Game 3 Recap: Brewers 4 Giants 3

The Brewers got their first win of the season on Wednesday, a 4-3 win over the Giants.

Top Play: This was an interesting game by WPA, as the Brewers pulled out the victory despite the Giants having the top play and the Brewers having the bottom one.

With the Brewers leading 3-2 heading into the sixth inning, manager Craig Counsell pulled Taylor Jungmann after five solid innings and turned to veteran Chris Capuano to face the top of the Giants lineup. Presumably, the hope was that the lefty would be able to get both Angel Pagan and Joe Panik, with the former being a switch-hitter who is much stronger against righties and the latter being a pure left-handed hitter. However, Capuano proved unable to do that, as Pagan tripled to lead off the inning (+.148).

The fact that this didn’t turn into a rally is a testament to Blaine Boyer, the pitcher who followed Capuano. Buster Posey was able to drive Pagan in, but the leadoff man on third with no one out could be a disaster scenario. In fact, teams in that situation average 1.3 runs per inning. However, despite a Hunter Pence single and subsequent error and an intentional walk to Brandon Belt, Boyer was able to escape with no further damage and keep the game tied.

Bottom Play: As I mentioned earlier, despite winning the game, the Brewers had the lowest WPA on any play in this game—and that play came in the half-inning following Boyer’s tightrope walk to escape.

The Brewers had an early hook on starter Taylor Jungmann, but Bruce Bochy let his new acquisition Jeff Samardzija pitch into the sixth. And after retiring Ramon Flores to lead off the inning, Samardzija was chased by back-to-back singles by Aaron Hill and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Jonathan Villar followed with a walk against new pitcher George Kontos, which brought up Domingo Santana.

At this point in an inning—bases loaded, one out—teams in 2015 scored 1.52 runs. Just one run would have worked for the Brewers, as it would have given them the lead heading into the last third of the game. And there are many ways to drive that run in, even without getting a base hit. Santana, however, did not manage to do so, instead grounding into a double play (-.209).

Trend to Watch: As I continue to write about how Scooter Gennett doesn’t deserve a ton of playing time, he does his best to prove me wrong. Gennett went 1-3 with two walks on Wednesday, boosting his season line to .400/.538/.700.

Gennett is likely to get the lion’s share of the at bats until Orlando Arcia makes his debut, simply because the Brewers don’t have anyone else with any sort of potential they could play in his stead. However, I have gone on the record continually saying that once Arcia is ready, Gennett should be marginalized.

But if he continues to hit like this and maintains his 1.238 OPS through June, I would agree that he should get some playing time later on in the season.

Key Moment: Jeremy Jeffress was supposed to begin the season as co-closers with Will Smith, but Smith’s knee injury has forced the lefty to the disabled list and installed Jeffress as the club’s closer. He got his first save of the season on Wednesday, which bodes well for both him and the Brewers.

It doesn’t take much to establish oneself as a capital-c Closer, and a few months as the undisputed ninth-inning option would probably give Jeffress that label, especially if he is reasonably effective. Players’ careers have turned on far less, and Smith’s injury—while unfortunate for the team’s overall effectiveness—has provided Jeffress with the opportunity to seize this job, and he might not have been given that chance had Smith stayed healthy.

And from the team’s perspective, this wouldn’t be all bad news. Jeffress’s saves numbers would go up, thereby boosting his value in arbitration, but his short track record means he likely wouldn’t be excessively expensive even if he had an excellent 2016. On the field, though, this would allow the team to deploy Smith as more of a fireman than the traditional closer role allows. And because Smith is the better pitcher, being able to insert him into jams in the seventh or eighth innings would be a more effective usage.

Of course, I am getting ahead of myself a bit here. One save does not a closer make, but it is a good sign for Jeffress to lock down his first as he tries to solidify his hold on the job.

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