The Phillies are not exactly on a hot streak. They’re coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates and have lost nine of their last ten games.
This seems like an especially bad time to visit Milwaukee, but that’s where the schedule takes them. They’ll face the first place Brewers in a four-game set.
The last time they met
When the Brewers visited Citizens Bank Park in April, Phillies fans went out of their way to taunt noted PED-user Ryan Braun. He responded by going 6-for-12 with three home runs and ten RBIs. That offensive explosion helped lead the Brewers to a sweep.
What’s new with the Brewers?
Sometimes a team that isn’t expected to be very good will start off hot, and it carries them through the entire season. That may be the case with the 2014 Brewers who used a 20-8 record March and April to propel themselves into first.
It’s possible that they’re starting to regress a bit. They’ve lost five of their last six games heading into this series.
Perhaps the Brewers only play well in even-numbered months? After their hot April, they only went 13-15 in May. They followed that up with an 18-10 showing in June, and are now 1-4 in July.
They may be without Braun for this series. He’s dealing with a bad back, and it wouldn’t shock me if he figures a series against the last-place Phillies was a good time to get some rest.
Brewers player who isn’t entirely horrible
You wouldn’t expect that a team with the best record in the National League would have Kyle Lohse as their best starting pitcher, but so far that has been the case. The former Phillie is 9-3 with a 3.18 ERA.
Lohse went unsigned through most of the 2013 offseason, mostly because a team would have to sacrifice a first round draft pick by signing him. Eventually the Brewers went for it, and he’s currently making them look wise for doing so.
Brewers player who is horrible
The fact that Jeff Bianchi has a -0.8 fWAR is rather impressive. As a shortstop, his WAR gets an automatic boost. And considering he’s only appeared in 24 games, he’s really had to work hard in those games to get his value so low.
Bianchi has split his time this season between the majors and minors, and has yet to show that he belongs in the big leagues. He’ll need to improve his .143 average if he wants to stick around.
Monday: Marco Estrada (7-5) vs. Cole Hamels (2-5)
Despite his winning record, Estrada has not pitched especially well for the Brewers this season. At 4.94, his ERA is higher than Roberto Hernandez’s.
We all know the deal with Hamels: He pitches well but doesn’t get much support. He could help his case by limiting his walks allowed. He’s had a few starts of uncharacteristic wildness.
Tuesday: Wily Peralta (9-5) vs. Kyle Kendrick (3-8)
Peralta has been a pleasant surprise for the Brewers. In his second full season, the young righty has improved greatly, although he’s been shaky recently. He gave up eight runs combined in his last two starts.
In 2014, Kendrick has been performing at a level than can be categorized as “not awful.” His starts are rarely gems, but he usually can at least keep the team within striking distance.
Wednesday: Kyle Lohse (9-3) vs. Roberto Hernandez (3-8)
This appears to be a bit of a mismatch. As mentioned, Lohse has had a strong season, while Hernandez appears in danger of losing his spot in the Phillies’ rotation.
Much of Hernandez’s problems have been in the first inning. In his last start, he allowed four runs in the first. The Phillies can’t afford to fall into holes like that.
Thursday: Matt Garza (6-5) vs. David Buchanan (4-5)
I had wanted the Phillies to sign Garza in the offseason, although he’s been about equal to the man they eventually signed instead (A.J. Burnett). In his last start, Garza pitched a two-hit shutout against the Reds.
Buchanan is likely competing with Hernandez for a rotation spot once Cliff Lee returns from injury. He’s pitched adequately, which is about the most you can hope for from a guy they called up from the minors as an injury replacement.
This looks like a tough matchup for the Phillies, but they do catch a small break with the Brewers slumping a bit and Braun likely missing at least a couple of the games. Then again, the Phillies have a way of giving a boost to slumping teams.
I think the Brewers take three-of-four, with the Phillies winning Tuesday’s game.
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