Game 12 Recap: Pirates 9 Brewers 3

Best Play (WPA): With the team in an early 6-0 hole, the Brewers attempted to mount a rally in the fourth inning. Chris Carter singled home Scooter Gennett to score the first run of the game for Milwaukee. Ramon Flores followed that up with a walk to load the bases. After Juan Nicasio goaded Aaron Hill into a foul popup, Kirk Nieuwenhuis stepped in. Served up a two-strike fastball, he lined a two-out, two-run single the opposite way, which shrank the deficit to 6-3.

By this point, Zach Davies’s meltdown — which accounts for the worst play — had pretty much sunk the Brewers. When Nicasio retired Hill, it put the Brewers’ win probability at a measly 8.1 percent. Still, Nieuwenhuis’s hit (+.083) brought some fleeting hope to the Milwaukee faithful, doubling their club’s odds to 16.4 percent. Colin Walsh went down swinging to end the threat, however, and the Brew Crew wouldn’t cross the plate again.

The Brewers picked up Nieuwenhuis off waivers from the Mets in December, and he’s rewarded them thus far. Over 15 plate appearances, he sports a .250/.400/.500 line, along with some solid defense in the outfield. (In fairness, he didn’t shine with the glove on Sunday, missing a catch to load the bases in the third inning). Even though the 28-year-old Nieuwenhuis likely won’t play on the next contending Brewers team, Domingo Santana and Brett Phillips will. If those two can learn to stick with the pitch and take what the opposition gives them, as Nieuwenhuis did in the fourth inning, then his tenure on the team will have been a success.

Worst Play (WPA): The game got out of hand pretty quickly for the Brewers. Davies, making his season debut, started off by allowing two hits and a walk in the first inning. He escaped without allowing any runs, thanks to a timely throw from Jonathan Lucroy, but that luck didn’t carry over into the second frame. Gregory Polanco led off with a free pass, then Josh Harrison cracked a double off a 2-2 slider to put runners on second and third.

Harrison’s hit (-.115) took the Brewers’ chances of winning down from 41.3 percent to 29.9 percent. Despite allowing just one run in the inning, which improved his winning percentage to 62.6 percent, Davies had hurt his team. Pittsburgh may have inflicted the real damage in its five-run third inning — during which it cut more than thirty percentage points off Milwaukee’s odds — but the biggest individual play was the first nail in the coffin.

Davies tore through his adversaries in two Triple-A starts this season, prompting the team to call him up on Saturday. With spotty command against the Pirates, though, he didn’t stand a chance.  No strikeouts and three walks over only 2.1 innings of work will usually lead to disaster; if Davies gets another shot against the Phillies this weekend, he’ll need to hit his spots to rebound. Otherwise, the young righty will return to the farm.

Trend to Watch: Sabermetricians have long loved the three true outcomes — strikeouts, walks, and home runs, all of which (theoretically) isolate the pitcher and the batter. Through the first two weeks of the season, the Brewers have racked up a lot of the former two and generally avoided the latter.

Entering Sunday’s action, the Brewers ranked third in the majors with a 26.4 percent strikeout rate, and second in the majors with a 12.4 percent walk rate. Against the Pirates, they went down on strikes in nine of their 36 plate appearances (25.0 percent), while earning four bases on balls (11.1 percent). But for the fourth time this season, the club didn’t hit the ball out of the yard. Milwaukee had tied for 12th in baseball with 12 home runs before the contest, and they’ll likely drop a few spots after coming up empty in the rubber match.

Miller Park is really known for one thing: home runs. According to FanGraphs’s park factors, only Coors Field and Great American Ballpark inflated long balls to a greater extent in 2015. The Brewers certainly don’t lack power — they just haven’t realized their potential yet. Once Jonathan Lucroy snaps out of his funk and swats his first dinger, and once Domingo Santana notches his second round-tripper, maybe we’ll see the team fulfill all three of the true outcomes.

Up Next: At 5-7, the Brewers delve into interleague play once more. This time, it’s the grudge match versus the Twins, with the first two games coming at Target Field and the final two occurring at Miller Park. Chase Anderson and Phil Hughes will start tonight at 7:10 CST, then Wily Peralta will take on Ervin Santana at 12:10 on Tuesday. Wednesday will bring a Jimmy Nelson-Tommy Milone 7:05 matchup, and the series will conclude on Thursday with a 12:40 duel between Taylor Jungmann and Ricky Nolasco. The early hiccups, while worrisome, haven’t tanked the Brewers’ season yet; perhaps they can hang around for a little bit longer.

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