Home-field snake stomping: the keys to a Brewers win in the NLDS
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The Brewers’ 7-3 win over the Pirates Wednesday marked the end of Milwaukee’s regular season. And holy balls, what a regular season it was. Franchise-record 96 wins aside, the unforgettable ’11 campaign saw such highlights as Milwaukee trading for three high-end hurlers in Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, and Francisco Rodriguez, while Nyjer Morgan and his menagerie of self-appointed alter egos each became household names. Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun each put up undeniable MVP-caliber numbers, and John Axford put to bed any notions of a sophomore slump while nailing down 46 saves. Plus, let’s not forget about Gnomegate and our introduction to “Front-Row” Amy Williams. Oh yeah, the whole Brewers winning its first NL Central title thing was kind of cool, too.
Yes, the past 162 Brewer games have given fans ample reason to (at least temporarily) release their tight grip on the wonder of the 1982 season and, instead, fix their collective attention on the pennant chase at hand. With the Brewers and Diamondbacks ready to square off at Miller Park in the NLDS opener Saturday, The A.V. Club picks a few focal points for the postseason series.
Home Sweep (?) Home
When it comes to the Brewers, “Home Field Advantage” isn’t just a thrown-around term. Milwaukee’s 57 wins in 81 keg contests this season was a club record, and one more victory than the Astros had overall—home or away. Saturday’s postseason opener at Miller Park (starting at 1:07 p.m.) will mark the first time the Brewers have begun a playoff series at home since 1982. Having the benefit of hometown support should give the Crew a leg up against a comparable Diamondbacks team that took four of seven games from the Brewers this season and tied them 28-28 in runs for/against in the season series.
A Four-Man, One-Wolf Man Pack
With the postseason, its days off, and tradition of pitchers going on short rest, the Brewers have pared down the rotation from five to (likely) four. Though the recently scorching likes of Yovani Gallardo—fresh off his 200 K season—will pitch Game 1, the pitcher to key on is Greinke. Despite not pitching until May, Greinke also managed a 200-plus-strikout season. More importantly, the presumed Game 2 home team starter went a perfect 11-0 in 15 starts at Miller Park, with the Brewers also winning Greinke’s four no decisions. Shaun Marcum and (if needed) Randy Wolf, who’ve each enjoyed impressive campaigns, round out Milwaukee’s rotation.
Arizona will counter with should-be (but won’t because he plays in Arizona) Cy Young-winner Ian Kennedy. The young ace totes an astounding 21-4 record and 2.88 ERA to Milwaukee. He’ll give the Brewers offense a hard time in the first game and, possibly, the fourth or fifth. Beyond Kennedy, young sub-3.50 hurler Daniel Hudson presents a Game 2 challenge. However, Angel expatriate Joe Saunders grants the Brewers a bit of a break in the series’ third game.
Take offense to this
As much as Milwaukee’s success is dependant on quality pitching, offense—namely, the long ball—has proved equally vital to the team’s success. Braun and Fielder have combined for 71 home runs, 231 RBI, and a batting average well over the .300 mark. In all, four Brewers have hit at least 20 dingers, and one them, Rickie Weeks, is back and healthy after a lengthy disabled list stay. Speedster and plus defender Carlos Gomez is also back and will give the team outfielder depth and added quickness on the base paths. Also, Casey McGehee had to just be fucking with us all season, right? Yeah… that was probably just an elaborate test.
And while Arizona is a franchise built on quality young pitching, the club boasts a few offensive weapons, too, beginning with star outfielder Justin Upton. At just 24 years old, B.J.’s little brother is in the midst of his best season to date, with 31 home runs and 21 steals to his credit. Centerfielder Chris Young had a 20/20 season of his own this year.
With Upton and Young are names many hadn’t heard of previously, including that of breakout backstop Miguel Montero, who’s enjoying a rebirth season. Rookie first baseman Paul Goldschmidt got off to a hot start with eight homers, 26 RBI, and 39 hits in 48 games. ’Zona shored up its middle infield with the mid-season acquisition of slugging second baseman Aaron Hill, and when he’s not occupied co-starring in Breaking Bad, 3B/2B/0F Ryan Roberts has managed a few timely hits.
When taking into account Milwaukee’s home prowess, glut of offensive studs, not to mention the fact the Brewers have a better record, an equally good rotation, significantly better bullpen, and that the season series between the two teams is virtually even, there’s no reason—at least on paper—Milwaukee loses this. Frankly, the only thing that could really cost the Brewers this series is the Brewers. And with the way Milwaukee has played this season, that seems unlikely.
Prediction: Brewers in four games.