Tonight the battered Brewers kick off a three game series against the division rival Cincinnati Reds, part of a six game homestand. The past week has been rough, and the team is probably glad to be home.

The Reds have gotten off to a somewhat perplexing start to the year. A trendy pick to win the NL Central, they currently sit at 14-13, 2.5 games behind the division-leading Cardinals. Perhaps attributed to slow starts from Joey Votto (just 2 HR) and Brandon Phillips (.215/.259/.329), their offensive numbers are surprisingly hovering around or below the NL midpoint in most major categories. However, this is a team with a lot of potential and will probably be in the thick of the division race all season.

In watching these games, please consider the following:

  • The Brewers should maximize their run scoring potential against Reds starters. Reds pitching has been a mixed bag: hot starts from ace Johnny Cueto (Wednesday’s probable starter) and Bronson Arroyo (tonight’s starter) contrast with inconsistency from big offseason acquisition Mat Latos, whose strikeout rate is down while his walk and home run rates are up from his last two years in San Diego, and Homer Bailey (Tuesday’s starter), whose home run rate is third highest among NL pitchers with at least five starts  Those are puzzling results from a rotation that was to be a team strength. But despite the starters’ troubles and the loss of expected closer Ryan Madson, the Reds’ bullpen is without question the NL’s best, putting up a league leading 2.41 ERA and an insane 10.34 K/9. Setup men Aroldis Chapman (15.34 K/9, my goodness) and Logan Ondrusek have yet to surrender a run in 14.2 and 12.0 IP respectively, and behind them Alfredo Simon and Jose Arredondo have sub-2.53 ERAs and K/9 rates hovering around 10. The offensively-stagnant Brewers are unlikely to break out against them or closer Sean Marshall, so it’s important that Ron Roenicke tries to score as many runs as possible before Reds manager Dusty Baker turns the game over to his stud relievers (this means no sacrifice bunts, RR).
  • Roenicke should have his staff pitch around Jay Bruce. Cincinnati’s right fielder is a notorious Brewer killer. He is a career .333 hitter against current Milwaukee pitchers with 8 HR, and that includes a career .471/.526/.647 line against Tuesday’s starter Yovani Gallardo. Bruce is also a notoriously streaky hitter, and is currently in the midst of a 9-game hitting streak, during which he homered in 4 consecutive games. Since April 18th he has raised his average 109 points and hit 6 of his total 8 HR, and if that weren’t enough, he gets to face the team he has had the most success against in his career. Like bunting, the intentional walk is also not generally a part of Roenicke’s strategy, but he should employ it against the Reds’ number 5 hitter, especially since two of the Reds’ usual 6–8 hitters, Scott Rolen and Ryan Ludwick, are both scuffling and batting sub-.190.
  • Roenicke should use John Axford tonight, then more effectively from then on. Many fans feel that Roenicke should have gone to Ax in the 11th inning yesterday over Tim Dillard, who couldn’t find the strike zone consistently and cost the team the game. RR really only uses Ax in save situations and for no more than three outs, both strategies that I question. He has thrown but 12 pitches since April 29th, and he should see game action regardless of the score tonight. If not being used in a high leverage situation, Roenicke should give him say, 10–15 pitches of work so he’s ready to pitch in tighter spots through the series. Make no mistake, he is the Brewers’ best reliever and should be used as such.
  • Note to players: don’t get injured. This speaks for itself.

First pitch for game 1 is scheduled for 7:10pm central and will be televised by FSWisconsin, and the same goes for game 2. However, game 3 is a 12:10pm matinee that does not appear to be televised. Unless you have MLB.tv, it’ll be a Uecker/Joe Block afternoon. Not bad.

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Kevan Feyzi blogs on the Brewers for PocketDoppler.com. He enjoys paddle sports, Bob Dylan, and middle infielders who hit for power. He can be followed on Twitter @fevankeyzi .

 

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