Toronto at Milwaukee, June 24-26

Friday, June 24 2022 @ 11:30 AM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

What's made Milwaukee famous has made a loser out of... better men than me.

Way back in the Olden Days, the Milwaukee Brewers were division rivals. Troublesome ones, too, despite the fact that the teams were rarely in actual competition for divisional supremacy. The Brewers best run when they were an AL team came in the years while the Blue Jays were just getting started - the years from 1978 to 1982, ending in their seven game loss to the Cardinals in the 1982 World Series. The Brewers did bolt out of the gate in 1987, starting the season 20-3 and opening up a five game lead by early May. They then lost 18 of their next 20 and never sniffed first place again. But they made a complete nuisance of themselves in that fateful final week, sweeping three from the Jays in advance of the doomed showdown with Detroit.

And in 1992, the Brewers made a late season charge, winning 12 of 14 to go into the final weekend two games back of Toronto and needing a little help from the Tigers. They didn't get it. Both teams won on Friday, but the Jays would sweep the Tigers that final weekend and it didn't even matter what the Brewers did. Dave Stieb, in the miserable final season (4-6, 5.04) of his long run with the Jays, had started twice against the Brewers back in May and beaten them both times. The Jays would need them both as it turned out. Stieb's May 3 three-hitter was the 103rd, and last, complete game of his career.

But the Brewers moved on, first to the AL Central in 1994, and then to the National League in 1998. We haven't seen much of them since. Which may be just as well - they hold a rather commanding 163-121 lead in the all-time rivalry. The teams have met five times since the Brewers changed leagues and the Brewers have generally had their way with them. The last time they matched up was back in 2017 - they split the series, both teams winning a pair of games in the other team's ball park. That was back when the Brewers played at Miller Park. It's American Family Field now. An insurance company now has the naming rights. That seems wrong - a brewery made so much more sense. What made Milwaukee famous, and all that.

This year's Milwaukee team is tied for first place in the NL Central. On the one hand, that's not too surprising - they did win 95 games last year. They lost to the Braves in the Division Series, scoring just 6 runs in the four games, and getting shut out twice.  But when you look more closely at this year's team, you begin to wonder how this is even happening. Last year's team succeeded in large part because of the outstanding work turned by all five starting pitchers - Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser, Eric Lauer. They went 47-31, with ERAs ranging from 2.43 to 3.22. Only Burnes has managed to duplicate that performance. Lauer and Houser have been ordinary inning-eaters, Woodruff and Peralta are on the IL. Even the bullpen hasn't been quite as good, although Josh Hader continues to be some kind of cheat code.

They weren't winning with their bats last season, when their offense was a little better than league average. And they're not winning with them this year, either. They score runs at a decidedly below average rate. Christian Yelich has been just an ordinary guy for three years now. Their best hitters are Willy Adames, Hunter Renfroe, and our old chum Rowdy Tellez - they're all solid enough regulars, but it's hard to see how they would be the best hitters on a first place team that also has some major issues with their starting pitching.

It is certainly nice to see Rowdy doing well, happy to be in Milwaukee, grateful for the opportunity ("I wasn't going to beat out Vlad. He's better than me.") and looking forward to seeing his old mates (who all speak very highly and very fondly of him.)

So who's pitching?

Fri 24 June - Manoah (8-2, 2.00) vs Houser (4-7, 4.24)
Sat 25 June - Kikuchi (2-3, 4.94) vs Burnes (5-4, 2.31) - Guaranteed Win Day!
Sun 26 June - Berrios (5-3, 5.11) vs Gonzalez (0-1, 7.36)