Game 158 Recap: Rangers 6 Brewers 4

Tl;dr: The Brewers raced out to a 3-0 lead but the Rangers did enough damage against Jimmy Nelson to pull off the 6-4 victory.

Top Play (WPA):
The top play put the Rangers ahead for good and knocked Jimmy Nelson out of the game with one out in the sixth inning. Old friend Jonathan Lucroy hit a two run double which scored Carlos Beltran and Adrian Beltre to put the Rangers ahead 5-4 (.287).

Nelson had retired six of the previous seven batters before the start of the sixth, but then things unraveled. Carlos Beltran hit a chopper away from the shift. Yadiel Rivera charged it from an awkward angle, and the ball went under his glove. Adrian Beltre was up next. During this at-bat, Beltran took advantage of Nelson’s inattention and stole his first base of the season (Fun fact: his last stolen base was August 11, 2014). Beltre walked a few pitches later.

At this point, it seemed as if Jacob Barnes was ready to enter the game, but Craig Counsell decided to leave Nelson in the game. It wasn’t an indefensible decision, considering Nelson’s pitch count and the meaninglessness of the game to the Brewers. The value of Nelson getting out of the jam likely outweighs any advantage gained from bringing in a new pitcher. Nelson immediately validated the decision by inducing a Rougned Odor fly ball to left field on the first pitch. At this point, Lucroy came up and got an inside sinker that didn’t quite sink enough, and hit a sharp grounder down the third base line to put the Rangers ahead 5-4.

Bottom Play (WPA):
Rangers starter A.J. Griffin didn’t give the Brewers much in this game. He allowed Chris Carter and Manny Pina home runs to give the Brewers an early 3-0 lead and he didn’t have a single inning without allowing at least one hit.

The fourth inning was his best frame, as he only faced the minimum number of batters. Orlando Arcia led off with a single, bringing up Michael Reed. On his second pitch, Reed grounded it to Griffin, who started a double play (-.091) and kept the game tied at 3.

Jonathan Villar Steals His 60th Base
Villar stole his 60th base of the season in the game. He joins Scott Podsednik (70 in 2004) and Tommy Harper (73 in 1969, if you want to count the Pilots), as the only players in franchise history to reach this plateau. However, with 60 stolen bases and 18 home runs, Villar is also a member of an exclusive club of players to reach those marks:

Players with 60+ Steals and 18+ Home Runs

Year Player Age Position Home Runs Stolen Bases Caught Stealing VORP BWAR
1973 Joe Morgan 29 2B 26 67 15 67.0 7.8
1976 Joe Morgan 32 2B 27 60 9 89.3 9.5
1985 Rickey Henderson 26 OF 24 80 10 81.1 10.1
1986 Eric Davis 24 OF 27 80 11 52.1 4.6
1986 Rickey Henderson 27 OF 28 87 18 53.1 7.2
1990 Rickey Henderson 31 OF 28 65 10 83.3 9.7
2006 Jose Reyes 23 SS 19 64 17 67.2 6.1
2016 Jonathan Villar 25 SS/3B 18 60 18 42.4 4.5

Sourced through Play Index

Running through the chart, Villar has joined an elite group of players. Joe Morgan and Rickey Henderson are two of the best players of all time. Eric Davis had amazing talent, and got even better in 1987 before injuries took away certain superstardom. However, the name right above Villar is the most interesting.

The 2006 campaign was Jose Reyes’s true breakout season and began a string of nine consecutive seasons of above average to great performances (minus an injury riddled 2009). Reyes was an elite offensive shortstop and did enough with the glove to maintain his value. Villar profiles as having more power than Reyes and perhaps needs less of a green light on the base paths, but this could be the start of a similar run of above average performances.

While the offensive standard for Villar should be higher if he remains at third base rather than shortstop (possibly a false assumption considering the wealth of talent currently at that position), the Reyes career path would be ideal and would provide great value to the Brewers, especially considering he was traded for organizational fodder. Villar’s numbers don’t quite reach the standards set by the other players on the list, but his even if he never reaches their peaks, he’s proven himself capable of great things.

Former Brewers Continue to Hurt Current Brewers
Lucroy has had two big games against his former teammates, and Jeremy Jeffress pitched 1.3 scoreless innings on Monday, so of course another former Brewer had to get in on the fun last night. Carlos Gomez opened the scoring for Texas with a three run homer in the third inning. Since he signed with the Rangers five weeks ago, Gomez has been on a tear reminiscent of his glory days in Milwaukee.

Of course there’s a small sample size caveat in twenty-nine games and 115 plate appearances, but Gomez has already hit more home runs for the Rangers (7) than he did in Houston (5) in eighty-five games. His .290 TAv approaches his Brewers peak of .300 and it looks like he’ll be an interesting free agency case this offseason.

Before this resurgence it looked like he’d need to take an Ian Desmond style one year prove-it deal to rebuild his value. I know I considered him an intriguing pick up for the Brewers in anticipation of spinning him into some younger pieces at the deadline, but there’s a chance that he may have hit his way into a larger contract. His strategy and the offers presented will be an interesting storyline to follow, as this is a weak free agent class.

Up Next:
The series concludes in Texas concludes tonight. Chase Anderson will start for Milwaukee and looks to continue his excellent September. In his four starts this month, he’s pitched 22.3 innings and allowed three runs on seventeen hits and three walks, while striking out fifteen batters. Those starts have come against Pittsburgh (twice), St. Louis, and Chicago, though the Chicago start was a post-clinch lineup. Taking the mound for the Rangers will be Cole Hamels. He threw seven shutout innings in his last start against Oakland and struck out seven. First pitch is 7:05.

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