If you’re into home runs, this was the game for you. All but one of the seven runs scored by the Brewers came off the long ball, and some of them were truly towering shots. And, the Brewers who hit these bombs aren’t your usual suspects: neither Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy, nor Chris Carter hit a big fly in this game.
Top Play (WPA):
In the sixth inning, the Brewers were up 3-2. Chase Anderson, at this point, was out of the game after pitching 5 innings and giving up two runs. In the top half of the inning, Corey Knebel did his job and worked a 1-2-3 sixth inning.
The Brewers then came to bat in the bottom of the sixth. The first hitter was Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who singled on a line drive to right field. Hernan Perez was the next batter, and he grounded a ball to third base. Nieuwenhuis was out at second, but Perez was able to reach first base on a fielder’s choice. The following batter was Ramon Flores. Flores singled to center field, putting runners on first and second with nobody out.
Braden Shipley was making his major league debut. He threw his fastball in the mid to low 90s, and a curveball with a lot of movement. Pitching in your major league debut can be hard. Many pitchers are very nervous and don’t always bring their best stuff, sometimes overwhelmed by the moment.
This might have happened in this game. The Diamondbacks coaching staff also didn’t do him any favors. Shipley was shaky from the get-go and after giving up these two hits it would have been a wise move to take him out of the game. Hell, they probably should have taken him out after Nieuwenhuis led off the inning with a single.
But, no, the Diamondbacks kept him in the game and on the first pitch of the at-bat, Martin Maldonado crushed Shipley’s curveball into the stands.
This gave the Brewers a six to two lead and put the game out of reach.
Bottom Play (WPA):
In the fourth inning, the Diamondbacks scored to tie the game at two apiece. Following that, in the fifth inning the Diamondbacks were threatening to take the lead after the Brewers were unable to score in the bottom half of the fourth.
The inning didn’t start off poorly, as Anderson got Segura to ground out. Then trouble ensued. Phil Gosselin singled on a line drive to center field. Then, Paul Goldschmidt singled as well, putting runners on first and third with only one out.
At this point in the game, the Diamondbacks had a 59 percent win expectancy. Basically, they had a 59 percent chance of winning the game. The next hitter was also Jake Lamb, who’s having a breakout year. Anderson was starting to come apart. He was able to get Lamb to swing and miss at the first offering, but then proceeded to throw three straight balls, putting him in an even bigger hole. However, Anderson battled back. He was able to throw a strike and get the count to three and two. On the three and two offering, Anderson was able to get Lamb to swing and miss, getting the much needed second out of the inning.
Anderson was then able to get Rickie Weeks, Jr. to pop up on the infield, allowing the Brewers to escape the jam.
After Maldonado hit his home run, Andy Wilkins came up to the plate. Wilkins, a player who I had never heard of before this season, is a 27-year-old journeyman who the Brewers claimed from the Rangers in the offseason.
Before this season Wilkins only had 45 plate appearances in the majors. Those all came in 2014 with the White Sox. In 2015, Wilkins played the entire year in Triple-AAA, first with the Blue Jays and then with the Dodgers.
For most of this season, Wilkins has played first base at the Triple-A level. That’s until the Brewers called him up on July 6th. Since he’s been called up, Wilkins has primarily been used as a pitch hitter, only getting 10 at bats thus far this month, and all of them came in pitch hitting opportunities. This can make it difficult for a hitter to get into a rhythm.
But, the reason this is the key moment of the game is because after Maldonado put the game out of reach, Craig Counsell decided to pitch hit Wilkins. Wilkins, though, wasn’t up against Shipley; the Diamondbacks finally got the memo and took him out of the game, and replaced him with Dominic Leone.
After Wilkins worked a 1-1 count, he got a fastball up and he didn’t miss it.
Wilkins’s first hit for the Brewers was also his first major league home run.
This wasn’t the most valuable play of the game. It wasn’t even the best play of the game, but it was the most significant.
Many players work their whole lives to get to the major leagues, and many of them never make it. In fact, most of them never make it. Wilkins made it. He made it to the big leagues and he finally got his home run. A hit that so many players dream of getting, but never get their shot.
There are very good chances that this will be Wilkins’s last home run. Wilkins might never get another hit in the big leagues. Playing baseball is hard and there’s only a select few that get chosen. I don’t know whether this will be Wilkins’s last shot in the big leagues, but at least now he has a memory of a lifetime.
Coming Up Next:
The Brewers are in action again tonight at 7:10 PM. They will be facing the Diamondbacks again, and Matt Garza will get the nod for the Brew Crew. Since coming off the disabled list Garza hasn’t pitched very well. His DRA is at 5.17, and his ERA is even worse. Garza will soon have to find something that works or else he could find himself without a job come this winter.
[Editor’s Note: A previous version of the recap was updated to correct Wilkins’s hit total.]