Thursday marks the start of both National League Divisional Series. At Miller Park in Milwaukee, the NL Central Champion Milwaukee Brewers (96-67) will face the Wild Card winner Colorado Rockies (91-72).
Though neither manager has revealed to full extent their starting pitching rotation for the series, Bud Black and the Rockies will use Antonio Senzatela (4-4, 4.38 ERA in 90.1 IP) in Game 1, with Tyler Anderson (7-9, 4.55 ERA in 176 IP), Kyle Freeland (17-7, 2.85 ERA in 202.1 IP) and German Marquez (14-11, 3.77 ERA in 196 IP) most likely to follow.
For Milwaukee, Craig Counsell will employ Wade Miley (5-2, 2.57 ERA in 80.2 IP) in Game 1, then in all likelihood Gio Gonzalez (10-11, 4.21 ERA in 171 IP), Jhoulys Chacin (15-8, 3.50 ERA in 192.2 IP) and if necessary either Zach Davies (2-7, 4.77 ERA in 66 IP) or Chase Anderson (9-8, 3.93 ERA in 158 IP).
This series features two teams with lots in common. Each had high expectations entering 2018. Each finished the season scorching hot, and both teams blazed their trail to Game 1 in Milwaukee by winning a one-game playoff at Wrigley Field.
Any conversation you see this series between infielders and base runners will probably just be the two sides bro-ing out about what they did to the Cubs.
The Brewers won the Central by defeating Chicago 3-1 on Monday afternoon. Lorenzo Cain singled to center off of Cubs’ reliever Steve Cishek in the eighth to drive in the go-ahead run.
Cain’s RBI gave Milwauke its first division title since 2011.
The Rockies, after losing 5-2 in L.A. in an NL West tiebreaker game, defeated the Cubs 2-1 on the road to earn their first NLDS birth since 2009.
Colorado won the Wild Card Game by scoring once in the top of the first inning and once in the top of the thirteenth inning.
The Cubs had led the Central since mid-June, then together in two days Milwaukee and Colorado staggered then KOed what had been the NL’s one true favorite. For their spoils Milwaukee got the Central and home-field and for theirs Colorado got the Brewers.
For the Rockies, though, there may be more cause for concern than for celebration.
Milwaukee won the season series 5-2. The teams met once in May, when Milwaukee won 3 of 4 at Coors Field, and again in early August, with the Brewers winning 2 of 3 in Milwaukee.
Though the sample size is small, Colorado’s .286 winning pct vs. Milwaukee is their lowest against any team in 2018.
Overall, Colorado had 47 wins at home and 44 on the road. Milwaukee won 51 at home and 45 on the road.
Both teams play well on the road. Just ask the Cubs.
The Rockies were 26-15 in one run games, the Brewers were 33-19.
Both teams win close games. You can ask the Cubs about that, too.
But here’s where this series gets heated: Colorado went 19-9 in September and has won 9 of their last 10, losing only the NL West tiebreaker at Dodger Stadium. In fact, the last time the Rockies lost a game that wasn’t at Dodger Stadium was all the way back on September 15.
Milwaukee was 19-7 in September and has now won their last 8 games and 10 of their last 11 overall.
There are stats for each club that could prove telling. Colorado finds themselves in the postseason despite finishing 2018 with the lowest team BA (.256) in franchise history.
Milwaukee led the league in allowing the fewest runs to opponents in the final 3 innings; Colorado was 23rd. The Rockies also ranked 19th in scoring in the last third of the game.
In fact, Milwaukee and Colorado are the only two remaining teams who were not in the top 8 in runs scored from the 7th inning on.
The X-factor may be the early innings. Scoring early and often might be the only way for Colorado to win, and conversely the Brewers doing the same might be a death sentence for the Rockies. The quality in their bullpen and depth of the Brewers offense also gives them a significant advantage in the late innings.
Both teams feel like this is their time and that nothing can stop them. But we already know that something’s got to give, and that no matter how destined each of these teams feel, only one can/will advance.
The fact is that while both are peaking, these two teams are not as alike as they seem. The Brewers were pegged by many as the best team in the National League coming into the season, and though it took a flawless final week to claim the title, when the dust settled on the regular season that’s exactly what they were.
And in Christian Yelich, Milwaukee has the best hitter in baseball.
In baseball, having the best player and the best team is no guarantee for postseason success.
In this case, however, it is. Milwaukee Brewers in three.