Somehow the Milwaukee Brewers won four of their last six games despite being outscored by two runs on the week. (Last night’s game, a 9-1 loss to the Brewer nemesis Pirates, is largely responsible for that.) And that includes a 9-7 loss to the Reds that is still difficult to fathom.
Milwaukee finds itself in a three way tie for the second Wild Card spot. Kind of. One of the two NL West teams (Arizona and Colorado) would be the divisional champ. And the Brewers are still just a half game behind the Cardinals, but now trail the Cubs by 4.5 games in the NL Central.
With 31 games left, if the Brewers can win 18 they would finish with 90 wins. That would probably be enough. But it has been a while since the Crew has been anything other than a .500 team or worse, so it’s not a given. This thing will likely go down to the final week.
TOP HITTING STORY: Christian Yelich has been not just the best Brewer hitter lately, he has been one of the best in baseball. Over the past week Yeli hit four home runs in his five games, and slashed .333/.400/.815 for an OPS of 1.215. It feels like there’s a chance for a dinger every time he’s up. His power to center and the opposite field is impressive. If Milwaukee is to make the playoffs Yeli may have to continue at a similarly torrid pace.
Honorable Mention: Erik Kratz and Manny Pina didn’t show any power this past week, but they did have a combined 11 for 25 with two walks and a sac fly. Pina even stole a base. They drove in four runs. That’s a line of .440/.462/.440 and an OPS of .902. Getting that from the seven or eight spot in the lineup the rest of the way would be awesome.
TOP PITCHING STORY: It is true that Craig Counsell is running out of options on which relief pitcher is a good choice in late-game situations, but continuing to use Dan Jennings as a lefty specialist feels counterproductive. He worked in three games this week and totaled one inning. His home run allowed to Scooter Gennett (on just one pitch) in the previously mentioned 9-7 loss to the Reds came with two out and nobody on in the ninth, and was his only batter faced. This came after Taylor Williams had retired the first two in the inning and was throwing in the upper 90s. (Last night, Williams was hit hard and his fastball was in the 94 mph range.) Another lefty hitter (Gregory Polanco) was walked on four pitches, and was again the only hitter he faced Friday night. Last night he replaced Jhoulys Chacin with nobody out and the bases loaded and gave up a two-run single - once again to Polanco. This time he at least finished out the inning. With a limited ‘pen, a pitcher that is being used as a LOOGY but can’t get out a left-handed bat is a luxury that isn’t very luxurious. Earlier this season he was used more as a regular member of the bullpen.
Honorable Mention: But the pen isn’t totally devoid of good performances. Corbin Burnes worked in two games, going 5.2 innings and allowing no runs on two hits and a walk while striking out five. His three inning stint in the Brewers’ improbable 7-6, 15-inning win Friday night is one of the real keys to the win.
IMHO: Managing a bullpen can be as much an art as a science. I know that statistics and metrics must play an important part in the planning, construction, and use of a ‘pen. But each game is a separate entity, and who works when must be weighed against how a pitcher is pitching at the time and in the recent past.
When a relief pitcher is doing well and demonstrating good command, velocity, location, and results, taking him out just because an opposite side hitter is coming up doesn’t feel like a good decision. When a pitcher has demonstrated that he is in a down cycle, it doesn’t feel right to continue to put him in high leverage situations. The fact that a team is not ahead in a game seems an iffy reason to not use certain pitchers. A greater degree of flexibility in bullpen usage would be a good idea.
Of course, having the players do the job that they were hired to do would help make the manager look much better.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: Friday night’s 15-inning win was a challenge for Brewer fans to watch to the end. A five and a half hour game that starts at 7:10 pm can be hard to stay up for. I must admit I groaned when Erik Kratz’ single tied the game in the 15th inning, but was ecstatic (and relieved) when Orlando Arcia’s base hit scored Jordan Lyles with the winning run. AnExiledBadger congratulates those of us who finished what they started:
Kudos to those of you who made it to the end.
My eastern time zone and a 15 inning game were too much for this old guy.
Kudos to the fans that stayed at Miller Park as well. And to those who retired before the end: that was probably a wise decision.
The Brewers can actually get a series win today against the Pirates, and then go on the road to Cincinnati and Washington D.C. this week. Let’s hope that the week gets the Brewers within shouting distance of the Cubs. Enjoy the last week of August...September baseball approaches!
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference