After salvaging a win from a three-game home set with the Cardinals on Wednesday, the Brewers headed east for a four-game series against slightly less deadly prey. The reeling Phillies, one of the season’s early surprises after jumping out to a 24-17 record, entered the series having dropped six in a row and 10 of their last 12. You can make that seven now, after Chase Anderson led the Brewers to a 4-1 victory on Thursday night. It was one of Anderson’s finest performances of the season as he went five and two thirds allowing just one run on three hits, striking out five against no walks and dropping his season ERA below 5.00 for the first time since early April.
TOP PLAY (WPA)
After Aaron Hill’s clutch two-out double rescued the Brewers from another bad send by windmill third base coach Ed Sedar and gave Milwaukee a 1-0 lead in the second, Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff seemed to settle in a groove. He retired four of the next five batters and the only man to reach was Jonathan Villar, who was erased on a stolen base attempt. Chris Carter ended that and snapped a personal 2-for-24 cold streak with a long home run to left that doubled the Brewers lead (+.119 WPA). Carter’s 14th clout of the season came as part of a signature three true outcomes night for Carter: in four plate appearances, he homered, walked and struck out twice.
BOTTOM PLAY (WPA)
The Brewers have had a difficult time scoring baserunners all year, a fact I examined a week ago. The two-out hit in the second from Hill was a refreshing change of pace, but things returned to the status quo in the sixth. Clinging to a 2-1 lead, Jonathan Lucroy laced a two-out single up the middle to move Scooter Gennett to second. Loathe to be victimized again, the Phillies put Carter on to load the bases, giving Kirk Nieuwenhuis a chance to break the game open with the bases juiced. Instead, he skied a popup to left to leave the bases loaded for the Brewers once again (-.075).
In the bottom of that same inning, the runners left on base very nearly cost the Brewers their lead. Anderson did his job, but an error by Villar allowed Odubel Herrera to reach to leave off the inning, and a passed ball by Lucroy allowed him to reach third with one out two batters later. Needing a strikeout to keep the Brewers in front, Anderson reached back and got it, getting Jimmy Paredes swinging for the second out. Craig Counsell went to Will Smith to get the final out, and the Fresh Prince kicked off his 2016 campaign by retiring Maikel Franco to preserve the Brewers lead. Smith remained in the game to complete the seventh, allowing a hit and striking out one for a successful debut.
TREND TO WATCH
Villar continues to make his presence felt, as his name seems to float up at key moments – mostly for good, but sometimes not – night in and night out for Milwaukee. He had another roller coaster night on Thursday: he was caught stealing in the third and his error allowed the Phillies to threaten in the sixth, but his two-run homer in the top of the ninth gave Jeremy Jeffress some breathing room that was certainly appreciated when Paredes led off the ninth with a double. Villar entered the game ranked fifth among shortstops with a .299 TAv, a number that most certainly has risen after his 2-for-5 game Thursday. He’s certainly making a case for the All-Star roster, if that’s the sort of thing you care about, though with the Cubs and Cardinals with young stars at the same position, there’s no chance he’ll earn a starting nod. So far, he seems to be well worth the mild price the Brewers paid to acquire him this winter.
COMING UP NEXT
The Brewers will look to extend the Phillies losing streak to eight, nine and ten games this weekend as they send Junior Guerra, Jimmy Nelson and Wily Peralta to the mound to finish out this four game set. The toughest pitching matchup for Milwaukee will be on Sunday, when they send Peralta, who ranks dead last among qualifiers in DRA (7.79) against 23-year-old Aaron Nola, who ranks ninth with a 2.88 DRA.