The Pittsburgh Pirates are 8-3 against the Milwaukee Brewers this season, can that success continue this week?
After what seemed like a lifetime’s worth of struggles against the Milwaukee Brewers, especially at Miller Park, the tides have turned for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2017. So far this season, the two teams have played three series. The Pirates have won two of these series, split the third, their series victories include a four game sweep in July, and own an 8-3 record against the Brewers.
This 8-3 record includes being 2-2 at Miller Park. For many years the Pittsburgh Pirates would have killed to be a .500 team at Miller Park. So being 2-2 in Milwaukee feels a lot better than it reads on paper.
Entering this series the Pittsburgh Pirates are in fourth place in the National League Central with a 58-60 record. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Brewers are in third place in the division with a 61-59 record. The Pirates sit 4.5 games behind the first place Chicago Cubs, while the Brewers are 2.5 games behind the Cubs.
Since the All-Star Break, the Brewers have been a bad baseball team. The Brew Crew has gone just 11-18 in 29 games since the break. After a great first half, appears that the clock is starting to strike midnight for the Cinderella Brewers.
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The first game of this brief series is set for a 7:40 first pitch on Tuesday night. Ivan Nova will get the ball for the Pirates, while Craig Counsell and the Brewers hand the ball to right-handed Zach Davies.
Ivan Nova is in dire need of a bounce back start on Tuesday night. Since the start of May, Nova owns a 4.62 ERA and a 4.83 FIP in 18 starts (113 innings pitched). This has led to Nova owning a starting rotation high 4.34 FIP in 2017. He is also second on the staff in home runs allowed (22), last in strikeouts (5.68 K/9), and his 9.67 H/9 and 33.8 percent hard contact rate are both the highest of any Pirate starting pitcher.
The Pittsburgh Pirates enter Tuesday night’s game losers of back-to-back games. So, the team is also in need of a bounce back. This puts a lot of pressure on Ivan Nova to come through on Tuesday night in Milwaukee.
Much like Ivan Nova, Zach Davies has struggled in 2017. In 24 starts (137 innings pitched) Davies is averaging just 5.98 K/9, he has allowed 149 hits, and 17 home runs. He owns a 4.40 ERA and a 4.52 FIP.
While Tuesday night’s game looks like a potentially high scoring affair, Wednesday afternoon’s 2:10 matchup is a complete 180 from this. That is due to Wednesday’s game featuring a pitching matchup of Gerrit Cole and Jimmy Nelson.
As Dave discussed over the weekend, Gerrit Cole is pitching like Gerrit Cole again. In his last seven starts Gerrit Cole owns a 2.74 ERA and a 3.33 FIP in 46 innings pitched. He has allowed just 42 hits, 5 home runs (0.98 HR/9), he is averaging just 1.98 BB/9, and he has recorded 46 strikeouts in those 46 innings pitched.
Jimmy Nelson has had some really good starts against the Pittsburgh Pirates in his career and some really bad ones. In a pair of starts this season, one of which was rain shortened, he has allowed 4 runs on 6 hits, a walk, and 7 strikeouts in 8 innings pitched against the Pirates.
Overall this season Nelson owns a 3.72 ERA in 145 1/3 innings pitched in 24 starts. However, his 3.14 FIP indicates he has pitched better than his ERA and his 3.16 xFIP indicates that if he continues to pitch the way he has his results will improve. He is averaging 10.03 K/9, 2.29 BB/9, 0.93 HR/9, and he owns a 50.5 percent ground ball rate this season.
The Brewers’ strength this season has been power on offense. They rank 6th in the National League in runs scored with 548 and the main reason for this is that their 170 team home runs rank second in the National League. However, they lead the league in team strikeout rate at 25.8 percent. Offensively, the Brewers are a boom or bust team.
Milwaukee’s two biggest boppers are third baseman Travis Shaw (25 home runs, .382 wOBA, 131 wRC+) and first baseman/outfielder Eric Thames (27 home runs, .373 wOBA, 126 wRC+). While the Pirates have done a good job of containing Thames this season, Shaw has tortured them.
When healthy, Ryan Braun has been a huge threat for the Brewers this season. The former leauge MVP has hit 13 home runs to go along with a .382 wOBA and a 131 wRC+. Domingo Santana is also having a great season with 18 home runs, a .357 wOBA, and a 115 wRC+.
This series will also be the first full series for ex-Pirate Neil Walker with the Brewers. The Brewers acquired him via trade with the New York Mets on Saturday. This season, Walker has continued to battle a bad back and play poor defense while being slightly above average offensively with a .334 wOBA and a 107 wRC+. Aka, a typical Neil Walker season.
Before the start of Tuesday night’s game the Pittsburgh Pirates are expected to play right fielder Gregory Polanco on the disabled list due to yet another hamstring injury. Catcher Francisco Cervelli is in danger of a DL trip as well due to his wrist.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are in dire need of a bounce back performance after the way their series in Toronto ended. Luckily for the Bucs, they have been very successful against the Milwaukee Brewers this season. Hopefully, that success will continue at Miller Park this week.