Gennett wins it for Crew after Nelson’s great start

May 25, 2016


> After being swept at the hands of the Mets, the Brewers got their series in Atlanta off to a good start, defeating the Braves 2-1. It was an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel between Jimmy Nelson (4-3, 2.92 ERA) and Julio Teheran (1-4, 2.57 ERA), but despite stellar starts from each, neither factored into the decision. Scooter Gennett ended up being the hero for the Brewers with his go-ahead hit in the eighth inning.

Milwaukee drew first blood in the fourth inning on Ryan Braun’s frozen rope to center field for his eighth homer of the year. However, the Braves tied it in the fifth on an RBI triple from Mallex Smith (who?). Atlanta’s demise came when reliever Bud Norris walked Ramon Flores and Jonathan Villar in the eighth, setting the stage for Gennett’s go-ahead RBI single. The Brewers received scoreless relief from Michael Blazek, Tyler Thornburg, and Jeremy Jeffress, who recorded his twelfth save of the year.

> Nelson didn’t have his best stuff tonight, but, as aces do, he made it work and still posted a solid start (although he was facing the worst team in the National League). He threw six innings of one-run ball, walking three and striking out eight. Just as he did in his last start against the Cubs, he had to dance around danger all night, but managed to limit the damage. One worry I still have about Nelson is the middle innings, which have given him issues at time throughout his career; Smith’s RBI triple happened to come in the fifth inning today. But, with his ERA now at 2.92 and him pitching leaps and bounds better than anyone else in the rotation, I’m in no place to complain at the moment.

Nelson’s mound opponent, Teheran, was better tonight and certainly deserved to win. The Atlanta ace went seven innings while allowing just one run on three hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out 12. This was no surprise, however, as Teheran came into today with a 2.04 ERA in five career starts against the Brewers.

> This series is already better than the Mets series was as a whole. After Wily Peralta blew an early lead in the first game, the Brewers went on to blow two more leads in the next two games. Despite the fact Milwaukee knocked around Jacob deGrom (5.0 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 7 K) on Saturday, Zach Davies (5.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) wasn’t great either. David Wright eventually hit a walk-off single off of Blazek in the ninth to give the Mets a 5-4 win.

The series finale was ugly as well. After Jonathan Lucroy’s early RBI single, Noah Syndergaard (7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 11 K) went to work and carved up the Crew. Chase Anderson (5.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K) wasn’t awful, but wasn’t good either; his damage included a solo homer from Michael Conforto in the 3-1 loss.


> Will Smith is on his way back to the bullpen, as he began a rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Brevard County today. He threw a scoreless seventh inning against Clearwater, the Class A Advanced affiliate of the Phillies.

> Corey Knebel should also be back in the bullpen before long. He threw a bullpen at Turner Field today.

> The Brewers have reportedly been connected to Cuban outfielder Yadiel Hernandez.

> Milwaukee released right-handed reliever Jim Miller today. He had pitched to a 7.41 ERA  in 17 innings for Triple-A Colorado Springs.


> I looked at Taylor Jungmann’s Triple-A stats today for the first time in a while, and they aren’t pretty. The Brewers’ first-round pick from 2011 has a 12.76 ERA in five starts since being sent back to Colorado Springs for the first time since he was recalled in June of 2015.

Jungmann was sent down in late April after going 0-4 with a 9.15 ERA in his first five starts of 2016. However, even if he’s actually pitching well, his numbers won’t show it because Colorado (need I say more?). However, a 12.76 ERA is awful, even if he’s pitching in a hitter-friendly park.

> Teheran pulled off the rare four-strikeout inning in the second today.

> The Brewers will look to take this three-gamer from the Braves tomorrow at 6:10 p.m. CT. Junior Guerra (3-0, 3.96 ERA) will look to stay hot in his first career start against Atlanta. The Braves will counter with Mike Foltynewicz (1-2, 4.57 ERA); the flame-throwing right-hander is 1-1 with a 2.16 ERA in his career against Milwaukee.

Homers from Carter, Nieu back Guerra’s 11 K’s

May 20, 2016


> The Brewers needed a win like this after last night’s 13-inning disaster. They came back and took down the Cubs 5-3 on Thursday afternoon thanks to another great pitching performance and some timely hitting. Junior Guerra (3-0, 3.96 ERA) continued to prove that he has earned a rotation spot and won’t be going anywhere when Matt Garza returns; Guerra threw seven innings while giving up three runs on five hits. He walked three and struck out a career-high 11 while holding down one of the league’s best offenses.

