Heading into the playoffs, the Milwaukee Brewers had very clear strengths and very clear weaknesses. They knew they were going to get really strong starting pitching, solid relief pitching, and strong defense around the field. They also knew that their lineup was prone to prolonged slumps and that run production was going to be hard to come by, especially against a well-rounded Atlanta Braves team.
However, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell couldn’t have expected these kinds of offensive struggles from his team, which was shut out in Games 2 and 3 (by identical 3-0 scores), and has only one run-producing hit in the National League Division Series: a two-run home run by Rowdy Tellez in the seventh inning of Game 1. The Brewers’ bats have only managed 16 hits and six walks all series, with 12 of those hits being singles.
The Braves hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series and will look to finish off visiting Milwaukee on Tuesday afternoon with Huascar Ynoa on the mound to start and, likely, a mix of starters and relievers to follow him. The Brewers will start with Eric Lauer, but he also will have a short leash if he runs into early trouble.
Atlanta hasn’t exactly been lighting it up offensively either, but the Braves have done what they do best: hit home runs. They have hit a long ball in each game, which was enough offense in Games 2 and 3. July pickup Joc Pederson, who wasn’t even getting regular playing time toward the end of the season, has two of those home runs, both coming as a pinch-hitter. He has hits in each of the three games this series and is 3-for-3 with two home runs and four RBIs.
First pitch from Truist Park on Tuesday is at 5:15 p.m. ET. The BetUS Sportsbook has the Braves as -150 moneyline favorites while the Brewers are +135. MLB playoff odds have the over/under at eight runs.
Lauer Can Provide Solid Innings
Lauer was one of the biggest surprises for the Brewers in 2021 following a terrible debut season with Milwaukee. In 20 starts (118.2 innings) as Milwaukee’s No. 4 (or No. 5) starter, he posted a 3.19 ERA with around a strikeout per inning and otherwise solid peripheral numbers. He and Adrian Houser allowed the Brewers to use a six-man rotation for much of the season which kept Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta fresh for the playoffs.
However, now with the Brewers facing elimination, Lauer won’t have a lot of leeway to make mistakes. Josh Hader will be available for multiple innings and any of Milwaukee’s starters (other than Freddy Peralta in all likelihood) could potentially appear, but Lauer throwing five or more strong innings would be enormous.
If you’re betting online, go with the Brewers to stay alive and even this series up. Their pitching has been great in the NLDS and it was great all season, so look for that to continue even as the bats struggle to heat up.
Not Sure What To Expect From Ynoa
Even though he was sidelined for a few months this summer after he broke his hand punching a dugout bench in frustration back in May, Ynoa’s first full eason was a successful one. In addition to showing off his offensive skills by hitting home runs in back-to-back starts earlier in the season, he had a 4.05 ERA in 91 innings with almost 10 strikeouts per nine innings and a 1.110 WHIP.
Like with the Brewers’ Lauer, Ynoa probably won’t be expected to go particularly deep into this game and will likely be pulled at the first sign of trouble. Other Atlanta starters could be in play for relief roles but the Braves have a relatively well-rested bullpen overall, yet it seems like manager Brian Snitker only wants to use either Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson or Will Smith in high-leverage spots. All three pitched in Monday’s Game 3 as well as Saturday’s Game 2, with Matzek and Jackson also pitching in Game 1 (on Friday). So, it would be asking a lot for those key arms to go either three times in four days or four times in five days.
That’s why you should take the Brewers regardless of what the MLB lines say. At some point, excessive usage is going to take its toll on Atlanta’s most trusted bullpen arms so Snitker might not want to push those guys past their limits. That would require less-reliable pitchers to get huge outs if the Braves want to finish this series off on Tuesday evening, which is also a tough call in the playoffs.
Milwaukee Bats Are Due
The same could be said about the Braves, who also haven’t hit nearly as well as they’re usually expected to in this series, but the Brewers have gone cold to an extent that just seems like it’s about to turn around. The top of Atlanta’s rotation — Max Fried and Charlie Morton — is close to as good as it gets, which Milwaukee saw firsthand. But the Brewers also couldn’t muster up anything against Ian Anderson in Game 3, which is a big cause for concern.
However, the Brewers will be able to break out versus Ynoa. He was pretty ineffective down the stretch and had a 6.52 ERA in his final six starts, which may have been a side-effect of pitching more innings this season between the minors and majors than he has since 2018.
Guys like Christian Yelich, Kolten Wong and Avisaíl García, who haven’t hit at all against Atlanta, will finally break out. That’s why, as far as MLB picks go, the Brewers are a good bet. They’ll finally get going offensively and will force this series to go back to Milwaukee for a deciding Game 5.