The Kansas Royals and the Milwaukee Brewers are set to face off on Tuesday in the second game of a two-game set.
The Brewers are coming off a series sweep in Cincinnati over the weekend that saw their division lead increase to seven games in the National League Central. The sweep helped the Brewers continue to prove that the National League Central is their division to lose.
In Kansas City, Mike Matheny’s club has fallen to the bottom of the American League Central, which is arguably the sport’s worst division. The Royals started the season pretty well, but they have fallen off and find themselves close to 20 games under .500 as the trade deadline approaches.
Brewers Division Lead 101
Since acquiring shortstop Willy Adames from the Tampa Bay Rays in late May, the Brewers have won over two-thirds of their games despite not having two-time gold glove-winning second baseman Kolten Wong because of various injuries. The Brewers are expecting Wong to return in the coming weeks and the veteran is only going to lengthen their lineup and improve their infield defense.
The Brewers pitching staff is the biggest reason why they have been able to take a commanding lead in the division. Behind the lead of Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes, the Brewers have the third-best team ERA in MLB behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. The Brewers are also tied with the Dodgers for best opponent batting average this season at .212 entering Monday.
Pitching and defense tends to win games; the Brewers are among the league’s best in both categories and it’s no surprise to see their lead continue to grow in the division. Here is a preview of Tuesday’s matchup between the Kansas City Royals and Milwaukee Brewers.
Pitching Matchup: Mike Minor vs. Eric Lauer
Taking the mound for the Royals is veteran 33-year-old lefty Mike Minor. The Royals have been disappointed in Minor’s performance this season. Minor boasts a 6-8 record with a 5.67 ERA in his 19 starts this season and owns an American League worst 67 earned runs this season.
Minor has struggled in each of his last four starts, which includes at least four earned runs in each of his outings. In his most recent start on July 10 against Cleveland, Minor went just four innings — tying his shortest outing this season — and gave up six earned and took the loss.
Minor has been effective at eating innings for the Royals this season, the problem is that many of his innings have come with lots of runs being scored against him, so he’s not giving Kansas City much of an opportunity to win games.
Eric Lauer is taking the ball for the 10th time as a starter for the Brewers on Tuesday afternoon. The 26-year-old lefty has a 3-4 record this season with a 3.83 record with 54 strikeouts and 24 walks.
Tuesday is the first start Lauer is making post-All-Star Break, but he ended the first half with one of his best starts of the season against the Reds. On July 9, Lauer went 6.0 innings and gave up just one earned run despite walking four Reds hitters and striking out three.
Lauer has gone at least six innings in each of his last three starts and has given up just two total earned runs over those three starts.
Lauer has been masterful this season at limiting hard-hit rate. His hard-hit rate ranks in the 92nd percentile among all MLB pitchers this season and his average exit velocity against is in the 74th percentile this season.
This is an easy one to pick. The Brewers have been one of the best teams in baseball since late May and Lauer has started to point things together more consistently on the mound in his last couple of starts.
Meanwhile, Minor has continued to struggle this season and the Brewers’ offense appears to be heating up a little bit with the resurgence of Christian Yelich over the weekend against the Reds.
Take the Brewers on Tuesday and take them on the run line too.