The Cubs got on the board immediately when Dexter Fowler hit a home run to lead off the game. Miguel Montero hit an RBI single in the second inning to give the Cubs an early 2-0 cushion. Milwaukee got one of those back in the bottom of the second when Kirk Nieuwenhuis scored on a wild pitch by Chicago starter Jason Hammel (5-1, 2.31 ERA).

Chris Carter tied it at 2-2 in the fourth, breaking out of his slump with his twelfth home run of the season. The Brewers took the lead for good on Nieuwenhuis’s two-run shot in the sixth inning. The Cubs got one more in the seventh when Fowler scored on a wild pitch by Guerra, but Milwaukee added an insurance run in the eighth thanks to Hernan Perez’s RBI single.

The bullpen was a little shaky, which brought back bad memories of Wednesday night, but in the end managed to finish the game. Michael Blazek worked around a walk and a hit in a scoreless eighth; he also struck out two. Tyler Thornburg issued back-to-back walks to Addison Russell and Montero to start the ninth, but rebounded and recorded the save.

> It was nice to see the Brewers beat up on Hammel a little bit, as the sinkerballer has typically had his way with the Crew in his career. Coming into today, Hammel boasted an 8-0 record against the Brewers with a 2.37 ERA, making this the first time he’s lost to them.

Not only that, but Hammel has also been especially good for the Cubs this season, bringing a 5-0 record with a 1.77 ERA into today’s start. He hadn’t allowed more than three runs in a start yet this season, but that changed today, as he allowed four on five hits in six innings. Hammel walked two and struck out seven.


> Ryan Braun was held out of the lineup again today due to the stiff back that kept him out of the lineup last night. It’s unrelated to the wrist issue that made him miss back-to-back games this past weekend, but is a cause for concern, as Braun had back surgery this past offseason.

> Despite the struggles of bench players Ramon Flores and Colin Walsh, Craig Counsell tells Tom Haudricourt that the Brewers aren’t giving up on them anytime soon. Flores is out of options while Walsh was a Rule 5 pick this past offseason, so the Brewers likely won’t be able to hang onto either in the minors should they choose to shed them from the big league club.

Flores, a left-handed hitting outfielder, has struggled to a .197 average in 87 plate appearances in 2016. The infielder Walsh, also a left-handed hitter, has been even worse, as he carries a meager .089 average over 60 plate appearances, although he does have a .317 on-base percentage. However, Flores would have to clear waivers if the Brewers designate him for assignment and attempt to send him down, and Walsh would return to the Athletics should the Brewers opt to get rid of him.


> Today was Thornburg’s first career big league save. It was just the second in his entire professional career, with the first coming when he was in rookie ball back in 2010.

Thornburg was tasked with the ninth due to Jeremy Jeffress having been used in four straight games; that may explain Jeffress’s blown save last night.

> The Brewers lead the Majors in taking called third strikes. It’s noticeable that they’ve been more patient this year, but they definitely need to be more aggressive in some situations, and this is proof of that.

> After managing to hold a respectable batting average for a time, Carter has come crumbling back to earth. He’s down to .245, mainly because of an 0-for-23 spell that he snapped this past Sunday. He’s also striking out noticeably more often, with 23 in his last 15 games; Carter is hitting just .179 over that stretch.

> Milwaukee’s pitching staff held the Cubs– who still own the best record in baseball despite losing two of three to the Crew– to just seven runs in this three-game series.

> Ex-Brewer Khris Davis, now playing for Oakland, had a three-dinger game the other night, including a walk-off grand slam off Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson.

I’m happy Davis is catching on with the A’s. As much as I would have liked for the Brewers to keep him, he simply isn’t a National League player, as he might have the weakest outfield arm in the Majors. The Athletics appear to have caught onto that; after a few outfield starts early in the season, they’re using him primarily at designated hitter, which is where Davis belongs.

