Defense helps push Atlanta past the Brewers 5-4

Stellar defense from Atlanta propelled them past Milwaukee 5-4 on Friday night in the first game of a weekend series.

The Braves were clinging to a one-run lead in the eighth inning with one out and two men on base. Pinch hitter Jesus Aguliar smoked a liner down the third base side, which Johan Camargo managed to corral and start an inning-ending double play.

It was shortstop Darby Swanson’s turn for some defensive heroics in the bottom of the ninth. After a lead-off double by Eric Thames, the former first overall pick grabbed a grounder off the bat of Domingo Santana on the second base side. Instead of going to first like most, Swanson pivoted and threw to third, where Camargo applied the tag on a sliding Thames for the first out. Later, Swanson made a diving backhanded stab of a Manny Pina liner for the final out.

“The ball Aguliar hit was a great double play, and the [ball] Domingo hit, that’s a really nice play,” manager Craig Counsell said.

“The game came down, to me, [that] they made some excellent defensive plays at the end of the game.”

Milwaukee also struggled to get much going against Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz. He allowed just one run on four hits in his five innings of work.

“We had some action every inning with him out there,” Counsell said. “We just never got that last hit. Never got a man to third with less than two outs or anything like that. We had men on against him every inning. We were just one hit away.”

Jimmy Nelson (5-4) was tagged with the loss. He also went five innings, giving up four runs in addition to striking out eight. He pitched his final inning in an absolute downpour, and the Braves managed to get a pair of runs off of him there.

“I’m not a weather man. I stay out of that,” Counsell said when asked if he thought the game should be stopped. “The umpires, they’ve got all the information. It’s never an easy call when it’s raining like that.”

Milwaukee will look to bounce back Saturday afternoon with game No. 2 of the series getting underway at 3:10 p.m.

Starting Pitchers need to be going deeper into games

Jimmy Nelson threw a complete game for the Brewers Sunday afternoon in a 2-1 win over the San Diego Padres. It took Nelson 118 pitches to record the 27th and final out in a game the Brewers desperately needed to rest its weary bullpen. Believe it or not, this was the first complete game thrown by a Milwaukee pitcher since Taylor Jungmann did it in 2015. If you listened to the telecast with Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder on FSN Wisconsin, you would have picked up on how Schroeder continued to make comments about how hard of a decision this must have been for manager Craig Counsell.

The Number 100

The reasoning behind this was because of Nelson’s high pitch count. The Brewers bullpen has been used quite a bit and has been awful this season. Nelson was in uncharted territory for him. He has averaged 93.5 pitchers per start this season, and was already over 100 pitches after he finished his eighth inning of work. Counsell believed in his pitcher and Jimmy came threw for the Crew as he finished off the Padres in the ninth, and gave the Brewers a series win. Nelson struck out 10 batters, while only surrendering one run on six hits and two walks in his complete game.

When I was a kid a don’t ever really remember hearing much about pitch counts for Major League pitchers. I can still remember my junior high days when CC Sabathia was grabbing the ball every third day and throwing complete games like it was nothing. It feels like all of a sudden Major League Organizations decided on the number 100 for when to go out and pull your starting pitcher. 100 is a nice round number to wrap your brain around, but shouldn’t be the factor that ultimately ends a pitcher’s start.

Going Deeper into Games

There is no perfect time to know when to remove a pitcher from the game. To me it should come down to feel. The manager should have a feel for when his pitcher is at the end of this rope. I applaud Counsell for staying with Nelson in yesterday’s game. Nelson was rolling along. He was pitching well and was emotionally invested in the game. You could tell he didn’t want to come out of the game in that spot. If the pitcher is still pitching well and feels good, why not leave him in?

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Brewers fans know how bad the bullpen has been this season. The bullpen has already blown 19 of the teams 33 losses. That leads the Major Leagues in games blown by a bullpen. I don’t care if the bullpen has been heavily worked or not. I’m not confident in handing the ball to any of the relievers not named Barnes or Knebel! The Brewers are winning and leading the National League Central and should be able to lean on their starters for more innings. It would be easier to put more on the starters plates, than to revamp the bullpen at this point in the season.

