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.