> White Sox starter Chris Sale made Major League history today, becoming the first pitcher to start a season 9-0 while maintaining a sub-2.00 ERA; with a complete-game win over the Astros today, the lefty’s ERA fell to a minuscule 1.58. Sale has been known as one of the game’s most dominant pitchers ever since his first full season as a starter in 2012, but he seems to have taken it to yet another level in 2016.

The best part about this is, despite the fact Sale is considered to be the Sox’s ace, he doesn’t even have the lowest ERA in Chicago’s rotation. Left-hander Jose Quintana– undoubtedly one of the, if not the, most underrated pitchers in baseball over the past few years– is the White Sox’s ERA leader at 1.54

> The Brewers start a three-gamer at Citi Field tomorrow night at 6:10 p.m. CT. Wily Peralta (2-4, 7.30 ERA), possibly the worst pitcher in baseball at the moment, will go for the Brewers, while the Mets counter with left-hander Steven Matz (5-1, 2.86 ERA). The good news is Peralta is 3-1 with a 2.88 ERA in his career against the Mets, but the bad news is those stats probably don’t matter with the funk Peralta is in. Matz has never faced the Brewers.

More bad news: the Brewers will have to face the core of New York’s rotation in Matz, Jacob deGrom (3-1, 2.50 ERA), and Noah Syndergaard (4-2, 2.19 ERA).



Brewers lose heartbreaker in 13 after Nelson’s stellar start

May 19, 2016


> If this season turns out as bad as everyone thinks it’s going to, this game will be remembered as one of its defining moments.

The Brewers fell to the Cubs 2-1 in 13 innings on Wednesday night. They wasted another stellar start from Jimmy Nelson (4-3, 3.07 ERA), just as they did in his last start against the Padres. But what made this game most painful was all of the opportunities the Brewers had to end it in extra innings, and the way they served up the go-ahead run: Carlos Torres walked Travis Wood– a reliever— with the bases loaded.

The game started as a pitchers’ duel between Nelson and John Lackey (4-2, 3.31 ERA), who pretty much matched each other pitch for pitch. Lackey was the first to crack when Alex Presley drove in the first run of the game with a fielder’s choice in the fifth inning. It appeared that was all Nelson was going to need, as he weaved in and out of trouble all throughout his 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball. Nelson gave up five hits, walked four, and struck out five, but was lifted in the eighth after Jorge Soler singled and Dexter Fowler drew a walk, putting runners on first and third with one out. Tyler Thornburg put out the fire, however, inducing a Jason Heyward pop-up and striking out Kris Bryant with a curveball in the dirt.

Things looked good heading into the top of the ninth, as Jeremy Jeffress, 11-for-11 in save chances entering play Wednesday, came in to close it out. However, it was not Jeffress’s night, as he drilled Anthony Rizzo to start the inning and then gave up a single to Ben Zobrist. Tommy La Stella followed by grounding out to put runners on second and third with one out. Then, for whatever reason, Craig Counsell moved his infield back, eliminating any chance of an out at home on a ground ball. And sure enough, the next batter, Addison Russell, hit a grounder to second baseman Scooter Gennett that would have been a potential out at home had the infield been in, but instead tied the game at 1-1.

That sent the game spiraling into extra innings. The Brewers had their chances, but didn’t capitalize, so I guess the fate they received was deserved. In the top of the thirteenth, the Cubs had runners on first and second with one out against Torres. He rallied to strike out Russell, and then intentionally walked Miguel Montero to get to the pitcher Wood, as Chicago had no bench players left. After getting ahead 0-1, Torres threw four consecutive balls to Wood, walking in the go-ahead run. Milwaukee has had some embarrassing moments over the years, but this was a new level of bad.

> The Brewers had multiple opportunities to end this game, but failed every time. In the bottom of the tenth, they had runners on first and third with two outs, but pinch-hitter Ramon Flores struck out looking to end the threat.

The worst came in the bottom of the twelfth, when Milwaukee had Hector Rondon, usually the Cubs’ closer, on the ropes. Chris Carter reached on an error by the third baseman La Stella to start the inning, and then Rondon and Wood, who came on in relief, issued back-to-back walks to Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Domingo Santana. Wood induced a Hernan Perez fly out to center field that was deep enough to score Carter from third for the first out, and then got back-to-back pop-ups from Aaron Hill and Martin Maldonado to escape. After that mess, they did not deserve to win; you can’t give a team like the Cubs extra chances.

