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Series Preview: The Brewers are doing it with pitching and pluck

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That’s more than enough to hang around in the NL Central race.

2019 MLB All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Brewers are just a half game back in both the NL Central and the second Wild Card and while they’re not out of it by any means, their second half will need to have some differences from the first when it comes to the offense.

Their lineup has a very 2010 Giants vibe in that it’s mostly league average (97 OPS+) and anchored by a trio of standouts: Chrisitan Yelich (188 OPS+), Mike Moustakas (124 OPS+), and Yasmani Grandal (129 OPS+).

The rotation, meanwhile, doesn’t have a Lincecum, Cain, or Bumgarner, but it has been solid enough. The bullpen, of course, has been as good as you’d expect, with 3.3 FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement, good enough for fourth-best in MLB. The Giants are 10th.

The Giants are also 2-5 in the past two years at Miller Park, which should probably be a portent for things to come this weekend. The Brewers are in the hunt, and the Giants kinda-sorta are, too, although their odds are extremely low. Think less about them being 5.5 games back and more about them facing Christian Yelich, whose 31 home runs account for 20% of the Brewers’ team total.

With the way it’s setup, both teams will be throwing their very best at each other over these next three games, so, if you’re genuinely curious about how the Giants stack up against the best of the league, you’re about to get a good idea.

Maybe a couple of years ago, this might’ve felt like a matchup of the young upstarts taking down the champs to prove their mettle and battle-test them for the playoffs. Now, this is setup for a good team to prove it’s a bit better than that by beating up on a team that’s supposed to be bad. It’s very similar to the Giants’ 2010 series at the beginning of July in Milwaukee, a four-gamer that the Giants swept to go from 41-40 to 45-40 and stay in the division race. The Brewers don’t need these games quite as badly, but they do actually need the series win.

In that sense, here’s a chance for the Giants to at least play spoilers. It’s a chance to see if the way the talent gelled before the break can carry that over to the second half. Dickerson gets to mash in Miller Park. Austin Slater will probably get to see if his swing adjustment can survive tougher pitching. And we’ll get to see just how committed the Giants are to their rebuild.

Hitter to watch

Christian Yelich. Please. He’s so good.

Also, rookie Keston Hiura is back. He had a 1.075 OPS in Triple-A this year and a .793 OPS in 110 major league PAs. The strikeouts are something to watch, though: 35, bad enough for a 32% strikeout rate.

Pitcher to watch

Zach Davies has been the tenth-best starting pitcher this season based on ERA-, just behind Justin Verlander and ahead of Lucas Giolito, Gerrit Cole, Clayton Kershaw, and Patrick Corbin. The Giants were the first team he lost to this year, and since they made him 7-1 back on June 14 and raised his ERA from 2.41 to 2.60, he’s 0-1 in five starts with a 5.32 ERA in just 22 innings pitched. He’s faced 102 batters and allowed a .960 OPS (4 home runs, a 15:9 strikeouts to walk ratio).

The break might’ve helped him, but the Giants giving him (and the Brewers) some doubt would be a welcome sight to see.

Prediction

No Giants will be traded this weekend.