Since then, the team has gone 13-2 and has not only caught up to the Chicago Cubs, but has surpassed them by six games and is now only one game back of the Nationals for the top wild-card spot.
Milwaukee has, as of Wednesday, clinched a postseason berth for the second consecutive season. While the Crew is still alive in the NL Central race (1GB of STL) the most likely scenario will be that they play in the wild card game, so let’s theorize how Craig Counsell and his staff will approach this do-or-die situation.
Since the Nationals would almost certainly give Max Scherzer the ball in this game, Craig Counsell needs to construct a lineup that poses the biggest threat to one of the best pitchers in the game today. My prediction is this:
- Trent Grisham, RF
- Yasmani Grandal, C
- Mike Moustakas, 3B
- Ryan Braun, LF
- Eric Thames, 1B
- Lorenzo Cain, CF
- Cory Spangenberg, 2B
- Orlando Arcia, SS
- Brandon Woodruff, P
This is a lineup somewhat heavy on left-handed hitters, with 5 out of the 8 position players batting lefty, which is a matchup-friendly approach against the right-handed Scherzer. Look for Eric Thames to have a solid performance due to his relative career success against Max Scherzer, with a lifetime .333 average and multiple extra-base hits against the future hall-of-famer.
It might come as a surprise to some to see Cory Spangenberg, who spent most of the season in Triple-A getting the start, but the reason I predict this will happen is because of Keston Hiura’s general defensive struggles and putting the left-handed Cory Spangenberg in the starting lineup gives Counsell a potent right-handed bat to use in a pinch-hit setting in Hiura.
I predict Brandon Woodruff will start this game due to his recent success acting as an “initial out-getter” since coming back from injury. Given Milwaukee’s success at “bullpenning” during their recent surge, it would not be surprising if they went with that approach in this critical one-game playoff. Expect Brent Suter, Drew Pomeranz, and Josh Hader to pitch in this game as well. It will be imperative for Milwaukee to not play from behind, so getting two or three clean innings from Woodruff to start the game would go a long way.
The Nationals are a tough team and pose a daunting challenge with ace Max Scherzer and a potent offense led by Anthony Rendon. Yelich’s presence will surely be missed, but expect a close, low-scoring game with Milwaukee continuing their hot streak and coming out on top 4-2.