Well, we have finally reached October. That means one thing: postseason baseball. The Brewers will be playing for the Commissioner’s trophy for the second straight year and their journey starts in Washington D.C. in a one-game playoff against the Washington Nationals, who finished their season with a record of 93-69.
The opponent: Washington got off to a rough start to the 2019 season with a 19-31 record through 50 games. Since then, they’ve gone 74-38 in their march towards a postseason spot. They are led by MVP candidate Anthony Rendon, who has posted a phenomenal year with 34 homers and 126 RBI while also sporting a superb 1.010 OPS. Following Rendon as a big offensive weapon is Juan Soto, the second-year left fielder who has only improved since his big rookie season. He’s posted a .949 OPS with 34 home runs this season. I do not want those two up in a big situation if I’m Milwaukee, as they are both game-changing bats. The Nationals’ pitching staff is largely buoyed by their starters, primarily Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, and Stephen Strasburg. All three have absolutely electric stuff and can make the best hitters look silly. Look for the Nationals to get as much out of those 3 as they can. The Nats bullpen, on the other hand, has been downright bad. Nationals relievers had an MLB-worst 5.66 ERA this season, and they haven’t improved much over the course of the season. The Brewers will need to do all they can to work for matchups against the Nationals bullpen. Also relevant, the Brewers won the season series against Washington, sweeping at Miller Park in May and losing 2 of 3 in D.C. in August.
The pitching matchup: It will be right-hander Brandon Woodruff (11-3, 3.62 ERA) on the bump for Milwaukee opposite Max Scherzer (11-7, 2.92) for Washington. This may seem like a mismatch on paper, but anything can happen in the postseason and Woodruff will likely only be used for around 50-60 pitches. Scherzer sports a 2.29 ERA against the Brewers in 8 career starts, and in his lone appearance against Milwaukee this season he allowed 1 earned run over 6 innings while striking out 10. It will be a tough task to score off the former Cy Young winner but much crazier things have happened in the postseason. The Brewers are going to have to drive up his pitch count early and hope that he gets pulled for their less intimidating (but still great) starters in Corbin and Strasburg, who will both be available out of the bullpen. As for who follows Woodruff for the Brewers, we will likely see Jordan Lyles, Brent Suter, and Josh Hader in some order. I would not be surprised to see Drew Pomeranz or Adrian Houser make an appearance either. It’s going to be all hands on deck as the Brewers try to advance to the NLDS.
The likely lineups: This is pretty much pure speculation on my part as Lorenzo Cain may not be able to play and the Nationals like to tinker with their lineup.
Milwaukee: Grisham RF, Hiura 2B, Grandal C, Braun LF, Moustakas 3B, Cain CF, Thames 1B, Arcia SS, Woodruff P
Washington: Turner SS, Eaton RF, Rendon 3B, Soto LF, Adams 1B, Robles CF, Dozier 2B, Suzuki C, Scherzer P
The prediction: Milwaukee has dropped 3 in a row and Washington has won 8 in a row, but I don’t expect that to factor into the outcome. The Brewers’ pitching strategy this season has worked out well and with Counsell as manager, Milwaukee has a clear managing advantage. I think the Brewers do just enough against the Nats’ three-headed monster (Scherzer, Corbin, Strasburg) and get to their bullpen late to pull out a victory.
Brewers 4, Nationals 2