Game 21 Recap: Cubs 7 Brewers 2

Julien Assouline and Travis Sarandos authored this game recap.

RECAP: Due to poor pitching, fielding, and hitting in key spots, the Cubs trounced the Brewers 7 to 2. Taylor Jungmann was roughed up again as his nightmare 2016 campaign continues to tumble into darkness. He failed to reach the fifth inning for the third time in five starts, walking three and allowing five runs in 3.2 innings to stake Jake Arrieta to a big, early lead. Jungmann’s ERA now sits at 9.15, the worst ERA in baseball among qualified pitchers not named De La Rosa. There’s not much to take away from this game, folks. Arrieta is one of the league’s best pitchers, and Jungmann is one of the worst. Milwaukee failed in all three facets of the game, failing to mount more than a couple of offensive threats, walking 11 Cubs and adding a couple of botched double plays that won’t show up in the stat sheet to their pair of errors. The results were as ugly as they were inevitable.

Taylor Jungmann who was sporting an 8.47 ERA going into this game was facing off against Jake Arrieta and the Cubs lineup. You can probably imagine how the rest of the game went. Not very well!

But, the Brewers had an early chance to score. Arrieta was coming off his second career no-hitter and was on seven day’s rest. The Brewers looked to take advantage of this. Villar led off the game with a fluky broken bat bloop single. After Alex Presley flied out, Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy were able to work a pair of walks to load the bases with only one out. If the Brewers were going to put up a big number, this was their chance. Chris Carter, however, was the next batter, and if we know one thing about Carter, it’s that he strikes out a lot. This year has been no exception as he’s striking out 27.6% of the time. Carter also has a lot of power, so we know he can hit the ball, the problem is that a strike out here would be a big problem as it would dramatically decrease the Brewers chance of getting on the board.

If you watched this game, you probably know what’s coming next. Carter worked a two-two count and then struck out swinging on a fastball up and in making it two outs with the bases loaded. Nieuwenhuis was the next batter, and he also struck out putting an end to the frame and killing the Brewers chance of getting on the board early.

Having been told throughout the week that his counterpart in Thursday’s game is among the game’s best pitchers, Jungmann resolved to emulate the Cubs’ ace to the letter. Therefore when Arrieta loaded the bases in the top of the first, Jungmann did the same in the bottom of the frame

Dexter Fowler singled to center field to lead off the inning. After Jungmann got Jason Heyward to fly out to the catcher, he hit Kris Bryant with the first pitch of the at-bat and then walked Anthony Rizzo. Basically, Jungmann and Arrieta had very similar starts to the game. The biggest difference is that, well, one of them is Taylor Jungmann, a man whose ERA instills fear in the eyes of his infielders. The other is Jake Arrieta, a man so good at pitching it’s got Stephen A Smith thinking he must be on something. (Obviously there’s no evidence to suggest Smith’s claim is true).

So, after Jungmann loaded the bases with one man out, Ben Zobrist came to the dish. And, as you would expect, Zobrist worked the count to two-two. But, just when you thought Jungmann was actually going to imitate Arrieta, Zobrist singled on a ground ball to right field, scoring two runs.

One would think Alex Presley’s clutch two-out, RBI double (+.034 WPA) which scored Milwaukee’s first run would reside here but with the score already 5-0, the calculators weren’t all that impressed. Instead the game’s top play came in the top of the first inning, and it didn’t involve the hitter at all. With Jonathan Lucroy at the plate Jonathan Villar, who had previously swiped second before a Ryan Braun walk, took off again and beat the throw to third from David Ross while Braun took the second behind him. The double steal (+.049) gave the Brewers two runners in scoring position with just one out. We’ll pick up the rest of this inning in a moment, so just pop that in your brain pocket and keep it handy for later.

In the top of the first, Jake Arrieta took the mound. That’s it. That’s the key moment.

Okay, okay. But really, in the top of the first, Milwaukee loaded the bases with one out when Jonathan Lucroy walked following the aforementioned double steal by Villar and Braun (you’ll wanna pull that whole situation back out of your brain pocket now, thanks). It was the first time this season Arrieta had loaded the bases and with an opportunity to put up a run in the first inning against him for the first time since last May, the Brewers simply had to put the ball in play. Enter Chris Carter, one of the game’s premier three true outcomes hitters (47 percent of his plate appearances have ended in a walk, strikeout or home run this season). Carter was no match for Arrieta and he struck out swinging, a feat he repeated twice more before breaking up the monotony with a double play grounder in the eighth. Kirk Nieuwenhuis followed him with a strikeout of his own, and the threat was extinguished with no damage. The long inning did force Arrieta out of the game in the fifth after throwing 92 pitches, but the Brewers pitchers weren’t able to keep Chicago’s bats in check to make an early exit by Arrieta meaningful.

