TOP PLAY (WPA)
Sandbagged by a slow start and extended time lost to injury, Jonathan Lucroy has struggled through something of a lost year to this point in 2015. A six-win player last season, Lucroy has been marginally better than replacement-level this year, though his pre-injury performance played a big role in that.
Still, manager Craig Counsell has seen fit to slot Lucroy into his customary second spot in the lineup 57 times this season, including last night. And after a Scooter Gennett single to start the inning, Lucroy rewarded Counsell’s faith. He turned on an Ian Kennedy fastball and launched it to deep left. Justin Upton gave a token leap, but it was more for show than anything. The two run blast — just Lucroy’s fourth on the year — was worth .176 WPA, and turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead that the Brewers would eventually take home.
BOTTOM PLAY (WPA)
Will Smith was the first Brewer out of the bullpen, and he was greeted to the eighth inning with a double by Melvin Upton. The runner in scoring position with nobody out gave the Padres a good bite at a multi-run inning, and their chances of winning looked better than they had since the second inning.
But Smith came up big, striking out Derek Norris. Upton wasn’t even able to move to third, and the Padres’ chances took a significant blow. The strikeout was worth -.064 WPA — the first of three-consecutive whiffs to leave Upton dying on the vine at second base.
The Brewers’ bats were largely quieted by Ian Kennedy last night, save for a clattering four-run first inning. The Lucroy home run started things off. After that, Ryan Braun put a charge into a ball, but left it in the deepest region of the ballpark for Will Venable to make the play as the wall bore down on him.
But Kennedy wasn’t out of the woods yet. Adam Lind popped a sharp single through the right side of the infield, then Khris Davis delivered a ground-rule double. That put two in scoring position with one out. However, it also brought up the back-end of the Brewers’ lineup.
Shane Peterson has been swinging a relatively hot stick, however, and the new de facto center fielder poked a hard ground ball down the first-base line. It scooted past first baseman Yonder Alonso and into the right field corner for a triple. Davis and Lind both scored, and the lead extended to 4-1.
TREND TO WATCH
With the trades of Carlos Gomez and Gerardo Parra, the Brewers plan was to essentially run the white flag up a pole in center field for the rest of the year. Shane Peterson was once-upon-a-time considered a prospect five years ago, but the 27-year-old has aged into the type of player who gets a one-sentence mention in each year’s BP Annual. He’s hit well enough off the bench, however, to warrant an audition for the starting gig.
Since the deadline, Peterson has manned center field for six starts and has collected at least one hit in five of them. Last night’s two-run triple was his second three-bagger of the series. And while it’s hard to get too excited over such a small sample size, this is exactly how Peterson needs to play if he wants to work his way into the team’s plans beyond the 2015 season.
Prior to 2013, Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks wrote about Peterson in the Oakland prospect preview. He noted that Peterson is “not an impact talent, but he can rip a mistake and force a pitcher to work.” Early returns suggest that Peterson has been getting plenty of mistakes to rip. But the major leagues are a harsh ecosystem that adapt to success quickly.
As teams start to gather data on Peterson, it will be interesting to see how things play out. He’ll inevitably need to make adjustments to the inevitable adjustments if he wants to turn his interim starting role into something more.
COMING UP NEXT
The Brewers and Padres have one last tilt scheduled before going their separate ways for the weekend. The good news? After dropping the series opener in embarassing fashion, the Crew have ensured at least a split of the series. The bad news? Matt Garza is scheduled to pitch for Milwaukee. Though it’s been over a month since Garza was last tabbed for ten hits in a start, the right-hander is still posting the worst statistical season of his career by almost any measure.
Opposing him will be Odrisamer Despaigne. The Cuban junk-baller shined during his first three starts of the year in April, holding opponents to a .190 batting average for the month, but since then he’s pitched as you would expect. Tonight should also turn into a showcase for both bullpens, too — in 19 starts for Garza and 16 for Despaigne, each pitcher has gone seven innings or deeper into the start exactly two times. Despaigne has won his last two starts, while Garza has lost his last two.