MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers are at home and had five days at the end of the regular season to rest up their pitchers for the National League Wild Card Series. But they’re sure of two things.
One, the D-backs will be a formidable foe.
Two, anything can happen in a short series.
“Everybody that’s made the postseason has an awesome opportunity ahead of them,” Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich said. “You hope to be one of those teams that gets hot and plays well and can make a deep run. Over the next month, we’ll see what we’ve got.”
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Game 1 is tonight at 7:08 p.m. ET and will air on ESPN2. All series are available in the US on MLB.TV with authentication to a participating Pay TV provider. Games are available live internationally (except in Canada). Full game archives are available approximately 90 minutes after the game ends.
Who are the starting pitchers?
D-backs: With Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly not available until Games 2 and 3, the D-backs will turn to rookie right-hander Brandon Pfaadt to start Game 1. Pfaadt was the D-backs' top pitching prospect coming into this season per MLB Pipeline, and after a rough start to his big league career, which included a pair of demotions to Triple-A, he has pitched much better of late and earned the trust of manager Torey Lovullo.
Brewers: After three straight seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA, Corbin Burnes had to battle a bit more often in 2023, but he still posted a sensational year. He led the Brewers in starts (32) and innings (193 2/3) while posting a 3.39 ERA and reaching 200 strikeouts for the third straight year. Opposing hitters batted .200 against Burnes in 2023, making he and NL Cy Young Award contender Blake Snell the only qualifying pitchers in baseball to hold opponents to a .200 batting average or lower.
What are the starting lineups?
D-backs: Over the last month, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo has settled on a pretty consistent lineup against right-handed pitchers like Burnes. One question mark heading into the game was third base. Evan Longoria has not swung the bat well of late and is usually used against lefties, but he got the nod over the lefty-swinging Jace Peterson. With their team speed and the expert eyes of first-base coach Dave McKay, the D-backs have been able to create chaos on the bases when they get on.
1. Corbin Carroll, RF
2. Ketel Marte, 2B
3. Tommy Pham, DH
4. Christian Walker, 1B
5. Gabriel Moreno, C
6. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., LF
7. Alek Thomas, CF
8. Evan Longoria, 3B
9. Geraldo Perdomo, SS
Brewers: After struggling to score for so much of the year, the Brewers’ offense transformed down the stretch with the additions of Carlos Santana and Mark Canha at the Trade Deadline and Josh Donaldson in September. The Brewers left Garrett Mitchell off the Wild Card Series roster, so they went with Sal Frelick in center for the opener.
1. Christian Yelich, LF
2. William Contreras, C
3. Carlos Santana, 1B
4. Mark Canha, DH
5. Sal Frelick, CF
6. Willy Adames, SS
7. Josh Donaldson, 3B
8. Brice Turang 2B
9. Tyrone Taylor RF
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
D-backs: The D-backs shored up one of their biggest shortcomings when they acquired closer Paul Sewald from the Mariners. Kevin Ginkel has been dominant this year as a setup man and will get the ball in the eighth inning. Two pitchers who were not on the Opening Day roster, right-hander Ryan Thompson and lefty Andrew Saalfrank have pitched in high-leverage roles over the past month. Thompson was signed in mid-August after the Rays released him, while Saalfrank was a September callup.
Brewers: The benefit of clinching early was that the Brewers spent most of the final homestand scripting reliever appearances to get everyone lined up just right for the start of the playoffs. Every plan leads to Devin Williams, who excelled in his first full season as closer to the tune of 36 saves, a 1.53 ERA and a 37.7 percent strikeout rate that ranked fourth among Major League pitchers who worked at least 50 innings. The bullpen order ahead of Williams is a little less set in stone than it was earlier in the year, but high-leverage options are plentiful. Abner Uribe, a rookie with a 102 mph fastball, has rocketed up the depth chart to pitch alongside other right-handed options like Joel Payamps, Elvis Peguero and Trevor Megill. Payamps showed signs of wear in September and Peguero is coming off an IL stint for swelling around his elbow. The primary left-hander, Hoby Milner, led the team with 73 appearances while posting a 1.82 ERA.
Any injuries of note?
Brewers: Milwaukee suffered a big blow on the eve of this series when it was announced that Brandon Woodruff would miss the Wild Card Series, and potentially more, with a right shoulder injury. He's one of two notable pitchers who won't be available. The Brewers had also hoped to have young left-hander Aaron Ashby available as a bullpen option late in the season, but he never cleared the final hump in his comeback from a left shoulder injury and his role is clouded going into next year. An X-factor is Peguero, who had a 3.38 ERA in 59 appearances before his right elbow acted up, and has the sort of power sinker that can be a useful weapon when he inherits runners on base. He hasn’t pitched since Sept. 16.
Who’s hot, who’s not?
D-backs: The D-backs as a whole did not swing the bat well over the last 10 days of the season. Lovullo said that he thought that his younger hitters needed to have more “mature at-bats” and not make so many early-count outs. On the pitching side, Ginkel has a 1.98 ERA with a 0.80 WHIP and 48 strikeouts in 41 innings since June 1.
Brewers: Runaway club MVP William Contreras finished the regular season on an 18-game hitting streak and led MLB’s primary catchers with a .291 batting average. … Canha delivered an .800 OPS in 50 games with Milwaukee, and his 33 RBIs in that stretch trailed only Contreras’ 34 in that span. … Outfielder Tyrone Taylor played himself into a prominent role down the stretch, with nine doubles, five home runs, 17 RBIs and a .912 OPS in his final 23 games of the regular season. … The Brewers’ rookies have played terrific defense but haven’t done much lately with the bat. Second baseman Brice Turang had a .515 OPS in September. Frelick had a .608 OPS in September.