NLDS Preview – Rockies vs Brewers

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Through two Game 163s and 13 innings of National League Wild Card Game play, the NL Division Series matchup between the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies is set.

The Brewers advanced by virtue of a Game 163 triumph over the Chicago Cubs which awarded Milwaukee the NL Central crown. Colorado fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers in their Game 163 bout, but clutch hitting from Tony Wolters and sensational team-wide pitching gave them the win in the NL Wild Card Game.

Neither team has played in a postseason series since 2011, and these two clubs have never faced off in a postseason series before, so this is all a new experience for the team fanbases and the large majority of players.

And if you’re a casual, unbiased fan seeking great baseball, you can find it here. Most Valuable Player candidates like Christian Yelich and Nolan Arenado lead their upstart franchises in search of their first postseason series victories in seven-plus years.

The @Brewers and @Rockies are set to face off in the NLDS. Here's a preview.Click To Tweet

Here’s what will need to happen for each team to take the NLDS crown and move one step closer to the World Series.

Milwaukee’s X-Factors:

Christian Uprising

2018’s best position player in the National League and a potential MVP, Christian Yelich has been the heart and soul of everything the Brewers have accomplished this season. It shouldn’t be a tall task to ask the big-swinging outfielder to continue his torrid offensive season, but the postseason is a brand new environment for Yelich.

Will he shake off the nerves of October baseball and lift the Brewers up? A lot remains to be seen out of the former Miami Marlin, but he’s proven everyone wrong all season long.

Oh, What a Relief it is

In Game 163, the Brewers were untouchable on the mound. Just three hits and one run allowed with Jhoulys Chacin, Xavier Cedeno, Joakim Soria, Corey Knebel, and Josh Hader throwing as the Cubs were ousted on Monday. The biggest key was Chacin, the starter, keeping things under control and making an easy transition from himself to the bullpen.

Knebel and Hader are two of the best relievers in baseball, and Jeremy Jeffress has some stuff too. However, Milwaukee’s starting rotation is less than solid, with Chacin, Wade Miley, Brandon Woodruff, and Gio Gonzalez holding down the fort, and none being certified aces.
For Milwaukee to lock this down easily, they will have to get to their bullpen quick and efficiently.

Colorado’s X-Factors:

“Coors”

The Rockies are hitting .287/.350/.503 at home and .225/.295/.370 away from Denver. The Coors effect is real, and the Coors effect has hurt Colorado all season long.

Miller Park is right in the middle of ESPN’s park factors, sorted by runs, at 15th, while Coors Field is second in baseball. We’re going to see the real Rockies when they’re playing in Milwaukee, and whether they can hit the ball effectively away from home will be a deciding factor in this series.

Their 2-1 win over Chicago in the Wild Card Game proved that they can win a road game solely on pitching, but it’s easier said than done, and the Rockies’ identity is a team that slugs the ball. They’ll need to get the bats going in Milwaukee to win here.

Score Early and Often… or just Score Early

Avoiding the Brewers’ vaunted bullpen is a major key in this series for the Rockies. As soon as the ‘pen starts infiltrating the playing surface, you can essentially count Colorado out. The only way steer clear of such is to score early while the starting pitcher is on the hill.

If the Rockies can get three or four runs up on the board before Knebel, Hader, Jeffress, and crew enter the game, they’ll be in much better shape down the road.

Head-to-Head

Better Lineup?

Brewers. Christian Yelich is insane, Jesus Aguilar has power that can’t be contained for long, Lorenzo Cain can hit anywhere, and their supplemental pieces — specifically those acquired at the trade deadline, Mike Moustakas and Jonathan Schoop — are everything you could want in auxiliary players.

Ask me tomorrow and I might have a different answer, but as of right now, the Brewers have too much offense firepower to take the Rockies. With that being said, Arenado and Trevor Story were first and second in the NL in home runs and the gap between these two offenses is slim.

Better Rotation?

Rockies. The Brewers hardly even have a rotation, opting to go with bullpen games in Game 1 and surely, later in the series. Colorado had the best rotation in the history of their club this season, headlined by Wild Card Game hero Kyle Freeland.
Freeland is backed up by Tyler Anderson, German Marquez, Antonio Senzatela, and Chad Bettis, all of whom could get postseason starts.

Better Bullpen?

Brewers. Just read what I wrote up there.

The Verdict

It might be the hardest pick in the Division Series, but give me the Brewers in a close five-game series. Pitching is the difference in the large majority of playoff series, and Milwaukee’s bullpen is the prototypical postseason relief core.

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