In today’s final game before the 2019 MLB All-Star break, the Milwaukee Brewers sent Chase Anderson to the mound at PNC Park to face the Pittsburgh Pirates and opposing starter Joe Musgrove. It looked like the Cream City Nine might have jumped out to an early lead when Yasmani Grandal launched a deep fly ball to center field with one on and one out in the top of the first inning, but after an umpire review, it was ruled a double that put runners on second and third. Unfortunately, Keston Hiura and Eric Thames were retired; Musgrove would go on to throw four scoreless innings to start his outing.
Instead it was the Bucs who earned the early advantage with a rally in the second inning. Colin Moran tripled with one out and then scored on a single by Kevin Newman. Another single by Jacob Stallings put runners on the corners, and then a bunt by the pitcher Musgrove plated the Pirates’ second run. Those would be the only two runs yielded by Chase Anderson, who had his day end after 4.0 innings and 66 pitches. He allowed five hits and a walk with four punchouts. Anderson, who quickly settled back into a rotation role after beginning the year in the bullpen, end the first half with a 4.32 ERA and 4.36 FIP in 66.2 innings pitched.
After a 40 minute or so rain delay, the Brewers sliced the lead in half in the top of the fifth inning when Jesus Aguilar led off with a homer to break up Musgrove’s shutout. But the Steel City Nine got that run right back in the bottom half of the frame, when Adam Frazier and Bryan Reynolds hit back-to-back doubles off of lefty Alex Claudio, making it 3-1.
After a scoreless sixth inning by Corbin Burnes with a pair of strikeouts, the offense knotted things back up in the seventh. Eric Thames walked to lead off the inning ahead of Jesus Aguilar, who proceeded to mash his second dinger of the game and his eighth of the season. His recent hot streak gives Aguilar a .225/.327/.385 slash at the end of the first half, and hopefully helps build some positive momentum coming out of the break.
With the game tied up at 3-3, Craig Counsell called upon Junior Guerra to begin the bottom of the seventh with Josh Hader warming up in the bullpen. But Our Hero was not very heroic today, walking Kevin Kramer to lead off the inning and then allowing a single to Frazier. Junior got ahead of the next batter Bryan Reynolds 1-2, but after he worked the count full, Guerra let a 94 MPH fastball catch too much of the heart of the plate. Reynolds didn’t miss it, crushing a long dinger to right-center to give Pittsburgh a 6-3 edge. Junior was bit by the BABIP monster during a tough month of June (.378, 5.93 ERA) and he’ll finish the first half with a 4.18 ERA while logging a team-leading 47.1 innings pitched out of the bullpen, which is also the third-highest total among relievers on the Senior Circuit. He looked to be running out of gas a bit during his final couple of appearances before the end of the first half, so the four-day break should do Our Hero some good.
Milwaukee’s lineup didn’t go down without a fight, though, plating another pair of runs in the eighth thanks to a two-run blast off the bat of Keston Hiura. Entering today’s action the rookie was hitting only .212/.297/.303 in 37 plate appearances since being recalled on June 28th, proving that just about any player can go through some troubles during a long season, no matter how talented. Keston is up to 7 homers now through his first 110 MLB plate appearances, but he’s also punching out at a 31.8% rate and has drawn only five free passes so far.
Tyler Saladino led off the ninth with a base hit off Felipe Vazquez to get his batting average up over .100 on the season, but the game ended at 6-5 after Manny Pina struck out and Lorenzo Cain grounded into a double play.
And just like that, the first half of the 2019 MLB regular season is officially in the books. Our beloved local nine finishes with an underwhelming 47-44 record, though every other team in the division has had a similarly up-and-down year so far. Milwaukee is merely a half-game back of those dastardly boys from the North Side of Chicago, and only 4.5 games separate first place from last place within the division. Now our attention can turn towards Cleveland for the next few days, first for the Yelich-less Home Run Derby and then this year’s Midsummer Classic. Regular season action resumes on Friday evening, when the Brewers begin a three-game set at Miller Park against the San Francisco Giants.