May 8, 2012: Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun (center) is congratulated by shortstop Cesar Izturis (left) and center fielder Nyjer Morgan (right) after scoring during the fourth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Series Preview: Brewers @ Mets

The Milwaukee Brewers pay a visit to the Mets at Citi Field to start the week off with a short, two-game series. Milwaukee is coming off a series win against the Chicago Cubs, and the Mets are coming home with their tail between their legs after blowing two late-inning leads in Miami against the Marlins. Ryan Braun and co. are still trying to get back on track to defend their NL Central crown; they’re only 5 games out of first, but second-to-last in the divison with a 15-19 record. The majority of their struggles have come away from Miller Park, compiling a 6-10 record on the road. For the Mets, they’re coming in with a 19-15 record, and despite losing their series in Miami, they are 6-4 in their last ten games and are only 2.5 games out of first place.

How they’re performing:

The Mets continue to show that they are one of the better hitting teams int he league; their .270 team batting average is fifth in the

May 12, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; New York Mets third baseman David Wright (5) rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the third inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

MLB, while their .343 on-base percentage is third-best, only behind the Cardinals and the Rangers. David Wright is leading the charge with his .400 average, which leads the National League. Unlike earlier in the season, New York has been able to score runs at a higher rate; Terry Collins’ squad is now 12th in the MLB with 146 runs scored, good for 4.29 runs per game. However, it’s their pitching (specifically the bullpen) that has been spoiling the offense’s late-inning rallies and turning possible wins into losses. New York’s team ERA is 4.36, ranking 24th in the league, and their WHIP is worse at 1.43, ranking 26th in the MLB. However, the bullpen’s 5.01 ERA is the main driver for the staff’s stats to look as bad as they do right now.

On the other hand, the Brewers aren’t doing anything really well, which is why they’re currently four games under .500 and fighting to stay out of the basement in the NL Central. It is clear that Milwaukee is missing the presence of Prince Fielder, and the acquisition of Aramis Ramirez hasn’t helped soften that blow at all. Their team batting average (.236) and on-base percentage (.311) both rank in the lower third of Major League Baseball. However, they’re seventh in the league with 38 home runs, allowing them to stay afloat with 141 runs scored (16th in MLB). Ron Roenike’s pitching staff, which was one of the best staffs in 2011, has not performed up to expectations so far in 2012. Milwaukee’s 4.69 team ERA is 26th in the league and their 1.46 WHIP is only better than the Royals and Rockies.

Probale Pitching Match-ups:

Milwaukee is sending two of their top starters to the bump at Citi Field in this short series, while the Mets are countering with the bottom part of their rotation.

Yovani Gallardo (MIL) 2-3, 5.35 ERA vs. Miguel Batista (NYM) 0-1, 5.89 ERA

Zack Greinke (MIL) 3-1, 3.35 ERA vs. Dillon Gee (NYM) 2-2, 4.78 ERA

Batista is starting his second game as a part of his long audition to see if he can be the filler for an injured Mike Pelfrey, and Dillon Gee will look to try and keep his pitch count down in the finale against a team which he hasn’t seen since the end of the 2010 season. Gallardo has had success in 2012 against any team not named the Cardinals, and the Mets have a shot to do some damage against Greinke, who is not a good road pitcher throughout his career (30-46 career record) and has been struggling again this year (1-1 record, 7.20 ERA).

Recent Head-to-Head Results:

In 2010, Milwaukee and New York met for 7 head-to-head match-ups, and even though the Amazins were only outscored by 7 runs in those 7 contests, they came up on the short side five times. The Mets strung those two wins together, the first one coming in the series finale at Citi Field, and then opened up their next series at Miller Park with a victory, before dropping the next three games. A different Milwaukee pitcher registered a victory in each win, and John Axford saved two of the victories, while Trevor Hoffman did so for one. R.A. Dickey was the only Met pitcher to show up more than once on the score card with a 1-1 record.

The 2011 match-ups did go much better for New York, but they were able to find some success on the road in a 2-4 showing against the Brew Crew last season. The two teams squared off in the beginning of June for their first battle at Miller Park, and the Mets took two out of three from the eventual NL Central champs, with two well-pitched games from Chris Capuano and Jonathon Niese.

Frankie Rodriguez saved both of the Met victories. When the Brewers came to town, the Mets didn’t have an answers as Milwaukee swept New York right out of Citi Field, and Frankie Rodriguez made an appearance again, but this time as the Brewers setup man thanks to a mid-season trade.

What to watch for:

The Mets bullpen will definitely be under the microscope in this short series. Miguel Batista is not expected to go deep into games, and Dillon Gee’s inflated pitch counts have prevented him from doing the same on a consistent basis this year, so the ultimate result of these games will be on the shoulders of the ‘pen. Terry Collins said that he will make a decision on whether Frank Francisco will remain the team’s closer or not before tonight’s opener, so we’ll see what happens and if the team chemistry changes if Francisco throws a hissy about it.

On the other side, watch for the fan reaction given to Ryan Braun, making his first trip to New York after winning the appeal against his 50-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs. He’s been playing very well (.306/.386/.636) after a slow spring, but you know the New York fans will talk some junk to him while he’s out in left field and up at the plate. I want to see how he plays while getting that kind of treatment. I know that he’s been playing under that microscope on the road all year long, but not in New York. Let’s go Mets!

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Tags: Brewers @ Mets David Wright Frank Francisco Miguel Batista Milwaukee Brewers New York Mets R.A. Dickey Rising Apple Ryan Braun Series Preview Zack Greinke

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