The Brewers offense was stymied once again, this time by Tom Koehler. The Marlins’ righty tossed eight innings of four-hit ball and struck out a career-high 10 Brewers en route to his ninth win of the year, lowering his ERA back under four in the process. For the Brewers, Ariel Pena made the first start of his major-league career in his second appearance since being called up last Friday. Pena was fine in five innings of two-run ball, which is about as good a start as the Brewers had a right to expect from the 26-year-old.
Speaking of major-league debuts, we’ll tab catcher Nevin Ashley as the Brewers’ MVP in a rough night at the plate for the hometown sqaud. Ashley was making his debut in relief of Jonathan Lucroy, who was held out for concussion-like symptoms and is likely to miss a few games. Ashley doubled to center in his first at-bat in the second inning, plating Khris Davis to give Milwaukee a 2-0 lead. It was a really nice moment for the 31-year-old journeyman, who has spent ten seasons with 11 minor league teams before finally getting the call up to The Show. Though he’s certainly not a part of Milwaukee’s plans long-term, or even next season, he’ll get a long-awaited taste of the big leagues over the next month.
With the game tied at two, a runner on second, two outs, and a pair of lefties due up, Brewers manager Craig Counsell tabbed southpaw Will Smith to get the final out and keep the game level. Unfortunately (for those of us still pulling for the local nine to win their baseball games, anyway), the inexplicable trend of left-handed batters crushing Smith in 2015 continued. Dee Gordon walked on four pitches and Christian Yelich ripped a double to center that cleared the bases to give the Marlins a 4-2 advantage. Martin Prado would follow with a double of his own to score Yelich and give us our final.
Smith’s numbers this year are mind boggling. Here are his splits for 2013-14 (I’ve excluded 2012, when he was deployed as a starter and was mostly terrible against everyone):
In a moderately sized sample, Smith has dominated lefties relative to his work against right handers. The latter are hitting him at a rather healthy clip, but every lefty he’s faced has basically been Logan Schafer. Now, here’s what’s going on in 2015:
If you’re looking at this and you haven’t been following the Brewers this season, you’re going to go ahead and assume I accidentally switched those rows, because his splits this season are almost a perfect mirror of his numbers previous to 2015. This was an oddity in May, a curiosity in July, but now it’s September, and though there doesn’t seem to be any logical explanation for Smith’s struggles against lefties this season, it’s starting to look like something more than a statistical blip.
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
- The Brewers head to Pittsburgh on Thursday to wrap up their season series with the Pirates. They’ll look to continue to play spoiler against the Bucs, who despite a stark reversal of fortunes for both clubs continue to be haunted by Milwaukee, especially at Miller Park. The Brewers have taken eight of the last nine meetings between the two clubs, including a pair of sweeps in Milwaukee. The Pirates are sending A.J. Burnett to the mound tonight; he’ll be making his first start since July 30 as he spent August recovering from a flexor sprain in his right elbow. The Brewers are sending the youth squad to the mound these days, as all five starters in the rotation are now 26 years old or younger.
- The prospect-packed Biloxi Shuckers open the Southern League playoffs tonight against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. The Brewer’s Double-A affiliate will send Jorge Lopez to the mound in game one, who was edged out for the Southern League ERA title by Tyler Wagner, who will start for the Shuckers on Saturday. Adrian Houser, a part of the trade with the Astros, will start Friday, and both of the first two games in the series will be available on MiLB.tv. The Blue Wahoos surged in the second half after finishing at the bottom of the division in the first half, edging Mobile and Mississippi by a game to secure a spot in the playoffs — Pensacola actually finished seven and seven and a half games behind each respectively in the overall standings. The winner of the best-of-five series will meet the winner between Montgomery and Chattanooga in the Southern League championship series.