Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
The Red Sox (2-1) entertain former American League rivals the Milwaukee Brewers (1-2) in a three game set that begins with Friday afternoon’s home opener at Fenway Park. The Sox, winners of the season’s first series in Baltimore, will receive their World Series rings before the 2:05 scheduled first
The warm reception for tarnished former MVP Ryan Braun from the Milwaukee faithful was the talk of baseball earlier in the week. In the long-standing tradition of fans rooting for laundry, Braun, having served a 65-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy, was given a standing ovation at Miller Park.
Roenicke’s club was held to just four runs in a season-opening three game set against the Braves, escaping with the first game behind ace Yovani Gallardo, who threw six shutout innings.
However, Milwaukee does boast a formidable offense, led by Braun, All-Stars Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura, the underrated Jonathan Lucroy and new sensation Khris Davis. 36-year old Aramis Ramirez can also bop when healthy.
BSI: Ryan Braun’s reception in Milwaukee on Opening Day has been a major story. From your perspective, how is the fan base feeling about the former MVP? Just happy to have him back? Surprisingly, the team did go over .500 while he was serving his suspension last year.
RTB: I think the majority of Brewers fans have forgiven Braun and are just happy he’s back in the lineup. Despite what he’s done in the past, he’s still going to help the team and that’s the most important thing to fans. However, I found it very surprising that people chanted “MVP” during his first at-bat on Opening Day. I didn’t agree with that, but it is nice to see that the fans have moved on.
BSI: Another emerging story has been Khris Davis. From what I’ve read, he was never really considered a top prospect, despite good minor league numbers, and then last year he fills in for Braun and blows up. What are your expectations for Davis?
RTB: Last week, I asked Davis if it bothered him that he was never considered a top prospect. He said no, and mentioned that he loves being the team’s secret weapon. Even though Davis broke out last year, not many teams are aware of his power. That being said, I think Davis will hit 20+ home runs with an average around .265. Once pitchers start figuring him out, he’ll strike out on a more consistent basis, but his power will still be there
BSI: What can you tell me about Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta, who we’ll be seeing the first two games of the series? I’ve got Estrada on my fantasy team and I’ve been impressed with his performance when healthy. Peralta was a little less impressive last year, but he’s still just 24 years old. And then you’ve got Gallardo, who we’ll be seeing on Sunday, coming off a great Opening Day start. Do you expect him to rebound in 2014?
RTB: If Estrada and Peralta can pitch up to their potential in 2014, the Brewers have a legitimate chance at the postseason. Estrada has the ability to be an All-Star and he showed that in the second half of 2013, when he posted a 2.15 ERA after the All-Star break. Peralta, on the other hand, shows flashes of brilliance and then has a disappointing outing. Consistency is a big issue for him. He needs to limit his walks and keep the ball in the yard in order to be successful this season. As for Gallardo, his Opening Day start was encouraging. He threw his slider and curveball more than he has in the past and that seemed to help him. His big issue is pitch count and putting batters away. His out-pitch needs to be more effective if he expects to bounce back.
BSI: Who’s your all-time favorite Brewers player? I’m partial to Rob Deer.
RTB: My all-time favorite Brewers player is someone who is still on the roster: Rickie Weeks. I know he’s not the most popular player in Milwaukee anymore, but his recent struggles haven’t deterred me. His bat is one of the quickest in baseball and when he’s on his game, he’s fun to watch.
Jake Peavy (RHP, 12-5, 4.17) is on the notch for the Red Sox in Friday’s home opener (2:05 pm), with Marco Estrada (RHP, 7-4, 3.78) countering for Milwaukee. Clay Buchholz (RHP, 12-1, 1.74) makes his first start of the season in the Saturday evening (7:10 pm) tilt, opposite Wily Peralta (RHP, 11-15, 4.37). And Jon Lester (LHP, 0-1, 2.57) faces off against Yovani Gallardo (RHP, 1-0, 0.00) in a battle of aces in the series finale on Sunday at 1:35 pm.