anything but impressive. The emergence of prospect Taylor Green in September could be something to watch this offseason.
Bullpen: Is it solidified enough?
The addition of Takashi Saito last offseason has worked out decently thus far. Last season, Milwaukee’s bullpen ranked 26th in all of baseball in ERA (4.58). This season, things have turned around quite dramatically: posting a team ERA of 3.64, the Brewers now rank eighth in MLB. The addition of K-Rod following the All-Star break also helped, as you can imagine. With LaTroy Hawkins likely leaving, the Brewers will need added depth to the ‘pen.
Shortstop: Will the Brewers pick up Betancourt’s 2012 option?
At times, Betancourt has proved to be an all-around elite shortstop at the MLB level. At the same time, though, he’s struggled to hold down the fort at shortstop, which makes his winter all the more intriguing. Will the Brewers pick up his 2012 option? If not, we could be in for quite the offseason with Melvin looking to upgrade via trade or free-agency.
The Rangers successfully snatched up the 33-year-old Gonzalez just hours before the waiver trade deadline, but rumors suggest the Brewers were very much entrenched in discussions for acquiring the veteran left-hander.
Truth be told, Gonzalez hasn’t played up to his capabilities lately. Posting a 4.01 ERA in his first season with he Orioles last season, along with a dismal 4.27 ERA in 49 appearances with Baltimore in 2011, Gonzalez was anything but dominant.
However, don’t get too discouraged.
In his best season as the Braves’ set-up man/closer, Gonzalez amassed 17 HLD, 10 SV and a stunning 2.42 ERA in 74.1 innings of work. If he can muster up the ability to produce as he did just a few seasons ago, the Brewers would be foolish not to pursue him.
Francisco has become one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated power-relievers in the game today despite his impressive career 9.88 K/9-inning ratio.
The Brewers have plenty of right-handed relievers ready to step in whenever called upon, but few have the stuff the 31-year-old Francisco has: a power fastball with great command.
He’s relatively younger than what most would expect, so signing him may be a bit more costly than previously expected.
You can’t argue with what he brings to the table, though.
The Brewers had their sights set on the streaky Barmes prior to the July 31 trade deadline, but a deal never quite came to fruition.
I may be one of only a handful of people who think Barmes is a great fit to replace Betancourt at shortstop, and I’ll give you a couple reasons why you should do the same:
- At just 32 years of age, he still has his best days ahead of him
- His 2011 salary, $3.925 million, is actually lower than Betancourt’s $4 million base salary
Barmes and Betancourt have the same career fielding percentage as shortstops (.970), however Barmes provides much more pop in the batter’s box.
Not even in our wildest dreams.
Another unheralded reliever, the 34-year-old Sherrill would not only be an ideal addition to Milwaukee’s bullpen, but he would also be a cost-effective reinforcement in potentially resigning Fielder.
Although the Braves placed him on the 15-day disabled list back on August 27, Sherrill was in the midst of a solid season by all accounts. Carrying a 3.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 7 HLD while striking out 38 in just 36.0 innings pitched, Sherrill was just one of many talented hurlers featured in Atlanta’s impressive bullpen.
Sherrill is due to make $1.2 million in 2011 — which, for all intensive purposes, should make him one of the most practical candidates on the market to replace Hawkins next season. Doug Melvin — I’m looking at you.
Assuming the Brewers and Casey McGehee aren’t able to restructure a new contract/extension this offseason, things could get a little dicey regarding who should play third base for Ron Roenicke next season.
Mat Gamel has been waiting in the wings down in Triple-A Nashville for quite some time now, but with Fielder likely leaving, he could (and should) be Milwaukee’s first baseman in 2012. With Taylor Green making a name for himself in his stint with the club, he could be starting at the hot corner next season for all we know.
But with veteran Craig Counsell also leaving in all likelihood, the Brewers will need to restock their depth chart. This is where Betemit comes in.
Milwaukee had been looking to trade for Betemit’s services around the July 31 trade deadline. Bringing a above-average glove and tolerable bat, the 29-year-old Betemit would be a solid addition by and large.
How Bell wasn’t dealt at either the non-waiver trade deadline nor the waiver deadline amazes me. If the season ended today, San Diego’s boisterous closer would have (on average) accumulated 41 saves, maintained a 2.38 ERA and compiled 206 strikeouts in just 193.2 innings of work.
Maybe it’s because he’s due to make a whopping $7.5 million in 2011, or maybe it’s just because no contenders felt the need to make the move for the power right-hander. Either way, it’s astonishing. For what it’s worth, however, the Brewers could almost certainly step up and pursue Bell this offseason — pending whether or not they can resign Fielder, of course.
Sure, John Axford has been a gem in the ninth inning and, sure Francisco Rodriguez is under contract through 2012 and holding down the reigns as the setup-man. But something tells me Melvin is up to something.