Milwaukee did get one more chance to come back in the bottom of the thirteenth, as Jonathan Villar led off the inning with a double. However, Joe Maddon used three different relievers– Wood, Neil Ramirez, and Clayton Richard– to record one out each and put the Brewers away.


> Ryan Braun had the night off to rest a “stiff back.”

> Left-handed reliever Sean Nolin appears set to undergo Tommy John surgery. The Brewers had claimed Nolin off waivers from Oakland in February.

> The Brewers will look to take the series from the Cubs today in a day game. Junior Guerra (2-0, 4.00 ERA) will go for the Crew against Jason Hammel (5-0, 1.77 ERA).

Anderson regains form vs. Cubs

May 18, 2016


> After a series of subpar performances, it looks like the Chase Anderson we saw in his first two starts of the season is back. The righty dominated the best team in baseball, as the Brewers took down the Cubs, 4-2. Anderson (2-5, 5.32 ERA) took a perfect game into the sixth inning, a no-hitter into the eighth, and looked primed for a one-hit shutout before Chicago’s bats started to heat up in the ninth. He went 8 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on three hits while walking one and striking out six.

Anderson and Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks (2-3, 3.51 ERA) exchanged goose eggs through the first three innings before Jonathan Lucroy broke the silence in the fourth with a solo home run. The Brewers struck again in the sixth on Ryan Braun’s RBI single and a two-run double from Chris Carter.

That was more than enough for Anderson, who posted undoubtedly the best start from a Brewers pitcher this season. In his last start against the Marlins, he threw three perfect innings to start the game, and he took that to the next level today with seven perfect innings. Ben Zobrist led off the eighth with a double to break up the bid, but Anderson would retire the next three in order to escape unscathed.

Anderson induced a Tommy La Stella flyout and a groundout from Dexter Fowler to start the ninth inning. He then had Jason Heyward down 0-2, and all that stood between Anderson and his first career complete game was one strike. Heyward had other plans, however, as he deposited an 0-2 fastball on the inner part of the plate into the visiting bullpen. Craig Counsell decided to stick with Anderson to see if he could finish it off, but the next batter, Kris Bryant, went back-to-back with Heyward. It was disappointing to see Anderson depart after he’d been literally a strike away from a one-hitter, although the curveball that Jeremy Jeffress finished Anthony Rizzo with during his one-out save eased the pain a bit.

> The Brewers improved to 17-22 tonight while the Cubs fell to 27-10, but Chicago is still comfortably the best team in the game. This came following a series split against the Padres, which saw some solid pitching from the Brewers for the most part. After they failed to support Jimmy Nelson in the first game, Milwaukee scored just one run– a Carter sacrifice fly– in the second game, but that was enough for Junior Guerra (6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K), who had the best start of his young career. Christian Friedrich (6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 6 BB, 4 K) took the tough luck loss for the Padres.

The third game was a roller coaster, but the Brewers eventually fell 8-7 in 12 innings. Thanks to another ugly start from Wily Peralta (4 2/3 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K), the Brewers found themselves down 6-2 headed into the seventh. They scored a pair of runs in both the seventh and eighth innings to tie the game, but back-to-back homers from Derek Norris and Melvin Upton Jr. off Chris Capuano in the top of the twelfth sealed the deal for San Diego. The Brewers did have some nice offensive performances on the day, as Jonathan Villar went 3-for-5, Lucroy 2-for-6, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis 3-for-7 with three RBIs.

The series finale was a pitchers’ duel between Zach Davies (6 1/3, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K) and Cesar Vargas (5.0 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K), but it ended in favor of the Brewers thanks to Carter’s go-ahead RBI double in the seventh. Despite the fact Davies gave up a game-tying homer to Brett Wallace in the top of the seventh, it was nice to see him flash the dominant form he showed last September.


> Peralta’s rotation spot may not be safe for much longer. Counsell declined to go into detail, but implied that he can’t continue to pitch the way he has. The Brewers’ opening day starter this year, Peralta currently owns the worst WHIP (1.99) and second-worst ERA (7.30) among qualifying Major League starters.

