WP: Aaron Wilkerson (1-0); LP: Matt Bush (0-2); Save: Cody Beckman (1); Home runs: Tex - none; Mil - Jesus Aguilar (2)
Once again the Milwaukee Brewers used a late-inning home run by a backup first baseman in a victory, this time a two-run blast in the bottom of the eighth by Jesus Aguilar. The win puts the Brewers at 12-6-1, leaving the Rangers at 6-12. With the Cubs 7-5 loss Milwaukee has climbed into a first place tie in the race for the Cactus Cup, and with tonight’s Cubbie split squad contest against the Giants could hold the lead alone.
The Brewers scored against the starting pitcher for the first time in the last three ballgames, this time facing the Rangers top starter Cole Hamels. Hamels shut out Milwaukee for three innings but the Crew erased their 1-0 deficit in the bottom of the fourth. Ryan Braun walked and took second on a bloop single to left from Travis Shaw. Braun advanced to third on a medium deep fly ball to left by Eric Thames, Shaw advanced on a wild pitch with Braun unable to score, but a single from Jonathan Villar plated Braun. Jett Bandy then hit one way out to left well over the top of the foul poll, but it was deemed foul by third base umpire Adrian Johnson (there’s some information you won’t get in every recap!), and the inning ended with the game knotted at one.
Brewers’ starter Brandon Woodruff had his best outing of the spring, going four innings and allowing just two hits and one run (earned). Woody walked one and fanned two. Closer Corey Knebel was back on the hill after his knee “tweak” on a wet mound, which is good, but again gave up a run, which isn’t. Matt Albers had a perfect inning with a strikeout, and Aaron Wilkerson made his first appearance since giving up five earned runs in 1.1 innings. He was touched for a run in his first inning, but settled down and worked 2.1 innings allowing four hits, but striking out four. Minor leaguer Cody Beckman earned a Cactus League save with a first pitch flyout to right (on a nice charging, sliding catch from Kyle Wren), and a three pitch strikeout to end the game.
Milwaukee erased a brief one-run deficit after the Rangers scored in the top of the fifth with a run of their own in the bottom half. Red-hot Ji-Man Choi doubled leading off the inning and scored on a double to right from Lorenzo Cain. (Side bar: when Cain came up, Bill Schroeder stated flatly that Cain would hit the ball to the right side to move Choi up. He was correct.) Christian Yelich singled, but Cain had to stop at third, and the Brewers failed to plate the lead run despite first and third and nobody out.
After Texas took the lead in the top of the seventh, Aguilar’s two-run blast (off of a hanging slider from Matt Bush) followed a leadoff single from Eric Sogard (off of a hanging slider). That 4-3 lead held up.
Tomorrow’s afternoon contest has the White Sox (9-8) coming to Maryvale as the Brewers look to build on their three game winning streak. Jhoulys Chacin goes for the Brewers against Carson Fullmer. Fullmer has struggled to an 0-3 record with a 12.60 ERA in just five innings, with a 4.00 WHIP.