Game Seventy-Three Recap: Brewers 4, Mets 1

TOP PLAY (WPA):  Leading off the top of the fourth, Curtis Granderson crushed a 94-mph fastball on a 1-2 count from Jimmy Nelson over the right-field wall for a solo home run, bringing the Mets within a run (.112 WPA).

Looking back on the game, this solo home run was little more than a blip on the radar. At the time, though, Granderson’s homer gave the Mets a sense of life and cut the Brewers’ lead in half. The Mets’ right fielder took advantage of Nelson’s loose command within the strike zone and punished a two-strike fastball that split the plate in two.

Nelson has quality stuff; that’s beyond debate. His swinging-strike rate hovers around 11 percent, and he generates a ton of grounders. His problem, as with many young pitchers, is that he doesn’t always throw good strikes. Too many of his fastballs find the heart of the plate, and big league pitchers will capitalize on those mistakes with regularity. Throwing 94-96 mph is no longer enough. Nelson has improved his command within the zone this year, but it remains a work-in-progress. That proved true when he grooved a two-strike fastball to Granderson, who bombed it into the right-field stands.

BOTTOM PLAY (WPA):  Eric Campbell grounded into a back-breaking double play for the Mets, wiping out their leadoff baserunner and allowing Jimmy Nelson to settle back into a groove from the windup (-.081 WPA). The double play kept the Brewers comfortably in the lead at 2-0.

The majority of the game cruised along peacefully for Jimmy Nelson and the Brewers. The squad took an early lead in the first inning and never looked back. But Campbell’s double play in the third represented a significant tipping point. If Nelson stumbled after allowing a leadoff single to catcher Johnny Monell, the Mets could have jumped back into the game, forcing Nelson to throw high-leverage pitches and putting the onus back on the offense to score more runs. The double play snuffed out the first legitimate threat. It allowed Nelson to settle back into the windup and establish a rhythm.

The latter part is important. Nelson has struggled with his command out of the stretch this year.

Situation K% BB% AVG OBP
Bases Empty 23.4% 8.5% .254 .328
Men on Base 14.8% 9.7% .265 .357
Men in Scoring 16.0% 12.3% .244 .358

The above chart illustrates how much more comfortable Nelson is out of the windup. Most of his struggles out of the stretch stem from trying to hold runners, as it disrupts his rhythm and his delivery on the mound. This is why Nelson has had a strand rate below the league-average the past two seasons. It’s an issue that many young pitchers must learn to overcome, though, and it’s certainly not a death sentence for any second-year starter.

However, in Wednesday night’s game, Campbell’s double play allowed Nelson to avoid an extended period of time pitching from the stretch. He returned to the windup and only pitched from the stretch one other time in the game. That was with two outs in the sixth, and Nelson struck out Ruben Tejada on a slider up in the zone. All in all, the 6-foot-6 hurler managed to avoid his biggest weakness.


It won’t be discussed much in post-game recaps; however, the key moment of the game for me was Gerardo Parra’s leadoff double in the bottom of the first inning. It set the tone for the offense against Bartolo Colon and began a stretch of four-consecutive hits to begin the game for the Brewers. He got the first hit and the first run, ultimately giving Jimmy Nelson the cushion he needed to settle into the contest.

Parra’s double also stood out because it cut against the grain — he jumped on a first-pitch slider from Bartolo Colon. Granted, it’s not uncommon for hitters to attack early in the count against Colon. The right-hander is going to throw strikes. He once threw 38-consecutive strikes in a game. But he’s almost always going to do that with his fastball. He features his fastball more than any other starter in baseball, and Colon has only thrown his slider 9.1 percent of the time in 2015. Thus, one would imagine that Parra was sitting dead-red to begin that at-bat. To get a surprise slider to begin the game, though, and to line it to right field for a double? That’s crazy, given the circumstances.


Francisco Rodriguez has been brilliant this season, allowing only three earned runs in 27 appearances (1.00 ERA). He similarly got out of the gates well in 2014 — as he didn’t surrender a run until May 11 — but the long-time closer is currently finding a level of success to which he’s not accustomed. Most simply, opposing hitters cannot touch him.

Year O-Swing% SwStr% K% AVG
2012 26.6% 8.0% 23.6% .237
2013 28.4% 10.5% 28.0% .236
2014 27.4% 11.5% 27.2% .197
2015 39.1% 15.3% 33.0% .149

K-Rod is getting hitters to swing-and-miss at a career-high clip and at a level we haven’t seen since he joined the Brewers on a full-time basis in 2012. And, really, missing bats has never been his problem. It’s been getting ahead in the count often enough to get to his plus-changeup. But he’s not getting ahead in the count more often than normal. His 57.5 percent first-pitch-strike rate is almost identical to his career norm. Despite that fact and despite a fastball that continues to lose both velocity and effectiveness, he’s still getting guys to chase and he’s missing bats more than ever.

As our own Derek Harvey wrote on Tuesday, any lack of interest for K-Rod on the trade market has little to do with his on-the-field performance in 2015. He’s been great. In fact, he arguably hasn’t compiled numbers this good since the 2004 season, in which he had a 1.64 FIP and a 3.2 WARP. The Brewers have sucked in 2015, but their poor record would be even worse without Francisco Rodriguez dominating the ninth inning.


The Milwaukee Brewers go for the sweep against Jake deGrom and the Mets on Thursday at 1:10pm CT. Right-hander Taylor Jungmann takes the bump for his fourth major-league start, and it will be a favorable matchup for him. Coming into Wednesday night, the Mets had the third-worst offense (.659 OPS) against righties in Major League Baseball, and that OPS obviously declined even further after Jimmy Nelson’s gem. Furthermore, the Mets have lost seven-straight games and are reeling. Jungmann has a chance to continue his early success, if he pounds the strike zone and continues to induce a plethora of ground balls.

If his command problems that plagued him in the minors return, though, the Mets have a good chance to avoid the sweep and break their losing streak — as deGrom has been nasty as of late. Since the beginning of May, deGrom has a 1.87 ERA. Needless to say, Jungmann won’t likely benefit from too much run support on Thursday. His command will have to be on point.

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