The Brewers turned a back-and-forth slugfest into a blowout, scoring six runs in their last three innings to beat the Twins 10-5.
Top Play (WPA): Solid but definitely unspectacular outings from starters Jimmy Nelson and Tommy Milone blew up in the pivotal sixth inning, when the Twins scored three runs in the top half of the frame to tie the game at 4. The Brewers responded, though, with Aaron Hill welcoming new pitcher Ryan Pressly with a home run to left field (+.167).
This home run ultimately proved to be the difference in the game, although the Brewers’ four-run seventh did eventually put the game out of reach. This was a team win from Milwaukee, as every position player posted at least one hit except Yadiel Rivera. Each of those seven Brewers got two hits except Jonathan Villar. Jimmy Nelson was able to scatter ten hits well enough to limit the Twins to four runs; the damage could have been much worse.
Bottom Play (WPA): After the Brewers took the lead in the sixth, Nelson was about to post the all-important shutdown inning. However, Brian Dozier chased him with a double; Craig Counsell decided that Nelson had gotten far enough, so he turned to lefty Carlos Torres to face the middle of the Twins lineup.
Torres proceeded to walk Joe Mauer and Miguel Sano, setting up a bases-loaded showdown with Oswaldo Arcia–who, by the way, had just hit a monster home run off Nelson in the inning before. Torres, though, was able to strike out Arcia (-.142), ending the danger and setting the stage for the Brewers to explode in the bottom of the seventh.
Key Moment: The top of the sixth looked like it would be the turning point of the game. The Brewers led 4-1 after five innings (86.5 percent win expectancy), and Nelson was headed back out to preserve the lead.
Nelson has been one of the Brewers’ best starting pitchers this year, and although Wednesday was not his best outing, the lead still must have felt safe in his hands. However, he was unable to hold it, giving up a big chunk of the lead in spectacular fashion (a long home run by Arcia cut the lead to 4-3). And Eddie Rosario followed two batters later with an opposite-field home run that snuck over the left center wall, tying the game and putting the Twins back in position to win.
This was ultimately made relatively moot by the Brewers offensive explosion in the seventh, but a 4-1 lead in the sixth is the type of game that good teams will expect to win. Now, the Brewers are obviously not a good team at this point–nor are they really trying to be. And even good teams blow leads, particularly in the middle innings. But this did look to be a particularly key moment.
Trend to Watch: Jonathan Lucroy had well-documented struggles in 2015, and he is off to a rough start in 2016 as well. His .243 TAv remains well below his career average, which is disappointing for a Brewers club that would have hoped for a quick, obvious, and easy bounce back to boost his trade value before the trade deadline. But hits in the last five games might bode well for the Milwaukee catcher, and having a productive Lucroy in the middle of the lineup would make the team much more dangerous.
This type of start coming off the heels of a normal Lucroy season would not raise many eyebrows, but it is particularly worrisome given his struggles last year. If this is the beginning of his turnaround, the Brewers will be a happy club.