Brett Phillip’s bounce back season continues

Brett Phillips was the prized possession of the 2015 non-waiver trade deadline deal with the Houston Astros. The trade sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to the Astros in exchange for Phillips, Domingo Santana, Josh Hader, and Adrian Houser.

The Brewers had high expectations for Phillips, but it was Santana and Hader who continued to succeed after the trade. Santana made it to the big leagues with the Brewers at the end of the 2015 season and has been on the roster ever since. Hader climbed the ranks as one of the Brewers top pitching prospects before graduating to the bullpen this summer.

Phillips was once thought of as a top-5 prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, but has since fallen out of the top-10, and ranks 12th. He struggled in Double-A with the Brewers affiliate after being traded. He also had the worst season of his minor league career the next year in Double-A. In 2016, he batted a career worse .229 and struck out 154 times. Phillips was nagged by injuries all season long.

Phillips entered this season in Triple-A and was finally completely healthy. He is having a breakout season this year, and it even got him two stints with the Milwaukee Brewers at the major league level. Phillips is currently hitting .318 with 17 home runs and 71 RBIs. He’s also hit 22 doubles and 10 triples to go along with his production. The Brewers organization is most impressed with his decreased strikeout rate. He has cut his strikeout rate over three percent this season and has shown a better eye at the plate.

Phillips is one of two players in all of minor league baseball who has double-digit doubles, triples, home runs, and outfield assists. Fans should expect to see him called back up in September for September call-ups.

Smooth Santana leads Brewers to 7-4 win over Reds

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers broke out of an offensive slump in a three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds, capped off by a 7-4 victory Sunday at Miller Park.

Domingo Santana led the Brewers offense with his 19th home run of the year, driving in three runs in the process. Ryan Braun also stayed hot during the home stand with a 2-for-4 performance and an RBI.

Matt Garza didn’t have his best stuff, allowing four runs (three earned) over 5.1 innings while walking five, but he was pleased to get a win after a disastrous stretch prior to the series.

“We’re just trying to get back to playing our style of ball,” Garza said. “Guys are smiling, having a good time, and we’re creating a lot of pressure for the other team. That’s kind of what we do.”

After a four-game sweep by the Twins, Milwaukee held a team meeting in an attempt to get back on track. During the series with the Reds, the Brewers scored 23 runs and hit seven home runs.

Utility infielder Neil Walker, acquired over the weekend in a trade with the New York Mets, wasted little time making an impact. Playing third base, Walker finished with a 2-for-4 day at the plate.

Matt Garza roughed up in an 11-4 loss to the Twins

Matt Garza picked the wrong time to have his worst outing of the season.

The Milwaukee starter gave up eight runs in just 3 1/3 innings at Minnesota in an 11-4 loss on Tuesday night. The veteran had allowed just four runs in his previous 15 1/3 innings of work.

Garza started out OK, but the fourth inning turned into a nightmare for the 33-year-old. It started with a solo home run from center fielder Eddie Rosario, included a grand slam by second baseman Bryan Dozier and concluded with another home run, this one from right fielder Max Kepler. The Brewers had entered the frame with a 4-2 lead and came out of it down 8-4, a deficit they wouldn’t recover from.

Offensively, the Crew got three hits apiece from right fielder Domingo Santana, left fielder Ryan Braun and shortstop Orlando Arcia, but they could manage just the four runs. Braun came up a home run short of hitting for the cycle.

The loss was Milwaukee’s third-straight, but because the Cubs lost to San Francisco, the Brewers remain just 1 ½ games back of Chicago in the NL Central. But things are getting tight behind them, too, with St. Louis just a game back of Milwaukee and Pittsburgh only two games back.

The Brewers and Twins will continue their interleague series tonight in Milwaukee.

What this Brewers offense is missing

The Brewers have undoubtedly played better than anyone expected this season, and are still in the hunt for the National League Central title. This has lead to Brewers general manager David Stearns making some moves to sure up the Milwaukee bullpen, which emerged as the team’s weakest unit.

The team has struggled since the All-Star break going 9-14 in that time. The starting pitching has been relatively good all season, and the bullpen has made strides as of late. What is really plaguing the Brewers is the fact that the offense isn’t hitting home runs and not scoring runs in general.

David Stearns mentioned how he would continue to look at every option available to improve this ball club. I’m sure he’ll continue to scour the waiver wire and look to make deals during the waiver trade deadline.  He could also continue to bring up younger players from the minor league in hopes of a spark. Which might not really happen until September.

Lewis Brinson and Brett Phillips are two highly touted prospects, but both have shown that the Brewers need to be patient with their progression as they’ve both struggled in their limited time at the big league level.

