Thames, Crew look to take down Nova in finale

Thames, Crew look to take down Nova in finale

The Brewers hope giving Eric Thames the day off on Wednesday will give him an opportunity to rest his body and mind before they take on the Pirates in the series finale on Thursday.

"Hopefully it serves both; physical and mental. That's what days off are supposed to do," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "They're supposed to give rest for both sides. Your body gets a day of rest and you don't have to grind on the preparation as much."

Thames' dramatically improved plate discipline that he displayed in his return to the Majors this season has dwindled as of late. He is batting under .200 over the last month and striking out in nearly a third of his plate appearances. Thames was 0-for-9 this series with seven strikeouts in the first two games, and he appeared as a pinch-hitter Wednesday, providing an RBI groundout in the seventh inning.

He and the rest of the Brewers lineup will face Pirates right-hander Ivan Nova, who is coming off two straight wins and four straight quality starts. He has thrown at least six innings in all 14 of his starts this season.

"I do think he's matured on the mound now that he realizes strikeouts maybe aren't what they used to [be] to him seven years ago," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Then there's times when I think he's got the stuff where he knows, 'I've got to strike out,' and he'll go get it. More often than not, his focus is on soft contact, early outs. He's been able to follow that plan really well so far."

The Brewers will counter Nova with right-hander Chase Anderson, who holds a 1.78 ERA and 18 strikeouts in his past three starts. He hasn't fared well against the Pirates in the past, giving up 39 hits, including six homers, in 113 at-bats.

Things to know about this game

• Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen has historically produced in Miller Park, and this series has been no exception. In the third inning of Tuesday's game, McCutchen waited patiently on a slow 0-1 curveball from Zach Davies and drilled it at 104 mph into the left-field seats. Davies' curveball, which came to the plate at 73.9 mph, was the second slowest hit for a homer by McCutchen since the start of the 2015 season, according to Statcast.

• According to Statcast, Thames' chase rate has increased by roughly 7 percent over the last month, and by swinging at all those outside pitches, his whiff rate has swung upwards. It was 11.5 percent through May 20 and has increased to 16.4 percent since, while his average exit velocity has fallen off from 88.9 mph to 85.4 mph.

• Entering Wednesday's game, Milwaukee batters collectively had struck out 703 times, which ranked as the second most in majors behind the Rays. Meanwhile, Pirates batters had struck out just 518 times, the fourth lowest total in the Majors.

Carson Mason is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.