Gennett wins it for Crew after Nelson’s great start

May 25, 2016

RECAP

> After being swept at the hands of the Mets, the Brewers got their series in Atlanta off to a good start, defeating the Braves 2-1. It was an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel between Jimmy Nelson (4-3, 2.92 ERA) and Julio Teheran (1-4, 2.57 ERA), but despite stellar starts from each, neither factored into the decision. Scooter Gennett ended up being the hero for the Brewers with his go-ahead hit in the eighth inning.

Milwaukee drew first blood in the fourth inning on Ryan Braun’s frozen rope to center field for his eighth homer of the year. However, the Braves tied it in the fifth on an RBI triple from Mallex Smith (who?). Atlanta’s demise came when reliever Bud Norris walked Ramon Flores and Jonathan Villar in the eighth, setting the stage for Gennett’s go-ahead RBI single. The Brewers received scoreless relief from Michael Blazek, Tyler Thornburg, and Jeremy Jeffress, who recorded his twelfth save of the year.

> Nelson didn’t have his best stuff tonight, but, as aces do, he made it work and still posted a solid start (although he was facing the worst team in the National League). He threw six innings of one-run ball, walking three and striking out eight. Just as he did in his last start against the Cubs, he had to dance around danger all night, but managed to limit the damage. One worry I still have about Nelson is the middle innings, which have given him issues at time throughout his career; Smith’s RBI triple happened to come in the fifth inning today. But, with his ERA now at 2.92 and him pitching leaps and bounds better than anyone else in the rotation, I’m in no place to complain at the moment.

Nelson’s mound opponent, Teheran, was better tonight and certainly deserved to win. The Atlanta ace went seven innings while allowing just one run on three hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out 12. This was no surprise, however, as Teheran came into today with a 2.04 ERA in five career starts against the Brewers.

> This series is already better than the Mets series was as a whole. After Wily Peralta blew an early lead in the first game, the Brewers went on to blow two more leads in the next two games. Despite the fact Milwaukee knocked around Jacob deGrom (5.0 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 7 K) on Saturday, Zach Davies (5.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) wasn’t great either. David Wright eventually hit a walk-off single off of Blazek in the ninth to give the Mets a 5-4 win.

The series finale was ugly as well. After Jonathan Lucroy’s early RBI single, Noah Syndergaard (7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 11 K) went to work and carved up the Crew. Chase Anderson (5.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K) wasn’t awful, but wasn’t good either; his damage included a solo homer from Michael Conforto in the 3-1 loss.

NEWS

> Will Smith is on his way back to the bullpen, as he began a rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Brevard County today. He threw a scoreless seventh inning against Clearwater, the Class A Advanced affiliate of the Phillies.

> Corey Knebel should also be back in the bullpen before long. He threw a bullpen at Turner Field today.

> The Brewers have reportedly been connected to Cuban outfielder Yadiel Hernandez.

> Milwaukee released right-handed reliever Jim Miller today. He had pitched to a 7.41 ERA  in 17 innings for Triple-A Colorado Springs.

STATS

> I looked at Taylor Jungmann’s Triple-A stats today for the first time in a while, and they aren’t pretty. The Brewers’ first-round pick from 2011 has a 12.76 ERA in five starts since being sent back to Colorado Springs for the first time since he was recalled in June of 2015.

Jungmann was sent down in late April after going 0-4 with a 9.15 ERA in his first five starts of 2016. However, even if he’s actually pitching well, his numbers won’t show it because Colorado (need I say more?). However, a 12.76 ERA is awful, even if he’s pitching in a hitter-friendly park.

> Teheran pulled off the rare four-strikeout inning in the second today.

> The Brewers will look to take this three-gamer from the Braves tomorrow at 6:10 p.m. CT. Junior Guerra (3-0, 3.96 ERA) will look to stay hot in his first career start against Atlanta. The Braves will counter with Mike Foltynewicz (1-2, 4.57 ERA); the flame-throwing right-hander is 1-1 with a 2.16 ERA in his career against Milwaukee.


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).

 

 


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.