Game 116 Recap: Brewers 7, Reds 3

Ryan Braun put the Brewers offense on his back, and Wily Peralta — yes, that Wily Peralta — had another solid start.

Top Play: The Reds have one of the worst rotations in baseball, and in Game 3 of the series the Brewers finally took advantage of that. Keon Broxton and Jonathan Villar took walks off Cody Reed to kick off the bottom of the first. After a double steal put them both in scoring position, Ryan Braun brought them around: On a 1-1 fastball, he smoked a two-run double to the gap in left-center.

Braun’s extra-base hit (+.094), which gave the Brewers a 2-0 lead, was the first of three daggers for the Reds. It spiked the Brewers’ win probability from 68.3 to 77.7 percent; when Jake Elmore took a pitch to his foot to increase the advantage to 3-0, that increased further to 81.9 percent; and when Braun annihilated Reed’s final pitch for a three-run home run to center, making the deficit 6-0, the home team had a 94.9 percent chance of winning. Thereafter, the Brew Crew cruised to the finish line.

Since the All-Star Break, Braun has really turned on the jets. He’d crushed a .363/.453/.675 line in the second half before hitting two dingers and a double on Sunday. The Brewers decided to hold onto Braun at the trade deadline despite the Braves inquiring about him, which certainly seemed like a wise move at the time. Now, as he’s caught fire once again, we can hope that he’ll dominate on the next competitive Brewers team as well as the rebuilding ones.

Worst Play: In his second start post-promotion, Peralta got off on the wrong foot. After seeing six pitches and working the count to 2-2, Billy Hamilton thwacked the seventh offering over the head of Scott Schebler in right field. He decided not to go for third base, instead settling for the first of two doubles he’d accumulate in the contest.

Hamilton’s two-bagger (-.059), as the first play of the game, put a significant dent in the Brewers’ chances. They declined to 44.1 percent, which would prove to be the nadir for Milwaukee. Peralta got a strikeout and a fielder’s choice to put Joey Votto on third with two outs; he would then erase the Reds slugger on a pickoff. When his teammates stepped up in the bottom half of the inning, he didn’t look back.

From the second inning on, Peralta allowed just four more baserunners — three hits and a free pass — which translated to one run across six frames. It was the second quality start for Peralta in as many turns through the rotation: He had pitched six innings of two-run ball in his first game back against Atlanta on Tuesday. Given his abject awfulness in the 13 starts he made before his demotion, I can’t just chalk this up to easy competition, so I’ll make it today’s…

Trend to Watch: Peralta made 13 starts before his demotion; in those games, he tallied an 13.6 percent strikeout rate and 8.7 percent walk rate en route to a 6.68 ERA. The free passes haven’t gone away in his two August starts — he’s dished them out at an 8.9 percent clip — but he’s upped his fan rate to 24.4 percent. Perhaps more importantly, balls in play haven’t killed him: Peralta’s ground ball rate has leapt from 49.1 to 60.7 percent, and he hasn’t given up a single round-tripper after sacrificing 12 prior to that. Put it all together, and you get a 2.25 ERA over 12 innings following the callup.

The improvement stems from each of Peralta’s primary pitches. His slider has taken a big step forward — in both games, he’s had at least 24 percent whiffs on the pitch, while he topped 20 percent just once in his previous 13 outings. At the same time, the grounder rate on his sinker has spiked to two of the higher marks this season. The likely cause of that? His velocities have gone in opposite directions; with the sinker and slider more distinct, opponents may have had a harder time catching up with the latter and squaring up the former.

We shouldn’t completely ignore the cupcake factor here — the Braves and Reds each rank in the bottom third of the major leagues in TAv. Cutting down a lineup full of Erick Aybars and Ivan De Jesuses won’t earn you much praise; we’ll have to see if Peralta can keep this up when he faces Robinson Cano and the Mariners in his next probable start on Friday. There’s nevertheless reason for optimism, and if Peralta does prove his mettle in Seattle, he might stay in the rotation once Junior Guerra makes his return.

Up Next: Today, the Brewers take off. Tomorrow, they start a four-game series in Wrigley Field with a double-header. A Matt Garza-Trevor Cahill matchup will happen in the afternoon, and a Chase Anderson-Jason Hammel duel will follow that. On Wednesday, Jimmy Nelson takes the mound against Jon Lester; on Thursday, Zach Davies and Jake Arrieta wrap things up. Hopefully, the next four starters can sustain Peralta’s magic, and Braun can continue to support their causes.

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