The Tampa Bay Rays come home after salvaging a 4-4 road trip by winning three in a row against the Houston Astros. The Astros are the best team in the American League. It was a huge series victory after losing the first three games of the road trip against the New York Yankees. The Rays have won four of the past five games.

The Milwaukee Brewers held the National League Central lead heading into the all-star break. However they have gone 7-12 and now sit 1.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs. The Brewers are coming off a series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Matchups:

Friday 7:10 PM: Brandom Woodruff vs Jacob Faria
Saturday 6:10 PM: Zach Davies vs Alex Cobb
Sunday 1:10 PM: Jimmy Nelson vs Chris Archer

Brandon Woodruff makes MLB debut on Friday night.

Brandon Woodruff has been very good in AAA. He has a 4.46 ERA and 4.43 FIP. That doesn’t sound great, but Colorado Springs is a very tough environment to pitch. Woodruff was ranked #43 by Baseball America in their Midseason Top 100 and #93 by MLB.com in their midseason update. Woodruff has a 22.4% strikeout rate and 7.7% walk rate. According to Baseball America Woodruff throws a 93-94 mph fastball with good sinking action. An above average slider is his breaking ball of choice. An average changeup is his third offering.

Zach Davies has a 4.42 ERA and 4.65 FIP in 124.1 innings. Davies has a below average 16.0% strikeout rate, but his 7.2% walk rate is also above average. He’s has had fairly neutral splits allowing a .339 wOBA against left handed batters and a .342 wOBA against right handed batters. However he has allowed a .204 ISO to left handed batters that is over .050 higher than against right handed bats. Davies is coming off seven strong innings against the Chicago Cubs where he allowed three runs.

Jimmy Nelson might have the most under the radar great season this year. He has a 3.37 ERA and 3.11 FIP in 133.2 innings. He has a 27.2% strikeout rate and 5.8% walk rate. His strikeout rate is up almost 10% from last year while also walking almost 5% fewer. In his last start he allowed two runs in six innings against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Brewers bullpen will give you chances.

As a group the Brewers bullpen has a 4.30 ERA and 4.38 FIP. They get their fair share of strikeouts with a 23.6% strikeout rate. However they will walk a few. Their 11.2% walk rate leads the majors.

Corey Knebel has picked up 20 saves. He’s struck out an absurd 42.3% of batters, but also has walked 14.4% of batters. Knebel has a 1.61 ERA and 2.27 FIP in 50.1 innings.

Josh Hader has been their second best performer in a small sample. Since getting his first taste of MLB action he has thrown 20.0 innings. He has a 0.90 ERA and 3.80 FIP. He has a 29.6% strikeout rate and 16.1% walk rate.

Anthony Swarzak was their deadline bullpen addition. In 52.1 innings he has a 2.24 ERA and 2.48 FIP. He has struck out 28.9%, but unlike many of the Brewers bullpen arms has an above average walk rate of 7.0%.

The Brewers bullpen is relatively well rested. None of their pitchers have thrown back to back days and they had an off day Monday.

The Brewers lineup has a lot of power.

The Brewers offensive stats look very similar to the Rays. They have a .250/.322/.437 line and 93 wRC+. They just have the advantage of one of the best offensive parks in the majors.

The Brewers offense has been led by former Red Sox Travis Shaw. Shaw has hit .291/.363/.560 line and has a 133 wRC+ in his breakout season. He has hit 24 homers.

Eric Thames got off to a great start upon his return from playing in the Korean Baseball Organization. For the season he has hit .249/.368/.534 and has a 129 wRC+. He leads the team with 25 homers.

Ryan Braun is still a good hitter. He has a 122 wRC+ and joined by Domingo Santana (120 wRC+), Jesus Aguilar (121 wRC+), and Manny Pina (105 wRC+) add to the group of above average offensive performers.

Since the all-star break the Brewers offense has really struggled to put runs on the board. They have hit .231/.299/.371 and their 71 wRC+ is the lowest in the majors. They have only managed 65 runs in 19 games or 3.42 runs per game.

The Rays take their momentum home from Houston.

The Rays had a rough bump in the road after losing their first three games against the Yankees last week. They rebounded to win a four game series against a very good Houston Astros team.

They need to keep winning series. This is a series they should have the ability to win all three games. If they keep winning series they will end up where they want at the end, but a sweep sure would be swell.


Article first appeared on www.draysbay.com