Series #10: Here Come The Brew Crew

Series Quick Look
Friday, May 5, 7:05PM
Saturday, May 6, 7:05 PM

Sunday, May 7, 1:35PM
at PNC Park, Pittsburgh, PA


Pittsburgh will face Milwaukee for the first time this season. After ending a brutal April schedule, the Pirates start May by facing the Reds and Brewers. Typically this should be a great start to get things going again, but the Pirates always struggle when facing these two clubs. Pittsburgh was only able to win one game in the four game series verse the Reds and now take on the Brewers in a three-game series. Last year, the Brewers didn’t hit all too well against Pittsburgh and ranked 25th in MLB in wRC+, but this year is much different as they are currently ranked 9th.

ALL-TIME RECORD: Milwaukee leads 138-172
Last matchup…September 20-22, 2016. Pittsburgh took two-out-of-three in Milwaukee outscoring them 11-7.

About the Brewers:
The Brewers are in the midst of a complete rebuild but are currently second in the NL Central at 15-14. They rank 1st in the majors in home runs, 3rd in runs scored, 3rd in stolen bases, and 9th in wRC+. Much of this can be credited to the signing of Eric Thames this offseason. Thames has not disappointed since his return from the KBO. Actually, many people feel he is overachieving even the most optimistic projections. Providing Thames protection in the two hole has been a healthy Ryan Braun. So far this year Braun has slugged seven homers while slashing .284/.370/.580/.950. Yes, the man Pittsburgh has come to hate for many years will just not go away.

As well as these two have been leading the way for this offense, the team pitching has been anything but successful. They rank 20th in ERA (4.35) and 21st in FIP (4.32). Chase Anderson has pitched quite well this year, but the rest of the rotation and pen have been underwhelming at best.


PROBABLES & NOTES: 

5/5: RHP Chad Kuhl (6.26 ERA/3.78 FIP, 94 FIP-) vs.
RHP Jimmy Nelson (5.34 ERA/4.40 FIP, 102 FIP-)

Chad Kuhl is set to make his sixth start this year. His season thus far has been a mixed bag of balls. Twice he looked dominant, twice he looked mediocre, and once he completely imploded. Overall though, he has looked like an above average pitcher as his FIP and FIP- would suggest. While the Brewers lead the majors in home runs, Kuhl has allowed just one this season. Tonight will be a test to see who bends first. As for Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson, his first two starts of the season were fantastic but he has looked awful since. He holds a 8.62 ERA over the past three starts where he’s allowed 25 hits, eight walks, and three home runs in 15.2 innings. So far this season he has thrown his sinker considerably less than any other season while throwing his fastball more, but people have been teeing off on both hitting above .300 on both pitches.

5/6: RHP Gerrit Cole(3.50 ERA/3.90 FIP, 97 FIP-) vs.
RHP Matt Garza (3.38 ERA/4.26 FIP, 98 FIP-)

Gerrit Cole has been referenced as ‘elite’ and an ‘ace’ by the New York media recently and with each start this season he has been commanding that respect. After his start in Boston where he looked strong until that disastrous fifth inning, Cole has pitched to a tune of a 2.61 ERA in 31 innings pitched while throwing 32 strikes opposed to six walks. The long ball has been an issue for Cole at this point with six being given up, but with that said he has only given up seven barrels. He will have to limit the hard hits against this lineup which is very prone to the strikeout and long ball. The Brewers will feature Matt Garza in this game who is in his last year of the four year $50 million contract, one which the Brewers probably wish they could take back. During his tenure with Milwaukee he’s pitched 424.1 innings with a 4.54 ERA (4.23 FIP). So far this season he has just pitched 10.2 innings due to dealing with a strained right groin to begin the season. In 69 career innings verse the Pirates, Garza owns a 4.43 ERA.

