TOP PLAY (WPA): Ryan Braun launched a two-run homer off a hanging slider from Casey Fien (+.280 WPA).
Each team scored their first runs in the seventh inning, but the most influential play of the day came in the eighth. The Twins sent one of their better relievers, right-hander Casey Fien, to the mound. He had entered the game with a 2.38 ERA in 22.2 innings. Jonathan Lucroy drew a lead-off walk. Ryan Braun, who had gone hitless in four at-bats with a pair of walks, stepped into the box. His last home run came on June 19th, and he only had two home runs in the entire month. On a 1-0 count, Braun absolutely crushed a home run to deep left field, over the Brewers bullpen, giving the Brewers a 3-1 lead. Later in the same inning, Adam Lind would provide important insurance runs. However, it was Braun’s home run that was the game-changer.
BOTTOM PLAY (WPA): With a runner on third and one out in the seventh inning, Shane Peterson grounded out and kept the Brewers down a run (-.135 WPA).
The Brew Crew greatly struggled against Twins starter Tommy Milone. In total, they only mustered two hits and three walks against him. Both hits came in the seventh inning; however, it was a near-disaster for Milwaukee in that frame. Aramis Ramirez led off the inning with a double and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. With one out, it felt imperative that Shane Peterson drive in the run, the way Milone had kept the Brewers bats in check. He managed a couple of good hacks, almost lining a double down the left-field line that barely landed foul. Unfortunately, Milone got him to ground out in such a way that Ramirez couldn’t score. Peterson’s bat exploded on a hard hit grounder to the first baseman. Instead of driving in a run, the promising situation transformed into something more stressful — a runner at third with two outs. The way the Brewers weren’t hitting Milone, it felt like another imminent defeat.
Fortunately for Peterson and the Brewers, Gerardo Parra picked up the slack in the next at-bat, driving in the tying run.
The Brewers had scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth. Two big home runs from Ryan Braun and Adam Lind allowed the Crew to take a 5-1 lead. Francisco Rodriguez, who has been dominant all season, had been warming up, so Craig Counsell gave him the ninth inning. Everything seemed neat and tidy for the Brewers.
Two batters into the inning, though, Rodriguez had given up two runs on a home run by the eternally youthful Torii Hunter. He precariously balanced on a tightrope by inducing two line outs and then running into more trouble. Shane Robinson reached on an infield single. It was almost an out, but Adam Lind couldn’t pick the throw from Hector Gomez. Then, Danny Santana hit a bloop single that advanced Robinson to third base.
That would give Brian Dozier, unquestionably the Twins best hitter, an opportunity to inflict damage with two runners on base. Francisco Rodriguez was unfazed, quickly getting ahead of the batter. Dozier ultimately watched strike three split the plate to end the game.
TRENDS TO WATCH:
Mike Fiers has struggled to go deep into games all season. On Sunday, he went seven innings. This tied a mark he had only reached one other time in 2015. Despite that, he’s done a solid job of limiting the opposing team’s offense in most games — just as he allowed just one run on Sunday. He has only had four games in which the opposing team scored more than three runs. Furthermore, in only one other game has he allowed more than two earned runs. In 10 of his 16 starts (counting Sunday) he has held the opposing team to two-or-fewer runs.
There is little question that Mike Fiers has been the best starter for the Brewers in 2015. Unfortunately, that isn’t saying much. He has managed to whittle his ERA down to 4.14 and his FIP down to 3.70. If he can find a way to be more economical with his pitches and get deeper into games, he can turn this into a solid season.
The Brewers head to Citizen’s Bank Park to start a four-game series against the only team in the majors with a worse record: The Philadelphia Phillies. Game One is Monday at 6:10 pm CST, pitting Jimmy Nelson against righty Sean O’Sullivan.
By team TAv (True Average) the Phillies (.246) rank 27th in baseball, which is just above the Brewers (.243). An average hitter hovers around the .260 mark. The Phillies only have six position players with a positive WARP. They have seven who own a negative value.
Despite having a pitcher the caliber of Cole Hamels, the Phillies pitching staff isn’t much better than their offense. They rank 29th in overall DRA (4.67), 29th in rotation DRA (4.82), 22nd in relief DRA (4.40), and 27th in overall cFIP (105). For comparison, the Brewers rank 18th in overall DRA (4.30), 26th in rotation DRA (4.77), 7th in relief DRA (3.44), and 17th in overall cFIP (101).
Tomorrow’s starter Sean O’Sullivan has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball. He ranks 113 out of 121 in DRA based WAR (min. 60 IP). He has a 5.82 DRA, 129 cFIP (second worst in baseball), 10.6 strikeout percentage, 6.2 walk rate, 2.08 home-run rate, and a .271 opponent-TAv. He throws a fastball (88-90 mph), slider, change-up, and occasional curveball. The Brewers’ offense should be poised for a quality series.