The 7-2 Cincinnati Reds have the best record in baseball, the best run differential in baseball, the best player named Raisel Iglesias in baseball, and are fresh off a sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates. They return home on Thursday to start a 10 game homestand, the first four of which will come against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Last Season and What's Ahead
Much like the Reds, the Brewers stumbled through a decidedly rebuild-y season in 2016, finishing with a 73-89 overall record that landed them 4th in the NL Central. They sit 4-5 through 9 games in 2017 - all of which came in Milwaukee - and are fresh off losing 2 of 3 to the Chicago Cubs.
FanGraphs projects Milwaukee to finish 72-90 this year, which would be 68-85 in their remaining games. Baseball Prospectus is higher on the Brewers, however, projecting they'll close out their remaining games with a record of 74-79.
Bill Hall All Star
Ryan Braun* won an MVP he shouldn't have back in 2011, and has long been one of the premier bats in the game, his .910 career OPS a pretty clear indicator of such.
He's been a bit better than that in his career in GABP, however, as he owns a .919 OPS in 72 career games played in Cincinnati's home park. He's doinked 20 career homers there, which is the most he's hit in any ballpark outside of Milwaukee in his career - and the 35 he's hit in his career against Reds' pitchers also is also his most against any single staff.
1B Eric Thames was brought in on a 3 year, $16 million deal, the now 30-year old returning to the big leagues after a successful 3 year stint slugging in Korea.
Former Texas Rangers closer and Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Neftali Feliz was also imported on a 1 year deal to close out games for the Beers.
Fare Thee Well
NL dinger champ Chris Carter
Scooter "Paul Bunyan Pecos Bill Natty Bumppo Spiderman" Gennett
You can read a full breakdown of Milwaukee's offseason here.
The Lineup (2016 stats are in parentheses)
Jonathan Villar - 2B (.285/.369/.457 w/ 19 HR, 92 R, 63 RBI, and 62 SB)
Eric Thames - 1B (.321/.427/.679 w/ 40 HR, 118 R, 121 RBI, and 13 SB (w/NC Dinos of KBO))
Ryan Braun - LF (.305/.365/.538 w/ 30 HR, 80 R, 91 RBI, and 16 SB)
Travis Shaw - 3B (.242/.306/.421 w/ 16 HR, 63 R, 71 RBI, and 5 SB (w/BOS))
Domingo Santana - RF (.256/.345/.447 w/ 11 HR, 34 R, 32 RBI, and 2 SB in 77 G)
Keon Broxton - CF (.242/.354/.430 w/ 9 HR, 28 R, 19 RBI, and 23 SB in 75 G)
Jett Bandy - C (.234/.281/.392 w/ 8 HR, 23 R, 25 RBI, and 1 SB in 70 G (w/LAA))
Orlando Arcia - SS (.219/.273/.358 w/ 4 HR, 21 R, 17 RBI, and 8 SB in 55 G)
Thanks to Keon Broxton taking a pitch to the face early last week, the lineup shuffle in Milwaukee has been in rather consistent flux so far. He's back in the lineup and healthy again, however, and should feature prominently as their primary CF this series.
Jesus Aguilar has also been getting a bit of run at 1B, as he hits from the right side as opposed to Thames' left-handed swing. My guess is you'll see Aguilar in the lineup Saturday against Brandon Finnegan, and perhaps Sunday, too, if Cody Reed gets the nod in Rookie Davis' previous spot.
Each of Arcia, Santana, and Broxton represent the bulk of the team's youth movement of late, with hopes that they'll pin down regular spots in the lineup for years to come.
The Pitchers For This Series
Jimmy Nelson (vs. Bronson Arroyo) - Thursday at 7:10 PM ET
Nelson's been a workhorse for Milwaukee each of the last two years, topping 30 starts and at least 177.1 IP in each season. However, he's posted just a 93 ERA+ in that stretch and led all of MLB in HBP in each season.
Tommy Milone (vs. Scott Feldman) - Friday at 7:10 PM ET
Milone, a lefty, came to the Brewers on a non-guaranteed $1.25 million salary for 2017 after he was outrighted off the Minnesota Twins roster in October. The Twins cut him loose after an ugly 69.1 IP in 2016 that was good/bad enough for -0.7 bWAR.
Zach Davies (vs. Brandon Finnegan) - Saturday at 1:10 PM ET
Davies is listed at 155 lbs, looks like he weighs 135 lbs, and currently leads all NL pitchers in hits allowed (16), losses (2), and ER (11). This will be the game when Joey Votto's bat finally goes nuts.
(Votto, for the record, is 5 for 12 with a dinger against Davies in previous matchups.)
Wily Peralta (vs. Cody Reed, or someone, since CIN hasn't yet announced) - Sunday at 1:10 PM ET
Wily Peralta's full name is Wily Peralta. That full name sure is a full name.
The Best Reds vs. Brewers Moment of 2016
Back in July, Dan Straily put up 7 innings of zeroes, and in a 0-0 game in the Bottom of the 9th, Billy Hamilton swiped his way around the bases to set up a walk-off run on a Jonathan Lucroy passed ball - the lone run in the 1-0 Cincinnati victory.