Junior Guerra might’ve found something again. After mostly struggling during his last several starts and dealing with significant velocity issues, Guerra came out firing last night in Pittsburgh. The 32 year old sat in the 93-95 MPH range with his fastball throughout the night, including several readings of 96 MPH. That’s the type of heat that helped him be so successful last season.
This game was going really well through 5.0 innings. Guerra navigated through the Pirates’ lineup while facing only the minimum, allowing just a base hit to Starling Marte before picking him off at 2nd base. His fastball was popping the glove and his splitter was diving and darting out of the zone as he fanned four opposing batters.
The Brewers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the third inning. Domingo Santana lead off with a single and looked to be one his way to third base when Eric Thames singled through the right side of the infield. But, the 2nd base umpire called Santana out because according to his view of the play, the batted ball off the bat of Thames apparently hit Domingo in the pant leg. The replays shown on the broadcast didn’t really support the call and Craig Counsell was rather miffed, but that is not a play that is able to be challenged. Ryan Braun was the next batter and he singled, which would have scored Santana had he still be on base but instead put runners at first and second with one out for Travis Shaw. Shaw did his best to make up for the blown call by depositing a ball into the Allegheny River to put the Brewers ahead:
Everything fell apart in the 6th inning though. Guerra was only at 56 pitches when the frame began, so it was an easy call to send him back out there. But Francisco Cervelli lead off by popping one just over the wall left-center to make it 3-1. Junior would get flyouts by Jordy Mercer and Adam Frazier to get within one out of ending the inning, but then walked Marte on four pitches. The next batter, Josh Harrison, launched a 3-1 fastball to right field for the game-tying home run to make it 3-3. That would be all for Guerra, who went 5.2 innings with 3 hits, 3 earned runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. The home run issues remain concerning, but overall it was an encouraging start for Guerra. He appears to have found him velocity and a 4:1 K/BB ratio is certainly a step in the right direction. Hopefully this bodes well going forward.
Oliver Drake came on to relieve Guerra and promptly walked Andrew McCutchen, the first batter he faced. Consecutive singles by Josh Bell and David Freese brought McCutchen around to score and give Pittsburgh a 4-3 lead before Drake finally retired Gregory Polanco to end the inning.
In the top of the 8th, Travis Shaw was called out on a questionable strike 3 call and slammed his bat in the dirt in disgust. He was quickly ejected and began arguing with the home plate umpire, which brought Craig Counsell out of the dugout and eventually got him ejected. Here are some quotes from Counsell and Shaw regarding the umpiring during the contest:
CC, on the Santana/Thames grounder and subsequently leaving runs on the board: “I felt like the umpire left some runs on the board for us."— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) July 19, 2017
More CC: “He said it hit his pants. If he’s got good enough eyes to see it hit his pants - not his leg - I guess that’s why he’s an umpire."— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) July 19, 2017
First career ejection for Travis Shaw, who, as we’ve seen, is pretty mild-mannered. “He missed it. Didn’t like my reaction to his mistake."— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) July 19, 2017
The Brewers looked to have something going in the 9th, getting two runners on base before Domingo Santana and Eric Thames struck out to end the game. The loss drops Milwaukee to 52-44 and their lead in the NL Central is now down to 2.5 games. They’ll look to snap out of their 3-game losing skid tonight when Zach Davies (11-4, 5.08 ERA) takes the mound against Gerrit Cole (7-7, 4.35 ERA) at 6:05 PM CST.