The Milwaukee Brewers split their series with the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday, dropping a doubleheader on Thursday that was necessitated by a historic boycott of Wednesday’s game.
The Brewers took the first two games of the series behind solid pitching outings from Brett Anderson and Brandon Woodruff.
But after the Bucks boycotted their first round playoff game on Wednesday following civil unrest in nearby Kenosha, the Brewers and Reds agreed not to play the third game of the series. The protests by the teams sparked similar walk-outs around both leagues in an effort to combat social injustice.
The postponement led to Thursday’s doubleheader, which resulted in a 6-1 loss in the opener and a 6-0 loss in the night cap. The doubleheader marked the first ever at Miller Park.
Brewers Rough Up Bauer
Reds’ pitcher Trevor Bauer came into the opener leading the NL in ERA, but Justin Smoak and Omar Narváez sought to change that.
Smoak opened the scoring in the 1st with an RBI single and then launched his fifth homer of the year off Bauer in the 3rd to give the Brewers a 3-0 lead.
Narváez added a solo shot an inning later to make it 4-0.
Anderson, for the most part, held the Reds in check. He cruised through the first five innings, giving up just two singles, before coughing up solo homers to Curt Casali and Eugenio Suarez that cut the lead to 4-2.
The trio of Devin Williams, David Phelps, and Josh Hader held the Reds hitless the rest of the way. Hader picked up his 6th save of the year despite allowing a leadoff walk.
Gamel’s Arm Saves the Day
In one of the rarer plays you’ll see in baseball, the Brewers got a key out on a forceout at home from Ben Gamel, who was playing right field. The 9-2 put out was a turning point as it secured a 3-2 Brewers lead and eventually became the decisive play of the game.
The Brewers had just taken that lead in the 4th, but the Reds quickly responded, loading the bases in the top of the 5th. With one out, Nicholas Castellanos cracked a in-between line drive to right field. Freddy Galvis was forced to freeze and return to third base anticipating tagging up. But the ball landed in front of Gamel, who came up throwing and tossed a dandy, one-hop strike to nail Galvis at home.
At first, the home plate umpire called Galvis safe, not realizing it was a forceout. The call was subsequently overturned, and Woodruff forced a Jesse Winker pop up to end the threat.
Hader tossed a scoreless 9th to notch his 7th save after clean innings from Brent Suter and Devin Williams.
Brewers Bats Go Silent in Doubleheader
As has been an ongoing theme with the Brewers this year, the offense failed to show up on Thursday.
Sonny Gray shut the Brewers out over five innings in game one. Meanwhile, his offense got to Adrian Houser early and often and propelled the Reds to a 6-1 victory.
Castellanos and Winker each took Houser deep, and the Reds scored four runs on nine hits off the Brewers starter.
The lone Brewers run came from an Omar Narváez solo shot in 6th.
Things somehow got uglier in the night cap, as the Brewers were shut out completely in a 6-0 loss.
Former Brewer Wade Miley, who entered the game with a 9.72 ERA, thoroughly shut down his old squad. Miley allowed just one hit and walked just one over four innings en route to the win.
Josh Lindblom got the start for the Brewers and was good but not terribly sharp, giving up two runs on three hits and a walk over four innings. Freddy Peralta and Justin Grimm gave up two runs apiece in their single inning outings.
The Offense (Probably) Isn’t Really This Bad
Even though the Brewers managed a split in the series, they were outscored 16-8 in the four-game set. It continues a season-long trend of woefully poor run production from a lineup with plenty of proven run producers.
The Brewers currently rank 29th with 3.73 runs per game. Their .211 team batting average also ranks 2nd to last. This is concerning certainly, but the daily lineups are filled from top to bottom with guys that are underperforming.
Christian Yelich, the two-time defending NL batting champ, is hitting just .190 at the halfway point of this shortened season. Veteran slugger Ryan Braun is batting only a tick higher at .193, well below his .297 lifetime average.
Avisaíl Garcia owns a career BA of .271 but is hitting just .222 this season. Keston Hiura hit .303 in his rookie season last year but is hitting at a .237 clip this year while leading the NL in strikeouts. Narváez’s .169 average is well below his career mark of .270.
The offense has been so anemic that Jedd Gyorko, a platoon player with only 34 at bats in 16 games, is leading the team in offensive WAR.
What does that all mean? It means there’s reason to be [cautiously] optimistic.
Despite all the offensive woes, the Brewers are remarkably still very much in the thick of the playoff chase, thanks in no small part to the expanded 16-team format.
If career averages mean anything, there’s reason to believe that at some point the bats will get going. Yelich, Hiura, and Braun all have the capability of carrying the team for a few games. Perhaps if one person gets hot, the rest will follow.
However, there’s been very little evidence to suggest a turnaround is coming, and the urgency to do so in a shortened season may end up forcing these guys to press even harder. But at the halfway point, with as bad as the offense has been, the fact that the Brewers are still in the hunt for a 3rd straight playoff appearance is at least something fans can hang their hats on for now.
The Brewers continue their homestand by hosting the Pirates in a four-game set this weekend. These two teams faced each other in Pittsburgh last weekend, where the Pirates came away with a three-game sweep.
Corbin Burnes gets the nod in game one for the Crew, while the Pirates will send Derek Holland to the bump.