Last week I heard the cart rolling by, with the cry “Bring out your dead!”. I tossed the Milwaukee Brewers over my shoulder and carried them out to toss on the heap, despite their repeated refrain of “I’m not dead yet!” Even given that evidence of livelihood, I was convinced they belonged on the cart.
It’s a week later, and playoff hopes have been resuscitated after the Crew returned to Miller Park, swept the Pirates, and then took the first two against the Rangers before losing the series finale today to the Texas team. They pared the Cubs’ division lead from four to two and a half games, sitting a half game behind the second-place Cardinals. Milwaukee also trails St. Louis by that half game for the second Wild Card spot. The stats look a little bit better than the games felt, but they outscored the Bucs and Texas 30-21 and survived some poor late-inning relief and absurd baseball to give us hope and hold our interest as they continue their quest for a second straight NL Central crown, or at least a postseason berth.
TOP PITCHING STORY: Jordan Lyles has been way more than I had hoped for since his acquisition from the Pirates for Cody Ponce. This week he went 1-1, but his loss came today in a game where he worked seven innings and allowed just one run. On the week Jordan threw twelve innings and allowed just two earned runs, and he gave up just five hits. Six walks is too many, but it still leaves his WHIP at 0.92 and with an ERA of 1.50. I had wanted Lyles back after last season, and now I remember why.
Honorable Mention: It feels like this year has been a roller coaster ride for Junior Guerra. Sometimes he looks great, and sometimes he, well, doesn’t. This was a good week — Juni G won two games in relief, pitching in three, and going 3.2 innings and allowing a hit and no walks. The hit was a homer, but nobody’s perfect. A WHIP of 0.55 will help win games.
TOP HITTING STORY: Ryan Braun looked to be losing playing time with the call-up of Trent Grisham. But a balky back for Christian Yelich limited him to one pinch-hit appearance on the week after his torrid Monday, so Brauny played in every game. And he produced, slashing .438/.526/.526 for an OPS of 1.052. No homers, but he had a double and a triple (!), and generally provided some nice at-bats wherever Craig Counsell put him in the lineup. Figure he’s due for a two-homer game this week. Oh, yeah, I hope Yelich is recovered enough to play next week. His four-hit, two-homer game last Monday was probably enough to put him in this spot, but he gets in so often...
Honorable Mention: Keston Hiura has been slumping. He hit just .240 last week, and his OBP was just .296. But man, when he hits the ball it stays hit. His two doubles and three homers put his slugging percent at .680 for a .976 OPS, and he scored five times and drove in five. Hiura is going to be fun to watch for a long time.
IMHO: It’s pretty impressive that the Brewers were undefeated without Christian Yelich this week. Of course, they were 1-0 in games that he started, but his pinch hit appearance today allows me to use my narrative. I do have a sneaking suspicion that their lineup is better with him in it. Defense, too.
I’d like to see Grisham and Yelich start against righties, and that leaves Braun out with Thames producing at first. But when they face a lefty, I’d still like to see Yasmani Grandal get an actual day off with Braun at first. Braun’s defense is at least as good as Yaz at first; Pina has been solid at the plate, and I think he handles the staff better than Grandal. Grisham should play as much as possible against both sided pitchers. There is lots of versatility in the lineup again, with Hernan Perez back up. Keep scoring runs and they have a chance.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: I get to participate about half the time in game threads, and someday I’m going to do a series of quotes on how all of us overreact in the moment. But not this week.
So the move that brought back Perez was a return of Travis Shaw to AAA San Antonio (with Burch Smith being DFA’d to make room for LBR. I don’t expect Smith to be claimed, and he will probably join the Missions as soon as he accepts his minor league assignment). The only player with a lower OPS than Shaw’s .556 (other than pitchers) was Tyler Saladino. Well, there’s Mauricio Dubon, but he had just two plate appearances. Travis’ season-long struggles have been well-documented and analyzed, and his inclusion on the roster instead of Keston Hiura was met with outright outrage. Brew Crew Buster caught my feelings on the whole situation:
sorry for Shaw. Or at least as sorry as I can for a millionaire.
Looking at him at the plate, he just seems afraid of doing something wrong. Like a dog which has been beaten or something.
It is amazing how much confidence is a part of hitting. If you don’t think you can hit a 95 MPH fastball up in the zone you won’t ever be able to hit it.
Don’t beat your dog.
Someone else pointed out that they just didn’t even consider this level of futility when thinking of things that might go wrong this season. Injuries happen, but this sudden loss of any ability to hit MLB pitching is shocking.
After an off-day Monday the Twins come to Miller Park for two. I hope Yeli is back, because the Twins can hit, and are in a dog fight with the Indians for the AL Central. Plus, I’m going to the game on Tuesday night and I prefer him in the lineup when I’m there. Another off-day Thursday precedes a road trip to Washington and St. Louis, so the Crew has a chance to take care of business against teams they are battling in the wild card race.
Some nice, easy wins would be good for my nerves. Especially Tuesday.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference