Coming off a disappointing split at home against the lowly Braves, the Rockies have a chance to bounce back in a big way this weekend against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Rockies have seen their Wild Card cushion shrink over the last few weeks and now sit 5.5 games up on these very Brewers. Fortunately for the Rockies, they find themselves tied for the top Wild Card spot with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have also struggled in the second half. The Rockies sport a 37-23 record at home for the year and have gone 11-5 at home since the All-Star break.
Of course, the Brewers are not just fighting for the Wild Card. They are only a game back of the Chicago Cubs and a half game up on the Cardinals in what is shaping up to be a thrilling NL Central race. The Brewers are coming into Coors Field after winning their last four games, all at home. However, they have really struggled on the road since the All-Star break, owning a 4-11 record. In their only other meeting this year, the Rockies took three out of four in Milwaukee to start the season.
The Brewers are relatively mediocre in most offensive categories. They fall right about in the middle of the league in wRC+, wOBA, BB%, AVG, OBP and most other categories. Their strengths lie in their over-the-fence power and their speed. They lead the league in home runs and sit second in steals. Nine Brewers have double-digit homeruns, the most in the National League. The Houston Astros are the only team in baseball with more double-digit guys is the at ten. The Brewers also have five guys who have double-digit steals, tied for the most in baseball with the Texas Rangers. All of this is to say the Brewers are not a top-heavy offense; instead, they are well balanced. Although they excel in only two areas, the Brewers really focus as a team on those areas and maximize their advantage.
Starting Pitching Notes
The Rockies will get Matt Garza, Brandon Woodruff, and Chase Anderson this weekend. Garza has been around for what feels like forever. He has been his usual self this season, pitching to contact and not striking out a lot of guys. His profile is not an ideal fit for Coors field so the Rockies will hope to take advantage. Woodruff is the 4th ranked prospect in the Brewers system and 90th overall in baseball. He has a good sinking fastball that leads to a lot of groundballs and can get him a few strikeouts. This will be just his third Major League start. Anderson will be taking the mound for the first time since June 28, when he left his start with an oblique injury. Prior to that injury he had been their best starter with a 2.89 ERA and a 3.44 FIP. Anderson mixes his pitches well and has good command of his arsenal.
The Brewers bullpen is headlined by Anthony Swarzak and Corey Knebel. The two pack a powerful punch on the back end and have combined for 26 saves and 25 holds on the season. Knebel set the single season record this year with 45 consecutive games with a strikeout. He has a 15.38 K/9, trailing only Craig Kimbrel and Dellin Betances for the league lead. Josh Hader, a rookie and highly ranked prospect, is the other part of the bullpen that should scare the Rockies. Lefties are hitting .130 against him in 69 ABs across his two levels this season. He currently owns a 0.71 ERA in 25 and a third innings in his major league career.
The Brewers are a top ten defense in terms of Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). They are led by catcher Manny Pina, shortstop Orlando Arcia, and super utility man Hernan Perez. The three have combined to produce 28 DRS for the team. This is an athletic and rangy group who make a lot of highlight reel plays. However, they’ve also had their share of struggles. While he has a positive DRS, Orlando Arcia has committed 15 errors this year, second most among shortstops in baseball. Jonathan Villar is currently sitting atop the league with 14 errors at second base. They may make a few spectacular plays, but the Brewers are also prone to botching the easy ones. The Rockies will hope to see a few bobbles this weekend.
After leaving Thursday’s game with a sore hand, Nolan Arenado’s X-rays came back negative, so he should be able to play this weekend. The Diamondbacks remain tied with the Rockies atop the Wild Card standings after splitting their road series with Houston. On Saturday, Chad Bettis will start his second game since returning to the team. Charlie Blackmon’s incredible season has him two home runs, seven RBIs, and one run scored away from reaching career highs in all three categories.
The Rockies hold a comfortable lead in the Wild Card right now, but it could get uncomfortable quickly should they drop this series. The Brewers come into the series on a roll, and they will be looking to carry that momentum through as they battle for a playoff spot. Fortunately for the Rockies they are at home facing a group of starters that have their fair share of weaknesses. Should the lineup find a way to exploit those weaknesses, it will be up to the pitching staff to hold down a Brewers offense that have hit more home runs than any other team in baseball. German Marquez, Chad Bettis, and Kyle Freeland will have their work cut out for them.
Probable Pitchers and Schedule
Friday, August 18 @ 6:40 pm MT (ATT SportsNet, 850KOA/94.1)
Matt Garza (6-6, 4.38 ERA) vs. German Marquez (9-5, 4.13 ERA)
Saturday, August 19 @ 6:10 pm MT (ATT SportsNet, 850KOA/94.1)
Brandon Woodruff (1-1, 1.50 ERA) vs. Chad Bettis (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Sunday, August 20 @ 1:10 pm MT (ATT SportsNet, 850KOA/94.1)
Chase Anderson (6-2, 2.89 ERA) vs. Kyle Freeland (11-7, 3.74 ERA)