MILWAUKEE – Sixteen last strikes for the 16 batters faced by the Brewers bullpen in Milwaukee’s 8-4 loss to the San Diego Padres on Thursday afternoon.
1. Junior Guerra didn’t have his best day on the mound as he allowed eight hits on the afternoon but he did enough to limit the damage, holding the Padres to just two runs in six innings.
2. Overall, it seemed as if the Padres played a rather sloppy game, committing two errors and a couple other plays that easily could have been scored as such. Things looked great for the Brewers to win their second straight game over San Diego, and their fourth series in five tries.
3. That was, until the ninth inning when the Brewers fell apart on the mound.
4. Corey Knebel entered with Milwaukee leading 4-2 to start the frame. He struggled to throw strikes as 14 of his 26 pitches missed the zone. Knebel allowed the first three batters to reach via walks and the fourth on an RBI-infield single.
5. The infield single was a dribbler hit between the third base line and the mound. Knebel was the one to field it, however it looked as if he never had a good grip on the ball, causing his throw to the plate to be errant. The Brewers actually got lucky here for a moment as the throw hit San Diego’s Freddy Galvis as he scored and ricocheted off of home plate umpire Todd Tichenor.
6. After that debacle, manager Craig Counsell made the call to the bullpen to bring in Joakim Soria with the bases loaded, one run in, and zero outs. Soria retired the first batter he faced on a fly out to right field and a strong throw from Christian Yelich kept the game from being tied. The Padres still had the bases loaded, but the Brewers had an out and things looked much more manageable.
7. Hunter Renfroe then stepped to the plate following Eric Hosmer’s fly out. Renfroe proceed to deposit a 1-2 fastball into the left field seats for a grand slam. Just like that, Milwaukee’s 4-2 lead had turned into a 7-4 deficit.
8. To make bad news worse for the Brewers, Soria immediately left due a strained groin. Things kept piling on in the ninth, and they didn’t stop there.
9. Jacob Barnes then came on in relief of Soria due to his injury. The first batter Barnes faced was Franmil Reyes, and he was able to jump out in front 1-2 in the count. Then, on the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Reyes went deep to add on an extra run. The sixth run of the inning for the Padres made the game 8-4, where it would finish.
10. The Brewers bullpen has been outstanding for the majority of the season, but that hasn’t been the case as of late. Milwaukee has blown multi-run leads in two of the last three games. In the series opener on Tuesday night All-Star Josh Hader took the loss before Knebel’s struggles on Thursday. Pair that in with Soria’s injury and this unit may be in some trouble.
11. Blown saves happen. They’ve happened to the greatest closers of all-time and they’re absolutely going to happen to Knebel from time to time. His fastball velocity is still topping out above 98 miles-per-hour (three times on Thursday), but if he cannot throw it for a strike, it becomes useless. Not being able to find the strike zone as the case was Thursday is a definite reason for concern.
12. As for the rest of the bullpen, Hader has faded a bit since his early season dominance. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. If he would have kept up the pace from his early season run, this year possibly could have gone down as the greatest ever by a reliever. He’s still been very good, just not the strikeout machine he was in May.
13. Soria’s injury could potentially be a big blow to the depth in the bullpen for the Brewers. He’s going to miss at least the next few days as he heals, and a stint on the disabled list certainly isn’t out of the question for him. His acquisition seemed like a move where the Brewers were just the rich getting richer, but right now it looks like it’s needed. Sure, Burnes has been very good at times for the Brewers, but it’s still very early for him and it will be interesting to watch how he responds to the pressure ramping up as the postseason race tightens up late this month and into September.
14. On the bright side for the Brewers, Jonathan Schoop collected his first extra-base hit for the team as well as his first run batted in. He had a two-run double in the fourth inning that pushed the Brewers’ lead to 3-1. He later scored on a terrific base running play, capitalizing on an error by San Diego’s Galvis at shortstop.
15. If Schoop can get going that will mean great things for the Milwaukee offense. The rich will certainly get richer in that sense.
16. The Brewers get back in action on Friday night in Atlanta as they take on the Braves. Freddy Peralta will get the start for the Brewers while Kevin Gausman will be on the hill for Atlanta. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. CT.