What a wonderful day off on Monday — a nice opportunity to let Wily Peralta‘s dominant outing sink in, but also to step away from Wild Card insanity for a moment. Now that’s that. The Brewers begin their final run of the season, a grueling 16 games in 16 days (including 10 on the road). It’s been fun until now, but now’s the point where one feels inclined to say, “If the Brewers make it to the playoffs, they sure deserve it.” Their next series of games include road sets against competitors Pittsburgh, Washington, and Cincinnati.
In this tale of small markets, the Brewers attempt to ride their hot streak to the season’s close, while the Pirates try to recover their midseason magic. After turning a 89 RS / 110 RA May into a 15-13 record, the Pirates went on a 34-19 spree through June and July, their offense suddenly scoring more than five runs per game. Since then, the Pirates allowed more than five runs per game, spurring a 15-28 stretch in August and September. The Pirates close their season by heading to Houston and New York after they host the Brewers, closing their schedule with home series against the Reds and Braves.
Yovani Gallardo @ A.J. Burnett
Marco Estrada @ Kyle McPherson
Fastballer Mike Fiers @ Wandy Rodriguez
So much virtual ink has been spilled over the Nationals’ ridiculous and short-sighted Stephen Strasburg policy that many people might not realize that several pitchers as good as (or better than) Strasburg drove the Nationals’ 2012 season. While the Nats feature a solid-if-unspectacular offense, their five starters put together average or better campaigns in 139 of the club’s starts. As the Brewers learned last year, if a ballclub has five regular pitchers working at a consistent level, they have a great chance to succeed, and the Nationals’ Top 5 in 2012 are all-around better than the Brewers’ 2011 consistency.
After a few fragmented years in-and-out of the Nationals’ rotation, Ross Detwiler is working the best season of his career, boasting a 3.16 ERA (127 ERA+) in 151 innings. Journeyman slider pitcher Edwin Jackson claims a 3.89 ERA in 28 starts; that average campaign is the Nationals’ FIFTH best. The aforementioned Strasburg claimed a 3.16 ERA during his 159.3 IP, and although he receives much of the hype, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann are the clear aces of the rotation. In more than 186 IP, Gonzalez has a 2.89 ERA, and he leads his rotation mates with wins. In 176.7 IP, Zimmermann carries a 3.01 ERA, working on the follow-up to his 2011 breakthrough season.
With a rotation like that, who needs Strasburg? Of course, the Nationals’ policy with their prized right-hander is short-sighted because (1) his pitching mechanics are bad enough to make him an injury risk any season he pitches, and (2) the Nationals allowed him to work several inefficient outings during his shortened season. Unfortunately, the Nationals did not align Strasburg’s pitch counts with his innings workload, which makes no sense — why limit a pitcher’s innings when you don’t limit their pitches? According to Rany Jazayerli of Grantland, there is evidence than MLB teams already limit their young pitchers’ workloads enough to deter some injuries. Unfortunately for Strasburg and the Nationals, Strasburg might simply be an example of a pitcher that gets injuried regardless of how much he pitches (h/t Ross B.).
Shaun Marcum @ Edwin Jackson
Wily Peralta @ Gio Gonzalez
Yovani Gallardo @ Jordan Zimmermann
Marco Estrada @ John Lannan
Wild Card Week
While the Brewers face the Pirates and Nationals on the road, their wild card foes drew competition from varying levels. The Los Angeles Dodgers head to Washington to keep the park warm before the Brewers show up; one can only hope that the Nationals get all their winning out of their system against Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the Cardinals host the Astros, and even if that looks like an easy series for the Redbirds, they draw Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris from Houston. The Phillies play in New York, while the Diamondbacks host the Padres, rounding out series for competitors near the Brewers’ range.
Into the weekend, a bunch of divisional match-ups greet the Brewers’ foes. The Cardinals head to Wrigley to face the Cubs, while the Phillies host the Braves. The Pirates head to Houston, and the Diamondbacks face the Rockies. Meanwhile, the Dodgers continue their brutal roadtrip, heading to Cincinnati to warm up Great American Ballpark for the Brewers. One can only hope that the Dodgers pave the Brewers’ roadtrip with baseball that inspires their competitors to the highest possible level of exhaustion.
Threshold to 85 Wins
St. Louis 8-7
Los Angeles 9-6
Pittsburgh / Milwaukee 11-5
San Diego 14-1
Brewers’ (701 RS / 660 RA) Remaining Schedule:
3@ Pittsburgh (604 RS / 608 RA)
4@ Washington (653 RS / 525 RA)
3@ Cincinnati (627 RS / 549 RA)
3v Houston (534 RS / 740 RA)
3v San Diego (596 RS / 634 RA)
Strasburg: Getty Images / Grantland
Norris: La Crosse Tribune