Wainwright dominates the Brewers in a 6-3 win for St. Louis

Milwaukee had no answer for Adam Wainwright on the mound or at the plate Friday night, as St. Louis earned a 6-3 win over the Brewers.

The Cardinals starter made it five innings, giving up two runs on six hits and striking out nine to pick up his first win of the year, but he was even more impressive when swinging his bat. Wainwright drilled a 2-run homer in the third inning, and followed that up with a 2-run single the next inning, finishing the night with four RBI’s.

“He’s certainly, for a pitcher, capable of swinging the bat, but he’s also (still) a pitcher. We’ve got to make pitches on those guys,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said afterwards. “He had a big night. His two at-bats were the difference in the game, for sure. Give him credit.”

All the damage he did was against Milwaukee starter Wily Peralta, who lost for the first time this year. He gave up all six runs over his four innings of work, and for just the third time in his career, he didn’t record a single strikeout.

Milwaukee’s bullpen did some good work in relief of Peralta, allowing just three hits and no runs over the final five innings.

The Brewers bats were largely silent, though a Ryan Braun homer in the eighth inning stretched the number of games they’ve hit at least one home run to 13 straight.

It’ll be the same two teams on Saturday night at Miller Park. First pitch is at 6:10 p.m.

Brewers blow 5-run lead, lose 9-7 at Chicago

A four-run sixth inning was enough to get the Chicago Cubs past Milwaukee with a 9-7 win on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

Jimmy Nelson had a 7-4 lead heading into the bottom of sixth but couldn’t hold it. After retiring the first batter, he proceeded to give up three hits and a run before manager Craig Counsell pulled him. Insert Jared Hughes, who couldn’t stem the Cubs momentum, giving up a triple to Jon Jay that scored a pair, followed by a wild pitch that allowed Chicago to take a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

Hughes got the loss, but Nelson’s line wasn’t pretty either. After two really good outings to start the year, he got tagged with seven runs on nine hits and gave up a pair of home runs.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee’s offense kept rolling along, led by first baseman Eric Thames. Though he didn’t hit a home run for the first time in five games, the lefty did go 3 or 4 from the plate and scored twice. Third baseman Travis Shaw had a pair of doubles and three RBI’s on the night, while outfielder Domingo Santana knocked in a couple runs as well.

The loss was just the second in the last eight games for Milwaukee.

The two teams will play the rubber match of their three-game series this afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Thames and Braun lead Brewers to a 6-3 win over the Cubs

Eric Thames continued his torrid start to the year as Milwaukee went to Chicago and beat the Cubs 6-3 Monday night for its sixth win in the last seven games.

With the game tied at three in the third inning, Thames stepped to the plate and drilled a home run into the left field bleachers to give the Brewers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. For Thames, it was his fifth consecutive game with a homer, tying the franchise record set by Jeremy Burnitz.

“What he’s doing is really hard to do,” manager Craig Counsell said. “He’s on a good streak right now, no question. Seeing this certainly bodes well for the rest of the year.”

The homer for Thames, who was signed as a free agent after spending the last three years playing in Korea, was his seventh overall on the year, which leads MLB. He’s also batting .405, which is second in the National League.

His hot start has overshadowed what has been a remarkable beginning for Ryan Braun. The outfielder had a 2-run homer in the first inning, his fifth of the year, which matches his total for all of April last season.

“It’s unique that Ryan is not getting the attention after a five home run start in the first couple weeks of the season,” Counsell said. “He’s happy with it, I guarantee it.”

Braun had a total of three RBI’s on the night, which helped make Chase Anderson a winner for a second time this year. The Brewers starter made it five innings, giving up three runs on seven hits and striking out five.

Four relievers helped Milwaukee close things out, including Neftali Feliz, who picked up his fifth save of the year.

Milwaukee (8-6) and Chicago (6-7) will play game two of their series tonight at Wrigley Field.

Brewers beat Cubs in 11th on wild pitch

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers opened a series with the Chicago Cubs by beating their border rivals 2-1 in the 11th inning thanks to a wild pitch that allowed Ryan Braun to score the winning run.

Braun singled off Mike Montgomery to get on base, which was the first hit Milwaukee recorded since the sixth inning. Montgomery subsequently walked Jesus Aguilar, while Jett Bandy was hit by pitch. That allowed Braun to take advantage of his chance on base, scoring after an 0-2 to Manny Pina was misfired.

