The Philadelphia Phillies (29-21) will be spending Memorial Day weekend at Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers (29-22), who are currently sitting in second place in the National League Central Division standings.
The Brew Crew trail the Chicago Cubs, against whom the Phillies just split a four-game series, by 1.5 games, three in the loss column. They enjoyed an off-day on Thursday prior to this series, coming off an 11-9 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in their previous game on Wednesday night.
It was just over a week ago that the Brewers captured three of four games between the two teams at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies won the opener of that series by 7-4 when J.T. Realmuto and Odubel Herrera produced run-scoring doubles to break up a 4-4 tie game. But Milwaukee roared back to capture the final three games by a combined 22-6 runs margin.
The two clubs have proven very evenly matched in recent years with the Phillies holding a 10-9 edge in their 19 meetings over the three previous combined entering this 2019 season.
The Brewers (250) and Phillies (249) rank 4th and 5th respectively in the NL in runs scored, though Milwaukee has played one more game. The Atlanta Braves (252) are 3rd, and also have one more game than the Phillies.
Milwaukee is a well-rounded, dynamic offensive ball club. The Brewers hitters collectively rank 4th in OPS and 5th in OBP. They lead the entire National League in home runs and are tied for the league lead in stolen bases. No slouch with their gloves, the Brew Crew defenders have committed the 5th-fewest errors in the NL while handling the 2nd-most chances.
After splitting their series at Wrigley Field with the Cubs, the Phillies are now 6-5 during what we have described previously here at Phillies Nation as a 23-game “crucible”, a nearly month-long stretch against top-notch competition from outside the NL East Division. That stretch continues this weekend.
TOP LINEUP THREATS
- Christian Yelich: clearly the Brewers top lineup threat, the 27-year-old Yelich was last year’s NL Most Valuable Player. He was also a first-time All-Star and captured his second career Silver Slugger Award. Yelich won a Gold Glove back in the 2014 season with the Miami Marlins, for whom he was a first round draft pick at 23rd overall back in 2010. Yelich was obtained by Milwaukee in a January 2018 trade for a four-prospect package. He is currently slashing .325/.440/.732 and leads the club in homers (19), RBIs (41), extra-base hits (26), runs (40) and steals (9).
- Ryan Braun: still a threat at age 35, Braun is perhaps the biggest “Phillie-killer” in the game today. He was both the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year and the 2011 National League MVP. However, that MVP honor was tarnished when he later admitted to having used PEDs during that season, an infraction that cost him an 80-game suspension. His nine homers and 30 RBIs are both tied for second on the team this season. Braun is slashing .385/.428/.709 over his career against the Phillies across 76 games. His 25 homers and 73 RBIs against the Phillies are his most against a non-divisional opponent.
- Mike Moustakas: ‘Moose’ was obtained by the Brewers from the Kansas City Royals just prior to last July’s trade deadline. He re-upped with Milwaukee for one year after becoming a free agent this past off-season, with an $11 million mutual option for the 2020 season. The dozen homers off his lefty bat are second on the club and his 30 RBIs are tied with Braun for second. He just recently moved from second base back to his more natural third base to accommodate the rookie you can read about in the below spotlight feature.
- Yasmani Grandal: after winning four straight NL West crowns as the Los Angeles Dodgers starting catcher, Grandal also signed a one-year deal with the Brewers as a free agent. He has a $16 million mutual option for next season. One of the top offensive backstops in the game, Grandal’s nine homers are tied with Braun for third on the club. He also holds a fine .374 on-base percentage.
- Lorenzo Cain: Phillies fans will recall that Cain produced a five-hit game against their team just last week. He has gotten hot beginning with that game, slashing .389/.450/.556 over his last eight games. Now 33-years-old, Cain signed with Milwaukee as a free agent in January 2018 for five years, the dealing taking him through the 2022 season.
- Jesus Aguilar: Aguilar burst onto the season as a first-time All-Star last year, blasting 35 home runs and producing 108 RBIs. However, he has started the 2019 season very cold, hitting just .200 with three RBIs and seven extra-base hits. He has lost playing time at first base over the last week to Thames (see below.)
Keston Hiura: the Brewers top prospect was promoted to the big-leagues for the first time during last week’s series against the Phillies. The 22-year-old was Milwaukee’s first round pick at 9th overall in the 2017 MLB Draft out of the University of Cal-Irvine. After ripping minor league pitching at five levels over the next two years, he has slashed .273/.333/.455 with two homers over his first eight games in Major League Baseball and has taken over as the Brewers starting second baseman. He could end up holding the position for years to come.
SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS
- Chase Anderson: (FRI) 2-0, 2.66 ERA, 1.310 WHIP, 4.27 FIP, 18 hits allowed over 23.2 IP across eight games (three starts) with a 25/13 K:BB ratio. Anderson spent time on the IL at the start of this month with a blister on his right pitching middle finger. He began the season in the bullpen before returning to the starting rotation on April 16.
- Jhoulys Chacin: (SAT) 3-5, 4.65 ERA, 1.311 WHIP, 5.47 FIP, 44 hits over 50.1 IP across 10 starts with a 36/22 K:BB ratio.
- Brandon Woodruff: (SUN) 6-1, 3.51 ERA, 1.225 WHIP, 3.23 FIP, 52 hits over 56.1 IP across 10 starts with a 65/17 K:BB ratio. One of the club’s top prospects for a couple of years, Woodruff debuted in 2017 and was a rookie last year when he pitched mostly out of the bullpen. He has finally seized a role in the rotation this season at age 26.
KEY BENCH & BULLPEN PIECES
- Ben Gamel: a left-hander who turned 27-years-old last week. He has made 27 starts, mostly as a corner outfielder. Since the Phillies are likely to start a trio of right-handers on the mound this weekend, Gamel should see at least one start in place of Braun.
- Eric Thames: a left-hander who is at least platooning at first base with Aguilar at this point. The 32-year-old veteran has 20 RBIs in just 125 plate appearances.
- Josh Hader: the closer is one of the toughest left-handers in the game today. He has a dozen Saves with a 2.52 ERA and 0.640 WHIP in 19 games. A first-time All-Star a year ago, Hader has allowed just nine hits across 25 innings with a 49/7 K:BB ratio.
- Junior Guerra: the club’s primary setup man, Guerra has a 2.39 ERA and 0.911 WHIP, allowing just 13 hits over 26.1 IP with a 22/11 K:BB across 21 games.
- Jeremy Jeffress: another top righty out of the bullpen, Jeffress was an All-Star a year ago when he spent much of the season as the Brewers closer. This season he has a 2.93 ERA and 1.109 WHIP, allowing 11 hits over 15.1 IP across 14 appearances with a 16/6 K:BB ratio.
- Alex Claudio: the most effective southpaw out of the pen, Claudio has made more appearances (27) than any Brewers reliever. He has allowed 16 hits over 20 innings with a 16/8 K:BB ratio.
Craig Counsell is in his fifth year at the helm in Milwaukee, having taken over in the middle of the 2015 campaign. He has guided the club to an overall 345-330 record in that time. After his 2017 club missed an NL Wildcard playoff berth by just a single game, he led the team to a division crown last year.
Counsell played for 16 seasons in the big-leagues with five organizations. He played with Milwaukee in 2004 and then over his final five years from 2007-11. He was a teammate of Braun’s when the two faced the Phillies in the 2008 National League Division Series.
As a second baseman with the Florida Marlins, Counsell scored the title-winning run at Pro Player Stadium in Miami in the bottom of the 11th inning of the decisive Game 7 in the 1997 World Series. He reached on an error with one out, then came home three batters later on Edgar Renteria‘s single to center field.
Miller Park opened as the Brewers home for the 2001 season. The facility features the only fan-shaped convertible roof in the United States, which can open and close in as little as 10 minutes. It holds 41,900 as a normal capacity but has been filled with a record 46,218 for a 2003 game with the rival Cubs.
Two of the unique fun features at Miller Park include the “Sausage Race“, a foot race between five people in “racing sausage” costumes, which takes place in the middle of the 6th inning of each game. And high above left-center field, the mascot “Bernie Brewer” takes off down a long, winding, yellow slide after each home run hit by the Brewers and after each of their victories.
During the traditional 7th-inning stretch, in addition to singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, Brewers fans also sing “Roll Out the Barrel” as a salute to the town’s beer-making history. Fans watching on television can usually spot “Front-Row Amy” sitting just behind home plate. Let’s just say that it’s hard to miss Amy Williams, who has held her $5,670 season ticket there for the last two years.
Following the 2020 season, Miller Park will no longer be known by that moniker. The naming rights to the stadium, which have belonged to the Miller Brewing Company for 20 years, will expire. Beginning with the 2021 season the park will be renamed for the new rights holders, American Family Insurance.
MORE FROM PHILLIES NATION:
- Phillies bats show up, bullpen barely holds up in season’s most stressful win
- Larry Shenk’s Phillies Minor League Report: 5/24/19
- Either Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta will re-join the Phillies rotation next week
- Just like that, Aaron Altherr is joining the New York Mets
- Gabe Kapler on the Phillies everyday center fielder: “Right now, we don’t have one”