Peralta’s decent start spoiled by Conforto

May 21, 2016

RECAP

> It wasn’t great, but it was a step in the right direction for the struggling Wily Peralta. Unfortunately, he gave up a key hit at the wrong time that cost him a potential win in the Brewers’ 3-2 loss to the Mets on Friday night. Milwaukee ran into lefty Steven Matz (6-1, 2.81 ERA), one of the hottest pitchers in baseball at the moment, and couldn’t do much to back Peralta (2-5, 6.99 ERA).

The Brewers did jump on him in the first inning, as Chris Carter slugged his thirteenth home run of the year, a two-run shot to right center. That would be all for the offense, however. Matz dominated the rest of the way, throwing seven innings of two-run ball while giving up just three hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out eight.

Peralta managed to hold the lead for a while, but his 2016 struggles once again showed up in the middle innings. He bent but didn’t break in the second when he gave up an RBI groundout to Rene Rivera. The Mets ambushed him in the sixth, however, as after Asdrubal Cabrera led off the inning with a single, Michael Conforto hit a go-ahead, opposite field two-run homer.

> Honestly, this was looking like Peralta’s best start of the season until Conforto gave the Mets the lead. He ended up not making it through the sixth, finishing at 5 2/3 innings while giving up three runs on six hits. Peralta walked two and struck out a season-high six. It was encouraging to see him making effective use of his heavy sinking fastball, as he’s still struggling to find his slider in 2016 (though he did throw a few good ones tonight).

Unfortunately for Peralta, this might not be enough to keep him in the rotation when Matt Garza returns. With the rest of the rotation’s pitching headed in the right direction as of late, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Peralta getting the boot when the time comes.

NEWS

> Domingo Santana was placed on the 15-day disabled list today with right shoulder soreness. Santana’s ailing shoulder has kept him out of the lineup multiple times over the past few weeks and, according to Craig Counsell, he hasn’t been making much progress.

In a corresponding move, the Brewers recalled outfielder Keon Broxton from Triple-A Colorado Springs. Broxton was Milwaukee’s opening day center fielder in 2016, but he was quickly optioned after going 0-for-16 with 11 strikeouts in his first stint in the Majors. In 25 games at Triple-A, however, Broxton hit .301 with seven home runs, 18 RBIs, and 15 stolen bases. The potential is obviously there, so hopefully he can figure it out at the big league level this time around.

> Ryan Braun was absent from the lineup once again today, likely because of the stiff back that held him from each of the two games prior. Counsell said he could return to the lineup this weekend against the Mets, but if that doesn’t happen, a trip to the 15-day DL could be in order.

With Santana on the DL and Braun shelved indefinitely at the moment, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Alex Presley will likely both see even more playing time in the coming days. Broxton and Ramon Flores will receive an increase as well.

> Nieuwenhuis and Carlos Torres, each of whom were members of the Mets at some point last season, received their 2015 National League championship rings upon returning to Citi Field.

> The Yankees signed ex-Brewer reliever Neal Cotts to a minor league deal today. The Brewers could have used him this season with their lack of reliable left-handed relief until Will Smith returns.

> The Rays released catcher Carlos Corporan, another former Brewer.

STATS

> Broxton went 0-for-2 in his first big league start since being demoted on April 16, extending his hitless streak to 0-for-18 to start his big league career.

> Chris Capuano, who pitched for the Mets in 2011, struck out five batters in two hitless innings of relief.

> Matz won his sixth consecutive start. Since getting lit up by the Marlins in his season debut, Matz is 6-0 with a 1.35 ERA.

> The Brewers will look to even up this three-game series tomorrow at 3:10 p.m. CT, but will have to face the ace of the Mets’ aces in Jacob deGrom (3-1, 2.50 ERA). Milwaukee will counter with Zach Davies (1-3, 5.58 ERA), who is coming off his best start of the season in which he allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings against the Padres.

In four career starts against the Brewers, deGrom has been dominant, going 3-1 with a 1.38 ERA. Davies has never faced the Mets.

Advertisements

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

May 20, 2016

RECAP

> 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.

NEWS

> 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.

STATS

> 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

RECAP

> 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.

NEWS

> 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

RECAP

> 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.

NEWS

> 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.


Carter blasts Brewers past Angels

May 4, 2016

RECAP

> If this first month of baseball is any indication, Chris Carter is going to be a fun player to watch at Miller Park this summer.

The Brewers rode two moonshots from Carter, as well as Jonathan Lucroy’s first home run of the season, to a 5-4 comeback win over the Angels. Similar to last night, Angels starter Nick Tropeano (1-1, 3.42 ERA) held down the Crew for the most part through the first couple of innings before the bats came alive in the middle innings.

The Angels jumped on Brewers starter Junior Guerra (1-0, 6.00 ERA), who was making his first big league start, early, as Albert Pujols hit an RBI single in the first inning. They scored three more in the third on Rafael Ortega’s RBI single and a two-run single from Mike Trout to put Milwaukee down 4-0 early.

Carter cut that deficit in half in the third inning with a 439-foot two-run bomb off the scoreboard following a two-out single from Lucroy. Then, in the fifth inning, Tropeano issued a one-out walk to Jonathan Villar, setting the stage for Lucroy’s game-tying two-run blast. The next batter, Carter, went back-to-back, sending his second moonshot of the game– this time 431 feet– to deep left field to give the Brewers a one-run lead.

The bullpen was stellar in holding that lead. Despite allowing a hit and walking two batters, Michael Blazek threw a scoreless seventh inning. Tyler Thornburg did the same in the eighth, and then Jeremy Jeffress had a 1-2-3 ninth for his seventh save of the year.

> He looked shaky early on, but Guerra settled down in the middle innings and earned his first career win. He went six innings while giving up four runs on seven hits. Guerra walked one and struck out three. Despite the fact Angels hitter barreled him up a few times, Guerra flashed a mid-90’s fastball as well as a good splitter, which is considered to be his best pitch. If he can manage to control damage the way he did tonight, he could remain in the rotation until Matt Garza returns from the disabled list. And who knows, maybe he could stay even after Garza comes back, as damage control is something more than half of the Brewers’ rotation have been unable accomplish this season.

> Guerra’s mound opponent, Tropeano, hung a few pitches at the wrong time, and the Brewers’ offense– Carter in particular– made him pay. He went five innings while giving up five runs on five hits. Tropeano walked five and struck out six.

NEWS

> With the bombs the Brewers were sending into the seats today, it was easy to forget that Ryan Braun had the day off. Craig Counsell said it was part “maintenance,” part reaction to a number of “aches and pains,” and part of the bigger picture in trying to keep Braun healthy following his offseason back surgery.

Counsell declined to comment any further on the “aches and pains” he mentioned, but hopefully it’s nothing serious. Braun has shown a huge return to form early this season following the back surgery, as he’s in the top 10 in the National League in batting average (.372), OPS (1.048), and RBIs (21).

STATS

> It took Lucroy until a few days into May to hit his first home run of the season. Some have been criticizing his lack of power recently, but he’s really never been a full-on power hitter; his career-high is 18, which he set in 2013. In fact, he only hit 13 during his MVP-caliber 2014 season, but he also slugged a league-leading 53 doubles to make up for it.

But I don’t think we’re in any place to complain about Lucroy’s production at the moment, because he’s actually been a key part of the lineup this season. Coming into today’s game, he was hitting .309, and raised that to .321 after going 2-for-3 today. It’s encouraging to see him hitting consistently after a bit of a down year in 2015 (that still wasn’t terrible; he hit .264), but he’s shown that his lack of production can be attributed to injuries– including the early-season concussion– that plagued him all year.

> Carter had a combined 870 feet of home run distance today.

> The Brewers will go for a series sweep with Zach Davies (0-3, 8.78 ERA) on the hill. Davies will hope to break the inconsistencies that have plagued all Milwaukee starters not named Jimmy Nelson this season and have a decent outing. He’ll be countered by left-hander Hector Santiago (2-1, 3.34 ERA), who I’m pretty sure is currently the only pitcher in the Majors who throws a screwball. First pitch is at 12:40 p.m. CT.


Nelson stars on mound, at plate vs. Angels

May 3, 2016

RECAP

> It ended up being much closer than it should have been, but the Brewers’ 8-5 win over the Angels on Monday night was a big one nonetheless.

Jimmy Nelson (4-2, 3.05 ERA) held down a tough Angels lineup, as he went seven innings while giving up two runs on four hits. He walked three and struck out six in what was probably his best start since his first of the season against the Giants. The only damage against Nelson came from Mike Trout, who had an RBI single in the first inning and a solo home run in the sixth.

Nelson was also locked in at the plate against Angels starter Jered Weaver (3-1, 5.40 ERA), as he notched two hits off the soft-tossing righty. One of those was an RBI single in the fifth inning that came in the midst of the Brewers’ first four-run rally. Yadiel Rivera also had an RBI single in the inning, and then Jonathan Lucroy capped it off with a two-run double to give the Brewers a 4-1 lead.

The Brewers had another four-run inning in the sixth. After Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Aaron Hill started the inning with back-to-back singles, Rivera hit another RBI single to knock Weaver out of the game. Jonathan Villar hit a two-run double later in the inning, which was followed by a Ryan Braun RBI single.

Both of those hits turned out to be valuable insurance for the Brewers, as the bullpen made it interesting after Nelson’s departure. Michael Blazek gave up RBI hits to Albert Pujols and C.J. Cron in the eighth before Jeremy Jeffress struggled in a non-save situation in the ninth. After giving up a two-out single to Rafael Ortega, Trout drove him in with an RBI single after he advanced on defensive indifference. Pujols continued the rally with a single, and then Jeffress walked Kole Calhoun to bring the go-ahead run to the plate in Ji-Man Choi. Jeffress regrouped and induced a groundout to seal the win.

> This series is off to a better start than the Miami series, in which the Brewers lost two of three. Adam Conley no-hit the Brewers through 7 2/3 innings, but Don Mattingly pulled him– with the no-hitter still intact– at 116 pitches. Lucroy broke up the no-no in the ninth off reliever Jose Urena, and the Brewers turned that it into a three-run rally, but still lost 6-3. Milwaukee also fell in the second game 7-5 thanks to a blow-up start from Chase Anderson, but outslugged the Fish 14-5 in the third game. Chris Carter homered twice and Domingo Santana also had a solo shot while Villar, Braun, Nieuwenhuis, and Martin Maldonado also had RBIs. Wily Peralta had another terrible start, but still received the win thanks to his offense.

NEWS

> Junior Guerra will start tomorrow in place of Taylor Jungmann, who was optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs last week.

Guerra is an interesting story. He received a 50-game PED suspension in 2008, and then played anywhere he could find employment, including leagues in Kansas, Italy, Venezuela, and Mexico. Guerra finally made it to the majors last year with the White Sox but made just three relief appearances. This will be his first big league start.

Guerra’s stats at Triple-A this season aren’t impressive: he owns a 4.63 ERA over four starts. However, the Brewers’ top pitching prospect, Jorge Lopez, has struggled to an 8.79 ERA so far this year in his first Triple-A action, otherwise he likely would have gotten the nod. According to Craig Counsell, Josh Hader– who has dominated at Double-A Biloxi to the tune of a 0.78 ERA thus far– did not receive consideration for the start.

The Brewers designated left-handed reliever Sam Freeman for assignment to make room for Guerra on the 25-man roster. Freeman has good stuff, but struggled to harness it in a Brewers uniform, as he posted a 12.91 ERA (11 runs in 7 2/3 innings). He also walked more batters (nine) than he struck out (eight).

> As Braun is off to a hot start this season, many are speculating that he could make a good trade piece for the Brewers somewhere down the line. There is a clause in Braun’s current contract extension that allows him to choose the teams he can block trades to every season; this year, he can veto a trade to every team in baseball except the Angels, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Marlins, and Padres.

STATS

> Braun is currently fourth in the league in batting with his .372 average.

> Carter’s seven home runs tie him for seventh in the league in the category.

> Nieuwenhuis has brought his average up to .279. He could be the Brewers’ short-term answer in center field.

> Trout, widely regarded as the best all-around player in baseball, showed the Brewers why on Monday: he went 4-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored, as well as a stolen base. He’s played just four games against Milwaukee in his career, but over that span, he has destroyed the Brewers, as he’s hitting .600 (9-for-15) against them.

> I’m pretty sure Weaver didn’t throw a pitch harder than 84 MPH today. His decline in velocity over the past few years has been insane; it’s hard to believe he was once one of the premier strikeout pitchers in baseball. After keeping the Brewers off balance through the first four innings, they finally got to Weaver in the fifth. He ended up going 5+ innings while giving up seven runs on 11 hits. Weaver walked two and struck out three.

> Tomorrow’s match-up is Guerra (0-0, -.–) against Nick Tropeano (1-0, 2.11 ERA). Neither pitcher has faced the opposing team.


Bats heat up too late in loss to Cubs

April 27, 2016

RECAP

> 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.