That’s right: he was our opening day starter this season. I don’t blame you if you forgot. The Brewers’ starting rotation has struggled mightily as a unit this season, but Peralta has been the poster boy of those struggles. I thought the same thing during his first full season in the Majors in 2013, but I’ve never been able to understood how a guy blessed with as good of stuff as Peralta can be so bad. He has a fastball with tail that consistently touches the upper-90s, a wipeout slider (though it hasn’t exactly been “wipeout” in 2016, I suppose) in the mid-to-upper 80s, and a decent change-up as well.

I might delve deeper into why he’s continued to regress this season in another article, but what it basically comes down to is his control. His strikeout percentage is down in 2016 while his walk percentage has skyrocketed. Another factor could be spin rate: in 2015, Peralta had the lowest spin rate (1,741 rpm) on his two-seam fastball in the Majors. Spin rate is a different measure of a pitch than velocity; when you hear a pitcher has “late life” on his fastball, that means the fastball has a high spin rate. It’s definitely something to look into a bit more, but that might start to answer why Peralta’s potential isn’t translating into better numbers, or at least decent numbers like he posted in 2014.

Matt Garza will come off the disabled list at some point, and someone’s going to have to move to the bullpen or head to the minors when that time comes. Unfortunately for Peralta, everyone else in the rotation seems to be headed in the right direction: Nelson is the undisputed ace, Guerra has outperformed most of the rotation while filling in for Taylor Jungmann, and both Anderson and Davies have had a few solid starts in a row. Peralta is facing a similar situation that fell upon Kyle Lohse in 2015: Lohse, the opening day starter in 2015, was moved to the bullpen midway through the season due to ineffectiveness.

> The Brewers will look to take the series from the Cubs tomorrow at 7:10 p.m. CT. Nelson (4-3, 3.51 ERA) will get the ball for the Crew while John Lackey (4-2, 3.54 ERA) will go for the Cubs. Despite a 3.35 ERA in his career against the Cubs, Nelson is 0-4 against them, including a start earlier this year when he gave up a run over 5 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, Lackey has dominated the Brewers in his career, going 5-1 with a 3.11 ERA in eight starts against them.

Brewers score run off Arrieta

April 29, 2016


> Yesterday’s game was another disappointing loss, 7-2 at the hands of the Cubs, though this one was expected, so it didn’t hurt as much. On the bright side, the Brewers did score a run off Jake Arrieta (5-0, 1.00 ERA), who, since the beginning of the second half of last year, has been as close to superhuman as one can possibly be (except for some uncharacteristically bad outings in the postseason).

Many speculated it would happen, but it didn’t: Arrieta did not no-hit the Brewers. Though this season, back-to-back starts against the Reds and Brewers would be the most opportune time to toss back-to-back no-hitters.

Arrieta gave up just the one run, but the Brewers made him work a bit. He needed 92 pitches to make it through just five innings, and the Cubs yanked him after that. It was probably a smart decision, though, as the Cubs had a comfortable lead at the time, and Arrieta had thrown 119 pitches in his previous start. He walked four and struck out six.

The Brewers’ only two runs both came courtesy of Alex Presley, who got the start in right field while Domingo Santana had the day off. Presley had an RBI double in the fifth– a rare run-scoring hit off Arrieta– and then a sacrifice fly in the ninth. The other two hits allowed by Arrieta were both to Jonathan Villar: the first was a leadoff single in the first to deny any chance of another no-hitter, then a two-out single in the fifth to set the stage for Presley’s double.

> Taylor Jungmann (0-4, 9.15 ERA) was terrible again. He lasted just 3 2/3 innings while allowing five runs on six hits. He walked three, struck out two, and hit two batters. The biggest blows were Ben Zobrist’s two-run single in the first inning, David Ross’s solo bomb in the second, and then back-to-back RBI doubles from Anthony Rizzo and Tommy La Stella in the third.


> Not surprisingly, Jungmann was optioned back to Triple-A Colorado Springs following the start. Reliever David Goforth was recalled in a corresponding move.

After a decent start against the Giants in his season debut, Jungmann completely lost it. He never seemed to recover from his second start of the season, in which he allowed eight runs in just 2+ innings to the Cardinals. Jungmann came up in June of 2015 and almost acted as the ace of the staff for a time, as he went 9-5 with a 2.42 ERA in his first 16 starts in the majors. However, he completely flamed out in September, going 0-3 with a 9.53 ERA in his final five starts of the season. The Brewers hoped he was just getting tired from the extra month of the season that minor leaguers aren’t used to, but it seems he’s just become less effective. We can only hope he’ll figure something out at Triple-A.

The Brewers haven’t announced who will take his place in the rotation yet, but with Matt Garza still out for a while longer, someone will need to bridge the gap. There are a plethora of options in Triple-A right now, such as Jorge Lopez, Hiram Burgos, and Tyler Cravy (who has already seen time in the majors as a reliever this year). If the Brewers want to stay at the major league level, Chris Capuano and Tyler Thornburg are relievers who have previous starting experience.

> Scooter Gennett is headed to the 15-day disabled list with right oblique soreness. He was held out of the lineup on Tuesday with right oblique tightness. Infielder Hernan Perez, who spent most of the season with the Brewers after being claimed off waivers from the Tigers last May, has been recalled from Triple-A to take Gennett’s place.


> The Brewers’ run off Arrieta snapped his home scoreless streak at 52 2/3 innings, which is the second longest mark in major league history. The longest was set by Ray Herbert of the White Sox, who threw 54 consecutive scoreless innings at Comiskey Park between 1962 and 1963.

> Milwaukee walked a combined 11 batters in yesterday’s game: Jungmann had three, Capuano three, Sam Freeman four, and Carlos Torres one.

> The Brewers start a three-game set with the Marlins tonight. Zach Davies (0-2, 9.72 ERA) will take the mound against power left-hander Adam Conley (0-1, 5.12 ERA). Davies’s only start against the Marlins came late last year, when he held them to a run over seven innings. In two career starts against the Brewers, Conley has a 6.75 ERA with no decisions.


Brewers rained out in Chicago; make-up TBA

April 28, 2016


> The second game of the first I-94 rivalry series of the season has been rained out. A make-up date has yet to be announced, but it sounds like it won’t be tomorrow, despite the fact the Brewers and Cubs are scheduled to play at 1:20 p.m. CT.

> I missed this last night because I wasn’t watching the game live, but Scooter Gennett was held out of the lineup due to oblique tightness. He’s listed as day-to-day at the moment; perhaps today’s extra day of rest will be beneficial to him. Utility man Yadiel Rivera got the start at second base last night in his place.

> The Brewers’ #1 prospect, Orlando Arcia, had a good night for Triple-A Colorado Springs last night that included a grand slam, his second home run of the year. Arcia has played well in his first Triple-A action so far this year, as he owns a .313 average through 17 games. He could see some time with the big league club later this year, though the Brewers’ current shortstop, Jonathan Villar, has been somewhat reliable thus far.

> With tonight’s game rained out, the match-up between Taylor Jungmann (0-3, 8.47 ERA) and Jake Arrieta (4-0, 0.87 ERA) has been pushed to tomorrow. The extra day of rest will be especially beneficial to Arrieta, as he needed 119 pitches in his no-hitter against the Reds his last time out.

Arrieta tossing another no-no tomorrow isn’t that far out of the realm of possibility, to be honest. The Brewers are 14th in the National League with a .230 team batting average, while Arrieta has carved up each of his opponents so far this year. The only pitcher to ever throw back-to-back no-hitters is Johnny Vander Meer of the Reds, who did so back in 1938.

Here’s one last ridiculous Arrieta stat: in his last 16 regular season starts, he’s 15-0 with a 0.53 ERA, including two no-hitters. He had a few blips in the 2015 postseason, but the regular season run he’s on is absolutely insane. I’d be surprised if the Brewers manage to score a run off of him tomorrow.

Bats heat up too late in loss to Cubs

April 27, 2016


> It looked promising early on, but Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Cubs turned out to be another typical Jimmy Nelson start: he breezed along through the first few innings before running into trouble in the middle innings. His final line was three runs (one earned) on just two hits over 5 1/3 innings. He walked four– which ultimately led to his ill fate– and struck out six.