Carter’s first inning at bat gave him another STAT (Stuff That Angers Travis) for the season: a strikeout with a runner on third and less than two outs. The Brewers are among the league’s worst at plating runs in that situation: they rank 21st in the league, scoring just 48% of the time. That’s partly a function of their penchant for strikeouts: Milwaukee is punched out at a 22% clip in those situations.

(1) Jungmann had a great start to his major league career. In his first month with the Brewers, he had a 2.79 ERA. In his second month, Jungmann was able to top that with a 1.77 ERA. This got a lot of people excited. Jungmann wasn’t a highly touted prospect but he was showing early on that he could handle his own in the big leagues.

This was a much needed sign for the Brewers, their pitching over the last few years has been sub par. Plus, with the debacles of Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse last season, it was nice to see one gleam of hope in the starting rotation. Alas, in September/October, Jungmann struggled and posted a 7.85 ERA.

With that said, Jungmann still had a pretty good season finishing with a 3.77 ERA. His underlying numbers also weren’t suggesting that he got very lucky. His BABIP was at .290, his LOB% was at 72 percent which is literally league average, his HR/FB ratio was at 9.9 percent, which again is league average. Plus, it’s not like his pitches were getting crushed, A) as the BABIP would show and B) his Exit Velocity against was 87.8 MPH.

This season, however, has been a disaster thus far. Including this game, Jungmann is sporting a 9.15 ERA. Yup, Jungmann found a way to increase an ERA that was above 8. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did.

But, some of Jungmann’s stats suggest that he has been the recipient of bad luck.

.343 54.1% 12%

This may suggest that he’s been unlucky, which with a 9 ERA one would assume so. This, however, doesn’t mean that Jungmann will find his 2015 form. The most concerning part about Jungmann’s 2016 performance, thus far, is his drop in fastball velocity. Last year, his fastball averaged 91.9 mph and this year it’s dropped down to 89.8. Now, a 2.1 mph may not seem like a lot, but a 2 mph drop in velocity is huge. Especially for someone as young as Jungmann.

This year, he’s also walking hitter’s more often and striking out fewer batters. Hitters are hitting the ball harder off of him, they’re making more contact on his pitches, and there swinging and missing less at his pitches. A big part of that is due to his drop in velocity. If the rise in pitcher’s velocity has taught us one thing, it’s that velocity matters a great deal.

This may also mean that Jungmann is battling through some injuries, which is another element to keep an eye on.

(2) With the majority of Milwaukee’s starting pitching struggling so mightily to record outs, the bullpen has been heavily taxed this season, ranking 8th in the league in innings pitched. What was supposed to be a strength for the team this season has turned into an absolute train wreck. The bullpen’s 5.00+ ERA is the fourth highest in the league, and has led to the team’s propensity for blowouts as opponents have been able to continuously tack on insurance runs against the Brewers’ overmatched relievers – more than half of Milwaukee’s 13 losses have been by five or more runs. Injuries have decimated the relief corps: Will Smith, Corey Knebel, Zack Jones and Sean Nolin, all expected to be a part of Milwaukee’s Opening Day roster, are on the Disabled List with significant injuries. Their replacements have not stepped up: Sam Freeman (12.91 ERA, 20.5 percent BB rate) has been atrocious, and he gave up another four walks in two innings of work Thursday; Capuano has benefited from an inflated 89.9 percent strand rate to keep his ERA under five despite a lofty 16.1 percent walk rate of his own, and Carlos Torres has been largely ineffective, though did manage to work around a walk and a hit to record a scoreless inning Thursday. Overall the bullpen is walking opposing batters at an ugly 12 percent rate, a number that got a big bump after Thursday’s eight walk day. With none of the injured pitchers close to a return, the Brewers need some of these pitchers to get things back under control.

UP NEXT: The schedule makers played rough and unclean with the Brewers in April: of their nine series so far (the home-and-home with Minnesota is one series, don’t kid yourself), four have come against 2015 playoff teams, with a fifth against even-year virtuosos San Francisco. After a pair of losses to the Cubs, the Brewers will be happy to go back home to Miller Park. They’ll be in action again tomorrow, this time facing the Miami Marlins. Zach Davies will be the starter for the Brewers, and he’ll be looking to improve on his early season struggles.

The Brewers bats will go against Adam Conley who’s also experienced some early struggles in 2016 giving up 11 runs in 19.1 innings pitched, which is good for a 5.12 ERA. This could be a good opportunity for the Brewers to do some damage with the bats and get a nice win on the board. Milwaukee lucks out by avoiding Jose Fernandez: after Conley, Wei-Yin Chen and Tom Koehler this weekend for the fins. Zach Davies (9.72 ERA) will try again to get back on track on Friday, Chase Anderson (4.50 ERA) goes for the Brewers on Saturday, and Wily Peralta (7.40 ERA) will try to make it back-to-back quality starts on Ryan Braun bobblehead day Sunday.

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