MLB Playoffs: Preview and Prediction of the Series No One Is Talking About
You won't be blamed if you aren't anxiously awaiting the start of this series, but that's no more than Small Market Syndrome clouding your judgment.
Nationally, the Diamondbacks are probably the least recognizable team in this year's postseason, but that means little on the field when the games begin.
In his first full season as manager in Arizona, Kirk Gibson has established a winning culture and racked up 94 wins while running away with the National League West title, the club's first since 2007, and a 29 game improvement from last year's 65-win campaign.
The casual fan may be able to name one Diamondback, Justin Upton, and as a team, Arizona is a bit of an anomaly.
Despite finishing with the NL's third best record, the Snakes finished the year 19th in batting average, yet ninth in runs and eighth in slugging percentage.
Despite this, the D-Backs do have players who fly under the radar who could make life difficult for Milwaukee pitchers.
Aaron Hill has been fantastic in 33 games since being acquired from Toronto, hitting .315 while fielding flawlessly without committing an error since landing in the desert, and Miguel Montero hit 18 homers with a batting average over .280 while trailing only Upton in RBI on the club.
The pitching staff was statistically average across the board, at 14th in team ERA, and 19th in batting average against. In fact, the Arizona pitching staff gave up a batting average of .259 on the season, and the team hit only .250 themselves.
On the other side await the Milwaukee Brewers, the preseason favorite among many to win the National League Central. The Brew Crew did not disappoint, winning the division by six games over St. Louis and earning the second-best record in the NL and home field in the first round.
Despite playing in one of the smallest markets in MLB, Milwaukee has been able to produce homegrown stars like Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, while the team as a whole combined for the second best batting average in the NL at .261.
Regardless of all the hype and attention Fielder and Braun may get nationally, the Brewers are far from a two-man team.
Outfielders Corey Hart and Nyjer Morgan, as well as second baseman Rickie Weeks, can present problems for any pitching staff on any given night and are one of the most underrated supporting casts in the game today.
Who wins the series?
Not surprisingly, the Brewers led the NL in home runs this season and because of this, the Diamondbacks will have increased pressure to keep Brewer baserunners to a minimum in an effort to avoid the killer long ball.
The Brewers will send Yovani Gallardo (17-10, 3.52 ERA) to the mound in Game 1, and he will face who is probably the most underrated pitcher in baseball in Ian Kennedy.
Kennedy finished the year with an incredible 21-4 record with a 2.88 ERA, and the D-Backs know they must attack Gallardo as Arizona's chances of advancing in this series go way down if they can't secure a win with their ace on the mound.
Odds and Ends: The Brewers had the best home record in MLB at 57-24, and Arizona will clearly have their hands full on the road at Miller Park, although they were only one of four NL teams to be over .500 on the road this season (43-38).
However, when the series switches to Chase Field, the Brewers road woes may be something to watch for. Milwaukee is the only team in the postseason with a losing record on the road (39-42), while Arizona was an impressive 51-30 at home this season.
The Diamondbacks may have an opportunity to steal Game 2 on the road in Milwaukee as well, as projected Brewers starter Zack Greinke will be starting on only three days rest for the second-consecutive turn in the rotation. The move allows Shawn Marcum to pitch Game 3 on the road, where he has been much more effective this season...Arizona won the season series from Milwaukee 4-3.
Predictions: (If Arizona wins game 1): Arizona in 5. If the D-Backs steal Game 1 on the road, the Brewers are immediately behind the 8-ball as they must rely on Greinke's start with three days rest as a potential season saver.
Even if Milwaukee evens the series at 1-1, the Brewers will be pressing their rotation on little rest for the remainder of the series. Although, this result would mean Milwaukee would likely lose twice at home, the pressure on Milwaukee after Game 1 would be difficult to overcome.
(If Milwaukee wins Game 1): Milwaukee in 4. Wasting Ian Kennedy's first start would be a potential killer for the D-Backs and the Brewers would capitalize on the momentum and take Game 2 at Miller Park as well. Arizona would fight back for a Game 3 victory, but would likely put Kennedy back on the mound in a desperate situation on three days rest in an elimination game.
Final Prediction: Arizona in 5.
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