Breaking down the Bucks 2017-18 schedule

MILWAUKEE — The NBA released its full schedule of games Monday night, highlighted by some key dates for the Milwaukee Bucks.

While the Bucks will have fewer nationally televised games in the 2017-18 season than in past years (16, down from 20 the past two seasons), they’ll still be part of some marquee matchups. That includes games on Halloween (vs Thunder), New Year’s Day (@ Raptors), Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 4 @ Nets), St. Patrick’s Day (vs Hawks), and Easter (@ Nuggets).

Milwaukee’s schedule should be a little less taxing, with 14 back-to-back games, down from 17 last season.

The full schedule can be found here.

Key Matchups
Oct. 18 @ Boston Celtics
The Bucks have opened the season at home each of the past two seasons, so it’s their turn to open on the road in 2017-18. Milwaukee went 1-2 against Boston last season, finishing the regular season with a 112-94 loss at the TD Garden.

Oct. 20 vs Cleveland Cavaliers
One of the Bucks’ top opponents comes at the start of the schedule, with LeBron James and company heading to the BMO Harris Bradley Center to hand Milwaukee another early test. It remains to be seen if Kyrie Irving will be part of that roster.

Jan. 1 @ Toronto Raptors
The Bucks will have to wait until New Year’s Day to get a measure of revenge against the team that knocked them out of the first round of last year’s playoffs. It could also help decide what direction Milwaukee heads with the All Star break slated for mid-February.

Return to The MECCA?
For months, the Bucks have been teasing a return to the UW | Milwaukee Panther Arena, formerly known as The MECCA, where the team called home during its only championship in 1971. That year, the Bucks beat the Washington Bullets for the championship, so it’s possible the highly-anticipated return could take place on either Nov. 20 or Feb. 27 when the Washington Wizards are scheduled to visit Milwaukee.

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.

Brewers beat Reds on walk-off wild pitch

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers ended a six-game losing streak Saturday night, beating the Cincinnati Reds 6-5 on a walk-off wild pitch in the 10th inning at Miller Park.

After an Eric Thames solo home run in the sixth inning tied the game at 5-5, the Brewers were looking for some magic during a bases-loaded at-bat with Ryan Braun in the 10th. Eric Sogard had reached on a double, followed by consecutive walks to Jesus Aguilar and Eric Thames.

That magic came in the form of a wild pitch from Tim Adleman which traveled far enough away from the plate that Sogard was able to dive in from third base to beat the tag at home plate.

“I think you’re kind of expecting a walk-off hit to break a streak, but you take it any way you can get it,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “I think you can tell by the celebration we had that we needed it.”

The win not only snapped the six-game skid, but pulled Milwaukee within 2.0 games of the National League Central lead with the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals tied at the top of the division.

Corey Knebel was credited with the win, tossing two innings of one-hit baseball while striking out three. All five Reds runs came off starter Brent Suter, who allowed three home runs over his five innings of work.

Rays walk off against Brewers, avoid series sweep

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays avoided a series sweep Sunday afternoon, taking down the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1 on a walk-off home run from Steven Souza, Jr.

After eight quality innings from Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson, Jacob Barnes allowed the one hit that made the difference in the contest, breaking the 1-1 deadlock. Nelson allowed six hits while fanning nine.

Opposing starter Chris Archer exited the game after six innings and an Orlando Arcia solo home run, Milwaukee’s only scoring offense of the game. Archer was given a no-decision while extending his streak of six innings to 15 consecutive starts.

While the Rays end their 21-inning scoreless drought, the Brewers took a momentary step back in the National League Central standings. Milwaukee now trails Chicago by a full game, with the Cubs and Nationals finishing up Sunday evening.

Report: Bucks among eight teams to wear throwbacks in 2017-18 season

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks will celebrate 50 seasons in the NBA come 2018, and to go along with it is a fifth jersey option dating back to the team’s inaugural season.

According to the report from SportsLogos.net, the Bucks are among eight teams donning throwback or “classic” jerseys for the 2017 season. Other teams are the Hawks, Hornets, Lakers, Heat, Warriors, Pacers, and Suns.

Photos: Getty Images/Bucks.com

While the above images may not be an exact representation of what Milwaukee could be wearing in the 2017-18 season, they should be rough estimate of the appearance. More details are expected as the season approaches.

The decision to add a fifth jersey option kicks off an eight-year partnership between the NBA and Nike.

It’s unclear exactly when Milwaukee might opt to wear the “classics,” but it’s widely believed that might happen during the team’s “Return to the Mecca” game played at the UW | Milwaukee Panther Arena, where the Bucks played their inaugural season. Details will be released at a later date.

Davies masterful in shutout win over Rays

TAMPA, Fla. — It was his first career start against the Tampa Bay Rays, but you wouldn’t know it as Zach Davies led the Milwaukee Brewers to a 3-0 win Saturday night.

Davies logged seven innings, allowing just one hit on the way to his 13th win of the year. Jacob Barnes and Anthony Swarzak finished it off with just three hits allowed between them.

