The Oakland A's and Milwaukee Brewers haven’t played since 2002. And the two teams couldn’t be coming in on more opposite sides of the spectrum.
The A’s (34-24) are coming in having won 14 of 16, while the Brewers have lost 23 of their last 30, including finishing May with a 6-22 mark.
The A's weekend sweep over the Chicago White Sox saw Oakland’s pitching continue to improve, revisiting the form of their 2012 division-winning club. The A's staff threw shutouts in two of the three games against Chicago, lowering the club’s ERA to 2.45 over the last 16 games.
As the A's starters have drastically improved in May from April, the bullpen has become the best in the American League. The A’s top five relievers have ERAs of 1.48, 1.78, 2.13, 2.16 and 2.21, leading the way to a 2.80 overall clip, leading the AL. Only Pittsburgh and Atlanta have better numbers, with 2.67 and 2.71 ERAs, respectively.
The Brewers (21-34) enter the series having won two of three against the Philadelphia Phillies, giving them their only series win of the month. Oddly enough, the Brewers' lineup includes five players with an OPS+ above 100, but the pitching staff has been the worst in the league, with a starters’ ERA of 5.53. However, the bullpen has been effective, registering a 2.99 clip.
Monday’s series opener will have Tommy Milone (5-5, 4.04 ERA) and Marco Estrada (4-3, 4.96 ERA) square off. Milone is the lone A’s starter that has struggled of late, allowing nine earned runs combined over his last two outings. It’s no coincidence that both of those starts were on the road, as his home and away splits continue to define his first two big league seasons with the A’s.
Milone is allowing hitters a 654 OPS in Oakland and a 821 OPS elsewhere, numbers that are very much in line with his overall career marks.
Estrada - the 29-year-old right-hander – has thrown seven innings in three of his four starts, and he has an ERA of 3.38. He throws mostly fastballs and changeups while walking just over two hitters per nine innings. Estrada’s changeup has allowed him to have much more success against left-handed hitters than righties, allowing a .204 average compared to a .303 average. He’s also struggled at Miller Park, generally known as a hitters’ haven, yielding a 7.18 ERA.
Tuesday night’s affair will feature Kyle Lohse (1-6, 4.37 ERA) and A.J. Griffin (5-4, 4.04 ERA). Lohse, a Chico, Calif. native, has a 6.51 ERA over his last five starts, which includes seven home runs allowed.
Like Estrada, Lohse has also been better against lefties despite being a right-handed pitcher. Lefties have an 832 OPS against Estrada compared to a 761 mark for righties.
Lohse was a hot name on the free agent market after going 16-3 with a 2.86 last season in St. Louis, but he hasn’t come close to rounding into form with his new team. Throughout his 13 seasons in the big leagues, he has struggled to maintain consistency, which could mean 2013 might be one of his many valleys following a peak.
Griffin threw well in his last outing against the Giants until the sixth inning when the defending champions scored four times to help salvage the last game of the series. The right-hander was cruising through the lineup for most of the afternoon, but failed to get run support from his offense that struggled against an erratic Barry Zito.
Griffin had a roller coaster season so far in 2013 with a 5.71 ERA in his last three outings, following a 1.74 mark in his previous three.
Wednesday’s final game of the set will have Bartolo Colon (6-2, 3.33 ERA) take on Yovani Gallardo (4-5, 5.05 ERA). Colon continues to defy logic by throwing a ton of strikes and remaining effective at 40-years-old.
In his last start, he shut-out the White Sox, throwing a complete game and allowing just five hits. In his career, he’s made just one start in Miller Park, when he allowed four earned runs on 10 hits in seven innings.
Gallardo – the ace of the staff – is off to a bad start considering his past success. He’s never had an ERA above 4.00 for any full season of his seven-year big league career, and yet he’s a full run above that in 2013. His line drive rate is as astonishing nine percent worse this season.
One reason could be a drop in velocity across the board. But given his .319 BABIP, there’s reason to believe he will improve as the season goes along. Only Chris Young and Seth Smith have faced the right-hander during their days in the National League, compiling just a 310 and 292 OPS against him, respectively.