It's somewhat fitting that the first place the Mariners head to after their "Go-go-you-Pilots" day last Saturday, when in a turn-back-the-clock promotion the M's took on the identity of the 1969 Seattle Pilots, is Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Brewers, of course, used to be the Pilots, taken to Wisconsin during spring training of 1970 by opportunistic used car salesman Bud Selig. They and the fiasco of that franchise move are directly responsible for the Mariners' existence, so it's always interesting to watch the two clubs meet. Since Milwaukee shifted to the National League in 1998, those meetings have been few and far between, so enjoy this one now—we won't see the Brew Crew again for another three years.
In the here and now, of course, the Brewers are a pretty good club. Despite playing in the Majors' smallest market, Milwaukee found itself a preseason favorite to repeat as NL Central division champs, and roughly halfway through the season they are right in the thick of things, half a game behind the division-leading Cubs. The Brewers are looking to reach the playoffs for the fourth time in eleven years and finish with their fourth consecutive season of more than 85 wins.
Milwaukee is led by defending NL MVP Christian Yelich, who currently leads the National League in both home runs and stolen bases. Unsurprisingly, he also leads the NL in OPS with a robust 1.179 figure, but weirdly his .435(!) on-base mark does not lead the league; it's second to Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers, who leads the universe at .444. Yelich is so good you might think he has another identity as a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet—the Mariners would do well to pack a supply of Kryptonite for the road trip. Yelich isn't alone, though, he's supported by likely All-Stars Mike Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal, each of whom have double-digit home run totals and .350+ on-base percentages. Also in the lineup are former All-Stars having down years: Lorenzo Cain, Ryan Braun, and Jesús Aguilar are each better than their modest 2019 stat lines would suggest. Two former Mariners are along for the ride playing part-time, outfielders Ben Gamel and Eric Thames. Thames only played half a season for Seattle in 2012 and wasn't that memorable (.220/.256/.439 in 40 games), but fans will remember Gamel and his flowing locks. Gamel was traded for Domingo Santana over the winter and has been for the Brewers what he was for the M's—a solid on-base platoon outfielder with a little bit of extra-base power.
Pitching-wise, the Brew Crew are less impressive, especially with veteran Gio González now on the injured list. Outside of Zach Davies, who is second on the club in wins with seven and leads starters in ERA at 3.06, and closer Josh Hader, who thus far has 18 saves and 73 strikeouts to go with a sparkling 1.91 ERA, no Milwaukee pitcher is what you'd call exceptional (though "ace" Brandon Woodruff has good strikeout numbers to go with his pedestrian ERA). One unknown quantity is reliever Adrian Houser, who has been solid in limited use; he is slated to pitch the second game of this series, moved into the rotation out of necessity with others failing in the slot. In his one start this season, back in April, he got tagged for five runs in four-plus innings against St. Louis. He's been much more effective in short bursts, allowing only two runs in 201⁄3 IP when used for no more than two innings at a time. The other games will go to Davies and Chase Anderson. Anderson has only lasted into the sixth inning once so far this year, averaging only 42⁄3 innings per start.
The M's will start Marco Gonzales, Wade LeBlanc, and Mike Leake. At least, that's what they should do; manager Scott Servais might well shoot himself in the foot again with an "opener" ahead of LeBlanc. Marco has won three straight starts, pitching to a 2.38 ERA in that span; LeBlanc has been used as a "headliner" in his last four outings, doing well in three of them (23 total innings, nine ER); and Leake is fresh off his latest monthly meltdown, so having gotten that out of the way he should be good again for another few starts. In his four previous games, Leake has pitched to a 2.40 ERA over 30 innings.
Who’s Hot & Not
Last 10 games
.326/.370/.721, 9 XBH, 9 RBI
.300/.447/.467, 3 XBH, 3 RBI
.320/.379/.600, 3 XBH, 5 RBI
.229/.289/.400, 4 XBH, 3 RBI, 3 GDP
.171/.194/.343, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 GDP
.214/.333/.250, 1 XBH, 3 RBI, 9 K
Last 3 series vs. Seattle
|8/21/16||MIL 7, SEA 6|
|8/20/16||SEA 8, MIL 2|
|8/19/16||SEA 7, MIL 6|
|8/11/13||SEA 2, MIL 0|
|8/10/13||MIL 10, SEA 0|
|8/9/13||MIL 10, SEA 5|
|7/27/10||MIL 3, SEA 0|
|7/26/10||SEA 5, MIL 4|
|7/25/10||MIL 8, SEA 3|
Craig Counsell: Remembered for his postseason heroics as a player with the Diamondbacks, Counsell has been managing the Brewers since mid-2015 and the club has responded, improving its record in each season since. This season began with high expectations for the Brew Crew, and though the club is in the thick of the race there is a feeling of disappointment with the overall record, sourced to the starting rotation. “We just haven’t got any length (from the starters),” Counsell said recently. “We need more, no question. And we need zeroes, too. We’re not handing the ball to our bullpen with a lead very often.”
From Seattle's perspective, these are, of course, "first-world problems." But it's notable how well the Brewers have done with such mediocre pitching throughout his tenure with the club. In last year's 91-win campaign, only one pitcher, Jhoulys Chacin, had double-digit victories, and only Wade Miley, who threw less than 90 innings, had an ERA under 3.50 among starters. Counsell benefits from a strong offense, but gets the most out of a limited pitching staff each year.
Ben Gamel: A popular platoon outfielder with the Mariners, Gamel was dealt to Milwaukee last winter for new fan-favorite Domingo Santana, in a swap that seems to have been good for both sides. The Brewers have a solid starting three outfielders with Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain, and Christian Yelich, but Gamel has seen a lot of playing time off the bench and put up pretty good on-base numbers (.254/.345/.379), mostly as a spot-starter and defensive replacement.
While in Seattle, Gamel was a streaky hitter that could carry the team some days and weigh them down in others. He's tended to be better early in the year before a steep falloff after the All-Star break, with an overall line of .270/.333/.395 as a Mariner.
|Milwaukee Brewers NL||(1998 - present)|
|Division Titles:||1981 (split season), 2011, 2018|