1. The Brewers are hot in just about every way. They’ve won 17 of their last 20 games and opened up a six-and-a-half game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central. The big boys, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, have been carrying the offense, with Fielder hitting .360/.431/.605 and Braun .363/.404/.615 over the past four weeks. The pitching, meanwhile, has been just as good, a 2.32 team ERA in the last 24 games: Starters Zach Greinke, Yovanni Gallardo and Randy Wolf have combined to go 11-3 with a 1.98 ERA during that stretch, and relievers John Axford, Takashi Saito and Francisco Rodriguez have allowed just one run each in 32 combined outings.
2. They’re managed by first-year skipper Ron Roenicke; it’s his birthday today. A light hitting fourth outfielder who played for six teams in eight major league seasons, Roenicke coached in the majors and managed in the minors with the Dodgers’ organization for most of the 1990s. He managed the Giants’ Triple-A squad for a season, and then spent the last decade as the third base and then bench coach with Mike Scioscia’s Angels. The Angels of the last decade have been known for their baserunning and defense, and while Roenicke’s Brewers haven’t quite adapted that identity, they’re not as bad in those categories as you might guess based on the team’s BMI. The Brewers rate about-average on the bases (by Baseball-Prospectus and Fangraphs’ count) and a tick above-average defensively (both by Park-adjusted Defensive Efficiency and UZR).
3. The Brewers lost second baseman and leadoff hitter Rickie Weeks to a sprained ankle last month; he should be back in September. Sans-Weeks, the Crew of Brew have been running out some variation of this lineup:
RF – Cory Hart – R
CF – Nyjer Morgan – L
LF – Ryan Braun – R
1B – Prince Fielder – L
3B – Casey McGehee – R
SS – Yunieskey Betancourt – R
2B – Jerry Hairston, Jr. – R
C – Jonathan Lucroy – R
Morgan sits against most lefties, with other-Hairston moving into center field and one of Felipe Lopez, Craig Counsell or Josh Wilson filling in at second.
4. The pitching matchups for this weekend:
Friday, August 19: Shaun Marcum (10-3, 3.50 ERA) vs Mike Pelfrey (6-9, 4.58 ERA)
Marcum is a deliberate, soft-tossing changeup master in the middle of another solid season. This game isn’t an awful matchup for Pelfrey: The Brewers are righthanded heavy and haven’t hit well away from Milwaukee (5.0 runs per game at home against 3.7 on the road), and Pelfrey generally pitches better at home.
Saturday, August 20: Randy Wolf (10-8, 3.30 ERA) vs Chris Capuano (9-11, 4.58 ERA)
Wolf is the prototype for a crafty lefty, an old guy throwing a lot of junk. His peripheral numbers this season (4.22 FIP) aren’t in line with his ERA, mostly from stranding a lot of runners on base. Home run prone Capuano against the righthanded, softball Brewers doesn’t seem like a great matchup for the Mets.
Sunday, August 21: Yovanni Gallardo (13-8, 3.55 ERA) vs R.A. Dickey (5-11, 3.77 ERA)
Gallardo is a hard-throwing, fastball/breaking ball pitcher; he’s also one of the league’s best hitting pitchers, a career .219 hitter with nine home runs and 13 doubles in 251 trips to the plate.
5. Nyjer Morgan has seven walks against 53 strikeouts this season and has attempted just nine steals, six successful . . . but he’s hitting .312 and saved nine runs in the outfield, so it’s worked out thus far. He has also entered the Ron Artest realm of “athletes who believe themselves funny, but are actually just endearingly weird.”
And those were some things about the Brewers.