There has been a lot said lately about how the Brewers have struggled to score runs especially when they aren’t hitting home runs. That is true, but the team is struggling to even get on base at the same time. What I think this Brewers team is missing is a true lead-off hitter. Jonathan Villar was the Brewers lead-off man for most of last season, but he has been anything but productive so far this season.

Villar is hitting .216 this season with 8 home runs and 32 RBIs. He does have 20 stolen bases, but has shown a lack of concentration on the bases too many times in his career. He has also struck out 111 times this season, which is over 34% of his at-bats. His on-base percentage of .276 is terrible for a traditional lead-off hitter. He has also committed 11 errors this season, which doesn’t help his case.

Eric Sogard has also seen quite a bit of time in the lead-off spot since mid-May. He was fitting the role nicely up until he went on the disabled list just before the All-Star break. Since returning to the lineup a little more than two weeks ago, he has really struggled. Since July, Sogard is a combined 3-39 for a batting average of .077 during that time period. The Brewers have to monitor his playing time because he is coming off of knee reconstruction surgery.

The Brewers don’t really have many other options. Eric Thames and Domingo Santana have seen some time at the top of the order, but Craig Counsell and the Brewers would prefer them lower in the order. Keon Broxton has also gotten starts in the lead-off spot, but has struck out at too high of a clip to be a good candidate for the position. The Brewers could try Orlando Arcia at the top spot in the order, but Craig Counsell seems content with batting him in the seventh or eighth spot.

Without a consistent lead-off hitter, the Brewers offense will continue to struggle as long as they aren’t hitting the long ball. For my money, I’d pull the trigger on calling up top prospects Lewis Brinson and/or Mauricio Dubon and let them find their swings at the major league level.

 

 

 

 

Brewers hang on to give Nelson first career win vs Cardinals

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers maintained an early lead to top the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 Tuesday night, giving Jimmy Nelson his first career win against the division rival.

In his previous 10 attempts, Nelson held a 0-8 record and 7.01 ERA against the Cardinals. He bucked that trend by throwing six innings of two-run ball, in which he struck out seven St. Louis batters. The bullpen came in to aid Nelson’s performance, shutting out the Cardinals over the final three frames.

“The Cardinals are always in it, no matter how many games they are back,” Nelson said. “Those guys always battle. They have a good core of guys over there, and they have a good team.”

In addition to Nelson’s personal success, Milwaukee was able to end a drought as a team. They had previously gone 0-for-31 with runners in scoring position — a trend that ended in the first inning thanks to a Domingo Santana RBI single. Ryan Braun and Manny Piña drove in the other two Brewers runs.

“The streak’s over,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell joked. “It ended up being a big hit, got Manny up there, and we got another one. It was a big part of the win, for sure.”

Tuesday’s win helps the Brewers’ chances of winning the series — an area in which they’ve struggled against the Cardinals. St. Louis has won the previous 13 series in Milwaukee, dating back to 2012.

Knebel blows the save, Brewers lose their fourth straight

A disappointing start to the second half of the season continued Wednesday night for the Milwaukee Brewers in a 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 10 innings.

Manager Craig Counsell’s club was in position to snap a three-game losing streak when he handed the ball to closer Corey Knebel in the ninth inning and holding a 2-1 lead. But after retiring the first batter, the lone Milwaukee all-star allowed three straight hitters to reach base, and the Pirates tied things up. Then, in the 10th inning, reliever Jared Hughes gave up a walk-off single to rookie Max Maroff to end the game.

The loss wasted good nights from starter Zach Davies and right fielder Domingo Santana.

Davies made it seven innings, giving up just one unearned run on eight hits, a performance Counsell called one of his best of the season. Santana, hitting at the top of the lineup, was 3-of-5 on the night and scored both of Milwaukee’s runs, including a solo home run in the eighth inning to give them the lead.

The Brewers dropped to 3-8 in extra innings this year, while also sitting at just 11-13 in 1-run games.

Milwaukee’s lead in the NL Central is now just 1.5 games on the Chicago Cubs, who have won six straight.

The Crew will try to salvage one game of their four-game set with the Pirates this afternoon in Pittsburgh.

Yankees beat the Brewers with a 3-run, walk-off homer

Milwaukee could not make it six straight wins, as the Brewers got walked-off by the Yankees on Saturday afternoon, 5-3.

Closer Corey Knebel had a 3-2 lead heading into the ninth inning, but couldn’t convert the save opportunity. He gave up a pair of walks sandwiched between a strikeout, and then Clint Frazier drilled a three-run homer for the win. It was the fourth blown save this year for Knebel, the lone Brewers all-star.

