NLDS Preview: Diamondbacks vs. Brewers

8 Comments

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

Rays beat Mets 8-5, clinch 1st AL East title in 10 years

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) Confetti instead of champagne. Silly string instead of beer.

The Tampa Bay Rays, long accustomed to doing more with less, figured out a way to maximize the division-clinching celebration they were allowed to enjoy during a 2020 season shortened by the coronavirus.

Randy Arozarena homered twice and the Rays clinched their first AL East title in 10 years Wednesday night with an 8-5 victory over the New York Mets.

“I’m completely dry right now, which I’m not a huge fan of,” center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, the longest-tenured Rays player, said with a grin. “But you have to adapt to what we’re asked of.”

With teams instructed to celebrate in a muted and socially distant style, the Rays went old school – or maybe elementary school – with their clinching party.

The team filed slowly onto the field after Nick Anderson fanned Andres Gimenez for the final out. A couple of players shot off canisters filled with confetti that eventually dotted the grass and dirt at Citi Field. Hugs and handshakes were exchanged before the Rays doused one another with silly string and lit some cigars in the visiting clubhouse.

Later, hooting and hollering could be heard from the visitors’ dugout.

“We’re little kids trapped in grown men’s bodies,” Kiermaier said.

Joey Wendle and Brandon Lowe also went deep for the Rays to back Tyler Glasnow‘s six solid innings. Tampa Bay will be home at quirky Tropicana Field for a best-of-three first-round playoff series beginning next Tuesday.

It is the third division crown for the thrifty Rays, whose payroll this season is just over $28 million – more than only the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. Tampa Bay, which began play in 1998, also won the AL East, home of two big-spending powers in the Yankees and Red Sox, in 2008 and 2010.

“It feels great to win the division, no matter what division you’re in,” Kiermaier said. “But especially the American League East – it’s just a different animal.”

After missing a chance to clinch Tuesday, the Rays went into Wednesday again needing just a win or a Yankees loss against Toronto to lock up the division championship.

The Rays (37-20) broke a 2-all tie in the sixth on Arozarena’s two-run homer off Michael Wacha and pulled away, taking care of business themselves while New York was routed 14-1 by the Blue Jays.

“At the end of the day, a clinch is a clinch,” said Wendle, who homered in the second. “But to do it on a win – everybody’s kind of riding the high of winning the game along with the division. We didn’t want to see it come down to them losing a game.”

Tampa Bay also is closing in on wrapping up the top record in the AL and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

Lowe, who had an RBI fielder’s choice in the third, hit a two-run homer in the eighth. Willy Adames added an RBI single later in the inning and Arozarena homered again in the ninth.

The insurance came in handy for the Rays when the Mets scored three times off Oliver Drake in the ninth – via an RBI groundout by Robinson Cano and a two-run homer by Todd Frazier – before Anderson closed the door.

“I think we had the game pretty much in control (and) certainly recognized what was going on in Buffalo, but I don’t know if you can ever prepare for a moment like that – it’s pretty special,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Glasnow (5-1) allowed two runs on three hits and one walk with eight strikeouts.

Gimenez and Dominic Smith homered off Glasnow in the final home game of the season for the Mets, whose long-shot playoff hopes were further damaged with the loss. New York began the day 2 1/2 games out of an NL wild-card spot.

“We still have a shot with the four games left and we’re competing,” manager Luis Rojas said. “We’ve just got to do what we do – just keep fighting like we did in the ninth.”

Wacha allowed four runs on six hits and struck out four in six innings.

STABLE SHIRT

Rays pitcher Charlie Morton sported a T-shirt picturing a stable of horses as he spoke with reporters during a pregame Zoom call. Morton did little to discourage the notion the shirt was inspired by Cash’s viral rant earlier this month, when he declared the Rays have “a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 mph” after Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman threw near Mike Brousseau’s head in the ninth inning Sept. 4.

“The stable shirt?” Morton said. “It was in my locker last week and I like horses.”

With a grin obviously growing even behind his Rays mask, Morton said he rode horses as a kid.

“So I was ecstatic to see this shirt in my locker and I wore it,” he said.

As for the fireballers on the Rays’ pitching staff?

“We’ve got some guys that throw really hard,” Morton said.

ANOTHER LOSING SEASON

The loss guaranteed the Mets (25-31) will finish with a sub-.500 record for the ninth time in the last 12 seasons – a total matched or exceeded only by the Chicago White Sox (nine), Miami Marlins (10) and San Diego Padres (10). The White Sox and Padres have already clinched playoff spots and a winning record, while the Marlins are in second place in the NL East.

New York made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016 and went 86-76 last year.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: LHP Jose Alvarado (shoulder, lat) is scheduled to throw batting practice to 3B Yandy Diaz (hamstring) and 1B Ji-Man Choi (hamstring) at Tropicana Field on Thursday. Cash said all three players are progressing and he hopes they are available for the playoffs. . Brousseau (oblique) missed a fourth consecutive game. Cash said he would have been available off the bench if needed

Mets: RF Michael Conforto (hamstring) returned to the lineup as the designated hitter after missing two games and went 0 for 4. . The Mets activated RHP Dellin Betances (lat), who last pitched Aug. 29, and optioned RHP Corey Oswalt to the alternate site.

UP NEXT

Rays: After a day off Thursday, Morton (2-2, 4.64 ERA) is scheduled to get his postseason tuneup in the opener of a series against the Phillies on Friday.

Mets: Rookie LHP David Peterson (5-2, 3.80 ERA) opens a four-game road series against the Nationals. Peterson struck out a career-high 10 against the Braves last Saturday.