After Brewers fans welcomed noted cheater Ryan Braun back with a standing ovation last week, as he returned from the 65-game suspension that he ended the 2014 season on, I did some searching around Twitter to see what other fans though on the matter. While I gathered that a good amount of the MLB community on Twitter was just as disgusted to see the pathetic liar back in the game and being treated like a hero as I was, I actually found another population of the MLB Twitter community, that was actually praising Milwaukee Brewers fans for being amazing fans because they welcomed back Braun with such open arms. Well no sh*t they are going to do that. What other option do Brewers fans have than to welcome Braun back? He’s due $128 million through 2021 (a year in which I’m sure you can’t even fathom yet), so unless they plan on going on an eight-year hiatus from watching baseball, Brewers fans better get accustomed to having to embrace their cheater. That doesn’t make me as a lifelong Phillies fan want to give Ryan Braun a
The reason that I delve so far into my thoughts on Braun, is that today, the Phillies will welcome the reinstated slugger, and a Milwaukee Brewers team that is fresh off a weekend sweep of the World-Champion Boston Red Sox, into Citizens Bank Park for their home-opener. Today’s game, which was postponed yesterday due to inclement weather, will be the first game in a three-game set through Thursday, and ten-game homestand.
While, I pride myself on being relatively unbiased and setting aside my feelings on most players off the field, I have always been an extremely hard-working as an athlete, which is what bothers me so much about a guy like Ryan Braun who cheated and is still treated like a hero. That said, Braun may be the biggest name on the Brewers, but he is only batting .150 on a team that is currently 4-2, and one of the National-League leaders in wins thus far. Let’s take a look at the series as a whole, and examine how the Phillies can walk away with their second consecutive series win.
Once we get past the opening day ceremonies this afternoon, we have a pretty good pitching match-up on our hands. From the Phillies perspective, if they want to assure a series win, this game feels like a must-win, because the Brewers have two pitchers throwing lights-out pitching in the second and third games. Kyle Kendrick turned in a seven inning, five-hit, one-run performance against the Rangers, that would have been a valuable win in his first start, had Jonathan Papelbon not gotten involved. The positive about that start, was that Kendrick, who has turned into a notorious first-half pitcher, appears to be off to another fast start. In a year when Cole Hamels is out to begin the season, Kendrick needs to stay hot to keep the Phillies afloat early.
Kyle Lohse, who was once a Phillie himself, gave the Brewers a quality outing his first game out, tossing seven innings of three-run ball. The positive spin of seeing the veteran righty, is that Chase Utley, Dom Brown, and Ryan Howard all seem to be hitting the ball really well off of right-handed pitchers right now. Utley and Brown, both of whom are hitting north of .380 in the early-going, hopefully can stay red-hot and lead the Phillies to a win in their home opener.
Unfortunately, the Phillies bullpen might have to get involved later in this game, which so far hasn’t turned out to be a great thing. If the Phillies are going to win, they need to get after Lohse early. I expect a Phillies win, but if it comes down to the bullpens, then advantage Brewers.
After finishing off a questionable spring with a superb start against the New York Yankees, Roberto Hernandez, much to the surprise of many, threw 5.1 quality innings in a 7-2 win over the Cubs, in his first start as a Phillie. To get to 2-0 against a Brewers team that led by Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Gomez, is hitting the ball pretty well early on, Hernandez is likely going to have to go deeper into the game. Expecting the Phillies bullpen to hold up their end of the bargain for three or four innings, when they don’t have any consistent righties, seems unrealistic. That is, unless the Phillies back Hernandez with seven runs, like they did in his first performance.
In all likelyhood, the Phillies aren’t going to get seven runs to back Hernandez again, because they are squaring off against Matt Garza. Garza went eight innings in his first start, allowing only two hits and one run. Unfortunately for the new Brewer, that one run proved to be more than his offense could muster, as his strong performance in his Brewers debut went to waste, and he took a loss.
While it doesn’t seem likely that Garza will pitch quite that well again, he appears to be locked in early. A Phillies win in game two doesn’t seem likely.
Cliff Lee went seven shutout innings this past Saturday in a win over the Cubs, so going off of that you would think he threw pretty well. In reality, Lee didn’t have great control and scattered 10 hits over those seven innings. While it was an improvement over his meltdown on Opening Day, I’d like to see Lee mix in some more balls, and still find a way to go deep into the game and keep teams from doing much damage.
Estrada went 5.2 innings of no-run ball in his first start, so he pitched pretty well in his first appearance of 2014. Luckily for the Phillies sake, Estrada is a right-handed pitcher, which means that Dom Brown, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard should all be able to do damage against him.
I think Lee goes deeper into this one than Estrada, and the Phillies walk away with a series win.
A few other notes
- The Phillies have faced a lot of southpaws early on, which really can be limiting to a lineup that traditionally starts five left-handed hitters. Considering they won’t see any lefty starters in this series, they need at least take two of three. I feel confident that with Lee and Kendrick on the mound that have a good chance to do that.
- While the Phillies do have to face Garza and Estrada in this series, they aren’t catching Yovani Gallardo, who is yet to allow a run through 12.2 innings in 2014. While he might not be going as deep into games as Garza or Lohse, missing out on Gallardo ia a break the Phillies are luck to catch.
- Hopefully Ben Revere can get going in this series. While I’ve come to the conclusion that he might be the worst fielding center-fielder in the game, I’m excited to see the type of damage that he can do on the base-paths.