Pittsburgh Pirates (40-44) @ Milwaukee Brewers (46-39)
Who's on Tap?:
July 4th: Ben Sheets (9-3, 2.83 ERA) vs. Tom Gorzelanny (5-7, 6.18 ERA)
July 5th: Dave Bush (4-8, 5.06 ERA) vs. Paul Maholm (5-5, 4.28 ERA)
July 6th: Jeff Suppan (5-6, 4.30 ERA) vs. Zach Duke (4-5, 3.88 ERA)
Who Should You Watch?:
Since game is already in the books in favor of the Brewers, I put up the numbers for Sheets and Gorzelanny that existed prior to the game. As a result, I'll have to focus on the last two games with regard to who you should watch. For the Pirates, the first thing you should recognize is Zach Duke may have stopped being a disappointment. After showing how good he could be in 2005 with a 1.81 ERA, Duke struggled with a 4.41 and 5.53 ERA the last two years. But Duke has been coming around and has looked pretty solid in his last seven outings, lowering his ERA .60 runs in the process. He's had mixed results against the Brewers, so it'll be interesting to see which Duke shows up on Sunday. At the plate, the Brewers should watch out for catcher, Ryan Doumit, who is batting .337/.384/.594. He makes the middle of this lineup a little more threatening than usual. Brewers pitchers cannot take a batter off in this lineup any more.
For the Brewers, I'm not going to say the shortstop. Refer to my comments at the BrewersNation to understand why. Instead, I'm going to point to Bill Hall. Yeah, Billy had three hits yesterday and I sound like I'm jumping on the bandwagon, but the fact of the matter is the Brewers are facing all left-handers this weekend. Hall is hitting .360/.417/.640 against south paws. While these numbers are above and beyond his career, Hall is going to have to rely on this big split to ensure him regular playing time. On the mound, you have to watch Dave Bush again. With the all the rumors about C.C. Sabathia going to the Brewers in the coming weeks, Bush has to wonder how much longer he'll be standing in that rotation. I'll look at all the those rumors later this afternoon.
Keys to Victory:
The Pirates are going to need to take advantage of a Brewers struggling bullpen. They had their shot yesterday by getting Sheets out in just 5.2 innings, but Villanueva took advantage of an opportunity and saved the bullpen following their debauchery on Thursday. If the Pirates are able to do something similar to that tonight, which they should, they'll get a shot at some of the relief pitchers who aren't on their game. So I guess the key is to work the count, be patient and get that starter out of there, even if you don't necessarily have success against him.
In the first base dugout, the Brewers will need the middle of their lineup to start producing and stop killing rallies. Fielder and Braun combined for four hits during the road trip, not to mention their fair share of double plays and strikeouts. They won't have to carry the Brewers, but they need to be more productive and patient at the plate to allow the Brewers a final run before the All-Star break. Prince should struggle a bit more because of the all lefty rotation, but Braun should come back strong this series and take adantage of all of the opportunities he gets.
Predictions and Notes:
- I would have picked the Brewers in yesteday's game in a heartbeat with Sheets and Gorzelanny on the mound. I just didn't think it would be that big of a blow out considering what happened Thursday. Tonight's game should be the hardest for the Brewers considering Suppan has had quite a bit of success against the Pirates in his career. Bush is going to struggle a bit, but I'm guessing he'll make it six and give up four, which will hopefully be good enough for the Brewers offense. Look for Gagne and Riske to take the 7th and 8th innings if it comes down to it. Gagne was quite impressive in his first outing back. His changeup finally had some life and he was locating his fastball. If they can get him to be useful, the Brewers could be a serious force to be reckconed with.
- As long as the Brewers win, they gain ground on someone since the Cubs are in St. Louis this weekend. As a result, every game is an opportunity and every win gets them a little bit closer to the opportunities they have been looking for.
- Keep your eyes open this afternoon, as I'm going to look at the Sabathia trade rumors and their ramifications for the future of this team.