Brewers 3, Cardinals 7: A Controversial Decision

Ryan Braun had to take the long walk back to the dugout too often this game.

Win: Kyle Lohse (4-0)
Loss: Marco Estrada (0-1)

HR: Aramis Ramirez (2), Alex Gonzalez (4), Yadier Molina (4), David Freese (5)

MVP: Rickie Weeks (.039 WPA)
LVP: Marco Estrada (-.367 pitching, -.147 hitting)

Fangraphs Win Expectancy Graph
Boxscore

Here's the situation: The game is tied 3-3. It's the top of the sixth inning with the bases loaded and your team at the bat. You're playing your rivals, the team that many expect to win the division. You already lost badly to them the day before, and lost a series against them at home just a few short weeks ago. Your bullpen has been worked hard recently, but just had a day off two days ago. Your starting pitcher is up to hit next, with two outs. He's only thrown 59 pitches so far.

Do you pinch hit and have your bullpen throw four more innings for an improved chance at knocking in a couple runs? Or do you trust your offense to pick up a run or two later and keep your fifth starter in the game to hopefully work a couple more innings and rest your bullpen some more?

I, personally, would have pinch hit. Ron Roenicke kept Marco Estrada in to hit. Estrada struck out to end the Brewers chances. He would make it just one more inning, giving up two more runs and losing the game.

In retrospect, the decision not to pinch hit may have been the wrong one. Then again, maybe not. At first glance, it looks like it failed. The Brewers didn't score any runs and Estrada pitched just one more poor inning. Then again, there's no guarantee that the pinch hitter would have drove in a run or two. Considering Kyle Lohse is a right hander, I think it's fair to say that the pinch hitter would have been Nyjer Morgan or Travis Ishikawa. Roenicke hasn't shown a willingness to use Norichiki Aoki as the first bat off the bench, Cesar Izturis shouldn't ever hit, and Jonathan Lucroy is a righty. Would Morgan or Ishikawa have worked out? Who knows.

Would the bullpen have been able to hold on to a lead or preserve the tie? Who knows. It's likely that Jose Veras would have been one of the bullpen arms used to cover the four needed innings. Judging by his appearance in the eighth, he didn't really have his best stuff today as he allowed two earned runs on two hits and a walk.

So what was the correct decision? Leaving Estrada in or pinch hitting for him? I still think it was pinch hitting, but I also think it's impossible to really win an argument as to which would have been better. It was a tough call. Unfortunately, the call Ron Roenicke made didn't work out in this case.

  • Of course, if there was one guy to kill the Brewers after Estrada struck out, it had to be Yadier Molina. With one out and Carlos Beltran on first, Estrada gave up a two run shot to Molina that sailed out to left field. The pitch was low and inside, but somehow Molina turned on it enough to power it over the fence. Molina may come off as not the best person, but he is one heck of a baseball player and has really come into his own as a hitter the past couple years. Couple that with probably being the best defensive catcher in the league and he's something special.
  • David Freese also hit a home run. But that was his only hit, so I guess that can be seen as a victory. I'm pretty sure every other game he's had against the Brewers has resulted in three or four hit games for Freese. Every game. Don't bother trying to refute me with facts. I won't believe you.
  • Rickie Weeks went 1-3 with two strikeouts, but also walked twice. If he had scored a couple of times, this game would have encapsulated Weeks perfectly. But he scored no runs. So I guess it's an imperfect encapsulation.
  • Alex Gonzalez is not tied for second on the Brewers in home runs. He's on pace to hit 32 home runs this year! That would be nice. It won't happen, but his third 20 home run season isn't out of the question. Either way, he's been hitting much better than expected so far, which is great to see. Don't expect him to keep up this pace, but enjoy it while you can.
  • Aramis Ramirez is on a six game hitting streak! In his previous five games, he had been hitting .389/.421/.722, and those numbers will just go up after a 2-4 day where he hit his first home run since April 19 and scored two runs.
  • Ryan Braun, on the other hand, had one of his worst days in the majors at the plate. He batted four times and didn't reach base. He also struck out thrice: Swinging in the first, looking in the fourth, and on a foul tip in the eighth. His only non-strikeout plate appearance was a foul pop up to first base. Just not a good day at all for the MVP.
  • Marco Estrada made it six innings, giving up five runs (four earned). It's a far cry from his first start, but at least he was efficient. As I mentioned, he had thrown less than 60 pitches going into the sixth inning and left the game having thrown only 78. The strikeouts weren't there for him like they were his last start, as he only sat down two men.
  • Two silver linings. One, at least the bullpen only had to pick up two innings. Estrada covered six and the Brewers didn't need to pitch in the ninth. Kameron Loe gave up one hit in the seventh and I already talked about Jose Veras. Two, at least the last two games have been quick. Yesterday's game lasted just two hours and 34 minutes and today went exactly two and a half hours.
  • The Brewers look to avoid the sweep tomorrow. Same two teams, with first pitch scheduled for 1:15. Zack Greinke vs. Jaime Garcia. In Greinke we trust.
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