TOP PLAY (WPA)
The Braves wasted no time breaking Kyle Lohse last night, touching up the beleaguered Milwaukee starter straight-away in the first inning. With a runner on second and one out, Lohse hung a slider and Atlanta first baseman Kelly Johnson promptly sent it into orbit, a no-doubter into the right field bleachers (+.165 WPA).
And with that, the lead was 2-0 and the tone of the night had been set. Kelly Johnson hadn’t shown much power this year. His average batted-ball velocity ranks 262nd in all of baseball. Still, hanging a slider in that location can make a lot of hitters suddenly look like premier sluggers. The Braves ultimately never looked back in Monday’s contest, and Johnson’s blast improved their odds of winning by 16.5 percent.
BOTTOM PLAY (WPA)
This was a classic “never as close as the score would indicate” game. The Braves pulverized Lohse early, but fortune allowed him to slither out of jam after jam. Four runs in five innings doesn’t do justice to how thoroughly hittable the Brewers’ hurler looked.
But still, despite the fact that the team was essentially doubled up in the hit column, the eighth inning saw a chance as great as any. Trailing by two, Adam Lind drew a walk off of Jim Johnson to bring up the tying run in one Carlos Gomez. Unfortunately, Gomez hit a soft roller directly at second baseman Pedro Ciriaco. Double play complete — at a juncture where the Brewers’ had no outs to give. And because of that, the total effect of losing those two outs on the Brewers’ already-slim chances was over nine percent (-.091 WPA).
Forgive me for doubling up here, but the Johnson home run warrants a second mention. If Lohse delivers his classic slider there, if Johnson just gets under it a little bit, there are so many minute aspects of the game that can add up.
The Brewers’ were outhit by a margin of 15-8 — but at no point before the end was the outcome ever truly a given.
TREND TO WATCH
For some fans, ever since the Brewers signed Lohse during the 2012 off-season, hoping he’d be a strong enough mid-rotation supplement to get them through the playoffs, he’s been falling short of expectations. However, his 3.45 ERA in 2013 and 2014, which equates to an 111 ERA+ (his ERA was 11-percent higher than the league average). This year, though, it has been truly dire. Just a year removed from having one of baseball’s best-rated sliders by pitchF/X, Lohse has been below replacement level with every single offering in his arsenal.
By traditional metrics, Lohse has been just as astoundingly terrible this season — a 5-9 record with a 6.24 ERA that should really be accompanied by an airhorn sound every time it’s referenced. Just a year ago, his slider was one of the best in the game and his changeup was very good, too. Now? He’s got no out pitch. Getting people out has been a struggle.
COMING UP NEXT
Making his second Major League start, Atlanta’s Manny Banuelos is even greener than last night’s starter, Wisler. On the other side of the coin, the Brewers were scheduled to send Matt Garza to the hill, but placed him on the disabled list on Monday and called up Tyler Cravy from Triple-A Colorado Springs to take his place in the rotation. Cravy has previously made one start for the Brewers this year — approximately one month ago, he dueled St. Louis’s Lance Lynn to a 1-0 loss.