Brewers unable to sweep after Thornburg’s implosion

May 5, 2016

RECAP

> It looked like the Brewers had a series sweep in the bag after the sixth inning on Wednesday, but, unlike the first two games of the series, it was the Angels who played comeback and eventually beat the Brewers 7-3. Zach Davies (0-3, 6.98 ERA) was finally good enough to win, keeping Milwaukee in the game with his first quality start of the season. However, the bullpen that had been able to shut down the Angels early in the series finally broke, and the floodgates opened late in the game for the Angels.

The Brewers struck first in the second inning on Hernan Perez’s solo shot off Angels starter Hector Santiago (2-1, 3.58 ERA). The Angels quickly answered back in the top of the third, however, on Rafael Ortega’s RBI single, which was followed by a Mike Trout RBI triple to put the Halos up 2-1. Ryan Braun tied the game at 2-2 in the fifth inning with an RBI single, and then, in the sixth, Angels reliever Cam Bedrosian uncorked a wild pitch with the bases loaded, allowing the Brewers to take the lead.

The bullpen had other plans, however. After Carlos Torres threw a clean seventh inning, Tyler Thornburg, who entered the game having had nine scoreless outings out of his ten appearances on the season, ran into a wall in the eighth. Trout waited back on an 0-2 hanging curve from Thornburg and deposited it just over the right field wall to tie the game at 3-3. Thornburg then recorded two outs but continued to struggle, allowing a Kole Calhoun single and walking Geovany Soto. C.J. Cron ripped a go-ahead RBI double to knock Thornburg out of the game, but Johnny Giavotella greeted Blaine Boyer with a two-run single, both of which were charged to Thornburg. The Angels tacked on one more in the ninth on Calhoun’s RBI single off David Goforth.

> Davies was not spectacular on Wednesday, but with the way most of the Brewers rotation has pitched this season, even an average quality start is a miracle. He went six innings while giving up two runs on five hits. Davies walked three and struck out three in what could have been his first win of 2016 if not for the failure of the bullpen.

He did outpitch his mound opponent, Santiago, who also took a no-decision. He went 5 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on eight hits. Santiago walked four and struck out four. The Brewers made him work, forcing him to throw 116 pitches in fewer than six innings.

NEWS

> The Brewers have recalled Tyler Cravy from Triple-A Colorado Springs to start in place of Wily Peralta on Friday. Peralta was placed on paternity leave today following the birth of his daughter.

Perhaps having his start pushed back will be of benefit to Peralta, who has struggled so far in 2016 to the tune of a 7.50 ERA. His replacement, Cravy, has already seen time in the big league bullpen this year, where he pitched to a 3.18 ERA (two runs in 5 2/3 innings) over five games. In 2015, Cravy threw most of his innings at the Major League level out of the rotation, and was 0-8 with a 5.70 ERA in 14 games (seven starts).

> The Crew claimed left-handed reliever Michael Kirkman off waivers from the Padres earlier today. The Padres designated him for assignment earlier this week; he had given up four runs in just 1 1/3 innings at the big league level for San Diego after posting a 4.50 ERA (three runs in six innings) for Triple-A El Paso.

Kirkman was part of the Brewers organization last year and posted a 2.81 ERA in 32 innings for Colorado Springs, an encouraging stat given the hitter-friendly environment. While his strikeout rate was good– he had a 9.6 K/9 for the Sky Sox– he struggled mightily with his command, posting a 7.9 BB/9. Control issues have followed Kirkman all throughout his professional career, though his BB/9 in 108 innings at the big league level is a much more respectable 4.6. He has a 5.25 ERA over that span and spent most of his career with the Rangers up until 2015. Kirkman will likely audition for a spot in the Brewers bullpen, which has lacked effective left-handed relief since Will Smith went down right before the season started. They designated Sam Freeman for assignment earlier this week, leaving Chris Capuano as the only southpaw in the ‘pen at the moment.

> Dave Cameron of Fangraphs suggested that the Red Sox, White Sox, and Nationals would be the best trade partners for the Brewers should they decide to part ways with Braun.

Personally, I doubt the Brewers are going to deal Braun unless they’re absolutely blown away by a potential deal. That could happen with the Red Sox and Nats, as both have pretty impressive farm systems, but I think it’s still a long shot. David Stearns hasn’t hesitated in making big trades early on in his tenure, however, so it’ll be interesting to see how it turns out.

STATS

> Trout ripped the Brewers to shreds in this series, hitting .538 (7-for-13) with two home runs and seven RBIs. He’s now hitting .522 in his career against the Crew.

> Old friend Albert Pujols also came back to haunt the Brewers, notching four hits during the series. He’s certainly nothing like he was during his glory days in St. Louis, at least average-wise: he’s hitting just .198 so for this season and hit .244 in 2015. However, he slugged 40 home runs in 2015, his highest total since 2010, so the Hall of Fame will no doubt be waiting for him at the end of the road.

> It’ll be a battle of the National League Central bottom feeders this weekend, as the Brewers start a four-game set in Cincinnati tonight. Chase Anderson (1-3, 5.55 ERA) will look to get back on track: he didn’t give up an earned run in either of his first two starts of the season, but has gone 0-3 with a 10.12 ERA in his last three starts. Here’s an encouraging stat, though: he’s 2-0 with a 0.44 ERA in three career starts against the Reds.

The Reds will counter with Alfredo Simon (0-3, 13.50 ERA), who has been absolutely atrocious in 2015. He has yet to make it into the sixth inning in any of his starts and has only completed five once. Simon sports a 3.29 ERA in his career against the Brewers over 11 appearances, though just two of them were starts.

Here are the match-ups for the rest of the series:

Tyler Cravy (0-0, 3.18 ERA) vs. Tim Adleman (0-0, 3.00 ERA)

Jimmy Nelson (4-2, 3.05 ERA) vs. Brandon Finnegan (1-1, 3.97 ERA)

Junior Guerra (1-0, 6.00 ERA) vs. John Lamb (0-0, 1.50 ERA)

 

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Davies can’t contain Franco, Phils

April 23, 2016

> A day after getting embarrassed by Ricky Nolasco and the Twins, the Brewers dropped their second straight game, losing to the Phillies 5-2. Zach Davies (0-2, 9.72 ERA) improved upon his atrocious season debut against the Pirates earlier this week, but it wasn’t enough as Philadelphia’s lineup teed off against him the second through the order.

The Brewers got on the board right away in the first inning on Chris Carter’s RBI single. That appeared to be all Davies would need, as he cruised through the the first three innings without any trouble. However, in the fourth, Cameron Rupp hit a one-out double, and then Darin Ruf tied the game with an RBI single two batters later. The Phils continued to pour it on in the fifth inning: Odubel Herrera started the rally with a one-out single, and he was promptly driven in on a Freddy Galvis triple. Maikel Franco then put the nail in the coffin with a two-run shot to left field, extending the Phillies’ lead to 4-1. They would tack on another in the seventh inning when Franco hit his second bomb of the game, this one coming off reliever Chris Capuano.

After their first inning run, the Brewers couldn’t get anything going against Phillies starter Aaron Nola. He allowed just that run on four hits over seven innings. Nola walked two and struck out seven. Milwaukee did get one more run in the ninth inning thanks to Aaron Hill’s RBI double off reliever Jeanmar Gomez but couldn’t sustain the rally.

Davies wasn’t terrible on this night; his performance was better than the average Taylor Jungmann or Wily Peralta start so far this season. However, the Phillies evidently caught onto him the second time around. Davies went six innings while giving up four runs on nine hits. He walked one and struck out five in his second loss of the season.

> A lot has happened since I last wrote in July of 2013 (which was, ironically, the day Ryan Braun received his 65-game suspension). There’s far too much between then and now for me to detail, but here’s a quick recap of the major events that have taken place.

> The Brewers finished 2013 a dismal 74-88. That was to be expected as Braun was banished from the field for a better part of the second half of the season, and beyond him there wasn’t much offense. However, it was during 2013 that Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy began their respective rises to stardom; Jean Segura also had his lone All-Star appearance in a Brewers uniform.

> Towards the end of the 2013-14 offseason, the Brewers hadn’t done much of anything, and appeared to be headed for another down year. However, shortly before the 2014 season, they stunned the baseball world and signed Matt Garza to a four-year, $52 million deal, the largest free agent signing in franchise history. All of a sudden, Milwaukee didn’t look half bad on paper, and that translated to the field, at least for most of the season. The expected 3-4 combo of Braun and Aramis Ramirez actually didn’t contribute as much as expected, but Gomez and Lucroy led the way and helped the Brewers remain in first place in the National League Central for a majority of the year. Peralta also had a career year, going 17-11 with a 3.53 ERA and establishing himself as the new ace of the rotation. However, what appeared to be a sure playoff berth descended into one of the most disappointing finishes in recent history. What could have been a decent season for Garza got cut short with an injury, the rest of the rotation struggled to find consistency, the bats went cold, and the bullpen– which had been spectacular for most of the year thanks to finds such as lefties Zach Duke and Will Smith– fell off a cliff in the season’s final months. All of this led to a 3-16 stretch between Aug. 20 and Sept. 9 that completely killed the team’s chances at making the postseason. A resurgent Mike Fiers, who returned to his dominant form from mid-2012, was the only bright spot the team had down the stretch. The Brewers finished 82-80– even worse than in 2012 when they went 83-79 despite one of the worst bullpens they’ve had in recent history– good for third place behind the Cardinals and Pirates.

> The promise heading into 2015 was that the Brewers had put their awful finish in 2014 behind them and were ready to contend again. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Milwaukee started 2-10, tying their worst start in franchise history. Things didn’t get much better, and when they were 7-18, Doug Melvin finally pulled the plug on manager Ron Roenicke, a move that felt long overdue. He brought in former fan favorite Craig Counsell, who had been working in the Brewers’ front office since his retirement after 2011, as the interim manager.

The Brewers were nowhere near contention come summer, and with a few impending free agents, moves had to be made. Melvin started the fire sale by trading Ramirez to Pittsburgh– the team that originally signed him as an amateur free agent back in 1994– in exchange for Double-A reliever Yhonathan Barrios. A shortstop-turned-pitcher, Barrios can reach triple digits, and he impressed the Brewers when rosters expanded last September. He likely would have made the team out of spring training this year, but an injury has derailed him for the time being.

The next trade was no doubt the biggest and showed fans that the Brewers are truly trying to turn over their minor league system. Melvin sent Gomez and Fiers to the Astros for a package of four prospects: outfielders Brett Phillips and Domingo Santana, left-handed starter Josh Hader, and right-hander Adrian Houser. Phillips, Santana, and Hader were all in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects at the time; Phillips and Hader still are, while Santana is proving a mainstay at the major league level in 2016.

The Brewers also scammed the Orioles out of one of their top prospects. In dire need of an outfielder, Baltimore sent the Brewers their #3 prospect, the right-handed starter Davies, in exchange for Gerardo Parra. Don’t get me wrong: Parra was hitting around .330 at the time and appeared to be a good acquisition on paper for the Orioles. However, the ended up only getting him for half a season, as he signed a free agent deal with the Rockies this past offseason. Basically, the O’s traded Davies– one of their best prospects– for a short-term outfielder who didn’t even help them make the postseason.

Milwaukee made another small trade before the deadline last season, trading Jonathan Broxton to the Cardinals in exchange for outfielder Malik Collymore, who is still in Rookie ball. But the fact that the Brewers got anything of value in return for Broxton is a success in my book.

Fast-forward to the end of 2016: the Brewers finished 68-94, their worst record since 2004, when they went 67-94. However, they at least got what they could have out of a terrible season on the field by completely re-stocking their minor league system, which had been considered among the worst in baseball since they went all in back in 2011. Melvin also announced near the end of the season that he would be stepping down as general manager; this allowed the Brewers to hire the young David Stearns, formerly the assistant GM for Houston.

Stearns completely turned over the Brewers’ roster prior to the 2016 season. He brought in players he was familiar with, such as first baseman Carter and shortstop Jonathan Villar, from his days with the Astros. He also made a blockbuster deal with the Diamondbacks, sending Segura and top pitching prospect Tyler Wagner to the desert in exchange for right-handed starter Chase Anderson, second baseman Hill, and minor league shortstop Isan Diaz.

At just 30 years of age, Stearns is very young to be a general manager, but he’s already served as assistant GM for both the Indians and Astros, so he has experience. He’s also had the opportunity to watch the Astros go from nothing to a contender in just a few years by efficiently building up their farm system through the draft and trades, and he seems to be using the same process with the Brewers. Who knows what 2016 will bring, but, whether it be good or bad, I feel much more comfortable with Stearns at the helm than I ever did with Melvin.

> I guess this turned into a pretty long-winded article after all, which I hoped to avoid in my first post returning, but I might as well finish it. I thought I was deserting BWI for good after I could no longer find time to write it; my last post on here would have been the summer before my junior year of high school, and now I’m finishing up my freshman year of college. To be honest, though, I’ve had the itch to bring it back ever since I quit: in 2014, I started writing an article about how the second Wild Card was ruining baseball and making non-contenders think that they were contenders; I used the Royals as my prime example (the irony is still killing me). However, I never finished that article, which was probably for the best. Then, around the Trade Deadline in 2015, I started writing one about the speculation of why the original Gomez trade, in which the Brewers would have acquired Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores from the Mets, never happened. Both of those articles are still sitting in the drafts of this website, and I’ll probably never publish them, but they’re proof that I’ve wanted to come back all this time.

If I want to keep it up, I’ll have to balance it with schoolwork and my job, among other things, but I think I can do that. I go to a small liberal arts school in southern Wisconsin, where I’m majoring in Business Economics with a minor in Journalism. I chose the school primarily because it gave me the best scholarship, but also because of an interesting job opportunity in the area with a minor league baseball team. I’ve been doing stat-stringing– essentially relaying the play-by-play as it happens to Minor League Baseball, which allows them to post it to their website– as well as writing game recaps and other articles for the team (so it isn’t like I haven’t written a sports article in three years).

I intend to keep using this blog as a means of practice for (hopeful) future jobs in journalism, but developing a fan base/network using BWI would be cool as well. I’ve done that with this site in the past, though my Twitter account definitely helped out with that. However, ever since I left Reviewing the Brew, I haven’t used my Twitter account much at all, and at this point I’d say I’m probably never going to actively use it again. In any case, if you happen to be scrolling through, feel free to drop a comment or something. I’m looking forward to getting back to this.