Brewers score run off Arrieta

April 29, 2016

RECAP

> 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.

NEWS

> 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.

STATS

> 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.

 

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Brewers rained out in Chicago; make-up TBA

April 28, 2016

NEWS

> 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

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.