Today’s Game

I’m sick of hearing how they need to protect young arms. These guys aren’t “young” anymore. Outside of Zach Davies, all of the Brewers starters are in they’re late 20’s or early 30’s. This should be a time in their careers where you can stretch out their innings. Allowing for these pitchers to work through tough situations should make them better pitchers in the long run. When pitchers are tired and don’t have the same velocity as they did in the earlier innings, this is where they learn how to pitch. It will make them have to rely on their location, develop new pitches and tricks to get batters out, etc.

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Some may argue that more innings and pitches equals more injuries. I think that’s true to a point. Yes, more pitches and innings allows for more opportunity for injuries. But in today’s baseball, guys are throwing harder than ever before and surgeries are becoming common practice. Arm injuries no longer end guys careers, and in some cases allow them to come back stronger. It’s not if your starting pitcher is going to have arm surgery, it’s when. Injuries are a part of the game, but shouldn’t deter managers from allowing pitchers to go longer in games to help the team win.

 

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Nelson tosses a gem for Father’s Day win over Padres

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers bullpen didn’t let this one get away, but that’s because Jimmy Nelson threw his first career complete game in a 2-1 victory over the San Diego Padres.

While Milwaukee’s relief pitching has given away 19 games (MLB-high), Sunday’s work on the mound was handled solely by 28-year-old Nelson. He allowed six hits over nine innings of work, while striking out 10 San Diego on his way to win No. 5.

The Padres struck first, thanks to Keon Broxton’s fielding error in the top of the fifth inning. Erick Aybar received credit for an RBI single on the play. But the Brewers responded an inning later, with Hernan Perez and Manny Piña recording their 10th and fourth home runs of the year, respectively.

Nelson helped his own cause offensively, going 1-for-3 at the plate. The win improves Milwaukee’s record at Miller Park to 19-20, while maintaining a 2½ game lead over the Chicago Cubs for first place in the National League Central.

Nelson, Brewers get a 6-3 win over the Giants

Milwaukee got contributions from all over its roster on Wednesday night to beat the San Francisco Giants 6-3 and reclaim sole possession of first place in the NL Central.

Starter Jimmy Nelson went six innings for the Brewers, giving up three runs on seven hits and striking out six to pick up his fourth win of the year. It wasn’t the dominating effort he’d given the last two times out, but it was good enough.

“Tough to be as sharp as his last outing, for sure, but he battled through it,” manager Craig Counsell said afterwards. “He just competed really well and got through it.”

Nelson turned things over to a bullpen that had been shaky of late, but they were lights out against San Francisco. Jared Hughes, Jacob Barnes and Corey Knebel didn’t allow a hit in their three innings of work while striking out four of the 10 batters they faced.

The offense was a group effort, with six different players driving home a run, including a homer from Domingo Santana in the first inning. After falling behind 3-1, Milwaukee took the lead in the fifth courtesy of a Jesus Aguilar two-out double, which proved to be the winning hit.

The Brewers win and a Chicago loss to Miami allowed the Crew to go one-game up on the Cubs in the NL Central race. They’ll close out their series with the Giants this Thursday afternoon at Miller Park.

Bullpen falters as Dodgers top Brewers 2-1

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson shined with 11 strikeouts over eight shutout frames, but solo home runs in the ninth and 12th innings gave the Los Angeles Dodgers a 2-1 victory Friday night at Miller Park.

Yasmandi Grandal homered off Corey Knebel (blown save) in the ninth to tie the game at 1-1, while teammate Cody Bellinger blasted the deciding run in the 12th off Neftali Feliz. Feliz would take the loss for Milwaukee, dropping his record to 1-5.

“I thought Neftali made a decent pitch to Bellinger. I did not think it was a bad pitch,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He executed a pitch that was up. I give [Bellinger] a lot of credit right there. It was an ‘up’ pitch, which is what we wanted to do. He got on top of a 95 mph fastball right there.”

Nelson’s performance on the mound was significant, as he became the first player in Brewers history to strike out at least 10 batters in consecutive outings without a walk. Just one season ago, Nelson led the Majors in walked batters with 86.

