The glamour matchup this Memorial Day weekend was the Dodgers and Cubs, but I’m going to look at a different series between two other teams vying for top spot in their divisions. Like last week’s matchup between the Twins and Rockies, these two clubs are enjoying success this season for the first time in several years, with both teams having last made the post-season in 2011. More after the jump.
Arizona invaded Miller Park as baseball’s hottest team, having won 9 of their last 10. The Brewers had also been on a roll, winning 10 of 12, before dropping their last three heading into this series. Both clubs are pretty healthy, with only A.J. Pollock and Taijuan Walker on the DL among D-back regulars, and the Brewers having their full complement of starters until Ryan Braun was injured in game 1 and later placed on the DL.
Game 1 matched a pair of young starters, with D-back lefty Robbie Ray taking on righty Zach Davies for Milwaukee. Ray was on his game this night with 7 scoreless innings of two hit ball with nary a walk. Davies wasn’t as sharp, giving up leadoff homers in the first and second innings, and single, double starting the third frame to plate Arizona’s third run. The Brewers put only two runners in scoring position all game, both with two outs, and failed to cash either. Final Score: D-backs 4, Brewers 0.
This was Ray’s second career start of 7+ IP allowing no runs or walks, the first coming against the Mets last season. Playing their 20th NL season, this was the Brewers’ 20th time being shut out at home on three hits or less. Gregor Blanco‘s home run leading off the game was the 33rd in D-back franchise history, four of those coming last season, all by current Mariner shortstop Jean Segura.
Game 2 saw Zack Godley take the hill for Arizona to face Junior Guerra for the Brewers. Godley lasted 6 innings and handed a slender 1-0 lead to a D-back bullpen that failed to hold that advantage. But, the Brewer bullpen also faltered with Corey Knebel blowing the 9th inning save opportunity when Chris Iannetta delivered a two out game-tying solo shot. Wily Peralta relieved Knebel in the 10th and surrendered a leadoff double to Chris Owings who later scored on a wild pitch. Another double by third baseman Jake Lamb plated a second run to seal the victory for the visitors. Final score: D-backs 4, Brewers 2.
This is Godley’s first season as a full time starter and he has responded with a stellar 1.99 ERA after 5 outings, the last four all quality starts. Junior Guerra turned in an encouraging start for the Brewers with 5.2 IP and yielding only a solo homer in his first game since opening day, when he had to leave after three innings with an injury. