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Well, somehow I've found time to sit down for 20 minutes here and there. This could be a bit scatter brained, but I'll do my best to be type swiftly so as to stay in the moment with each section.
Who's on Tap?:
June 23rd: Ben Sheets (8-1, 2.74 ERA) vs. Jo-Jo Reyes (3-4, 4.05 ERA)
June 24th: Dave Bush (3-7 5.26 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (1-0 4.91 ERA)
June 25th: Jeff Suppan (4-5, 3.92 ERA) vs. Jorge Campillo (2-2, 2.54 ERA)
Who Should You Watch?:
In case you haven't noticed, Prince Fielder is on fire right now, and when he's hot, he hits them in bunches. This weekend was no exception, as he knocked three homeruns against the Orioles, sending the Brewers to a 6-3 homestand following their previous 8-1 homestand. As a result, Fielder has improved his numbers to .292/.380/.528. On the mound, keep your eye on Dave Bush and Ben Sheets. Obviously, Sheets is the ace of this staff and it's fun to watch a guy who works so quickly take the mound. Don't blink, you may miss an entire inning. As for Dave Bush, I'm not saying watch him because he's good. We all know my feelings about this guy, but after his last start, you give him his props and ask him a question: 'Can you do it again?'. I have my doubts, as far as a good start goes anyways, but it's not impossible.
The Braves are 27-12 at home this year and a lot of that has to do with their offense. And the biggest threat on their offense at home is none other than Chipper Jones, who is batting .456/.536/.720 in 125 ABs this year with nine homeruns and 29 RBIs. That is really something to behold. Chipper is having a rough month though, batting just .321/.441/.554. I know guys on the Brewers who would kill to have that line. Unfortunately for Chipper, this has caused his BA to drop 27 points in just 11 days. The problem appears to be he's only played seven games at home this month. He has a hit in every single one of those games. On the mound, the Brewers dodge yet another bullet, avoiding Jurrjens and Tim Hudson. Unfortunately, they do have to take on Mr. Campillo, who has been nothing but impressive since joining the rotation. This is Campillo's first full season in the majors and he's taking advantage of it. IN his seven starts Campillo has given up 14 runs in 38.2 innings (3.29 ERA). In his last start against Milwaukee he was only allowed to toss 73 pitches, but gave up only one run in five while striking out six. The Brewers will need a much better performance against the up and coming righty.
Keys to Victory:
The last time these two teams squared off, hitting was at a minimum. The Brewers scored five runs the entire series and took two victories. That won't happen again. As a result, they're going to need to score runs, lots and lots of runs. That means production out of the 3-4-5 hole. The Brewers will not be able to rely a JJ Hardy or a Jason Kendall this week, but they better hope that those guys get on base. Braun, Fielder, Hall and Branyan will need to be patient as guys like Reyes and Morton will pitch around or just flat out walk guys. But there's a glitch, these guys don't give up a lot of homeruns, so the Brewers will have to concede to putting the ball into the gaps and riding the merry-go-round.
The Braves are going to need their starters to go deep into games if they plan on returning the favor of taking a series. The Braves bullpen has been an adventure. Case and point: Manny Acosta and Rafael Soriano are tied for the team-lead in saves at just three, and the team itself only carries a total of 12 saves. When the Braves win, they don't do it by small margins. The problem is, the Brewers can score runs, lots of them, so they'll need the starters to keep the ball from the bullpen and do the work themselves.
Predictions and Notes:
- You have a team who's terrible on the road and a team that's great at home, should be a no-brainer right. I'm not quite sure, but the baseball mind says this one, at the very least, will be the funnest of the three road series the Brewers have in the next two weeks. Sheets is 8-3 with a 4.80 ERA against Atlanta, which is a plus, but the last time I actually watched Sheets pitch in Atlanta, he left with that torn latimus muscle (I think that's what it's called), and the fear got put into me a bit. Sheets had one of his worst starts last week, as did Suppan, but I think the Brewers will get to Reyes and not Campillo, making the series a toss-up based on tomorrow's game with Bush and Morton on the mound. The Brewers have never faced Charlie Morton, so I'm assuming he'll look like an ace, no matter how well or poor Dave Bush may pitch, giving the Braves the series.
- The Brewers start a 11-day, 10-game road trip today against the Braves, Twins and D'Backs before going home to finish the first half. Only two games out of the Wild Card, these last 20 games will be vitally important. Somebody will have to step up big for the Brewers and anything less that 6-4 on this trip will make the ride home hard to swallow.
- Banterings about C.C. Sabathia continue to show up, but the Brewers can't afford to get him. While giving away some prospects isn't a bad idea at all, what the organization would have to give up for a two month rental doesn't make much sense. There's plenty this team can do with those prospects in the future once their true potential is understood. Trading guys like Prince, JJ, Gwynn or Weeks will garner more trade value 2-3 years from now, and allow the Brewers to stay competitive longer if any prospect can take their place. The Brewers do need a starting pitcher to put them over the top, but I doubt they'd be particularly successful in the playoffs, making the future stars more important in the years to come. I would have problem if the Brewers simply stood pat and let the problems work themselves out a little longer