Last week’s Sunday Sundries finished with this observation:
“This should probably be a five win week, guys and gals, even with facing Noah Syndergaard tomorrow.”
The Brewers did indeed lose the Syndergaard game, although not to Syndergaard (it was on a ninth inning walk-off by sorta/kinda ex-Brewer Wilmer Flores), and then the lowly Cincinnati Reds hit Brent Suter and Oliver Drake hard in a 10-4 Milwaukee loss on Monday. But the Crew took care of business and took the last two games from Cincy with 2-0 wins, featuring two-run homers from Eric Thames each game.
The hapless Miami Marlins (the Marlins and Reds are now a combined 8-32 on the young season) then came to town and Milwaukee has taken the first three of the series with two blow-out wins and their second walk-off homer win of the year. Friday’s 8-0 win gave the Brewers three shutouts on the week.
So the five straight wins gave the Milwaukee Nine that 5-2 record, which is nice and all but it’s what you have to do to contend - beat the bad teams and play .500 ball against the good ones. Their current .591 winning percentage puts them at 95 or 96 wins for the year, which will be sufficient to make the playoffs and give them a very good shot at winning the division.
TOP PITCHING STORY: Corey Knebel is out for a while, so the five high-leverage relievers have to pick up the slack. There was no slack last week; their line is about as taut as can be. The five (Jacob Barnes, Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, Dan Jennings, and Matt Albers) worked in a combined 15 games last week and here are their results: 15.2 innings with only four hits and a walk for a WHIP of 0.32 (grin). Matt Albers gave up a solo homer for the only run. They struck out 18. Their ERA was 0.57. Even an “off” week by Josh Hader - only four strikeouts in three innings, though just the one hit allowed and a two inning save - couldn’t hurt their overall numbers. Two save opportunities, and two saves. Excellent.
Honorable Mention: Jhoulys Chacin was better. In his two starts he worked ten innings and allowed only one (earned) run. He did allow nine hits and six walks for a 1.50 WHIP, but that is the kind of pitcher we will see this season. You know what can help him? Good defense. And do you know what? The Brewers didn’t allow an unearned run all week. Yay!
TOP HITTING STORY: Man, after last week’s futility, this was a tough one to sort out. The Brewers have now drawn 73 walks this season (8th in the league), and 35 of them came last week. Have I mentioned that playing the have-nots can improve your statistics rapidly? Getting Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich back from injury helped that number, too.
Cain had an interesting week. He had 26 plate appearances, and half the time he didn’t put the ball in play. He struck out six times and walked seven. In the thirteen at bats that he DID put the ball in play, he collected seven hits with two doubles and a home run. He scored eight times and drove in a couple. His slash line was .368/.538/.632 for an OPS of 1.170. His bat at the top of the lineup is pretty darn important.
Travis Shaw was even more patient. He drew NINE walks on the week in his 30 plate appearances. When he did bother to swing, he had a double and two homers, scoring five times with three ribbies. A .333/.533/.632 line, OPS of 1.200, will work just fine.
Honorable Mention: We haven’t even talked about Jesus Aguilar (of thirteen pitch, walk-off homer fame and .400/.400/.733, 1.133 OPS), Ryan Braun (.400/.375/.933, 1.308 OPS, 6 runs, 6 RBI, 2 doubles and 2 dingers), or Eric Thames (.313/.450/.750, OPS 1.200 with the two game winning homers). It was a good week at the plate.
IMHO: Family vacations alter your baseball viewing habits. I tend to immerse myself in all things Brewers. This past week I just dipped my toe in. Oh, I checked updates on the games occasionally, read recaps and prospect reports before anyone else got up, and even used Fox Sports Go to watch the last few innings of Friday’s 8-0 win over the Fish. But by and large baseball was just in the background. That was weird. Back to the “grind” this week, though. Yay!
BTW, watching the end of the Friday game allowed me to see the sublime and the ridiculous of baseball in just a few innings. Orlando Arcia had that great running catch in short left-center, and then turned his ankle going back into first awkwardly after a hit in the bottom of the eighth of an 8-0 win. Third base is the hot corner; for Milwaukee, first base is Mayhem.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: Perhaps Brewers’ GM David Stearns knew what he was doing when he didn’t sign one of the “big” starters this season. If you read Brad’s prospect reports daily, or even occasionally, you will know that there are some arms in the system that will (and in some cases are currently) be pushing the big league roster for playing time. This comment from the notes on Thursday, April 19th’s minor league games by Logan Schafer’s Lumber Yard sums up the optimism and enthusiasm of BCB for the future of the Milwaukee pitching situation:
Even if Burnes occasionally gets lit up at home, his road dominance will show what he’s really made of.
Burnes, Peralta, Woodruff, and Ortiz all look like the real deal.
Add in Anderson, Davies, Guerra with 3 more years of team control (and Nelson with 2)
and you’ve got yourself a real deep group of starting pitchers.
Chacin looks more and more like a member of the 2019 bullpen.
Suter might be on the Milwaukee-Colorado Springs shuttle not only this
season, but 2019 as well.
But wait! There’s more! Kodi Medeiros is starting to look like the next Josh Hader!
The Brewers finish up their stretch of games against the bottom feeders with the final of their four game Marlins’ series today, then two at Kansas City (4-15) before traveling to Wrigley Field to face the not-yet-interested Cubs (9-9) for four over next weekend. The Cubs have played 18 games; Milwaukee already has 22 under their belt. The Minnesota Twins have managed to get in just 15 games so far. Get a roof, morans!
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference