On August 18, Milwaukee entered a grueling part of their schedule during which they would face each of the National League’s division leaders and the current second Wild Card Colorado Rockies in quick succession. The Brewers have ably answered that bell, torching their playoff-position opposition 61-31 with three shutouts, and winning 10 out of 14 games.
They remain nearly even in the standings since that date, however, due to a mystifying and utterly disheartening 3-7 record against non-playoff teams. The Brewers took the first step in curtailing that puzzling praxis Tuesday night, sinking the Pirates 5-2 for their first win against a team with a sub-.500 record in three weeks.
Let’s chart it.
THE BREWERS AGAINST GOOD TEAMS: Domingo Santana, +.189 WPA (3-for-4, 2 RBI, K)
THE BREWERS AGAINST BAD TEAMS: Neil Walker, -.094 WPA (0-for-3, BB, K)
With the Brewers desperately needing a morale boost after a soul-shattering shutout against Steven Brault, April hero Eric Thames delivered in the bottom of the second. He bashed a two-out, solo clout to record Milwaukee’s first run of the series and give Milwaukee an early lead.
Brent Suter couldn’t hold that lead for long, and it looked like the Brewers might be heading for yet another disappointing performance against an also-ran after consecutive RBI from Jordy Mercer and Jordan Lupnow (yeah, no, I had to check his name three times while writing this, I don’t know).
The Brewers offense didn’t make the hometown faithful sweat long, however, loading the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the third. Neil Walker earned all of his negative WPA with a strikeout looking, but Ryan Braun was able to tie the game with an RBI fielder’s choice.
Domingo Santana broke the game open with a line-hugging double to left that scored two, a clutch two-out knock that helped to alleviate his baserunning blunder on the very next play. That would be a single from Thames, whose second hit and RBI of the game gave Milwaukee their 5-2 lead before Santana was cut down at home.
Even with his ace taking the mound on short rest tomorrow, Craig Counsell dug deep into his bullpen on Tuesday. He asked for six innings after his quick hook on Suter, and the bullpen delivered, shutting out the Pirates over six innings, allowing three hits and striking out eight. Jeffress pitched an inning and two thirds, striking out three but surrendering four of the five base runners allowed by the Milwaukee bullpen.
The Brewers will look for their second consecutive series win over the Pirates after dropping the first three against a team they used to perennially dominate. Milwaukee trails the season series against Pittsburgh 6-9 with four games remaining, and must win out to claim the season series. Wednesday was to be Jimmy Nelson’s day, but his season ending injury left a hole in the starting rotation and in my heart.
While the latter can never be adequately filled, the former will occupied by Chase Anderson. Many speculated that Anderson would start on short rest for the first time in his career after being pulled early after just 67 pitches in the Brewers 15-2 rout of the Cubs on Saturday, and that will indeed be the case.
The Pirates top pitching prospect, Tyler Glasnow, will make his first start since being demoted in mid-June after an inauspicious first half in which he compiled a 7.45 ERA over 54.1 innings. Glasnow has dominated at Triple-A Indianapolis (9-2, 1.93 ERA), and the Pirates hope that he’s finally ready to bring that promise to the big leagues.