Probable Pitching Matchups
Carlos Zambrano vs. Randy Wolf
Miller Park is one of Big Z’s favorite places to pitch — it’s where he threw a no-no in ’08 and has a career 9-5 record. He hopes to avoid problems with cramping in his right hand and hamstring that knocked him out of his first start vs. the Bucs. Wolf didn’t get much help from his defense on Sunday and was charged with six runs on 10 hits in four innings. The outing came after a Spring Training in which Wolf was 2-0 but posted an 8.74 ERA in six starts.
Matt Garza vs. Chris Narveson
Garza had a bizarre Cubs debut on Sunday against the Pirates. He struck out a career-high 12 batters but also gave up a career-high 12 hits, all singles. The 12 Ks are the most by a Cubs pitcher in his debut. Narveson delivered six scoreless innings in the Brewers’ home opener and didn’t allow a runner past first base, but was stuck with a no-decision when Takashi Saito lost a 1-0 lead in the eighth.
Casey Coleman vs. Yovani Gallardo
This would’ve been Randy Wells’ start, but he is on the disabled list with a strained right forearm. The Cubs were expected to call up right-hander Casey Coleman from Triple-A Iowa to face the Brewers. Gallardo is coming off a two-hit shutout of the Braves in which he made some history. He’s the first pitcher to work a shutout and score the game’s only run since the Astros’ Pete Harnisch on June 25, 1991.
Jaymes Langrehr’s Scouting Report on the Brewers
Who’s Hot – Rickie Weeks started the year on fire, hitting three home runs in the first four games of the season. Ryan Braun has also been squaring up on the ball well, but since Ron Roenicke has taken to batting Carlos Gomez 2nd, there’s rarely a runner on base for Braun to drive in. Nyjer Morgan has been a nice surprise in the limited playing time he’s received, but starts for him have been sporadic so far.
As far as pitching goes, Chris Narveson had a very nice first start, throwing 6 shutout innings against the Braves before the bullpen blew his 1-0 lead. Yovani Gallardo also had the bullpen blow a solid start on Opening Day before coming back on Tuesday night and throwing a 2-hitter against Atlanta. Out of the bullpen, Kameron Loe has been nearly unhittable against right-handed batters, while Zach Braddock has been very effective from the left side.
Who’s Not – Prince Fielder is off to another typical slow April start, although to his credit, he’s been hitting the ball fairly hard — just right into the drastic shift the Reds and Braves have put on him. The offense as a whole has struggled outside of Weeks and Ryan Braun, with spots 6 through 9 in the batting order mostly being a giant black hole. With Corey Hart out of the lineup, Roenicke has insisted on giving the bulk of the playing time to Mark Kotsay, who has only made solid contact once or twice this year. Yuniesky Betancourt is as bad as advertised at short, and had one stretch already this year in which he swung at the first pitch in seven consecutive at-bats. I’m morbidly curious what an at-bat of his against Carlos Marmol would look like.
Interesting Notes – Nyjer Morgan’s “gentleman’s name” is Tony Plush. Miller Park has a new bajillion-square foot HD scoreboard that almost has too much information on it at once. Heading into Wednesday night’s game, the Brewers hit 7 home runs in 5 games — all of them were solo shots (needless to say, they’ve had RISP issues to start the year).
Prediction for the series – The Brewers could really use a strong end to their homestand following that 0-4 start, but the offense worries me enough that I could see them losing 2 of 3 to the Cubs. Hard to make a real prediction, considering how weird things have been in the Central to start the year.
Noah Jarosh’ Scouting Report on the Brewers
Who’s Hot – To answer who’s been hot for the Brewers, I have to start with Rickie Weeks. He has come out firing on all cylinders in 2011 while building off a career year from 2010. He currently leads the team in home runs with three, two of which led off a game. He also has a .750 slugging percentage thus far. Right up there with Rickie is the face of the Brewers, Ryan Braun. He’s getting on base 48% of the time and seems to have recovered all the power that disappeared last season after an intercostal injury. New Brewer Nyjer Morgan has also been nothing short of great, both offensively and defensively, in limited playing time. Yovani Gallardo and Chris Narveson both had great starts their last times on the mounds. Gallardo had a complete game, two-hit shutout against the Braves and Narveson went six innings without giving up a run, also against Atlanta.
Who’s Not – The Brewers have several players who will probably be in season long slumps. Both Carlos Gomez and Yuniesky Betancourt’s struggles are well-documented since they came into the league and neither are doing much to change those perceptions as they have nearly identical .527 and .526 OPS’s. Mark Kotsay is another much-maligned player who just can’t hit. A .250 OBP and .182 SLG isn’t going to cut it on a team that has playoff aspirations, and I for one can not wait until Corey Hart comes back to reclaim his spot in RF. Finally, Prince Fielder still hasn’t found his stroke this year. He still gets on base plenty, but just picked up his first extra base hit Thursday and isn’t hitting the ball all that hard. It’s not all that surprising that Fielder is struggling as he has been notorious for being a slow starter in his career. We Brewer fans hope he picks it up soon, as the offense could use his presence.
Interesting Notes – This isn’t so much an interesting note as it is an interesting player, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the Brewers do with Nyjer Morgan this series. Neither Erick Almonte nor Mark Kotsay have been overly impressive, whereas Nyjer Morgan has done nothing BUT impress. Morgan is OPSing 1.192 right now and, though he went 1-4 with two strikeouts, Thursdays game might have been his most impressive yet. During that game, Morgan stole a base before absolutely destroying Braves catcher Brian McCann in a play at the plate, causing McCann to drop the ball and giving the Brewers a run. He also made several great defensive plays, as well. He’s growing into a beloved figure in some of our eyes, as some Brewers fans have taken to calling him Tony Plush–the nickname that Morgan made up for himself and which he called his “gentlemanly” alter-ego. That nickname has also provided a hilarious twitter account. It would be great to see this finally push him to the top of the depth chart in right field with Hart out, but for now the Brewers seem hellbent on giving Mark kotsay consistent playing time. When Corey Hart does come back, I wouldn’t be offended seeing Morgan take over for Gomez in center field. At this point it’s pretty clear Gomez will never be even an average hitter, which leaves his (admittedly great) defense as his only positive. Morgan, though, is also a pretty good defensive outfielder, and should hit plenty more than Gomez. This series against the Cubs will hopefully shine a light on what the Brewers think about Morgan going forward.
One other note is that the Brewers are still dealing with several key injuries. New Ace pitcher Zack Greinke won’t pitch until the end of April, and Right Fielder Corey Hart and Catcher Jonathan Lucroy are still hurt. Lucroy should be back within the next couple of weeks, but nobody seems to know when Hart will come back. Set-up man Latroy Hawkins and relief pitcher Manny Parra are also out.
Prediction for the series – I’m co-host of a radio show here in Madison and we actually just discussed who we thought this series. Personally, I said that I think the Brewers will take two of the three games. With Randy Wells hurt, on paper Sunday’s game should be a win for Milwaukee as Yovani Gallardo faces TBA (with Randy Wells missing the game) for the Cubs. I will admit that the other two pitching matchups favor the Cubs, with Zambrano against Wolf and Garza against Narveson, but I still think the Brewers will take one of those two games as well. I try my best to temper my obvious bias for the Brewers over the Cubs, but I just am not as high on Chicago as it seems many others are. I just don’t see where the offense is going to come from, even if Aramis Ramirez reverts back to 2004-2008 A-Ram. The lineup appears to be full of role players without any hitting stars. I do love the Cubs bullpen, but I truly believe the Brewers to be the clearly superior team to the Cubs and, as such, think they will win two of the three games.