Game 27 Recap: Angels 7 Brewers 3

A Tyler Thornburg eighth-inning implosion helped the Angels beat the Brewers on Wednesday afternoon, 7-3.

Top Play (WPA):
The eighth inning was the disaster inning for the Brewers, as a 3-2 lead became a 6-3 deficit. Mike Trout hit a leadoff home run to tie the game at 3, but Thornburg nearly managed to escape with just that limited damage. With a man on first and one out, Andrelton Simmons was jammed on an inside fastball and hit a soft ground ball to shortstop that turned into a forceout.

If Simmons had made better contact, the ball might very well have been a double play, and the Brewers go to the bottom of the eighth disappointed but very much in the game. As it was, though, Thornburg walked Geovany Soto and gave up a fly ball double to CJ Cron that gave the Angels a lead they wouldn’t relinquish (+.271).

Bottom Play (WPA):
The Brewers had a big opportunity to blow the game open much earlier in the game, but the bottom of the fifth’s key ground ball did in fact turn into a double play. Three consecutive singles netted the Brewers both a run and an excellent chance to score more, but Jonathan Lucroy popped up and Chris Carter hit a chopper up the middle for an easy double play (-.114).

Carter was victimized by the shift, as his ground ball was fielded by the second baseman on the shortstop side of the bag, but the ball was hit so weakly that it likely would have been a double play even with normal positioning. This moment was particularly disappointing given Carter’s recent hot hitting, but obviously no one can deliver each time.

Trend to Watch:
Ryan Braun had a tremendous April, and his last week has been scorching hot: a .400 batting average and .464 OBP. His overall season line is .374/.441/.593, and clearly his return to left field is agreeing with him.

I had assumed that MVP level Ryan Braun was gone, and, given his age (32), that is likely still the case. However, at this point, Braun is demonstrating that he has still some life left in his bat, which is a positive whether it be because of a boost in trade value or a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat.

Key Moment:
It’s tough to keep harping on this, but the Will Smith injury has truly thrown the Brewers’ bullpen into a tailspin. The team had an above-average bullpen last year, ranking in the top half of the FIP leaderboard in 2015. But thus far in 2016, the group has been a disaster: they rank 29th in 2016.

Jeffress had pitched each of the three previous games, so he was almost definitely unavailable on Wednesday. However, having Smith as a co-closer would obviously create a different dynamic, and having an additional shut-down late inning option would help the Brewers avoid situations such as the one they faced on Wednesday, when they had to turn to Tyler Thornburg to hold a slim eighth-inning lead.

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