The news that three-time All-Star closer Josh Hader and three other Milwaukee Brewers relievers have tested positive for COVID is certainly a big hit for the NL Central leaders at an inopportune time.
The Brewers start the week with three home games against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who they swept in Pittsburgh last week. But after that series, a huge weekend series looms.
The San Francisco Giants, who own MLB’s best record entering this week, visit Milwaukee for three games. Heading into tonight’s action, the Brewers (63-43) are 3.5 games behind the Giants (66-39). The Brewers have the best road record in the league, but having homefield advantage in October would be valuable. So winning this weekend’s series is a must, especially with Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and an improving Brett Anderson on the mound opposite Logan Webb, Anthony DeSclafani, and Johnny Cueto.
In the latest MLB betting odds at FanDuel Sportsbook, the Brewers come in at +1200 to win the World Series, +440 to win the NL pennant, and -1450 to win the NL Central. They are third behind the Dodgers (+145) and Giants (+430) in the NL, and they are sixth behind the Dodgers (+290), Houston Astros (+480), Chicago White Sox (+600), Giants (+1000), and Tampa Bay Rays (+1100) for the World Series.
Hader and fellow relievers Hunter Strickland, Jake Cousins, and Jander Gustave have all been placed on the COVID list. The former three are all confirmed as testing positive for COVID. Hader, Strickland, and Cousins must be quarantined for a minimum of 10 days, while Gustave must be quarantined for a week due to contact tracing.
Brew Crew built to win even with losses
Losing arguably the best closer in the game and three other relievers who have a combined 0.75 ERA in 36.2 IP in 33 appearances is not ideal as we enter the last two months of the regular season.
But if any team can deal with this kind of situation, the Brewers can. That is, of course, if this is where the issues stop. Along with it hitting Milwaukee’s bullpen, former NL MVP Christian Yelich also tested positive. Also, utility man Jace Peterson is once again active after being out due to a contact tracing.
Brewers backers can still breathe easy for now due to the bullpen depth that the Brewers have. Hader is one of four relievers with 40 or more appearances, with Brad Boxberger, Brent Suter, and Devin Williams also hitting that mark. And that trio has combined to go 19-8 with a 2.84 ERA in 130.1 innings of work.
Boxberger has three saves this season and had 41 with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2015. So he is likely the closer with Hader out.
The Brewers also added two experienced bullpen arms before the MLB trade deadline. They acquired John Curtiss from the Miami Marlins and picked up Daniel Norris from the Detroit Tigers. Curtiss allowed five runs in his Brewers debut on Saturday against the Atlanta Braves, but he posted a 2.48 ERA in 35 appearances for the Marlins this season.
It also doesn’t hurt that the Brewers have a stellar starting rotation. With Anderson’s recent uptick in form, the Brewers have no starters with an ERA above 3.78. Burnes, Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta are the best of the bunch, but Anderson (1.34), Adrian Houser (2.05), and Eric Lauer (2.21), who has 10 starts in his 14 appearances, all have low ERAs between July and August.
Milwaukee Brewers Pitching Rotation Stats (As of Sunday, August 1)
- Brandon Woodruff (7-6, 2.26 ERA)
- Corbin Burnes (6-4, 2.46 ERA)
- Freddy Peralta (8-3, 2.17 ERA)
- Adrian Houser (7-5, 3.69 ERA)
- Brett Anderson (4-5, 3.67 ERA)
- Eric Lauer (3-4, 3.78 ERA)
This would also be a good time for the bats to find a little more consistency. At home, the Brewers average only 4.21 runs per game, while they average 4.83 runs on the road. The disparity has been especially glaring over the last few weeks. Over their last nine home games, the Brewers have scored 28 runs, an average of 3.1 runs per game. But over their last nine road games, they have scored 66 runs, an average of 7.3 runs per game.
Favorable schedule should see Brewers maintain cushion in Central
Other than the series against the Giants, the schedule heavily favors the Brewers to be able to withstand these absences.
Milwaukee Brewers Upcoming Schedule
- Pittsburgh Pirates (home – 8/2 to 8/4)
- San Francisco Giants (home – 8/6 to 8/8)
- Chicago Cubs (away – 8/9 to 8/12)
- Pittsburgh Pirates (away – 8/13 to 8/15)
- St. Louis Cardinals (away – 8/17 to 8/19)
Provided this outbreak doesn’t take down more key arms or bats, there is no reason why the Brewers should struggle with navigating the next couple of weeks. Even the series against the Giants lines up about fairly well. The Brewers will avoid Kevin Gausman, whose next start is Wednesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
If you are feeling hesitant about backing the Brewers over the next couple of weeks, there is no reason to be. At least for now.
The post With pen still deep, no caution needed when backing Hader-less Brewers first appeared on Betting News.