The Brewers struck first on Aaron Hill’s sacrifice fly in the second inning. Nelson (3-2, 3.16 ERA) then cruised along for a while, shutting out a tough Cubs lineup through the first four innings. His control began to elude him in the fifth, however. Nelson walked Jorge Soler to lead off the inning, which was followed by an Addison Russell single. After David Ross laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up, Nelson walked Tommy La Stella to load the bases. Nelson was lucky the only damage done in that inning would be a game-tying sacrifice fly from Dexter Fowler, but luck was not on his side in the sixth. Kris Bryant reached on an error by the third baseman Hill to lead off the inning, and then, two batters later, Ben Zobrist drew a walk. Russell then hit a go-ahead two-run triple to break it open for the Cubs. Anthony Rizzo hit an RBI double in the seventh off Blaine Boyer for what would be the game-winning run.

Milwaukee wasn’t done, but it was too little, too late for the offense. Pedro Strop walked Hill to lead off the eighth, then walked Colin Walsh two batters later. Ryan Braun, in a pinch-hit appearance, hit a two-run double to bring the Brewers within one, but that was all they would get.

> Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks (1-2, 3.52 ERA) didn’t factor into the decision, but he was stellar over five innings. He gave up a run on two hits while walking one and striking out four. I have no idea why Cubs manager Joe Maddon pulled him so early– he was at just 69 pitches– but the bullpen got it done, so I suppose it doesn’t matter.

> I don’t think there’s any denying that Nelson is the de facto ace of this staff. That’s in part because the Brewers’ other young starters, such as Taylor Jungmann and Wily Peralta, have been unable to step up, but Nelson also probably has the best stuff on the club at the moment, and he can usually harness that stuff.

However, there’s been an alarming trend in four of his five starts this season, one that was also very prominent when he first became a permanent fixture in the rotation in late 2014. Following his first start of the season against the Giants– when he allowed two runs over 7 1/3 innings, arguably his best start to this point– he has struggled to make it past the sixth inning. We first saw this in his start against the Astros, which, don’t get me wrong, was a very good start in which he struck out nine over 6+ innings. Craig Counsell put him back out for the seventh in that start, but he issued a leadoff walk, prompting Counsell to turn to the bullpen. Something similar happened in his third start, which came against the Pirates. He had fired six shutout innings and his pitch count was still low, so it was a no-brainer for Counsell to send him back out for the seventh. Nelson once again walked the leadoff batter in the seventh, but this time Counsell stuck with him because the Brewers had a five-run cushion at the time. The next batter reached on an error, but then Nelson served up a three-run blast to Matt Joyce. That was the end of Nelson’s outing that night, and was a slight cause for concern because it brought back memories of when he first came up.

And even more alarming: it happened again against the Twins in his last start. After cruising through the first five innings having allowed just one run, Nelson gave up two home runs in the sixth, allowing the Twins to tie it. Counsell actually forced him to work through it that time, and he pitched into the seventh inning before being lifted with two outs.

But it happened again tonight. This time started a little earlier than usual, in the fifth inning, but it’s still the same story. The trend has been that he seems to lose his control in the middle innings, which leads to walks, home runs, or both in those innings. This is eerily similar to what would happen to him in his starts in late 2014: he’d mow through lineups for the first six innings and then lose all control in the seventh.

This is common with pitchers who don’t have the greatest of stuff– i.e., they throw maybe in the high 80’s and rely on control and breaking stuff– and a good hitting team can catch on to that and time pitches, especially by the third time through the order; Shaun Marcum was a good example of that sort of pitcher. However, Nelson is not that kind of pitcher. His repertoire is advanced enough to where he can be an ace and should be able to pitch deep into games. It’s clear that he loses command in these innings, so maybe it’s an endurance thing, though he has pitched into and completed eight innings a few times in his career. Another thing that confuses me is that, while Nelson was definitely pretty inconsistent in 2015, the middle innings didn’t seem to be as much of a problem in particular as they were in 2014.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what he does from here on out. The good news is he’s been pretty consistent as far as damage control goes and, outside of the middle innings, doesn’t seem to be having many problems this year; the 3.16 ERA is a good indicator of that. However, if this middle innings trend continues, I’d say the Brewers should start getting concerned.

> The Brewers will unfortunately be facing Jake Arrieta (4-0, 0.87 ERA), who is coming off a no-hitter against the Reds, tomorrow. He’s 4-3 with a 2.35 ERA against the Brewers in his career, but I’m guessing that ERA will be going down tomorrow. Milwaukee will counter with Jungmann (0-3, 8.47 ERA), who is off to a terrible start this season. In two career starts against the Cubs, he’s 0-2 with a 4.32 ERA.