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NLDS Preview: Diamondbacks vs. Brewers

Sep 29, 2011, 2:30 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers v Houston Astros Getty Images

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

  1. Lukehart80 - Sep 29, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    $5 minutes after it went up and there isn’t a single comment (I’m sure there will be before I finish this, and I’ll look like an idiot, so there’s that)? Where is the love, people? I would think Phillies’ fans would be commenting on which team they plan to destroy in NLCS.

    The Brewers seem to be rolling right now, but we know the idea of momentum in the playoffs is fleeting at best. Still, I like their chances. When there’s much difference between the starting pitchers, they’ll have the edge, and I like their line-up more.

    I might get to attend my first playoff baseball game ever if the Brewers can make the NLCS, so I’ll be pulling for them.

    • Lukehart80 - Sep 29, 2011 at 3:25 PM

      Hey, there were no other comments. I still look like an idiot though, because I typed $5 minutes instead of 45 minutes.

      Anyone remember in “Jurassic Park” when everyone got out of the Jeep until Ian Malcolm was just sitting there talking to himself?

      Why do I ask? No reason.

      • Francisco (FC) - Sep 29, 2011 at 3:42 PM

        Ohhhh it was a mistake! Damn man, it’s just that at $5 bucks a comment who the hell has that kind of cash to spend on a Brewers-Diamonbacks post. But now that I know it’s free I can start commenting…

  2. channingtaintum - Sep 29, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    The Brewers have gotten it together over the last couple weeks, looks like we’re gonna be dressing up Casey in a cheerleader’s outfit for the playoffs. I’m a little nervous with the matchup, as the D-Backs are playing way over their heads, but I agree with D.J, 3-2 Brew Crew.

  3. dannomac21 - Sep 29, 2011 at 5:30 PM

    brewers in 3 or 4.

    hope to god we dont see mcgehee at 3b once.

  4. trbowman - Sep 29, 2011 at 10:32 PM

    This is the series I’m most looking forward to. Brewers in 5.

  5. dailyrev - Sep 29, 2011 at 10:56 PM

    I too like the Snakes here, unless Upton’s head injury (double head injury, actually) causes him to lose PT or limit his ability. But this one might be the brawling-est, wildest, most furious of the 1st round series. Baseball purists might wince at some of the stuff they’ll see in this one, but for drama and entertainment value, this series should deliver in spades.

  6. grinder12000 - Sep 29, 2011 at 11:44 PM

    WOW – not a lot on the Brewers. The bullpen is one of the best in baseball with 4 bonafide closers. The bottom of the order has been hitting lately which is the key for their run production. Gomez the human highlight reel in CF is hitting .350 since his return vs. LHP.

    Another key is the Brewers are MUCH better vs. RHP and AZ only has 1 LHStarter.

    Arizona is also much better vs. RHP and Brewers have 2 lefties – not sure if Narveson will pitch.

    #1 key – Brewer bullpen has a 3.36 ERA and was MUCH better 2nd half then the 3.36 Arizona pen is 3.69.

    Brewers in 4 games

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