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Arizona D'Backs (32-25) @ Milwaukee Brewers (29-28) Who's on Tap?:
June 2nd: Jeff Suppan (3-4, 3.93 ERA) vs. Doug Davis (2-2, 4.57 ERA)
June 3rd: Seth McClung (2-2, 4.80 ERA) vs. Randy Johnson (4-1, 3.83 ERA)
June 4th: Manny Parra (3-2, 4.72 ERA) vs. Micah Owings (6-3, 4.17 ERA)
Who Should You Watch?:
If you don't know who Conor Jackson is, maybe you should. Jackson impressed a lot of people in April by hitting five bombs and hitting .348/.427/.640. Since then, he's calmed down a bit, hitting only one dinger, but his on-base remains a healthy .400. Jackson and Mark Reynolds will need to do some damage this week if they plan on slowing down the Brewers. On the mound, Doug Davis will be making his third start since returning for his highly publicized bout with thyroid cancer. Doug is only two months removed from his treatment, so the Brewers will have to be patient at the plate and rely on Davis' tendency to try and nibble the corners. If Doug gets a wide zone, he'll be solid, if it's tight, he could be lights out.
While the Brewer are riding high since winning 7 of 9, the D'Backs have struggled mightily the last two weeks going 4-9, mostly because of a lack of offense, but poor pitching was scattered in there as well. As a result, keep an eye on Jeff Suppan tonight. Soup has really frustrating stuff. We know he doesn't strike a lot of guys out, but groundballs that stop rallies could really frustrate this team, especially considering the problems they've had lately. The Brewers need to put them on the hook immediately and let Soup stay aggressive with runners on. Tonight's matchup is going to be slow and boring and therefore not that fun to watch, but it's a big game for both teams and will be an important indicator of the days to come. At the plate, watch out for Billy Hall, who will get starts tonight and tomorrow night against the Big Unit. Hall has an agenda and will hopefully make his case as a quality trading chip. If you didn't know already, Hall is hitting a ridiculous .404/.481/.681 this year against south paws. Often Hall's success is contagious. Mike Cameron's career splits against lefties could come in handy this week as well, as he went .294/.404/.510 against them last year.
Keys to Victory:
If the D'Backs plan on taking back to back series, they'll need their offense to do some work. The Brewers offense has been phenomenal at home this year and will likely continue this with two lefties on the mound. As a result, they'll need to get Eric Byrnes going, who has been absolutely terrible this year going .219/.285/.388. If not, Upton, Reynolds and Young will have to make up for his lack of production like they have all year.
In game one the Brewers will need some plate discipline to take advantage of Doug Davis, but ultimately it was the starting pitching that gave them a series sweep and series victory against the Astros and the Braves. This will continue here. Suppan and Parra will need to stay stable with McClung still in the rotation with a strict pitch limit, making it difficult for him to stay in games long if he has command issues. If they can somehow keep the lead through six, the Brewers will be in great shape because their bullpen is phenomenal. Unfortunately, so is the D'Backs', so the Brewers rotation have to somehow leave with the lead because scoring opportunities will be minimal late in the game.
Predictions and Notes:
This is going to be a tough series and it's about time the Brewers got to see a team that was on a downward skid without their two best pitchers throwing (Dan Haren and Brandon Webb). I'm pretty excited to see how this one turns out since the D'Backs, despite their struggles the last two weeks, are one of the top three teams in the NL right now. As I said, tonight will be a long drawn out AL game with walks galore and a few dingers. Hopefully Jeff Suppan will continue his recent success, and I believe he will. I think the one guy who has garnered the most help from Jason Kendall catching has been Suppan. Because Soup's stuff isn't spectacular, pitch selection is extremely important, making Kendall's brain a hefty asset.
I think the Brewers bats will continue to sparkle tonight, especially with a lefty on the mound, who will need a couple of starts before he's really right. I think you really can't count his first start back just yet because you have to think the adrenaline in that game had to have been quite the help. Game two is a big question mark. Randy Johnson is having a really good year back in AZ and the Brewers are still trying the McClung experiment. McClung struggled pretty badly in his last start, and may have lasted a little longer if Weeks hadn't floundered when he gave up the first run of the game. Johnson will tie up the Brewers who are still striking out way too often because they keep going for the long ball. Yet Ned Yost isn't concerned. What a nobody. Anyways, the rubber match is a bit of a toss up. Micah Owings is an incredible young pitcher that makes NL lineups look like AL ones with his bat. Nevertheless, Manny Parra is starting to find his groove. If he avoids the extra baserunners with walks, he can be pretty damn dominant. In the end, the Brewers will continue to roll and win the series in a close one on Wednesday afternoon. I have tickets for all three games, but will only be able to attend Tuesday's and Wednesday's games because of my health concerns. Should be a good one.