“We had gone a couple of innings where we didn’t get much going,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We didn’t have great at-bats, I didn’t think. But that inning, guys just kept the at-bat alive. … A three-inning appearance for Montgomery, I know he was stretched out in the spring, but that’s still a lot to ask.”

Jimmy Nelson had a solid start for the Brewers, going six innings while giving up just the one earned run on a home run to Ben Zobrist. The five relievers who followed up Nelson combined for a shutout the rest of the way against the defending World Champions.

A strong outing from Wily Peralta helps the Brewers pick up their first win of the year

The Milwaukee Brewers found the win column for the first time this season on Wednesday night, taking out the Colorado Rockies 6-1 at Miller Park.

Wily Peralta, making his first start of the year, was more than solid, pitching five scoreless innings while giving up just three hits and striking out five.

“There’s no question. He was excellent,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Really picked up where he left off last year. It was a very good outing.”

By the time Peralta exited the game, Milwaukee had built a 3-0 lead thanks to a pair of homers from a couple newcomers – first baseman Eric Thames and third baseman Travis Shaw. For Thames, it was his first home run in the major leagues since 2012.

“It felt good to finally get one over the wall,” said Thames, who spent the last three seasons playing in Korea.

Hernan Perez made it 4-0 on a double in the sixth inning, while Jonathan Villar adding two more with a home run in the eighth.

The Rockies made a bit of push in bottom of the ninth, getting to Taylor Jungmann for a run and had two runners in scoring position when Counsell decided to bring in closer Neftali Feliz, who promptly struck out the one batter he faced to get the save.

Milwaukee improved to 1-2 on the year.

The two teams will close out the four-game set this afternoon with first pitch set for 12:40 p.m.

Brewers name Junior Guerra Opening Day starter

PHOENIX — Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell wanted to be sure a stellar rookie season at 31 years old wasn’t a fluke, but after consideration, named Junior Guerra the team’s Opening Day starter for the Apr. 3 game against the Colorado Rockies at Miller Park.

“It was unexpected. It was certainly the most pleasant surprise of the season for us,” Counsell said during a Feb. 27 session with the media. “He was a waiver claim. And to have the season he did with the consistency he did — he was one of the top starting pitchers in the National League.”

Counsell was referring to Guerra’s 2.81 ERA in the 2016 season, which ranked seventh among National League pitchers with at least 120 innings. Guerra hit his planned shut-down number of 121.2 innings in mid-September last season, but also spent some time in the minor leagues. Counsell has seen enough this spring to give Guerra the nod for Opening Day, after throwing 10 innings of two-run ball.

“He pitched really well last year,” Counsell said on Thursday. “I know he has a different story, but for his [121.1] innings [last year], he was really one of the better starters in the National League. At this point, he’s pitched really well. That’s what it boils down to.”

Guerra drew trade interest from several teams this offseason, but Milwaukee wisely kept him around. His original plan was to play in the Venezuelan Winter League playoffs, but the Brewers urged him to sit out due to some elbow issues that crept up late in the MLB season.

Guerra figures to be a main component to Milwaukee’s pitching staff this year, with his main weapon being the split-finger fastball.

“The split-finger, which is really the pitch that makes him dangerous, it by nature that pitch takes a while to get going,” Counsell said of Guerra via Fox Sports Wisconsin. “It’s a difficult pitch, that’s why a lot of guys don’t throw it. In the age of trying to get a swing-and-miss, it’s a big swing-and-miss pitch if you can master it, if you can get a feel for it and get a handle on it.”

Report: Villar turned down Brewers $20 million extension

PHOENIX — While the Milwaukee Brewers prepare to begin Cactus League play at Maryvale Baseball Park, infielder Jonathan Villar has turned down a $20 million contract extension offered by the club, according to a FanRagSports.com report.

As pointed out by Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee’s offer is likely a move focused on keeping Villar’s contract cost down in the future. Villar is eligible for arbitration after this season, and if he becomes the player they hope he can be, that won’t come cheap.

Entering his presumed first full season playing second base, Villar will make somewhere in the $513,000 range this season. After posting a .285 batting average in 2016 with 19 home runs, 63 RBI, 62 stolen bases, and an OBP of .369 (16th in National League), a similar performance this season would mean a big payday for Villar.

Villar claimed to have no knowledge of the reported deal, while GM David Stearns  said “I’m not going to comment on any contract negotiations.”

Counsell not yet ready to call Feliz “closer”

PHOENIX — Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell addressed reporters Monday at Maryvale Baseball Park, but wasn’t yet ready to hand over the keys to the “closer” position for newcomer Neftali Feliz.

“Neftali is going to get really important outs for us,” Counsell said. “That’s what we signed him to do.”

Perhaps that’s Counsell’s politically-correct approach to allowing competition this spring, but so far, no other candidates have stuck out as legitimate replacements for Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith.

Feliz was signed to a one-year, $5.35 million guaranteed contract on Jan. 19 after failing to reach a multi-year extension with the Pittsburgh Pirates in November. The 28-year-old 2010 AL Rookie of the Year posted a 3.52 ERA and 1.137 WHIP with the Pirates last season.

“He’s got a track record, Counsell said. “What we saw last year was him getting back to the player that broke into the big leagues and was really a dynamic arm and reliever, and capable of great things.”

Feliz is no stranger to pitching in late innings, but after the Texas Rangers tried to convert him to a starter in the 2012 season, he injured his throwing arm and underwent Tommy John surgery which kept him out for the entire 2013 season.

It’s possible Counsell doesn’t want to bank on Feliz’ resurgence in 2016 as means that he’ll be able to last an entire season in Milwaukee as the closer. But with no other real options at this point in spring training, it would appear it’s just a matter of time before Counsell makes the label official.

Takeaways from Brewers On Deck fan fest

MILWAUKEE — The offseason in Major League Baseball is sometimes filled with a lot of change, but for the Milwaukee Brewers, their “On Deck” fan event only provided a few surprises.

One of the most noteworthy observations from the event held at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee is that second baseman Scooter Gennett will be experimenting with several positions during spring training, mainly in the outfield. His playing time would be limited if he played solely at second base, due to newcomers Travis Shaw (third base), Orlando Arcia (shortstop), and Jonathan Villar (second base).

Gennett noted that he’s had limited experience as an outfielder, mainly in high school.

“I can catch a fly ball, I’m not saying it’s going to be easy,” Gennett told reporters. “I can catch a fly ball and I can run, so hopefully I’ll be able to adjust and if I’m needed in the outfield, I’ll be able to handle it.”

Another offseason storyline clarified at the event was the future of outfielder Ryan Braun. Braun was a big talking point last August when it was reported the Los Angeles Dodgers had nearly brokered a deal with Milwaukee that would have sent Braun to LA in exchange for Yasiel Puig and a top prospect. That deal fell apart minutes before the Aug. 31 midnight deadline and Braun has remained in Milwaukee ever since. Manager Craig Counsell revealed on Sunday that he never expected Braun to be dealt this offseason.

“I expected Ryan [Braun] to be back and I expected Ryan to hit third [in the batting order] and I’m very happy that I get to continue to write his name. I thought I’d always continue to write his name at third in the lineup. He’s played at a high level last year; he’s going to play at a high level this year; and he’s going to continue to…”

Braun will enter his 11th MLB season with $72 million remaining on his monster five-year, $105 million contract. The 33-year-old will make $19 million in 2017.

Additionally, principle owner Mark Attanasio revealed that he’s in discussions to purchase the club’s Class A affiliate, the Carolina Mudcats. That’s significant because it would allow the Brewers to control decisions about the farm system team without risk of it changing locations or being bought out by another club during contract negotiations. Milwaukee has parted ways with longtime affiliate, the Brevard County Manatees.

Brewers give manager Craig Counsell a three-year contract extension

The Milwaukee Brewers were a better than expected 73-89 this past season, and that’s led team management to hand manager Craig Counsell a three-year contract extension after his first full year on the job.

“I am pleased that we have reached an agreement with Craig to keep him as our manager well into the future,” Milwaukee general manager David Stearns said in a statement. “Craig possesses the skillset, intelligence and determination to lead our team back to consistent competitiveness. Over the past year, I have observed Craig’s leadership first hand, and am confident that he is the right man for this job.”

Counsell originally signed a three-year deal when he took over for Ron Roenicke early in the 2015 season, and the move to extend it removes any notion that he won’t be around to reap the benefits of the current rebuilding process the club is in.

“Representing this franchise is a great honor for me,” Counsell said in the statement. “We’ve taken the first steps of a difficult process. I am encouraged and inspired by both the progress we’ve made and the possibilities that lie ahead. I look forward to working alongside the leadership of David Stearns and to the ultimate results that our collaborative efforts will yield.”

The team announced earlier this fall that all but one member of the coaching staff would return for 2017.

During Counsell’s tenure, the Brewers have gone 135-165, while trading away several major pieces like catcher Jonathan Lucroy.