> Despite last night’s ugly loss, the Brewers have had a successful start to the second half. They took two out of three in the first series after the second half from the first place Pirates by winning today, 4-1. The star of the show was Yovani Gallardo, who threw by far his best outing of the year today. He went seven innings while giving up one run on just four hits. Yo struck out a career-high 14 hitters and, to make it even more impressive, didn’t allow a walk. He lowered his ERA to 3.59, and, like I said after his last start, his numbers are starting to look more Yovani-like.
There wasn’t much offense today. The Pirates got one run, and you can probably guess who it came from- the extremely hot-hitting Andrew McCutchen. He hit a solo shot off Gallardo in the fourth inning to give the Bucs a 1-0 lead.
Up until the sixth inning, Pirates starter A.J. Burnett appeared to be on cruise control, like he has been so many times this year. But, the Brewers finally got to him in the sixth. Nyjer Morgan singled to lead off the inning, and Ryan Braun followed that up with a single to right field. Morgan tried to advance to third on Braun’s hit, and it appeared he would have gotten there anyway. But right fielder Garrett Jones decided to try and test Morgan’s speed, only to airmail into left field. Morgan ended up scoring on the play to tie the game, and Braun advanced to third base. Aramis Ramirez promptly drove in Braun with a single to give the Brewers a 2-1 lead. After Corey Hart struck out, Rickie Weeks hit an RBI double through the legs of third baseman Pedro Alvarez (it was originally scored as an error but was changed later). Martin Maldonado then put the icing on the cake with an RBI double to give the Brewers their fourth and final run.
After Gallardo left the game, it was up to the bullpen to preserve his stellar start, something they were unable to do for Marco Estrada and his 11 K’s last night. But Francisco Rodriguez came in and tossed a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts, and John Axford picked up his 16th save of the season.
> Even though the Pirates lost this series, I have to give them a lot of credit for how far they’ve come this year. McCutchen is hitting a Major League-leading .371 after going 3-for-4 today (two of the four hits Gallardo gave up were by him). Coming into today, Burnett had gone 9-0 over his last twelve starts, which makes it impressive that the Brewers were able to snap that streak. James McDonald is also having a great year and is developing into the ace everyone thought he would be (though the Brewers knocked him around in the first game of the series). So the Pirates have definitely put all the pieces together up to this point in the season.
They were having a similar story up until the All-Star break last year, which led to a second-half collapse. But something about them feels different this year. I don’t think they’ve playing over their heads right now; I think they’re legit for the first time since 1992.
> This series aside, the Brewers crucial stretch continues. They start a three-game set with the Cardinals at Miller Park tomorrow. Here are what the pitching matchups look like:
Lance Lynn (11-4, 3.41) vs. Michael Fiers (3-3, 2.31 ERA)
Joe Kelly (1-1, 2.70 ERA) vs. Randy Wolf (2-6, 5.80 ERA)
Adam Wainwright (7-9, 4.62 ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (9-3, 3.57 ERA)
So it’ll be Lynn vs. Fiers tomorrow. Fiers was hot entering the All-Star break, and tomorrow is his first career start against the Cards. We’ll see if he has better luck than the most of the other Brewers’ starters against the Cardinals. It’s a good thing Gallardo started in this series, because he’s 1-9 with a 7.07 ERA in his career against the Cardinals, including a 23.60 ERA in two starts this year (imagine his overall ERA without those two disasters). Wolf is on and off against them. Greinke has a 0.69 ERA in two starts against the Cards this year. But the starter who has the most success against the Cardinals is out for the year- Chris Narveson has a career ERA below 2.00 against them.
Anyway, I think Fiers will throw fine, because against the teams I’ve expected him to have trouble against, he’s done well (i.e. Dodgers, White Sox, Diamondbacks, Marlins, etc.).
> And that’s about it. Thanks for reading.