TOP PLAY (WPA)
The Brewers entered the third inning with a relatively commanding 4-1 lead. Despite how early it was in the game, Milwaukee’s win expectancy was over 80 percent. Kyle Lohse, though, continued his poor season and quickly gave up the lead.
After pitcher Cody Anderson struck out to lead off the top of the third, the top of the Indians’ lineup did a ton of damage to Lohse. Jason Kipnis doubled, Francisco Lindor singled, and then Michael Brantley hit a three-run home run (+.225 WPA) to tie the game at four. In just three batters, the Brewers’ win expectancy dropped from 83.3 percent to 52.5 percent and Lohse was once again to blame.
BOTTOM PLAY (WPA)
After Kyle Lohse and the Milwaukee bullpen combined to give up seven runs, the Brewers staged a late-game comeback attempt. Heading into the ninth inning down 7-4 and with a win expectancy of just 8.5 percent, a heroic performance was required—and the team nearly delivered.
The heart of the lineup—Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gomez, Adam Lind, and Aramis Ramirez—was coming to the plate, and three hits surrounded an unfortunate Gomez strikeout. Lind’s double scored Lucroy, and Khris Davis came to bat as the potential winning run and with the tying run on first. However, he would bounce into a game-ending double play (-.200 WPA).
In the top of the third inning, Kyle Lohse singled to bring up leadoff man Gerardo Parra with two men on and two men out. Rather than allow struggling starting pitcher Cody Anderson to face one of the Brewers’ hottest hitters, Indians manager Terry Francona went to his bullpen. Austin Adams came on and struck out Parra, thus ending the threat.
This was a significant moment for both win expectancy and game theory reasons. While a five percent swing does not appear to be huge on the surface, it is the same impact as was Kipnis’ leadoff single in the fifth inning of a tie game. Parra had an opportunity to both give his team the lead and extend the inning for Lucroy and Gomez. While such a counterfactual is obviously impossible to predict accurately, one would have to feel confident in the abilities of the middle of the Brewers’ lineup facing a middle reliever.
But the Parra strikeout also marked the beginning of the success of the Indians’ bullpen. Francona had to choose between attempting to win this game and saving his relievers for the longer haul. This path resulted in Cleveland having to use five different relief pitchers. In a loss, such a decision would be devastating, but it is far more palatable—as most questionable choices are—in a win.
From a purely performance standpoint, Francona’s decision to pull Anderson was probably correct. The young righty had given up 10 hits and gotten just eight outs—only one of which was a strikeout. He quite clearly did not have his best stuff, but Francona must have been tempted to try and ride him through a couple more innings. He didn’t, though, and Adams rewarded him.
Finally, by going to his bullpen that early in the game, Francona was putting himself in a bind. If Adams had struggled, he couldn’t really have justified using another pitcher to try and stem the bleeding because his bullpen just would not have been able to hold up. Instead, he would have had to rely on Adams to mop up outs. However, this obviously proved not to be the case; Parra’s strikeout allowed Francona to stick to his best-case scenario, and the Indians even ended up being able to turn the eighth and ninth innings over to Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen, respectively.
TREND TO WATCH
Kyle Lohse is a free agent after this season, and the Brewers should be looking into trading him with their playoff hopes down the drain. Realistically, they should be willing to take on any level of lottery ticket; after all, it’s not as if Lohse will bring back any residual value at this point. However, he has pitched so poorly (129th in DRA among pitchers with at least 50 innings) that contending teams may not be willing to part with anything that even resembles value.
After his last start, optimists could have harbored some hope that Lohse may have pitched well enough over the three weeks leading up to the trade deadline that a desperate team might part with a minor leaguer. In his July 12th start against the Dodgers, Lohse allowed just two runs, commanded the strike zone well, struck out six, and didn’t walk anyone in five innings.
This most recent start, though, put that hope to bed. We instead saw the same Lohse we’d seen all season. He allowed way too many hits and didn’t strike out nearly enough batters, again demonstrating that the righty simply does not appear to be good enough to be a competent major-league pitcher any longer.
COMING UP NEXT
The Brewers begin a weeklong trip to the NL West on Thursday, and they start their excursion in Arizona. Mike Fiers will take on rookie Zack Godley, who will be making his major-league debut. This will be yet another opportunity for Fiers to boost his trade value—should the Brewers be interested in exploring that possibility, of course.
Lead photo courtesy of Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports