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 drop series on south side

June 25, 2012

> I usually take pride in the fact that I know most of the players in the MLB. Whether or not they’re All-Stars or no-names, I tend to to know most of them. So, when the Brewers lose on a walk-off hit from a player I’ve never even remotely heard of, it’s not a good sign.

> The Brewers fell to the White Sox today, 1-0, in ten innings. The bullpen as a whole has been terrible this year, and they’ve pretty much taken turns on who gets the loss. Today, it was Manny Parra, who gave up a walk-off single to a .190-hitting rookie named Eduardo Escobar. Who is he? Beats me. Nor do I care. But I do care about the fact that the Brewers basically don’t have a bullpen anymore.

On the bright side, the Brewers got another stellar starting pitching performance today, this one from Michael Fiers, who had the best start of his young career. He hurled 7 1/3 shutout innings while giving up five hits. He walked one and struck out seven, lowering his ERA to 2.70.

Marco Estrada is returning this week, but, with Shaun Marcum likely to be on the disabled list for the next two weeks, Fiers will still get a chance to make his mark in Milwaukee. I was doubtful for a while, but, if Fiers pitches better than Estrada while Marcum is on the DL, I’d love to see him stay in the rotation rather than Estrada.

Meanwhile, the Sox got another great start from Jose Quintana, who has come out of nowhere and put up unbelievable numbers. His ERA is 1.25 since his call-up last month, and this was his second straight start of eight innings and no runs. He shut down the Cardinals his last time out, so I guess I’m not going to get too worried that the Brewers couldn’t get much going against him.

> I’ve just about had it with Nyjer Morgan. His acts and things were funny and entertaining last year, but now I’m realizing that was just because he was performing on the field to back it up. After the Brewers acquired him in March of 2011, he went on to hit .304 and was a huge part of the Brewers’ NLCS run.

But now he just looks like an idiot, and his performance on the field is making sure of it. Today, in the ninth inning, the Brewers had two runners on, from singles by Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart, with one out. Morgan was pinch running for Ramirez and was on second. After Rickie Weeks struck out, George Kottaras was up to bat and had a 3-1 count. He swung and missed at the next pitch. For some reason, Morgan was “running” on the pitch, but was thrown out by a mile by White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski for the third out. It was obvious Morgan thought there was a 3-2 count. But, upon watching the replay, Morgan was barely even running. It looked like he was taking a walking lead from second, but, instead of running back to second on Pierzynski’s throw, he kept running to third and was an easy out. That’s stupid enough, but Morgan had to make it worse in a postgame interview, saying that “mistakes are part of his game.”

Designate him for assignment. Now.

> He can follow Brooks Conrad out of town. Speak of the .075 hitter, he’s hitting .500 with the Rays. He had a double yesterday, then a pair of two-run doubles today. So, in two days with his new team, he doubled the production he put up in nearly three months with the Brewers.

Have fun with your new team, Brooks. We won’t miss you.

> Today, Rowan Kavner wrote an articleabout Cody Ransom’s versatility in the field. But what he didn’t mention is the fact that Ransom has struck out 36 times in 87 plate appearances with the Brewers, and 57 in 126 all year. That’s a worse strikeout rate than Weeks.

> I could go on writing about the flaws of this team, but I’d be here all night. So let’s just preview the upcoming Brewers-Reds series, which is going to be the defining series of the year for the Brewers, any way you look at it.

The Reds are currently 39-32, good for first place in the National League Central. They were on a tear that included a six-game winning streak just last week, but have cooled off since. They’re 6.5 games ahead of the Brewers in the standings, meaning if the Brewers somehow came through to sweep them, we’d be just 3.5 games back. However, if the Reds swept the Brewers, they’d be 9.5 games out, and the season would might as well be over. So the Brewers have to at least take two out of three in this series at all costs in order to stay in relative shouting distance to the rest of the division.

The series starts tomorrow at the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park. The last time the Brewers visited there, in September of 2011, they swept the Reds in three games. Here are what the pitching matchups look like:

Yovani Gallardo (6-5, 4.22 ERA) vs. Mat Latos (5-2, 5.20 ERA)

Marco Estrada (0-3, 4.50 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (3-5, 4.19 ERA)

Zack Greinke (8-2, 2.81 ERA) vs. ???


Brewers take series from Jays

June 21, 2012

> The Brewers completed a much-needed series win today, as they took two out of three from the Blue Jays. I haven’t had time to post over the past few days, so I’m just going to quickly recap all three games, then talk about a few things after as well.

> The Brewers took the first game, 7-6, in a hard-fought win. The game started in a way the Brewers weren’t hoping to see- Brett Lawrie, the former Brewers farmhand, hit a lead-0ff home run off Randy Wolf on the second pitch he saw. But the offense broke out against Jays starter Henderson Alvarez, scoring six runs in just the first two innings. This included RBIs from Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, Norichika Aoki, and Aramis Ramirez. But, with the score 6-3 in the seventh and two men on, Jose Bautista hit a game-tying home run (I’ll go more in depth on that situation later). The Brewers then answered back the next inning on an overturned home run by Ramirez. It was a line drive shot that was actually lower than the top of the wall in left field, but it hit off the yellow strip of padding that extends below the foul line. The ball was first called foul, but Ron Roenicke went out to argue, and the umpires eventually overturned the call after going in to look at the replay.

> Last night’s game, the Jays’ 10-9 win, should have been a fairly easy win for the Brewers, but the bullpen made sure that didn’t happen (again, I’ll talk about our bullpen issues later this article).

The Jays were leading 6-5 in the sixth inning, and after the Brewers loaded the bases with one out, they put in Jason Frasor to pitch to Ramirez. Ramirez then came through with yet another clutch hit, just as he had the night before. But this one was a grand slam to give the Brewers a 9-6 lead. Unfortunately, a combined four runs given up by Manny Parra and John Axford (yet another blown save for him) would end up being the fate of the Brewers.

> Today’s game was yet another offensive outburst for the Brewers, which is a good sign for them, considering the scored at least seven runs in all three of these games. After Edwin Encarnacion homered in the top of the second, the Brewers answered back with five in the bottom of the inning, getting home runs from Corey Hart, Martin Maldonado, and Carlos Gomez. Braun also hit a home run in the seventh inning for his 20th of the year.

> Last night (the 10-9 loss), Tyler Thornburg was making his Major League debut in place of the injured Shaun Marcum, who may actually hit the disabled list. Anyway, his debut appeared to be going fine, but it appeared to me (I was at the game) that nerves may have gotten to him in the sixth. He gave up three consecutive home runs to Colby Rasmus, Bautista, and Encarnacion. But it turned out it might not have been nerves; it may have been a serious drop in velocity, which is a cause for concern. The scoreboard at Miller Park had Thornburg topping out at 96 MPH, and I noticed the scoreboard had him clocked in the mid-to-high 80’s on all of the home run balls. Because of the angle I was at, I just assumed he had hung a couple of sliders due to nerves, but those actually might have been Marcum-speed fastballs. Those type of fastballs can be effective, but, since Thornburg had been throwing in the mid-90’s previous to that and he probably wasn’t getting much movement on them, you can imagine why it was easy for the Jays hitters to start picking him up.

> Despite the fact the Brewers won this series, the bullpen continued to slump. In the first game of the series, Wolf left the game with a 6-3 lead, hoping to pick up his first win since the end of April (despite he’s pitched well enough to win his past three or so starts). But he would have no such luck- Kameron Loe came in and promptly gave up the game-tying shot to Bautista.

Then, last night, after Thornburg’s debut, Tim Dillard came in and gave up a run to finish the sixth. Like I said earlier, Parra pitched the seventh inning of that game, giving up two runs to cut the Jays’ deficit to one run. After Francisco Rodriguez, who has been pitching a lot better as of late, threw a scoreless eighth last night, Axford came in and blew yet another save, giving up back-to-back home runs to Rasmus and Bautista.

Today the bullpen wasn’t as bad, but Dillard did allow an inherited runner to score, which charged an extra earned run to Yovani Gallardo.

But it goes without saying that the bullpen has been flat-out terrible lately. Loe is supposed to enter the game and get groundball outs against power hitters, not give up go-ahead or game-tying home runs. And I have no idea what’s going on with Axford; he may be getting the Brewer-closer syndrome. Previous victims of this include Dan Kolb, Derrick Turnbow, Eric Gagne, and Trevor Hoffman. I don’t know what it is; it feels like we have closers who are stellar for a year and a half, then it’s like they go out there and forget how to pitch. Anyway, maybe Axford shouldn’t be listed with those other names yet, but I can’t imagine the Brewers are going to stand for this much longer.

By the way, just an interesting note from the end of today’s game: Michael Fiers pitched the last inning. He was scheduled to start the first game of the White Sox series, but maybe this means Marco Estrada will be back by then. That, or the Brewers have different plans that we don’t know about.

> As I said earlier, Marcum may be on his way to the disabled list. He experienced shoulder tightness prior to his would-have-been start against the Blue Jays, his former team, so Thornburg was called up for the emergency start.

But this is why I question taking Fiers out of the rotation (assuming he has been taken out). Unless Thornburg is staying to take Marcum’s spot in the rotation until he comes back, which the Brewers hinted they wouldn’t do, I can’t imagine why they would remove Fiers in a situation like this.

> Anyway, that’s about it. The Brewers have an off-day tomorrow, then start their final Interleague series, this one against the White Sox. Here’s what the matchups are looking like:

Michael Fiers? (2-2, 3.60 ERA) vs. Chris Sale (8-2, 2.46 ERA)

Zack Greinke (7-2, 3.10 ERA) vs. Philip Humber (3-4, 6.01 ERA)

Randy Wolf (2-5, 5.11 ERA) vs. Jose Quintana (2-1, 1.53 ERA)

UPDATE: Actually, I recall Brian Anderson saying during today’s broadcast that Greinke got bumped up in the rotation to face Sale, but will be pitching on regular rest because of the off-day. So, either the Brewers are skipping Fiers’ spot in the rotation this time around, or they’re just going to go with a four-man rotation until Estrada returns.