After a disastrous homestand that ended with a lone victory the Astros head back out on the road. First stop: Milwaukee. The league’s worst road team (10-41 away from Minute Maid Park) will open a three-game series against the Brewers Monday at 7:10 CDT. Bud Norris goes to the mound for the Astros seeking to snap a personal seven game losing streak. Marco Estrada (0-4, 4.52 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) takes the ball for the Brew Crew.
Benjamin Orr of Reviewing the Brew was kind enough to help with our series preview by answering a few questions about the fourth place Brewers. Let’s get right to the Q & A.
CTH: Ryan Braun owns the Astros. He seems to hit a homerun in every game against them. What’s the deal? Is he on steroids or what?
Benjamin: Nah, he’s just a really good power hitter. Braun honestly is putting up better numbers than last year and he’s being checked even more thoroughly this season, but honestly I’ve believe that’s just protocol with guys like him. I think with the way the season has gone, Braun had to step up early and he did. Until about late May, Braun was really the only Brewer doing any, besides Jonathan Lucroy who went on the DL, so perhaps it was a mental thing that he knew he didn’t want to let his team down.
CTH: Jean Segura, the shortstop acquired in the Greinke deal, looks like a tremendous prospect. What do Brewers fans think of the trade and when should we expect to see Segura in Milwaukee?
Benjamin: Well, we hated to see Zack go, but it was more than expected. Segura looks to be very promising and GM Doug Melvin knew we needed a shortstop. We also got two of their better pitching prospects in Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg. I think it’s a very smart move by Melvin because the Angels were the team with the best prospects to suit the Brewers’ needs. Some say the Angels gave up too much, but hey, Milwaukee needs something to turn it around. I’d expect to see Segura in a month or maybe even less. He made his MLB debut not too long ago and the Brewers definitely need an answer at shortstop that isn’t named Cesar Izturis or Cody Ransom.
CTH: Besides the loss of Prince Fielder, what has caused the Brew Crew to come up short of expectations this season?
Benjamin: The bullpen. It’s been absolutely awful. The loss of LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito did more damage, at least in my mind, than losing Fielder did. There is not one single pitcher in that bullpen I feel comfortable about ever coming out. We did just acquire Jim Henderson who has never pitched in the MLB and we brought up Mark Rogers to replace Greinke in the starting rotation. Once Shaun Marcum comes back, I think Rogers will probably go to the bullpen if he’s proved himself ready to pitch. The defense has also been pretty spotty at times.
CTH: Catcher George Kottaras has been designated for assignment. Do you think the Brewers will be able to trade him for a decent prospect – and who else might be on the trade block in Milwaukee?
Benjamin: Well, he got traded Sunday to the Oakland A’s. From what I’ve been reading, I’m not sure who exactly we got for him. Besides Greinke and Kottaras, I think the Brewers might be done as sellers. It was speculated awhile ago that since Martin Maldonado had been doing so well and Lucroy was due back, that Kottaras was the odd man out so it’s unfortunate for him, but had to happen. What I don’t understand though is the Brewers signed Humberto Quintero to a minor league deal. I thought they were trying to avoid the whole “three catcher” conflict thing.
CTH: Are there any impressive youngsters in the Brewers farm system that we will see in the big leagues come September?
Benjamin: Aside from the guys we got in the Greinke trade, there’s only one. Wily Peralta pitched one inning in the majors earlier this year, but that’s been his only exposure to the big leagues. He’s been highly noted as one of the Brewers’ better pitching prospects and here’s to hoping so. The Brewers need all they can get and with the starting rotation having the potential to look like Swiss cheese once free agency hits, Peralta can only help. I guess also Jeff Bianchi could be thrown in the mix. He was up for a little bit this season, going 0 for 12 unfortunately, but a combination of Bianchi and Taylor Green may be our back up options in the infield come next year.
Thanks for the insight, Benjamin. Now here are a few players to keep an eye on in the series.
After a terrible first half, second baseman Rickie Weeks seems to have righted the ship. Weeks hit .400 (10 for 25) last week with a couple of homers to go with three walks and three HBP.
Carlos Gomez has been one of the hottest hitters on the planet over the past seven days and should be in the running for N.L. Player of the Week honors. Gomez hit four longballs during the week, driving in a total often runs. The speedy outfielder also swiped five bags and scored ten runs of his own.
John Axford has been in and out of the closer’s role in recent weeks. He blew a save yesterday but will probably get at least one more chance due to the fact that everyone in the Brewers bullpen is struggling to get hitters out.
Brett Wallace has been called up by the Astros from AAA and will be replacing Chris Johnson at the hot corner. Johnson was traded to Arizona prior to Sunday’s win over the Pirates.
Dallas Keuchel gets the start for the Astros on Tuesday. The rookie left-hander was ineffective early in his last start before settling down and pitching four scoreless innings. It will be interesting to see if Keuchel can bounce back and put together a more complete performance against the Brewers.