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Toronto Blue Jays (35-36) @ Milwaukee Brewers (36-33)
Who's on Tap?:
June 17th: Dustin McGowan (5-4, 3.92 ERA) vs Manny Parra (5-2, 4.66 ERA)
June 18th: Shaun Marcum (5-3, 2.43 ERA) vs Ben Sheets (7-1, 2.72 ERA)
June 19th: A.J. Burnett (6-6, 4.90 ERA) vs Dave Bush (2-7, 5.73 ERA)
Who Should You Watch?:
He may not be having a very good season, but Lyle Overbay makes his long awaited return to Milwaukee. I have no doubt the fans will have their hands over their heads forming an 'O' to show their appreciation for the former first baseman. Overbay made a career of doubles with the Brewers and has done well with the Blue Jays since making room for Prince Fielder. Overbay is only hitting .260 this year, but he's as consistent as always. Elsewhere in the lineup you'll notice the Blue Jays are average all over the place. Not one of their every day players is hitting better than .286 and all seem to be hitting for below average power. This makes it difficult to pick any one in particular. Nevertheless, you have to watch out for Alex Rios. The guy is just flat out fun to watch. His power numbers are significantly down from last year, but he's making people scared when he gets on the bases. Last year he stole 17 bases in 161 games. This year, he's already swiped 15 in just 68. What he's figured out, I don't know, but the Brewers need to keep him off the bases, regardless of how well Kendall has done this year behind the plate. On the mound, the Brewers find themselves facing the Jays top three of four pitchers. While Halladay is the ace, Shaun Marcum has been absolutely stupendous this year, mostly because of a low BABIP, but his stuff is good enough to give the free swinging Brewers the snide. (Did anyone else see Scott Baker call out the Brewers for swinging at pitches he was purposefully spiking? We knew it wasn't a secret to the league, but perhaps the Crew should take it to heart.)
On the Brewers side of things, stay focused on JJ Hardy and Prince Fielder. JJ is supposedly in good enough shape to play this series after resting his strained non-throwing rotator cuff. I have a hard time believing he's in good shape at all, but I will take him every day over Craig Counsell at SS. Craig has such a poor arm, and I get scared every time he gets a routine play that it's not so routine any more. Anyways, I'm not so concerned about JJ in the field, but JJ at the plate. Luckily he has a two handed follow through on his swing, limiting his ability to tweak the problem some more. As for Prince Fielder, I'm just taking a blind guess that it's time. Corey Hart's carried the team. Ryan Braun's carried the team. Hell, Gabe Kapler's carried the team. It's about time the big earns his arbitration contract next year and shows us why he was upset about his contract this season. Prince has a five game hitting streak going, three of which were multi-hit games. Now, if only he can stop getting thrown out on the bases. On the mound, I've already made it a forgone conclusion that Dave Bush is going to get rocked. I can't watch it any more. Thank God it's a days game. As a result, stay focused on Manny Parra instead of Ben Sheets, and also Carlos Villanueva. Both of these guys had suddenly become lights out and then just as quickly fell off the wagon in their last outing. The Brewers will need both of them to win this series. Final Note: Ben Sheets deserves to be in the all-star game. He's only 7-1, but left games with the lead in at least three of them, only to have the bullpen blow them. 10-1 with a sub three ERA is deserving alongside Haren, Webb, Volquez and Zambrano.
Keys to Victory:
The Blue Jays need to be patient, especially on Tuesday and Thursday. Both Manny Parra and Dave Bush have struggled with their command and are walking a significant amount of batters. Furthermore, so has the bullpen even if you take out Julian Tavarez. Therefore, the more selective they are, the better off they will be. They'll get better pitches to hit and find themselves more able to predict pitches as the count moves further in their favor. This is especially the case with Dave Bush, who has a propensity to through cob balls when he's behind in the count, hoping they won't get raked.
The Brewers, on the other hand, need to play good defense. It has been apparent that a number of the recent losses are a direct result of giving teams 28 or 29 outs. Unfortunately for Brewers fans, this pitching staff has a bit of a psychological problem and have a hard time picking up their teammates on most occasions (Torres and Villanueva excluded). As a result, they'll need a clean series to make things fall their way. And just for good measure, they should walk some more for fun because it's sexy.
Predictions and Notes:
These predictions aren't getting any easier. The Brewers have been playing so poorly the past few games, it's hard to get excited about another big homestand like the last one. After falling 1-2 against the Twins, you know they won't be able to duplicate their 8-1 run. However, a day off at home often does the Brewers wonders. I suspect Manny will be back tonight with a vengeance and will pitch well enough to get into the sixth. Sheets will be Sheets yet again, and with his extra day off, will be better than usual, allowing the Brewers to take the first two, but Bush will be the rally killer again, whether it be the defense behind him or his own blunderings. The team just never seems to be up to the task when he's up there. Doesn't surprise me. I'm not up for the task to watch it when he's pitching.
Why isn't Tim Dillard being used more often in closed games? Yes, Dillard struggled on Friday this past week, but Yost opted not to use him in six days! Prior to that, he was getting regular work every other or every three days. This is a young guy who has pitched well for the Brewers and yet Yost has more confidence in a guy who hasn't thrown well in three years in Julian Tavarez. Dillard should not be relegated to clean up work. That's why you're paying Tavarez and DiFelice so little money. While, Dillard isn't making much either, he's only 24, not 31 or 36 like those other two. Use him damnit!
Expect to see big crowds this week. It looks like school is finally out and the kids and parents are starting to flock. After Saturday's sellout, and Sunday's 41k plus, the Brewers are on their way to a record season in attendance, as long as they can stay in contention. That's going to take some work.