Brewers Neil Walker making debut at 3rd base

One day after the Milwaukee Brewers traded for second baseman Neil Walker from the New York Mets, Walker gets the start for the Crew Sunday against the Reds. Walker will start at third base and bat cleanup in place of regular 3B Travis Shaw who is dealing with a right foot injury.

 

Walker is batting .264 this season, with 10 home runs and 27 RBIs in 73 games. He missed a large chunk of June and July with a hamstring injury, just returning to the lineup on July 28. This was the 31-year-old’s second year in New York, having spent his first seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

While Walker’s stats may not blow anyone away, the Brewers struggles at second base have been a story for several months. They waived Scooter Gennett during spring training, handing the job to Jonathan Villar. He’s batting just .222 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs. Milwaukee overcame his struggles early on because of Eric Sogard’s surprise success. He batted .331 before the all-star break, but since returning from an injury in late July, he’s got five hits in 45 at-bats.

 

Milwaukee offense shows signs of life in 11-10 loss to Cincinnati

Milwaukee’s offense showed signs of life, but it wasn’t enough for the Brewers to avoid an 11-10 loss to Cincinnati on Friday night at Miller Park.

The Reds lit-up starter Jimmy Nelson, tagging him for a season-high 10 runs on 11 hits in just 3 2/3rds innings. It was the second-shortest outing of the year for Nelson, who is having the best season of his career.

On the other side, Homer Bailey, who had given up 10 runs in his last start, kept the Brewers bats at bay, going five innings and allowing just two runs on five hits. But the bullpen had a night to forget, especially Blake Wood. He gave up five runs without recording an out in the sixth inning, including a three-run homer by Eric Thames. He was replaced by Michael Lorenzen, who would give up two more runs in what turned into a 7-run sixth inning for Milwaukee.

The Crew trailed 10-9 heading into the seventh, when the Reds got one of the runs back courtesy of a Tucker Barnhardt home run off reliever Carlos Torres. The run proved to be the game-winner as Milwaukee got a homer from Jonathan Villar in the ninth but nothing else.

Milwaukee’s 10 runs were the most its scored since putting up 11 against Chicago on July 6, and the first time in 14 games it scored more than four runs.

The loss was the sixth straight for Milwaukee, who fell into a tie with Pittsburgh for third place in the NL Central. Both teams trail St. Louis by two games and Chicago by three.

The Brewers and Reds will matchup once again Saturday night 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.

 

 

 

 

Report: Brewers interested in Detroit 2B Ian Kinsler

Milwaukee may be in a bit of a free fall, but the team is apparently still looking to make moves to help its chances to win the NL Central and get back to the playoffs for the first time in six years.

The latest evidence comes from ESPN’s Buster Olney, who tweeted Saturday morning that the club was digging into the possibility of acquiring Detroit second baseman Ian Kinsler. The 35-year-old is batting just .244 with nine home runs and 26 RBIs. A four-time all-star, Kinsler won a Gold Glove a year ago for the Tigers.

Milwaukee’s interest in the second baseman comes as regular starter Jonathan Villar continues to struggle at the plate, hitting just .223 with eight homers and 30 RBIs. Backup Eric Sogard, who was playing well before an injury on the 4th of July put him on the disabled list, is expected to return for the club on Saturday night in Philadelphia.

Kinsler is the third Tigers player the Brewers have reportedly been interested in acquiring, joining starter Justin Verlander and reliever Justin Wilson.

The Brewers have lost six straight games and have seen their 5.5 game lead in the NL Central shrink to just one game on the Chicago Cubs since the all-star break.

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.

Braun, Villar activated off the disabled list

Milwaukee is getting some reinforcements.

The Brewers announced Tuesday afternoon that outfielder Ryan Braun and second baseman Jonathan Villar had been reinstated from the 10-day disabled list, while outfielder Nick Franklin had been designated for assignment.

Braun has been out with a calf strain since May 26, his second stint on the DL this year. When he’s played, he’s been OK, batting .262 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs.

Villar hit the disabled list on June 10 with a back injury suffered in the process of making a great defensive play against Arizona. The Brewers leadoff hitter is batting .213 with six home runs and 26 RBIs.

Milwaukee will open a series against the Reds in Cincinnati on Tuesday night.

Braun expected to return Tuesday vs Reds

CINCINNATI — The Milwaukee Brewers will be joined in Cincinnati Tuesday night by six-time All-Star Ryan Braun, who completed a Class A rehab assignment over the weekend.

Braun is expected to rejoin the team when they take on the Reds, having played in three games with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in Appleton. Braun was 2-for-8 with a home run over the course of the series.  It was his first minor league start since May of 2007.

Braun hit the disabled list on May 26 with a calf strain, but has been slow to recover from an injury that also led to a lengthy DL stint for teammate Junior Guerra. He was out from Apr. 4 until May 26.

Joining Braun at the major league level this week is second baseman Jonathan Villar, who was on the 10-day disabled list with a lower back strain.

Villar injured in 8-6 win over D-Backs

PHOENIX — The Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 8-6 Friday night, but it came at the cost of second baseman Jonathan Villar, who left in the eighth inning after a diving attempt to catch a ball heading into right field.

“He has pretty good back spasms, it’s really locked up,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “The back really tightened up.”

Counsell said Villar’s back spasms were a result of the collision with the ground and x-rays will be taken and analyzed on Saturday.

As for the game itself, Zach Davies threw five innings with four hits and four runs (three earned) and would have stayed in for another inning had it not been for Paul Goldschmidt’s RBI single in the fifth.

That RBI tied the game at 4, but Jesus Aguilar would put the Brewers ahead for good with a two-RBI double in the top of the sixth inning. Manny Pina and Orlando Arcia finished with three-hit performances.

Corey Knebel was masterful out of the bullpen, recording his eighth save of the year. He struck out three batters in 1.1 innings, adding to his total of 57 Ks on the season and 13 this month. Knebel’s season ERA dips to an impressive 1.15 on the year, allowing just 4 earned runs over 31.1 innings.

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.

Anderson shuts down Toronto in a 2-0 win for the Brewers

Milwaukee (4-5) got seven scoreless innings from Chase Anderson, and Jonathan Villar hit his third home run of the year, as the Brewers beat Toronto (1-7) 2-0 Wednesday night.

Anderson was fantastic in his second-longest outing in his Milwaukee career, mixing and matching his fastball and change up to fluster a Blue Jays lineup that has given pitchers fits in recent years. He gave up just three hits and struck out seven batters on his way to his first win of the year.

“This is the best I’ve seen him,” manager Craig Counsell said. “He just had really good stuff.”

Anderson handed the game over to relievers Corey Knebel and Neftali Feliz, with the latter picking up his third save of the season.

The Brewers didn’t give Anderson much help offensively, but they did just enough. Outfielder Keon Broxton doubled home a run in the second inning, while Villar’s 429-foot homer in the sixth inning provided some breathing room to help Milwaukee get their first back-to-back wins of the year.

Counsell’s club will now head to Cincinnati for a four-game series starting Thursday night.