5/7: RHP Tyler Glasnow (6.97 ERA/4.93 FIP, 121 FIP-) vs.
RHP Wily Peralta (4.88 ERA/5.15 FIP, 118 FIP-)

If there is anything definitive about Tyler Glasnow’s season it’s that he’s made it interesting. In 20.2 innings pitched he has struck out 22 and walked 17. When you factor in the 27 hits he has allowed his WHIP equates to a fascinating 2.129. Many people have been saying there has been a lot of good coming from Glasnow recently. Well, that is staying pretty positive I would say. Sure, after the past few starts he settled down and finished out the game strong, but he still has given up a big, I mean a huge inning each and every game. He owns a 16.20 ERA in the first inning where most of his damage has been done every game. His innings actually get stronger which is something most pitchers don’t do, but they also typically don’t pitch as bad as Tyler does to begin with. What is also interesting is the fact that the Pirates have won four out of the five starts Tyler has pitched in. As for Wily Peralta, he hasn’t been exciting, but he has gotten the job done more than not this year. His 4.88 ERA is not good, but he has kept his team in the game in all but one verse the Cardinals which has earned him an NL leading four wins (lol).


TV/RADIO INFO: 
TV (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday): ROOT Sports Pittsburgh and Fox Sports Wisconsin
Radio (All games): KDKA-FM 93.7

ON THE SHELF: 

Pittsburgh:
Jung Ho Kang (3B): Restricted List (March 11)—Work visa denied.
Starling Marte (OF): Suspended 80 games (April 18)—Use of PED’s.
Adam Frazier (2B/OF): 10-Day DL (April 24)—Left hamstring strain.
Antonio Bastardo (P): 10-Day DL (April 25)—Left quad strain. 
David Freese (3B/1B): 10-day DL (April 29)—Right hamstring strain.

Milwaukee:
Junior Guerra (P): 10-Day DL (April 29)—Right calf strain.


STOP THAMES
Thames was nicknamed ‘God’ over in the KBO as he mashed his way out of that league and back into the majors. So far, he has yet to disappoint with his .323./444/.740/.1.184 with 11 home runs in 96 at-bats. His 197 wRC+ ranks 8th among hitters with a minimum of 30 at bats. Obviously there is no track record with Thames vs the Pirates or any of their pitchers, but he has mashed even more away than while playing in Miller Park. He could easily give this pitching staff fits this weekend. His pitch recognition has extremely improved and he credits it to playing in the KBO. While over there he played with many pitchers who may not have been able to throw hard, but threw many types of breaking pitches that helped train Thames eye and teach him patience.

CLEANUP ON FORBES AVE
Pittsburgh obviously is without two players who could be tabbed in the cleanup spot, but the player who has been playing there for most of the year, Gregory Polanco, has not been producing at all this year. Another option would be David Freese but he is also on the DL currently. So far this year Pittsburgh’s production in the four spot has slashed .212/.305/.317/.622, which has been the second worst hitting spot in our order not counting the pitcher spot. It doesn’t make any sense for an opposing team to pitch to Andrew McCutchen when there has been absolutely no protection behind him. Either Polanco need to step up quickly or Clint Hurdle needs to find a new cleanup hitter.

YOUTH INFUSION
The Pirates are riddled with injuries and suspensions which has led to many players getting opportunities faster than the organization would have liked. Players like Elias Diaz, Gift Ngoepe, Jose Osuna, and Alen Hanson will get plenty of playing time. It’s easy to identify why this team has had struggles this early in the season, but the play of these youngsters will determine if this team can stay afloat until the reinforcements come back. Currently Jose Osuna and Gift Ngoepe have been pulling their weight as both are above a 130 wRC+. In all honestly, we would rather see Ngoepe getting much more play time at second and short due to his defense and hot streak at the plate.

OPPOSITE STRENGTHS
This matchup features complete different strengths. The Brewers pack a punch at the plate that helps them lead the majors in homers and ninth in wRC+. On the opposite spectrum, the Pirates rank 28th in homers and 23rd in wRC+. When it comes to pitching, the Pirates rank 11th in ERA and 10th in FIP while the Brewers rank 20th in ERA and 21st in FIP.

BRUTAL RECORD VERSE BREW CREW
As you noticed, the Brewers have the Pirates in the all-time record. Since 2007, the record has been extremely one sided with the Pirates on the wrong end of the 62-107 record. As we just witnessed with the Cincinnati Reds, the Pirates also seem to struggle when playing the Brewers as well. Luckily this series isn’t being played at Miller Park where the splits are even worse, but this series won’t be any cake walk to lead into the Dodgers series.

NEXT UP:
The Pirates head away from PNC Park for a three-game series with the Dodgers from Monday to Wednesday and will continue their west coast trip with a four-game series in Arizona.

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