Best Play: Aaron Nola didn’t give the Brewers many chances to score on Sunday. The best chances came in the first inning, when a double steal put runners on second and third with two outs, and in the second inning. After a leadoff strikeout from Kirk Nieuwenhuis — the fourth of 13 for the Brew Crew — the next two runners would reach base. Hernan Perez lined a single into center, then Ramon Flores plopped a 1-1 changeup to the similar spot.
Flores’s single (+.071) gave Wily Peralta runners on the corners, in addition to a 46.5 percent chance of winning, up from 39.4 percent before. The Brewers would squander the opportunity, though; after Peralta sacrificed to move Flores ahead to second, Jonathan Villar grounded out to end the threat. The road team wouldn’t manage to put a run on the board until the eighth inning.
The second hit was a much-needed bright spot in a campaign that has sorely lacked them. Flores has notched a measly .225 TAv in 135 plate appearances this season, easily the worst figure on the team. He’s put the ball on the ground far too often, and his minimal speed has earned him just one infield hit. Nevertheless, the 24-year-old possesses some talent — he put up a .313 TAv in Triple-A last season — and he’s still a rookie. With a few more efforts like Sunday’s, he’ll start to inch toward his potential.
Worst Play: Another fifth day, another repugnant game from Peralta. He couldn’t make it through five innings on Sunday, allowing five earned runs and committing an error to account for one more. The Phillies inflicted the deadliest blow in the third inning, when Maikel Franco lined a full-count four-seamer into the left-field seats.
Franco’s homer (-.108) increased the Philadelphia lead to 2-0 and decreased the Milwaukee win expectancy from 36.0 to 25.2 percent. The Phillies would tack on six additional runs before the Brewers could get on the board; consequently, the Brewers’ chances of victory rose above 30 percent just once thereafter.
For 2016 as a whole, Peralta now owns a sickly ERA of 6.79. In zero of his 12 outings this season has he pitched into the seventh inning. His walks are up, he still hasn’t gotten many strikeouts, and he’s given up an ungodly amount of hard contact. My colleague Travis Sarandos wondered back in April how much longer the Brewers would stick with Peralta; nine starts of 5.85-ERA ball since then have me asking the same question. Milwaukee doesn’t necessarily want to win in 2016, but they can at least lose with dignity.
Trend to Watch: At this point, Brewers fans across the land know of Peralta’s awfulness. Instead of harping on that, I’d rather focus on something more positive: Perez’s production at the plate. Never known for his bat, Perez entered 2016 with a career .201 TAv at the major-league level. But he’s looked nothing like that this season, as he’s cracked a .310 TAv over 81 plate appearances. He added to that on Sunday, with two singles over four chances. The waiver claim the Brewers put on Perez last summer appears to be a hell of a move.
Perez hasn’t improved his plate discipline this season — he still swings at pretty much everything, and not enough of those swings make contact. He’s hit the ball a lot harder when he has made contact, though: 40.3 percent of his balls in play, according to FanGraphs, have been of the hard variety. Compared to his previous mark of 28.0 percent, that’s a massive jump, and it’s made him one of the more powerful hitters on the club. Among Brewers with 80 trips to the dish, only Chris Carter has made more hard contact.
This has pretty much no precedent for Perez. As a minor leaguer, he’s posted a BABIP of .301 and an ISO of .095, whereas he’s tallied respective clips of .362 and .171 this year. Craig Counsell seems to buy into it: He told the Daily Knuckleball’s Glenn Sattell that Perez is “just progressing as you’d hope a young player would progress.” Should cautiously optimistic Brewers fans believe in Perez as well? The high-strikeout, low-walk, swing-for-the-fences approach usually ends poorly, but Milwaukee has seen it pay off in the past. Perhaps Perez can fill the shoes that Go-Go has left vacant.
Up Next: The Brewers head back to Miller Park for a quick two-game series against the Athletics. Zach Davies and Sean Manaea will face off at 7:10 CST on Tuesday, followed by Chase Anderson and Jesse Hahn on Wednesday. Thankfully, Milwaukee won’t have to deal with Peralta again until Friday; meanwhile, Perez might get another shot to continue his hot streak at the plate. After finishing May with a 15-14 record, the Brewers have gone 3-2 record in June. They’re not ready to tank just yet.