Tuesday: James Nelson (44.1 IP, 3.86 ERA, 8.32 K/9) v. Joe Biagini (31.2 IP, 3.41 ERA, 7.67 K/9)
Jimmy has grown up so much over the past month that he must now be referred to as James. Facing the prospect of being replaced in the starting rotation by the returning Guerra and/or the nearly-ready cadre of prospects at Triple-A, Nelson has turned his season around over his last three starts. He’s allowed just two earned runs this month, striking out 18 in 15.2 innings. This fresh version of Good Jimmy Nelson debuted against Pittsburgh in a three inning outing that was cut short by a two-hour rain delay (put a damn roof on your house, dummies). He was perfect through those three innings and induced a 62.5% ground ball rate.
I don’t know who Joe Biagini is. He is making just the fourth start of his major league career after 74 relief appearances over the last two years. He has yet to pitch into the sixth inning and remains on a pitch count as he is stretched out as a starter, so the Brewers should break into the Blue Jays bullpen early. In his last start, he surrendered six runs (five earned) to Atlanta.
Wednesday: Matt Garza (29.2 IP, 2.43 ERA, 6.67 K/9) v. Marcus Stroman (57.0 IP, 3.00 ERA, 7.26 K/9)
I guess Matt Garza is good now. He’s still a buttface who is mean to people a lot for no good reason, and thinks that poor people shouldn’t be allowed to get it on. EVERYONE SHOULD GET TO DO IT, MATT. Nerd.
Marcus Stroman, hero of Team USA’s first World Baseball Classic championship team, remains good as h*ck. I personally really like nice, clean numbers, so I’m hoping that Milwaukee tallies exactly two earned runs over six innings to keep Stroman’s ERA at 3.00 (unlimited unearned runs are allowed). The Blue Jays are so injury depleted that they have occasionally resorted to sticking Russell Martin at third base, resulting in a bottom-five defensive rating by FanGraphs’ metrics, so a pile of unearned runs is certainly in the offing.
All-Time: 163-119 (84-54 in Milwaukee)
Fun fact: this is the first time since Milwaukee joined the National League in 1998 that they will play two series against the same AL East team. They’ve done this a bunch of times with the AL Central (including the Twins on a nearly annual basis) and with Oakland in the West.
Are the Blue Jays good?
If I’d told you before the season that the two teams in this series would have records of 25-19 and 19-26, you’d probably be pretty happy that the Brewers hadn’t fallen off their pace from a season ago (the Brewers were 19-26 on May 24 last year) despite the level of talent that has left the major league team in the interim. Instead, it is the Blue Jays who are still chasing their 20th win, and the Brewers who sit atop their division as we speed toward Memorial Day. The Brewers met the Blue Jays right in the middle of Toronto’s 2-11 start which effectively killed their season before it began. They have gone 17-15 since, still a distant last place in the AL East but stabilizing their record.
Toronto has been beset by a rash of injuries and a significant drop off in production from their stars. Former MVP Josh Donaldson has appeared in only nine games this season, and isn’t expected back until June. Troy Tulowitzki, who hit the DL a week after Donaldson, is expected back around the same time. Aaron Sanchez is already on his third trip to the 10-day disabled list with a troublesome finger/nail. Jose Bautista’s offensive fWAR is equal to that of Stroman, an AL pitcher with four plate appearances this season. Kendrys Morales, Ryan Goins, Chris Coughlan and Steve Pearce have a combined 450 plate appearances, and a combined fWAR of -1.2. 450 PAs and a -1.2 fWAR is 2016 Erick Aybar. They pretty much have Erick Aybar in four positions. Kind of. Look, don’t think about it too much. Here, check out this puppy!
This is a puppy who is a Blue Jays fan.
Hitters to watch:
Kevin Pillar, OF: The lone bright spot for the Toronto offense, Pillar is having a career year at the plate so far, hitting .309/.361/.491 with six dingers and seven steals. Of course, the way the Blue Jays’ season is going, he was going to have to find a way to fudge everything up regardless, and he did so last week when he found himself suspended for shouting a homophobic slur at Braves pitcher Jason Motte. To his credit, Pillar offered a sincere apology for his actions, a simple but necessary step that is far too often skipped or replaced with a weak non-apology (you deserved to lose, Ryan Getzlaff). Pillar has always been a glove-first player who gets his yearly allotment of 3-4 fWAR almost entirely with his defense, so if this jump in offensive production is legitimate, he could be blossoming into a star.
Old friends, new enemies
Marco Estrada, RHP: I can’t tell you how annoying it is that Estrada has become one of the better pitchers in the American League since he was traded to Toronto in exchange for Adam Lind. Depending on how you define the term ace, he might be one; if you, like me, define an “ace” as one of the 30 best pitchers in baseball, then he’s right there, ranking 13th in the AL in fWAR (6.2) since 2015. Estrada has never pitched against the Brewers, and this will be his first trip to Miller Park as a visitor.
Milwaukee Broadcast Information:
Tuesday: 6:40 pm on FS Wisconsin and 620 WTMJ
Wednesday: 12:10 pm on FS Wisconsin and 620 WTMJ
Who’s gonna win the baseball games?
Probably the Brewers will win. It’s no longer preposterous to say the Brewers are legitimately a better team than Toronto. A season sweep is firmly within the realm of possibility. Though, it may be best not to completely the visitors, lest things continue to deteriorate in the White House and we all need a place to lay low for a while. How about a split?