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NLDS Game 2 Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Milwaukee Brewers

Everyone take a deep breath. 

A lot of things are possible in the playoffs, but the Diamondbacks going 11-0 through three rounds was never really one of them.  No, they were always going to lose games, and they are going to lose more before the end of the playoffs.  The Brewers are a good team, and their very good pitcher looked downright amazing for eight innings.  Additionally, the Brewers made the proper sacrifices to the ancient Sumerian God of Batted Ball Luck before game 1, while the Diamondbacks did not.  It happens, and the important thing is to have a better game on Sunday.

Starting lineups for Game 2:

Arizona Diamondbacks

1. Willie Bloomquist, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Justin Upton, RF
4. Miguel Montero, C
5. Chris Young, CF
6. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
7. Ryan Roberts, 3B
8. Gerardo Parra, LF
9. Daniel Hudson, P

Since as far as I know the lineups haven't been posted yet, this is not official.  However, it seems like a logical enough lineup against a right-handed pitcher.  Don't over-think this, Gibby.

Edit: The lineup card says that Goldie will be hitting fifth, and Chris Young sixth.

Milwaukee Brewers

1. Corey Hart, RF
2. Nyjer Morgan, CF
3. Ryan Braun, LF
4. Prince Fielder, 1B
5. Rickie Weeks, 2B
6. Jerry Hairston, 3B
7. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
8. Jonathan Lucroy, C
9. Zack Greinke, P

Likewise, the Brewers are facing another right-handed pitcher, so I don't imagine their lineup will change too drastically from what they used on Saturday.  It's possible that Casey McGehee (OPS+: 69) or Mark Kotsay (OPS+: 91) could sneak into the lineup, but I'm not sure Ron Roenicke will tamper with something that worked.

Pitching Matchup for Game 2:

Daniel Hudson (16-12, 3.49) vs. Zack Greinke (16-16, 3.83)

Insightful Commentary: Daniel Hudson scares me in a way that Kennedy did not yesterday.  It's not that Hudson isn't a very good pitcher who has had some dominant starts in key situations, because he is, and he has.  Maybe it's lingering nervousness about his first inning struggles, maybe it's the fact that his last two starts haven't been great.  I don't know, but I'm nervous, and I don't think I'm alone.  Perhaps Hudson's worst start of the season came earlier this season in Miller Park, where he allowed six runs in just four innings against the Brewers. 

Just looking at ERA shows a tale of two halfs for Zack Greinke.  Until the All-Star Break, Greinke had an ERA of 5.45, but it plummeted to 2.59 the rest of the way.  Did he make some radical change at the All-Star Break to alter his fortunes?  Well, possibly, but I kinda doubt it, seeing as his FIP actually stayed pretty consistent from month to month.  He's fundamentally the same pitcher this year who was among the league's elite in Kansas City over the last two seasons.  He had some awful batted-ball luck early in the season, but his strikeout rate is the highest of his career at 10.54 per nine innings. 

When the Diamondbacks are on Offense: It all depends on how Zack Greinke copes with starting on three days rest.  Baseball Reference says that Greinke has made only one other start on short rest, going six innings and giving up two runs in that start.  In other words, we have a tiny sample size that tells us nothing.  It's reasonable to expect a short outing, given that he's not used to starting on short rest.  Thus, the strategy for the Diamondbacks should be patience.  This means a dramatic reduction in first-pitch swinging this time around (I'm looking at you, Miguel Montero), and an unwillingness to give up free outs through bunts or baserunning gaffes.  If the Diamondbacks make Greinke labor, he probably won't last longer than four or five innings, and that will put the Diamondbacks in a fantastic situation for the rest of the game.

Just like with Gallardo, keep an eye on the strikeouts for Greinke.  Gallardo racked up nine in eight innings on Saturday, and Greinke has a noticeably higher strikeout rate.  In a career that includes a Cy Young season, Greinke has never had a strikeout rate, or a swinging strike rate, that's higher than in 2011.  Greinke has elite stuff, and if his command is sharp at all I expect him to accumulate strikeouts.  That said, strikeouts are not necessarily the worst result for D-Back hitters, given that their goal is to make Greinke work hard and fight against his pitch count.  I'd rather see strikeouts than first-pitch popups.

Greinke is an elite pitcher when he's right, the only question is whether he will be right following just his second career start on short rest.  But given what Gallardo did the Diamondbacks yesterday, I'm not going to pick the Diamondbacks offense against a top-line starter until they show the capacity to get more than four hits in a game.  Advantage: Brewers.

When the Diamondbacks are on Defense: Daniel Hudson at his finest is one of the best pitchers in baseball.  He doesn't walk guys, forces bad contact on his fastball and gets swinging strikes on his slider and change.  The problem is that when he isn't at his best, he has the tendency to let things go sideways in a hurry.  His ERA of six in the first inning is hard to ignore.  Thus, I expect the Brewers to be swinging early in the game, looking for any sign of weakness from Hudson that they can exploit before he gets into a rhythm.  

Also, keep an eye on Hudson's (much-maligned) strikeout rate.  It's well documented that Hudson's strikeouts are down in 2011 as compared to 2010, but he's more or less made it work so far this year.  It's not going to work against the Brewers, who have a good enough offense that they will start making good contact at some point in this game, and Hudson will need strikeouts to strand runners and keep the game from getting out of hand.  

If he can get out of the first inning and control any postseason jitters, I honestly expect Hudson to be fine.  That's not going to stop me from worrying about it, however.  Advantage: Even.  

Intangibles: Thanks to their loss on Saturday, all of the pressure in this series has shifted on to the Diamondbacks.  Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing intangible-wise is open for debate, but I expect the Diamondbacks to come out firing here.  If there's one thing that this team has shown this year, it's been the resiliency to keep bouncing back every time people try to count them out.  I don't expect that to suddenly change now that the playoffs have started.  Edge: Diamondbacks.