NLDS Preview: Diamondbacks vs. Brewers

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You can’t predict baseball, but you can at least lay out the parameters. So let’s take a look at what the Diamondbacks and Brewers have in store for us in the National League Division Series.

The Teams

Arizona Diamondbacks (94-68) vs. Milwaukee Brewers (96-66)

The Matchups

Game 1 Saturday in Milwaukee: Ian Kennedy vs. Yovani Gallardo
Game 2 Sunday in Milwaukee: Daniel Hudson vs. Undecided (likely Shaun Marcum or Zack Greinke)
Game 3 Tuesday in Arizona: Undecided (likely Zack Greinke or Shaun Marcum) vs. Joe Saunders
Game 4 (if necessary) Wednesday in Arizona: Josh Collmenter vs. Randy Wolf
Game 5 (if necessary) Next Friday in Milwaukee: Undecided vs. Undecided

Analysis: The Diamondbacks’ rotation is pretty much set with Kennedy and Hudson at the top, but we still have some moving parts with the Brewers. Yovani Gallardo is a lock to start Game 1, but the Brewers could still go with Zack Greinke on short rest in Game 2, even though he pitched on short rest for just the second time in his career on Wednesday. One thing that could also be a factor in their decision: Shaun Marcum has a 4.81 ERA at home this season compared to a 2.21 ERA on the road. Joe Saunders will get the start in Game 3, which I suppose is a nod to his previous (mixed) playoff experience. There’s certainly an argument to be made that Saunders and Josh Collmenter should be flip-flopped.

The Storylines

  • Arizona took the season series 4-3, even though both teams scored 28 runs over the seven games. Needless to say, my first instinct is to say these teams are pretty evenly matched across the board.
  • Securing homefield advantage Wednesday night was a big deal for the Brewers, as they were a major-league best 57-24 at home this season. It was also a blow to the Diamondbacks, who won 21 out of their final 25 games at Chase Field this season.
  • We all know that Justin Upton is one of the best players in the league, but it’s important that he gets a little protection from cleanup hitter Miguel Montero. While he’s no Prince Fielder, Montero batted .308 with 17 homers and a .904 OPS against right-handed pitching this season.
  • One under the radar factor is that Aaron Hill seems to have found himself since coming over from the Blue Jays in late-August, batting .315 with two homers and 16 RBI over 124 at-bats. He has benefitted from a pretty high batting average on balls in play, but he hit into some pretty bad luck in Toronto. Perhaps things are finally turning around for him.
  • The Brewers’ lineup has the bigger names in Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks, but the lack of production and general spotty play from Casey McGehee and Yuniesky Betancourt worries me. I imagine we’ll see plenty of Jerry Hairston Jr. at third base.
  • Diamondbacks’ manager Kirk Gibson has stressed aggressiveness on the basepaths this season, resulting in 133 stolen bases, up from 86 last year. Of course, they were also caught 30 percent of the time, so it will be interesting to see if they have the same approach with every out so precious during the postseason.
  • Diamondbacks’ general manager Kevin Towers deserves plenty of credit for overhauling the back end of the bullpen by signing J.J. Putz and acquiring David Hernandez in the Mark Reynolds trade, but don’t sleep on the Brewers’ bullpen, either. Francisco Rodriguez has a 1.86 ERA and 33/10 K/BB ratio since coming over from the Mets while John Axford (1.95 ERA) hasn’t allowed a run since August 28 and hasn’t blown a save since mid-April.

Prediction

While this series isn’t going to win any ratings battles, it has the makings of the most competitive first-round matchup. This isn’t easy, but I think the extra home game puts the Brewers over the top. Kennedy and Hudson have had nice seasons and could certainly surprise a few folks, but I ultimately prefer the quality depth of the Brewers’ staff.

BREWERS WIN THE SERIES 3-2

Mike Moustakas sets Royals single-season record with 37th home run

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Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas belted his 37th home run on Wednesday evening, setting a new club record for homers in a single season. Moustakas had been tied with Steve Balboni, who hit 36 home runs in 1985.

The home run came on a 2-0, 82 MPH slider from Blue Jays reliever Carlos Ramirez, boosting the Royals’ lead to 13-0 in the top of the sixth inning.

Moustakas, 29, entered the night batting .271/.313/.523 with 82 RBI and 71 runs scored in 560 plate appearances.

Chris Sale records his 300th strikeout this season

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Red Sox starter Chris Sale recorded his 300th strikeout of the 2017 season on Wednesday night against the Orioles. The momentous occasion occurred with two outs in the eighth inning. Facing Ryan Flaherty, Sale threw a slider that caught the strike zone low and inside for called strike three.

Sale and Clayton Kershaw (2015) are the only pitchers to strikeout 300-plus batters in a season in the last 15 years. Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson accomplished the feat in 2002, and Johnson also did it in 2001 and 2000. Pedro Martinez had been the only other Red Sox pitcher to have a 300-strikeout season.

Through eight scoreless innings, Sale limited the Orioles to four hits with no walks and 13 strikeouts. The Red Sox offense gave him plenty of run support. Mookie Betts and Devin Marrero each hit two-run home runs in the fourth. Hanley Ramirez added a two-run double in the sixth and Dustin Pedroia hit a two-run double of his own in the eighth to make it 8-0.