The weekend series versus Los Angeles could have been better and it could have been worse. As it stands, only losing two out of three to the Dodgers ain't bad. Just like a bat out of hell, here are five thoughts that emerged from the weekend series.
1) Hiram Burgos is looking like a rich man's Jeff Suppan
Burgos allowed three runs in six innings Friday, striking out three and walking two. All three of the ks were of the backwards variety, and this is where the Suppan comparison comes in. In an admittedly small sample, Burgos has not been missing many bats. Hitters make contact on 88.7% of pitches he throws (Suppan was at about 86.5% in his full seasons with the Brewers). He's also been helped with a .222 BABIP, which coupled with his 4.27 FIP suggests there is a correction looming. Even so, long term I'm excited about watching Burgos develop with Milwaukee. He was good in the minors and his stuff passes the eye test. The Brewers will be well off if he pitches like a slightly better Jeff Suppan.
2) The Brewers are undefeated when Yuniesky Betancourt bats cleanup
True story: correlation always implies causation, thus Yuni should be the everyday cleanup hitter for the rest of the season. I doubt Roenicke understands this, however, so it probably won't happen.
The unlikely ascent of Betancourt from "We desperately need an infielder. Eh, you'll do" to valuable member of the lineup has been remarkable. He's earned his keep by carrying an .820 OPS into today's game and he's even looked pretty good on defense. The likelihood of this continuing is effectively zero, but he's done a tremendous job holding down the fort until Ramirez and Hart come back. There's nothing quite like catching a little lightning in a bottle.
3) Friday's loss is a perfect example of why close losses are so tough to take
The defensive value of Carlos Gomez justifies much of his new contract. He makes tough plays look routine, but for one play in the seventh inning on Friday he became an average fielder and allowed a would-be out turn into the decisive play of the game. Though it would have been a highlight reel catch, the fact remains that if you touch it you can catch it...at least this is true from a fan's perspective.
When you lose a close game it's plays like these that are played over and over again in your head. It's easy to think that the Brewers would have won had the play been made, even though that would not necessarily have been the case. Getting blown out is easier in the sense that there is no one play to dwell on. On the bright side, at least that would not have been the last out of the game.
4) Kyle Lohse brings out the best in opposing pitchers
The Brewers debut of Lohse was spoiled by Wade Miley of the Diamondbacks spinning a gem against the Crew. In his next start the Brewers' bats were rendered useless against Shelby Miller of the Cardinals. Today he was handed a tough luck loss thanks to Clayton Kershaw being his nasty self.
Bad luck aside, Lohse has been nothing but fantastic this season (except when pinch hitting with the game on the line). After his past two seasons it's a wonder he took so long to get picked up by someone. Regardless, he's pitching great and with those peripherals (2.40 FIP headed into today) his effectiveness looks here to stay.
5) The 9th inning of Saturday's game displayed the joy of white knuckle saves
Well, not really. But it did show why Jim Henderson belongs in the closers role.
Four out save things are one thing, but the elusive unofficial four out save is a different animal. The game should have ended when Carl Crawford hit a routine grounder to Yuni at third. Instead Yuni bobbled the ball and allowed AJ Ellis to come to the plate representing the winning run. To make matters more interesting, the tying run was brought into scoring position when Crawford stole second. But as he's done all season, Henderson kept his cool and induced a weak grounder to end the game (thanks to a nice play from Alex Gonzalez).
Henderson is perfect on save opportunities this season (6/6), has 14 ks in 11 innings, and only three walks. Simply put, it's hard to get hits off this guy right now. Time will tell if he's figured something out and will have long term success in the majors, or if he's another flash in the pan closer Doug Melvin his picked off the scrap heap. For now he's the closer for the Milwaukee Brewers and is doing a fine job ending games.
I'll say this about Axford: He does not surrender cheap home runs. His scoreless outing streak was snapped on Saturday when he allowed a no-doubter to Andre Either to lead off the 8th inning. Axford recovered nicely to record the next three batters in order, including a swinging strikeout to Jerry Hairston Jr. to end the inning.
The homer Axford allowed was his fifth of the season, which is problematic. Fortunately it came with a three run lead, leading to a mere +.066 WPA for the Dodgers. In theory I find it acceptable to allow solo home runs with leads of three runs or greater. Most batted balls will result in outs and baserunners are what fuel comebacks. In this case Axford was down 2-0 and threw a fastball that was blasted out of the park. Of course, a single is preferred to a home run (so is an out), but if you're going to get beat at least do it throwing strikes.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are coming to Milwaukee to kickoff NL Central Week at Miller Park. Past results are not an indicator of future performance, but it's hard to ignore the 59-18 (.766) record the Brewers have versus Pittsburgh since 2008. Even more, the Bucs are a feeble 7-41 (.146) at Miller Park since 2007.
The series opens up with Wandy Rodriguez (2-0, 1.66) versus Yovani Gallardo (2-1, 4.97). On Tuesday it's James McDonald (2-2, 4.38) versus Marco Estrada (2-1, 3.86), followed by ??? versus Hiram Burgos (1-0, 3.27). Jonathan Sanchez will not be making his scheduled start on Wednesday due to a suspension for throwing at Allen Craig. This is a bad break for the Brewers as Sanchez has a 12.71 ERA and it most certainly means the Crew will face someone making their ML debut.
From here out I am going to write series recaps in place of individual game recaps, unless something remarkable happens or the stakes are high. I have more to write about when reflecting on a series and I want to write about more than recaps. We'll see how this goes.