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.


See you next year, “beasts of the east”

October 9, 2011

It’s the worst nightmare for every sports station: ESPN, FOX, all of them. There aren’t any teams from the east coast in either championship series. So that means TV ratings are going to be down! It’s the apocalypse because the bandwagoners won’t be watching! HELP!

I honestly could care less. I say screw the east and their gigantic payrolls. None of the top nine payrolls in baseball made it out of the NLDS, which just proves that having a big payroll doesn’t mean anything. Actually, I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t mean anything- it means that you have the power to overpay worthless players to underperform for your team. Yes, I’m talking to you guys, John Lackey, Carl Crawford, and so on.

But if you’re not on the bandwagon of the Yankees or Red Sox, then here’s what I have to say to you: welcome to the midwest. You’re going to be here awhile.

The final four teams standing are all located in the midwest. The Brewers, Cardinals, Tigers, and Rangers (who are actually in the AL West, and I’m still trying to figure out why) are those teams. Here are their respective payrolls, and where the rank among MLB teams:

Tigers, 10th: $105,705,232

Cardinals, 11th: $105,433,572

Rangers: 13th: $92,299,265

Brewers, 17th: $85,497,333

That’s right. The only one even in the top 1o is the Tigers, and that’s saying something, considering Detroit isn’t a very big market.

But this just hasn’t been a good year for any east coast team, which, in my opinion, is exactly what baseball needed. The Yankees’ offense became too inconsistent in the ALDS against the Tigers, and that wound up costing them. The Red Sox had a historical collapse, as the entered September with a nine-game Wild Card lead, and blew it. The Braves also blew a big lead of their own, as they had an eight-game lead in the Wild Card, and blew that. The Rays, who had so much momentum coming into the postseason, were made fools of by the Rangers. But the biggest one was the Phillies- they won a franchise record 102 games, and yet couldn’t make it out of the NLDS against a Wild Card team (the Cardinals).

And the Phillies’ season ended on a rather fitting note. As Chris Carpenter induced a Ryan Howard groundout to finish his shutout and advance his team to the NLCS, Howard could only limp out of the batter’s box, and collapsed about a fourth of the way to first base. While the Cardinals celebrated in the middle of the infield, medical trainers rushed out to see what happened to Howard. A few minutes later, the helped him off the field. But, earlier today, it was revealed the Howard ruptured his left Achilles, which is a tendon on the back of your foot. It was also said that Howard won’t be back until May or June of next year.

But at least the Phillies know that their team is going to fail next year beforehand. The Phillies were expected to win it all this year, like they are every year. And they never live up to those expectations. If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know that I absolutely hate the Phillies. So thank you, Cardinals.

But now, let’s get on to what matters. The teams with arguably the most bad blood between them this year are facing off in the NLCS. The Brewers and Cardinals have hated each other all year, and it may already have stirred up even more before the series even started because of an interview earlier today.

Zack Greinke was interviewed earlier today because it was a workout day for the Brewers. He was asked a lot of questions, but the highlight of it was when he was asked about the how much the Brewers and Cardinals hated each other. Here’s what he had to say:

“Maybe now. No one really likes (Chris) Carpenter. But, besides that, I think they respect mostly everyone on their team.”

He was later asked about the Carpenter thing, and here’s what he had to say about that:

“I don’t know. They think his presence, his attitude out there sometimes is like a phony attitude. But — and then he yells at people. He just stares people down and stuff. And most pitchers just don’t do that. And when guys do, I guess some hitters get mad. Some hitters do it to pitchers. But when you do that some people will get mad. There’s other pitchers in the league that do it, but, I don’t know, a lot of guys on our team don’t like Carpenter.”

You can see the entire interview here, but this was by far the best part, and I found it hilarious and true. Carpenter is a good pitcher and all, but his attitude is pretty bad. And I don’t see why a veteran like him should be acting like that. But this will make the series interesting right off the bat, which is what I want to see.

Anyway, the matchup tomorrow will be Greinke (16-6, 3.83 ERA) vs. Jaime Garcia (13-7, 3.56 ERA). Greinke is 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA against the Cards this year, and 5-3 with a 3.75 ERA overall, but really hasn’t had a bad start against them this year. Garcia, meanwhile, threw a two-hit shutout against the Brewers in his first start against them this year, but was tagged for seven runs his second time out, so I guess we don’t know how he’ll be tomorrow. But we should be glad Shaun Marcum isn’t starting- Garcia has a three-run homer against him this year. (Not to mention Marcum has been awful at Miller Park this year. I hope he doesn’t start Game 2.)

By the way, Yovani Gallardo will be starting Game 3, Ron Roenicke announced earlier today. He’s also going to start in the event of the possible Game 7, but I’m not comfortable with him starting either- Yo is 1-7 with an ERA of nearly 6.00 in his career against the Cards.