TOP PLAY (WPA): On his 23rd pitch of the eighth inning, Ken Giles left a 98-mph heater over the plate against Aramis Ramirez with runners on first and second. It appeared that Ruiz wanted it a bit further off the plate from the Brewers’ third baseman, who has actually been swinging the bat better lately. However, Giles, likely tired from the previous at-bats, let his normally-elite command slip away as he watched a hard hit groundball bounce by him. That hit would push the tying run across the plate and knock Carlos Gomez to third (+.286 WPA).
It wouldn’t get any easier for Giles who, in the next at-bat, was forced to use 11 pitches to walk Gerardo Parra. Finally Mackanin took it upon himself to pull Giles, but not before issuing a four-pitch walk on his 37th pitch of the night to pinch-hitter Adam Lind, scoring the winning run. It would be alarmist to say the game was over by this point, as the theatrics and win probability swings continued for the remainder of the game, but this was a pivotal moment for a warming Brewers club against a #HamelsDay Phillies team.
This was an extremely game with many different peaks and valleys in win probability. So much so that I’m very happy that I don’t have to handpick a ‘top play’ as much as trust and understand Win Probability Added. In fact, the Leverage Index was above 5.00 seven times this game.
BOTTOM PLAY (WPA): In the bottom of the 8th inning, Darin Ruf came to the plate against Jeremy Jeffress with one out and the bases full of Phillies. Jeffress, fresh out of the bullpen, busted a two-seamer in on Ruf’s hands that resulted in a spectacular 5-4-3 inning-ending double play. The highlight: Lind’s remarkable, out-stretched scoop at first base (-.393 WPA).
Will Smith actually started the inning on the mound, but after only registering one out against four batters, Counsell’s hand was forced. Usually one of the more reliable pitchers in the Brewers bullpen, Smith only managed one out and even that was on a sacrifice bunt by Odubel Herrera. One wonders if Mackanin could have one play back, he’d pick that one. I found it hilarious that two days after preaching sabermetrics in a front-office press conference, the Phillies’ manager would still sacrifice bunt with one on and nobody out. C’est la vie.
I’m somewhat hesitant to say Counsell out-managed his counterpart in the eighth inning, but kudos goes to him for recognizing Smith’s struggles and remedying the situation. Jeremy Jeffress throws his two-seam fastball more than 50 percent of the time and it’s a pitch taylor-made for ground balls. He only needed two to wiggle out of the jam and, frankly, neither were located particularly well.
I also hesitate to say that the eighth-inning double play was the moment that ended it for the Phillies — because in the bottom of the ninth they blew another chance re-capturing the lead. Francisco Rodriguez remains 100 percent in save opportunities, though this one was in doubt for a bit. That being said, the ship was righted and Jeff Francoeur might have some trouble sleeping, scared that K-Rod’s changeup is hiding under his bed. Seriously though, K-Rod’s changeup is nasty.
As depressing as this is, to me, the key moment was Adam Lind’s four-pitch walk. There were so many moving parts to that moment. It’s not that I can necessarily picture a lot of Brewers fans out of their seats during that at-bat; it’s that I can picture a lot of Phillies fans turning the game off after they saw Giles continue to pitch.
It’s abysmal really. Cole Hamels gives you an outing like that, and the manager has an obligation to use the bullpen to close out that game as effectively as possible. Having one pitcher — arguably the best one — throw 37 high-leverage pitches isn’t only ineffective, it’s disgraceful. People might disagree with me for thinking this way, but this is why pitch counts matter and this is why I get so rattled when somebody talks about ‘the pitch-count police.’
Either way, While Gerardo Parra remains the hero of the game for that 11-pitch battle, the Adam Lind walk that followed must have been soul-crushing for Phillies fans. Lesson learned Mackanin? One can only hope.
TREND TO WATCH
The Brewers plan of attack — to make Cole Hamels throw as many pitches as possible — was noticeable from an early point in this game, and it should continue. When a starter like Hamels takes the hill for the opposition, the Brewers should want to face him for the fewest number of innings possible, which means seeing a myriad of pitches in each at-bat. Perhaps I’m incorrect in saying that was the gameplan from the start, but Hamels did throw 28 pitches in his first inning. In his three at-bats against Hamels, Lucroy saw 22 pitches. Heck, even Carlos Gomez didn’t swing at a first pitch one time.
Normally, these plans of attack are to get to a weaker bullpen, but facing Ken Giles isn’t typically the idea either. That being said, the Brewers got it done and the Phillies made some costly errors. To be fair, though, it’s wins like these that make one relieved to not be a fan of the opposing team.
But — and this is a big one — there is another trend developing: Jonathan Lucroy’s arm. Hopefully, this trend doesn’t develop too long, but Lucroy has committed two throwing errors in as many games. This is rather troubling for such an elite defender as Lucroy, but I’m sure it’s nothing. Right?
COMING UP NEXT
Milwaukee looks to wrap up the series victory over the Phillies on Wednesday evening, as Kyle Lohse squares off against Aaron Harang at 6:05 pm CT. Harang has continued his magic act across Major League Baseball, posting a better-than-average ERA despite underwhelming stuff. His repertoire has changed a bit in 2015. The right-hander is featuring his changeup more than ever before, throwing it 11.2 percent of the time. That’s a career-high for the 14-year veteran. It hasn’t resulted in better production against lefties, though. The overall split line is positive, but Harang is only striking out 10.9 percent of lefties and is walking 9.2 percent. Obviously, those numbers are far too close together. His FIP against lefties is 5.03, and he’s benefiting from a .245 BABIP against them. The Brewers hope Gerardo Parra and Adam Lind can begin the path to regression for Harang on Wednesday.