The loss ruined what was another very good start out of Brent Suter in place of the injured Chase Anderson. He didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning and New York didn’t get anything on the board until the seventh. Suter’s final line saw him go 6 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on five hits and striking out five.

Milwaukee’s offense certainly didn’t help matters. A three-run homer from Domingo Santana in the first inning was all they had to show for the day, while also losing outfielder Ryan Braun to calf tightness.

The loss dropped the Crew to 49-41 on the year, and saw their lead in the NL Central drop to four games.

The rubber match of the three-game series gets underway at 12:05 on Sunday.

Brewers ride 2nd inning outburst to 8-4 win over Marlins

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers scored seven in the second inning of an 8-4 win over the Miami Marlins Saturday afternoon, highlighted by a two-run shot from Domingo Santana.

Santana finished 2-for-3 on the afternoon, with his home run just making it over the outfield wall, popping out of the outstretched glove of Giancarlo Stanton.

“I know we are a long [way] from the season being over, so we just have to go out there and just play and try to win ballgames every day,” said Santana. “I think we’re going to be where we want to be at the end of the season if we keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

Brewers starter Zach Davies added some insurance to his own cause with an RBI on a fielder’s choice. He tossed six innings with five strikeouts while giving up four runs.

Milwaukee extended its lead in the National League Central to three games over the Chicago Cubs after they fell to the Cincinnati Reds.

Brewers drill six home runs in an 11-3 win at Cincinnati

Milwaukee drilled the most home runs it had in a decade in an 11-3 win at Cincinnati Thursday night.

Outfielder Ryan Braun started what would turn into a home run derby for the visiting Brewers, going deep in the first inning for his second long ball in three games since coming off the disabled list. Homers from Manny Pina, Jesus Aguilar, Domingo Santana and two from Jonathan Villar followed, as the Crew banged a total of six bombs on the night and held a 10-0 lead before the Reds got on the board.

“We swung the bats really well tonight, obviously,” manager Craig Counsell said. “The first four innings we just kept coming at them.”

The Brewers bats were equal opportunity abusers, with the team getting three off of starter Homer Bailey, two on Kevin Shackelford and another off Ariel Hernandez. It was the fifth time in franchise history they’d hit at least six homers in a single game — one off the team record of seven back in 1980.

Starter Jimmy Nelson wasn’t too bad himself, making it seven innings, giving up two runs on three hits and striking out 11. It was the third time this month and fifth time this year he’s thrown a double-digit number of strikes in an outing.

“From the first inning you could tell he had really good stuff just by some of the swings,” said Counsell of Nelson, who improved to 6-4 on the year. “When we got him a lead, he got even better.”

The win was a good response to late blunders in Wednesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Reds.

“It was a tough game (on Wednesday) in a lot of ways,” Counsell said. “We keep saying it, but we keep bouncing back from those tough games.”

Milwaukee finished its six-game road trip just 2-4, but remains a game up on the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central.

The Brewers will begin their final homestand of the first half of the season on Friday night as they host the Miami Marlins.

Santana, Arcia help Milwaukee to a 4-3 win against Pittsburgh

Timely hitting from Domingo Santana and a brilliant play from shortstop Orlando Arcia helped Milwaukee get past Pittsburgh 4-3 Wednesday night at Miller Park.

The Brewers never led in the game until the bottom of the seventh. That’s when Santana stepped up to the plate with two outs and drilled what proved to be the game-winning two-run homer. It was his first home run since June 7 and his 12th on the year.

“He’s got opposite field power. We’ve seen it a bunch this year,” manager Craig Counsell said. “That’s a huge spot.”

Arica and first baseman Eric Thames made sure it would hold up. With the tying run on second base, John Jaso sent a grounder up the middle that looked destined for the outfield. But Arcia somehow tracked it down, spun and threw a one-hopper to Thames, who scooped it up for the final out of the game.

“Off the bat, I was like, ‘Oh, shoot,” Thames said. “I was like, ‘Oh, please don’t be a hit.’ Then all of a sudden I see Arcia going for it. I was like, ‘There’s no way he’s going to catch that.’”

But Arcia did, and in doing so made one of the plays of the year so far for the first-place Brewers.

“I was yelling don’t throw it,” Counsell said with a laugh afterwards. “That’s probably what stands out the most.

“It’s a special play in a huge moment.”

Corey Knebel was the benefactor of the play as he picked up his 11th save of the season to help Milwaukee snap a two-game losing streak.

Junior Guerra got the start, going six innings, giving up three runs on seven hits and striking out six.

Milwaukee, which owns a 1.5 game lead on the Cubs in the NL Central, will try to salvage a split of its four-game series with the Pirates Thursday afternoon.