But Los Angeles received a gem of a performance from their starting pitcher, as Clayton Kershawk struck out 14 over seven innings to become the third-fastest pitcher to reach the 2000 strikeout mark in a career. The Brewers swung the bat early and often, striking out 26 times and tying a franchise record.

Nelson, Santana lead Brewers in 9-5 win over Diamondbacks

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers finished off a home stand and a four-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks in style, using the arm of Jimmy Nelson and the bat of Domingo Santana for a 9-5 win.

The victory solidified Milwaukee’s lead in the National League Central while handing Arizona its first back-to-back loss in two weeks. Nelson went seven innings with a season-high 10 strikeouts and just one earned run.

Santana provided a good bit of run support, smacking the Crew’s first grand slam of the season in the fourth inning. It was also the first grand slam by a Brewer at Miller Park since Ryan Braun did so in August of 2015. Santana finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs.

If there was a downside to the 9-5 win, it was the relief appearance by Oliver Drake. He allowed four earned runs on three hits without retiring a single batter.

Second baseman Jonathan Villar was dropped to seventh in the batting order because of a recent hitting slump. He finished 2-for-4 at the plate while scoring a run.

Brewers bats quiet in 4-3 loss to Blue Jays

MILWAUKEE — The red-hot offense that led the Milwaukee Brewers to first place in the National League Central was relatively quiet in a 4-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday night.

The Crew recorded five hits, while striking out 11 times. Oddly enough, second baseman Jonathan Villar, who’s been on a cold spell as of late, accounted for the majority of Milwaukee’s run production. He drove in a pair of runs in the fifth inning with a well-placed single to finish 1-for-4 on the night.

“The big thing for [VIllar] is to just get on base,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “More than the stolen bases or anything like that, just get on base. That’s going to put us in…the other team’s got to defend the steal and make pitches. And that’s what we’re looking for.”

Ryan Braun was 0-for-3 at the plate, still hitless after two games since returning from the disabled list. He also left five runners on base.

Jimmy Nelson (2-3, 4.20 ERA) was responsible for allowing all four Blue Jays runs to score, giving up eight hits along the way. He struck out three over five innings. Rob Scahill, Carlos Torres, and Neftali Feliz combined for a shutout the rest of the way for Milwaukee.

Rain delay at PNC Park contributes to Brewers 4-0 loss

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 4-0 Friday night in soggy conditions at PNC Park.

A two hour, 27 minute rain delay at the top of the fourth inning spelled an early end to Jimmy Nelson’s night, interrupting what had been a dazzling performance of three hitless innings.

“It’s a shame because he was pitching very well,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Nelson. “He was on top of his game, for sure. It was a very solid, quick, efficient three innings. 2 ½ hours [rain delay] was just too long.”

The delay did little to slow down what Pittsburgh was doing on the mound. Starter Chad Kuhl and reliever Wade LeBlanc combined for six shutout innings, allowing a total of four hits. Josh Bell led the way for the Pirates offensively, going 2-for-4 with a double and a home run.

Leake dominates as Cardinals beat Brewers in series finale 6-4

MILWAUKEE — Mike Leake not only threw six innings of two-run baseball, but drove in two runs with his bat, giving the St. Louis Cardinals a 6-4 win Sunday over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Leake’s two-run single in the fourth inning put St. Louis ahead for good, with Ryan Braun coming up just short of a game-tying home run in the ninth inning. Leake also dominated on the mound, striking out six Milwaukee batters in his six innings of work. He picks up his third win of the year and his ERA dropped to 1.32 on the season.

“It doesn’t feel good, it is kind of like a dagger. It is one of the last things you want to do.”

That was leake’s reaction when asked about getting a hit against opposing pitcher Jimmy Nelson when Nelson got ahead in the count 0-2. Nelson would allow just one more earned run the rest of the way, but the damage had already been done after walking six batters.

The Cardinals got the job done without swinging for the fences. It’s the first time since Apr. 14, 2014 that St. Louis has left Milwaukee without at least one home run during the course of a series.

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.