Milwaukee’s offense was held relatively quiet in Alex Cobb’s six innings for Tampa Bay. They logged five hits against him, one of which was a solo home run by Orlando Arcia in the third inning. That would prove to be Milwaukee’s only scoring until a key ninth inning.

That’s when Hernan Perez went to work, leading off the inning with a solo shot to set the tone for the rest of the inning. With the bases loaded, Jose Alvarado was charged with a wild pitch, allowing Jesus Aguilar to score from third base.

But it wasn’t all good news for the Brewers. In the second inning, third baseman Travis Shaw was hit in the head as the Rays tried to throw him out as he attempted to steal second base. He left the game and did not return, though an initial evaluation has him listed as day-to-day with a bruised neck.

Davies’ performance followed up a 2-0 win on Friday night, giving Milwaukee it’s first set of back-to-back shutout wins since 2013.

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.

Brewers keep slumping as Cubs take series at Miller Park

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers have struggled to find offensive rhythm and that was the case again Sunday afternoon in a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Miller Park.

The Brewers were baffled by John Lackey, who allowed five hits over six innings, while fanning seven. He earned his eighth win of the year while Milwaukee’s Zach Davies took his fifth loss, despite a respectable box score of seven innings, three earned runs, and six strikeouts.

“Offensively, we just haven’t been very good,” Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw said. “Our pitching staff did their job this series. I thought the bullpen did a really good job and Davies, another great quality start for us today. It’s just offensively, we did not come up with the clutch hit. There’s ruts like that throughout the season. Obviously, we were really good in the first half offensively. We just have to find a way to get going.”

Chicago didn’t have any trouble getting offense from unexpected places. Fill-in first baseman Victor Caratini launched a go-ahead solo homer in the seventh inning, which led to a solo blast from Kris Bryant in the following frame. It was the Cubs’ 13th win in 16 outings, also expanding their lead in the National League Central to 2 ½ games over the Brewers.

The Brewers did manage to set a club record in the loss, though one they’ll likely try to forget. Milwaukee has gone hitless with runners in scoring position 31 consecutive times, breaking a record set in 1987 when the Brewers went 0-for-30.

“I don’t think anybody in this clubhouse is too worried about this one series,” Davies said. “Yeah, it would have been nice to switch up the standings again, but there’s still 55 games or so left to play and we’re going to go out and compete in every one of them.”

Milwaukee welcomes St. Louis on Tuesday night where the Cardinals look to secure their 14th straight series in Milwaukee.

Cubs outlast Brewers to win in 11th inning

MILWAUKEE — Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward will get credit for the 2-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, but the 11-inning loss was set up by some early control issues.

Junior Guerra was pulled after three innings due to a slow start that saw the Opening Day starter walk four Chicago batters. His replacement, Josh Hader, fared much better, throwing three innings with six strikeouts and just a single walk issues. Hader showed his versatility after getting work out of the bullpen in Friday night’s win.

A factor leading to Milwaukee’s loss in Saturday’s rematch can be summed up by their record with runners in scoring position over the first two games of the series: 0-for-16.

“I don’t think we created enough opportunities to score tonight,” said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. “Expecting two-out hits every night to score runs, we have to do a little better than that.”

Milwaukee’s only offense came in the form of a first-inning RBI double from Ryan Braun. Chicago kept playing to its opportunities, finally breaking through in the seventh inning with a Kris Bryant RBI single that tied the game 1-1.

Then came the mistake that mattered.

Jared Hughes, who came in to pitch the final two innings for Milwaukee, left a slider up in the zone for Heyward, who blasted the ball out of the park with what would prove to be the winning run.

“I wish I could have that one back right there,” said Hughes. “I missed over the plate and Heyward went down and did a good job of hitting it hard. Overall, if we keep pitching like that, I think we’re going to be OK, though.”

Brewers won’t trade Brinson to A’s, now targeting Straily

MILWAUKEE — With the MLB trade deadline approaching on Monday afternoon, the rumor mill continues to turn for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Milwaukee has been involved in several trade talks to acquire a starting pitcher, but talks have reportedly stalled with the Oakland A’s because the Brewers are unwilling to include outfielder Lewis Brinson as part of the deal to land Sonny Gray.

The Brewers are in the midst of a crucial series with the Cubs that could set the tone moving forward in the National League Central. In 17 games at the Major League level, Brinson has struggled to a .128 batting average, but has been lighting it up in Triple A Colorado Springs, batting .345.

It would appear as though Milwaukee has moved on to a new trade target, with reports linking the Brewers to the Marlins, though several other teams are also interested in right hander Dan Straily.

Straily will make just $552,000 for this season, meaning Miami will want a large haul of prospects in return for the lengthy team control. Perhaps a preemptive move to build demand in the market, Miami was reportedly not considering and trade offers for Straily.

The 28-year-old hurler gave up a league-high 31 home runs last year and has already given up 19 this season in his 21 starts. The positive for whichever team ends up controlling Straily through 2020 is that his K/9 rate last year (7.6) has improved to 8.2 in 2017.