Schlemiel, schlemazel, Hasenfeffer Incorporated . . .
It's temptingly easy to dis Milwacky -- er, Milwaukee -- a small-market town that's home to Laverne De Fazio, Shirley Feeney, the Fonz, happy drunks, mutant sausage racing, folks who actually buy into the burg's Chamber of Commerce nickname ("The German Athens of America"), and a baseball team that's been irrelevant since before the invention of beer.
But you shouldn't, and we won't -- at least not when it comes to the Brew Crew.
The D-Backs take on the Brewers tonight through Sunday at Milwaukee's Chase Field-like Miller Park, kicking off Arizona's first extended road trip of the season. Those who think that equates to four easy wins for the D-Backs either 1) haven't been paying attention to the D-Backs or 2) haven't been paying attention to the Brewers.
The 2009 Brewers are essentially mirror images of the 2009 Diamondbacks. Both teams are packed with potential, but sport middling (to poor) records because they're significantly flawed on one side of the ball. Even with the team's best pitcher, and player -- Brandon Webb -- out for six weeks or so with a suspect shoulder, the D-Backs field an above-average rotation. Milwaukee's No. 1 starter is journeyman righty Jeff Suppan. 'Nuff said.
Manager Ken Macha's hard-whacking Brewers, on the other hand, have bounced back from a miserable 3-7 start despite glacial hitting from two of their key starters, first baseman Prince Fielder and catcher Jason Kendall. Arizona's best hitter to date is shortstop Felipe Lopez. 'Nuff said?
As the D-Backs (9-12) have been riding the coattails of Dan Haren and his infinitesimal ERA, the Brewers (11-10 and coming off a sweep of the Pirates) have thus far stayed afloat in the tough National League Central, thanks to veteran center fielder Mike Cameron (.309, .632 slugging percentage, five homers, 13 RBIs), budding-superstar left fielder Ryan Braun (.333, .577 slugging, five homers, 16 RBIs), and a lineup jam-packed with long-ball power. The Brewers have been at or near the top of the NL homer heap all season.
Pitching might trump hitting on paper, but if the Diamondbacks' front-line hurlers can't contain Milwaukee, the D-Backs will likely have trouble playing catch-up against a run-generating pinball machine like the Brewers. Especially on the road. And if they try, they're likely to run into closer Trevor Hoffman, in his first year in Brew City after 16 seasons with San Diego. True, the 41-year-old ain't what he used to be, and he's been out most of the season with an oblique (muscle) injury, but MLB's all-time saves leader has thrown goose eggs in his two most recent starts for the Brewers. Plus, with his famous entrance to AC/DC's "Hells Bells," he gives Miltown something it's never really had: baseball with attitude.
Here are the probable match-ups for the extended-weekend affair (D-Backs pitchers first):
5:05 this afternoon: Max Scherzer (0-2, 4.91) vs. Jeff Suppan (1-2, 7.32). Young stud who can't make it through five meets the league's prototypical innings eater.
5:05 p.m. Friday: Jon Garland (2-1, 5.47) vs. Manny Parra (0-4, 6.52). Forget the ugly numbers. Parra has a lifetime 0.69 ERA against the D-Backs.
4:05 p.m. Saturday: Dan Haren (2-3, 1.54) vs. Braden Looper (2-0, 2.45). Another journeyman, Looper's not nearly as good as these numbers indicate. Haren, of course, is much better, and could/should be 5-0.
11:05 a.m. Sunday: Yusmeiro Petit (0-2, 8.62) vs. Dave Bush (1-0, 4.50). Like Parra, Bush has had some success against Arizona. Lifetime against the D-Backs, he's 4-1 with a 4.15 ERA. Petit's a gamer, but -- sigh -- he's no Webby.
All four games will be televised on MLB TV and FSN AZ. Radio: KTAR-AM 620. More info: www.dbacks.com.
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