MILWAUKEE — Despite the pampered lifestyle of a major league baseball player — chartered planes, first-class hotels — road trips can be a drain, especially when flying from one side of the country to another.
But while all ballplayers are anxious to get back home after a long road trip, there are few MLB players who enjoy playing in their own ballpark more than Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
Nieuwenhuis is batting just .212 on the season and depending on how you look at it, that number could be a lot better or astonishingly worse when one takes a look at Nieuwenhuis' home/road splits.
On the road, Nieuwenhuis is batting a paltry .143 (16-for-130) with a home run, seven doubles and 10 RBIs. But back at Miller Park, Nieuwenhuis has been a machine, posting a .304 average (38-for-125) with nine doubles, nine home runs, a triple and 24 RBIs.
“It's pretty impressive, the numbers at home,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “They're mind-boggling, really, the differences. It's a hard one to explain, and I'm not going to be able to explain it.”
Nieuwenhuis went 3-for-18 on Milwaukee's recent road trip, appearing in five of six games against the Padres and Diamondbacks.
“I've just tried to change my mentality a little bit,” Nieuwenhuis said. “I've just been pressing a lot the last three or four weeks.
“I've tried to take it one pitch at a time and see where that takes me.”
Nobody would appreciate an offensive outburst more than right-hander Zach Davies, who takes the mound Monday looking for his fourth consecutive start in fifth in his last five decisions.
Davies hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last five outings, posting a 1.97 ERA with 21 strikeouts and six walks in 32 innings during that stretch.
“When he gets into a groove, he runs through a lineup pretty good,” Counsell said.
He'll be facing the Braves for the first time in his career.
Atlanta's scheduled starter, rookie right-hander Rob Whalen, will go for his first career victory. He made his major league debut Aug. 3, allowing four runs on four hits — including a home run — and four walks with five strikeouts over five innings of work, but didn't take a decision in Atlanta's 8-4 victory over the Pirates.
He allowed all four runs in the first inning, but settled in quickly after that.
“Obviously the game didn't start how either of us hoped it would, but the end result was exactly what we were looking for,” said Braves catcher Anthony Recker. “He did a great job getting through that first inning and then just bearing down and making pitches after that.
“I just told him we were still behind him and we were going to come back and win the game, just keep pitching your butt off and we got ya. And he did that.”
Whalen was having a strong year in Atlanta's minor league system, going a combined 7-6 with a 2.40 ERA for Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett, where he made three starts and allowed just four runs in 18 2/3 innings of work while striking out 18.