Win: Tony Watson (2-1)
Loss: Francisco Rodriguez (1-1)
MVP: Brandon Kintzler (.350 WPA)
LVP: Francisco Rodriguez (-.267 WPA)
Two big, big positives from this game.
1. Tyler Thornburg pitched five innings in the Brewers' second start. I say second start because there was a two hour delay due to rain in Pittsburgh that ended Kyle Lohse's night after 1.2 innings. Thornburg started after the delay and pitched five innings of two-hit ball. He struck out four batters and walked just one. That is truly so encouraging. With no prior knowledge he would be making this outing, Thornburg dominated the best team in the major leagues.
Thornburg has had his share of struggles in the minor leagues, but man, sometimes you just need something to give you a little hope, right? That was this outing. It'll boost both the Brewers and Thornburg's spirits, and it makes you see that he still has a shot to be really good in the majors. It's only one outing, yeah, but it's a glimmer of possibility. Thornburg did that once, he can do it again. Perhaps he can do it again a whole bunch of times.
Brewers pitching prospects do not have a good track record. Wily Peralta, Johnny Hellweg, Thornburg...Ben Hendrickson, Manny Parra, Mark Rogers...Brewers pitching prospects are forever in a state of "iffy at best", even more so than normal pitching prospects. At least it seems that way. Obviously Peralta, Hellweg, and Thornburg have so much time left to prove that they can be successful. But the slightest struggles or setbacks and I think we, as Brewers fans, are conditioned to panic and wonder what Milwaukee's minor league system did this time.
Besides, guys like Thornburg give a reason to watch the Brewers the rest of the way. Which is good, because otherwise it's like a two-month longer offseason except even more nothing happens.
So this one five inning pseudo-spot start by Thornburg is nice to see. Maybe it's not indicative of what he'll end up being in his career, but I'm going to take it and cherish it. At least until the next time he pitches.
2. Well, I guess we're one loss closer to Carlos Rodon or whatever top prospect will be in the top five of the MLB draft. The Brewers have the third worst record in the major leagues. I accept that at this point. In a way, I sort of like it. Everybody probably could have seen that the Brewers were on a downturn and it was only a matter of time before they started slipping back towards the cellar before a rebuild.
I'm glad it all happened at once. It would be worse if this were dragged over the next five years and we got to watch the Brewers slowly fall apart with Doug Melvin and Co. making trades and signing more Kyle Lohses to keep the Brewers around .500. We don't have to suffer that.
We, as Brewers fans, aren't getting constantly pecks to the face over and over, slowly tipping over from the pain. We get one big wallop to the jaw and get knocked down. Now, the team has to dust itself up and work on getting back up. The draft is how the Brewers became a playoff contender from 2007-2012 (RIP). Now they have to do it again. They haven't had the advantage of high draft picks since they drafted Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun.
They'll get that opportunity again. Those picks in the top five are no guarantees, but they're a hell of a lot safer than those in the 20s. This loss always brings them one step closer to trading away everyone sensible as the deadline approaches. You know Doug Melvin needs to be about 20 games out of the race to make trades for prospects, so hopefully we're at that point.
Outside of those two points, the game was shit. The rain delay was just the start of it, costing the Brewers what, early on, looked like would be a very good start for Kyle Lohse. Then the game started again, and it got more and more frustrating as the Brewers offense was, well, useless. Vin Mazzaro and the Pirates bullpen managed to hold the Brewers to just two hits for 12 innings.
The Brewers scored their only run off of original Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton. On a sacrifice bunt. They probably wouldn't have scored at all if not for an error by Clint Barmes that allowed Yuniesky Betancourt to reach first base. Betancourt bowled into third on a Martin Maldonado single, then scored on a Logan Schafer bunt. That's Brewers baseball.
It almost looked like enough to win the game thanks to Tyler Thornburg and a strong Brewers bullpen that held the Pirates scoreless until the eighth. Jim Henderson allowed an RBI two-out single to Andrew McCutchen during that frame.
That would send the game into extra innings, where Francisco Rodriguez gave up a walk-off single to Russell Martin in Rodriguez's second inning of work. Rodriguez had not pitched more than one inning since 2011.
So the Brewers lost, and the Pirates continue to be good and I'm happy for them.
But I'm also sort of happy for the Brewers, because hopefully this team will take steps to move forward and look to the future. Hopefully.
Or they could just chalk the season up to bad luck and sign another Kyle Lohse and re-sign Corey Hart in the offseason and do this all again.
The Brewers start a series against the Nationals tomorrow. Milwaukee faces Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and Ross Detwiler. It should be fun to see those first two, at least.