Delaying history. Fighting for its playoff life. That’s the gist of Milwaukee’s three-game set with the Yanks.
New York comes to American Family Field on Friday night for the opener of a weekend series that could help make, or break, the Brewers’ goals of playing beyond the regular season for the fifth year in a row.
Milwaukee’s status in the National League wild-card race – we’re past believing the club will sneak up on and squeeze by St. Louis, which holds a 7 1/2-game lead in the NL Central – is a story in itself. With 19 games left, the Brewers are a mere 1 1/2 games back of the reeling Padres for the final NL playoff spot.
There’s reason to be optimistic – Milwaukee plays more than half of its remaining schedule vs. teams well below the .500 mark – but no reason to dawdle looking over the 87-win-and-counting Yankees.
All three games will test the Crew’s spirit, and ideally bring about the best version of Brewers baseball.
(Let’s keep it real, we mustered that line breath held with our fingers crossed tightly.)
While these clubs have split the 12 games they’ve played since 1998 – they met most recently July 9, 2017, the rubber match of a three-game spate that Milwaukee won 5-3 – the dueling has been uneven.
New York has managed 5.33 runs per game in that stretch, almost two more than the 3.67 for the Brewers. A lot of that production probably can be attributed to a loud combination of walks and home runs. The Yankees earned 55 free passes in those 12 contests and cleared the fences 16 times. Milwaukee mostly kept pace leaving the yard, homering 13 instances, but collected 26 fewer walks.
Launching shots with runners on base, something the Brewers have done well in 2022, could be the deciding factor this weekend. Milwaukee’s 97 longballs with ducks on the pond this year is the franchise's second-best total since 1974 – the 2019 and 1982 teams each had 103 HR with runners on.
Of course, it’d be for naught unless the Brewers can stop, or at minimum slow down New York, which is one of just a couple teams that’s been more prolific than Milwaukee at slugging in two-out situations.
Reigning World Series champion Atlanta leads the majors with 81 home runs with two outs on the ledger this season. The Yankees and Brewers are second and third with 71 and 66 two-out bombs apiece.
Similarly, trying to temper the top of New York’s order should be high on Milwaukee’s list of priorities – the Yankees’ Nos. 1-5 hitters boast a .470 slugging percentage, second only in MLB to the Dodgers (.477).
But is it priority No. 1? Nope.
Our judgment gives that honor to shutting down American League MVP frontrunner Aaron Judge, who’s accounted for a sliver more than a quarter of New York’s 71 jacks with two gone (18) and has smashed 45 of his 57 big flies – tops in baseball and 19 more than the next guy – in games won by the Yankees.
In actuality, Judge is chasing 70, a feat only achieved by Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, but needs just four more home runs to tie Roger Maris’ AL single-season record. That’s a chase the Brewers can delay.
– Milwaukee and New York have succeeded this season in saving their best offense for interleague matchups. The Yanks .830 OPS in these types of games is the best in MLB. The Crew sits close behind with an OPS of .796. The bestest news? The Brewers own the best interleague record this season at 13-4.
– Christian Yelich, once the poster boy for the Brewers, returned to double-digit home runs this year after recording nine in 2021. Still, his 12 blasts make the 80 he hit during the 2018-19 seasons feel like a distant dream. The short answer to the impossible question of where Yelich’s power went must lie in his inconsistent launch angle because he’s smoking the baseball. Yeli’s 47.9 hard-hit percentage ranks third among NL lefties. The leaders are Phillies LF Kyle Schwarber (53.7%) and Braves 1B Matt Olson (50.7%).
– Brewers shortstop Willy Adames has demonstrated his power obsession all season long. Adames has ripped more extra-base hits in games started at SS (53) than all but one other player in the National League, 2021 batting champ Trea Turner of the Dodgers (61). Furthermore, Adames’ 28 such homers is five more than MLB’s games played leader Francisco Lindor, the next closest power swinger at short.
Statistics courtesy Sportradar