The Brewers’ Cactus Cup championship hopes got a big boost on Wednesday, with Milwaukee sweeping a pair of games in what was undoubtedly the most newsworthy split squad action of the day.
The Brewers and the White Sox put on as exciting a game as is possible in the second week of March, with Milwaukee picking up a 5-4 victory in a back-and-forth affair. A 3-1 game entering the bottom of the seventh was tied by Tyler Saladino’s two-run shot off of David Goforth, and the White Sox took the lead in the eighth on a pinch-hit home run from Old Friend Rymer Liriano.
Liriano, you’ll remember, was a Brewer last season, but never saw action in the regular season after suffering a frightening injury in Spring Training as a result of a Matt West fastball to the face. The injury certainly had the potential to be career-threatening, so it’s great to see him back on the field and playing well.
Ivan De Jesus Jr. saved the afternoon for the visitors, pounding a Juan Minaya offering over the left field fence to score catcher Dustin Houle and himself to wrap up scoring for the day.
In all, six players homered in a dinger-filled afternoon, including the Brewers’ top prospect, Lewis Brinson, who tallied his first official tater of the spring after homering twice in the Brewers’ exhibition against UW-MIlwaukee.
Meanwhile, in Maryvale...
The Dodgers book-ended Wednesday’s game with run-scoring at bats. Joc Pederson victimized the #2016BrewersAce to lead off the game, dumping a 3-2 pitch onto the right field berm to give Los Angeles an early 1-0 lead. Then, before inducing a ground out from Tyler Holt to end the game, Tim Dillard issued a wild pitch with the bases loaded that allowed Stetson Allie to score.
In between, the Brewers hitters ran roughshod over the Dodgers, hanging a seven spot on 11 hits and drawing 10 walks. Rich Hill started for Los Angeles and again struggled, allowing three runs in just 1.2 innings on a hit and four walks.
Every Brewers starter reached base, and Eric Sogard collected his first hit of the spring with a single in the fifth. First baseman Jesus Aguilar stayed red-hot, going 2-for-4 and scoring on his second home run.
On the mound, Junior Guerra received his first blemish of the spring on Pederson’s aforementioned dinger, allowing a pair of hits and striking out two over three innings. The only other Dodgers hit was a swinging bunt off of converted first baseman Nick Ramirez, who struggled for the first time. He walked three and was unable to finish the ninth inning, forcing Craig Counsell to go to Dillard to seal the win.
Cactus Cup update: The Brewers have jumped into a fourth place tie in the Cactus League standings, trailing the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by a game and a half. Milwaukee’s five-game winning streak has also put them a game and a half clear of the so-called “World Series champions.” The Cubs' success looks like flash in the pan, in my humble opinion.
Roster happenings: Brewers.com’s Adam McCalvy reported today that Ryan Braun will make his debut on Friday in another split squad game against Chicago (AL/B). Jacob Nottingham, Corey Ray, Yhonathan Barrios and Adrian Houser were all returned to minor-league camp; Nottingham is shut down with a sore arm, while the latter three are all recovering from surgeries. Isan Diaz was loaned to Puerto Rico for their exhibition game against San Francisco, and he walked and scored in a pinch hit appearance for Javy Baez. He won’t appear in the World Baseball Classic, however.