Alec Dopp is a Milwaukee Brewers featured columnist on Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @alecdopp.
Looking ahead, the Milwaukee Brewers and rookie manager Ron Roenicke couldn’t have a more favorable road to the postseason.
In the month of September, Milwaukee will do battle with just two ballclubs — St. Louis and Philadelphia — with a winning percentage above .500. The Brewers will also have the luxury of finishing their September schedule at home. With a 99.3 percent chance of making the postseason according to ESPN, the Brewers have put themselves in an ideal position heading down the stretch.
Let’s break down each series in the regular season’s final month as well as the “x-factor” to winning each series.
@ St. Louis Cardinals
Tony La Russa and company managed to pummel their way towards a sweep of Milwaukee in the final days of August — marking the first such time the Brewers allowed a home sweep in 2011. These to foes will clash in St. Louis in a three-game set September 5-7, and will have immense playoff implications.
At Busch Stadium this season, the Brewers own a 3-3 combined record, and have not allowed more than six runs in any game. Keeping St. Louis’ “big three” in Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman in check will be critical to coming away with a series victory.
Vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Finally — a chance for Brewers fans to compare their club with the best of the best.
Ryan Howard, Hunter Pence and Chase Utley lead a frightening Philadelphia lineup that, surprisingly enough, has underachieved for most the regular season. Couple that with a stellar starting rotation and steadily progressing bullpen, and the Brewers will have their hands full.
Back in April, Milwaukee took two of three from Charlie Manuel and company, outscoring the Phillies 19-6 during the three-game set. Pitching will be at a premium, so if nothing else, expect a low-scoring series at Miller Park.
Vs. Colorado Rockies
Milwaukee will face off with the slowly fading Colorado Rockies in a two-game set at Miller Park following their all-important series with Philadelphia.
In May, the Brewers managed to sweep Colorado in a tightly-contested series at home while outscoring Jim Tracy’s crew by a marginal 13-9 mark. Traditionally, the Rockies have thrived in September. Without the presence of former ace Ubaldo Jimenez, however, Colorado has a slim chance at repeating their unprecedented run at the postseason like that of 2007.
@ Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati came into 2011 with high hopes of repeating as NL Central champs, but for whatever reason, they haven’t been able to keep pace with Milwaukee and St. Louis atop the division. Yet despite their struggles, the Reds have kept Milwaukee in check — holding true to a 8-5 record against the Brewers in the regular season.
Offensively, the Reds are a juggernaut. Joey Votto, who is batting .383 with 4 HR and 11 RBI against Milwaukee this season, will (as always) be a threat to break out the long-ball. A healthy Jay Bruce, who is batting .360 with 5 HR and 12 RBI, doesn’t make matters any better.
Pitching has been Cincinnait’s downfall, however. Ranking 21st in the NL in team ERA (4.12) and 15th in BAA (.255), the Reds haven’t been nearly as intimidating on the mound as 2010. By and large, this will be a decisive series for Milwaukee as the pennant races heat up.
@ Chicago Cubs
The Cubs have had Milwaukee’s number over the past few seasons, but not so in 2011. In 13 total games played between the two clubs, the Brewers are 9-4, including sweeping Chicago on two separate occasions.
When the two classic foes take to Wrigley Field in late September, it will be Milwaukee’s last road series of the season, so there will obviously be major implications baring any slip-up from Ron Roenicke’s club.
Aramis Ramirez has had a solid season by all accounts, amassing 24 HR, 83 RBI and a .306 BA. The lack of consistent pitching has hurt Mike Quade’s crew tremendously, though.
Prince Fielder has played some of his best ball at Wrigley Field over the last three seasons, managing a .360 BA, 4 HR, and 20 RBI at the friendly confines. Expect a high output of runs in this three-game set.
Vs. Florida Marlins
The Marlins are a hard team to figure in that, at times, they are brilliant offensively but haven’t been able to harness their full potential thus far in 2011.
This works out perfectly for the Brewers.
Now sitting in the cellar of the NL East, Florida has struggled to find their rhythm with the bats. Without ace Josh Johnson in the rotation, they haven’t been breathtaking on the mound, either. If Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder can get back into the swing of things (pun intended), Milwaukee should be in great position heading into the regular season series finale against Pittsburgh.
Milwaukee swept Florida in a four-game set back in early June.
Vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
For a good portion of the regular season, the Pirates attempted to stake their claim as true contenders in the NL Central, only to fall back into the middle of the pack — now 18.5 games out of first place.
Don’t expect these feisty Bucs to law down to Milwaukee, though. Clint Hurdle is the type of manager that rallies around being deemed “the underdog”. And if there’s one thing on Pittsburgh’s mind, it’s ruining Milwaukee’s playoff aspirations.
However, with Kevin Correia on the 15-day disabled list, Pittsburgh will be short-handed to come away with a series victory in Milwaukee.