Top Play (WPA):
No surprise here, but the top play in terms of win probability was Domingo Santana’s home run off Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal in the top of the ninth inning (+.490). After a solid, methodical offensive performance that saw four separate two-out hits drive in four runs, Brandon Moss hit a Michael Blazek hanging breaking ball over the fence to tie the game in the eighth.
And when Mike Matheny brought in Rosenthal in an effort to send the game into extra innings, it looked like the Brewers would in fact need extra frames to win the game. But Kirk Nieuwenhuis drew a walk, and Santana drove a middle-middle fastball over the center field wall to give the Brewers the eventual 6-4 win.
Bottom Play (WPA):
In terms of raw impact, it’s tough to beat teams trading home runs in the bottom of the eighth and top of the ninth, but the Cardinals half of the sixth inning was ultimately significant as well.
Jeremy Hazelbaker, yet another out-of-nowhere Cardinals product, led off the inning with a double, putting the tying run in scoring position with no one out. The next two plays, though, would define the game (until, of course, the various late-inning heroics).
Matt Holliday was up next, and he was jammed on an inside pitch but was able to muscle it into short right field, where a previous blooper had already fallen earlier in the game. This time, however, Scooter Gennett made an excellent running catch over his shoulder, keeping Hazelbaker at second base with one out. And while the next batter was up, Hazelbaker attempted to steal third base, but Jonathan Lucroy gunned him down (-.103).
Trend to Watch:
Chase Anderson had a second solid start. His ERA will not accurately reflect his performance, as the three unearned runs he allowed in the first still count on the scoreboard and still required him to give up the hits that drove in the runs, but he settled in nicely after a rough first inning. Anderson was a key piece of the Jean Segura trade this offseason, and the Brewers will be hoping he can settle into being a solid option in the middle of the rotation.
Anderson’s 9:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in eleven innings is a positive development for the Brewers, especially with Matt Garza’s injury and Wily Peralta’s general terribleness. Jimmy Nelson has also looked good thus far in 2016, so having two or three dependable options in the rotation is a big step for a club that is looking to develop its younger players.
Brandon Moss’s game-tying home run in the bottom of the eighth came off Michael Blazek, and it was a key example of the cost of Will Smith’s injury. Despite the fact that Smith and Jeffress were to be co-closers and therefore have uncertain roles, Smith would almost definitely have pitched the eighth. With lefties Matt Carpenter and Jeremy Hazelbaker due up and the team’s big bench bats being lefties, Smith would have been the obvious choice to pitch the eighth. Instead, though, Blazek was the best choice.