In a rematch of the 2011 National League Division Series, the Brewers and Diamondbacks will meet again in the playoffs this week at American Family Field. If Major League Baseball wanted to create an event to promote exceptional pitching, sort of like the opposite of a Home Run Derby, then the league could start by taking notes from this wild-card matchup.
Brewers ace Corbin Burnes and D-backs right-handers Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly are three of the top seven starters in the NL. Throw in Milwaukee’s Freddy Peralta, who enjoyed a spectacular season, and the offensive output from this series might just be minimal. Get ready for pitching duels, folks.
The Brewers have the type of pitching that is conducive to making a deep run. The Diamondbacks are formidable and can be the Cinderella story by pulling off a major upset against Milwaukee. Anything can happen.
When are they playing?
- Tuesday, Game 1: Diamondbacks at Brewers – 7:08 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
- Wednesday, Game 2: Diamondbacks at Brewers – 7:08 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
- Thursday, Game 3 (if necessary): Diamondbacks at Brewers – 7:08 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
The Brewers have only waited and planned for this moment for weeks. Their nasty rotation will be rested and ready, beginning with Burnes in Game 1, followed by Peralta in Game 2. Two-time All-Star Brandon Woodruff was initially in line to start Wednesday, but was just ruled out of the series with a shoulder injury. That leaves veteran Wade Miley, who had one of his better campaigns in years, to take the bump in a potential Game 3. Milwaukee is built around its strong pitching; we’ll see if this threatening trio can meet the moment.
For the D-backs, it’s not as ideal. Since Arizona was fighting for a playoff spot until the very end of the regular season, Gallen and Kelly pitched as recently as this past weekend. Gallen will face Milwaukee in Game 2, followed by Kelly in Game 3. Leftover for Game 1: rookie righty Brandon Pfaadt and his 5.72 ERA, though he did not allow a run in two of his final three regular-season starts.
Who has the better lineup?
The Brewers and D-backs are similar at the plate — with a slight edge awarded to Arizona. Technically, the D-backs have the better offense in terms of OPS and isolated power. But they struggled mightily to finish the season, scoring only three runs in their final 36 innings.
These two lineups have produced virtually the same number of home runs in 2023. Milwaukee crushed 164 homers to Arizona’s 166; both figures ranked in the bottom-third of the majors. The D-backs have the advantage of speed, but the Brewers draw a ton of walks.
What are the X-factors?
For the Brewers, closer Devin Williams is as tremendous of an X-factor as it gets. The two-time All Star and 2020 Rookie of the Year posted a 1.53 ERA and 0.92 WHIP across 61 relief appearances (36 saves out of 40 opportunities) this season. Though his strikeout rate is slightly down this year, Williams is still holding opposing hitters to a .129 batting average. Plus, the Brewers are one of only two teams in baseball to rank in top eight in starter and reliever ERA.
The D-backs have the X-factor of being the fastest team in the playoffs. Arizona’s 166 stolen bases rank second-most in baseball. Against the Brewers, the D-backs are expected to be more dangerous than ever on the basepaths to create any advantage possible against a terrific Milwaukee pitching staff. While Arizona will be applying pressure, expect the Brewers’ terrific defense (second-most defensive runs saved in MLB) to be sharp.
Who’s going to win?
I’m expecting the Brewers to have the upper hand and win this wild-card series — and earn a date with the Dodgers in the NLDS — because pitching rules the postseason. Milwaukee’s arms are better particularly in a short series, but the combination of Burnes, Woodruff and Peralta are arguably the best trio of starters in the postseason.
The belief is, if the Brewers can just generate a tiny bit of offense, they can win this series against the D-backs simply because their pitching should be lights out. A little run support from Milwaukee’s lineup should go a long way. I’ll give the advantage to the Brewers here for their nasty pitching and home-field advantage.
Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.
Get more from Major League Baseball Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more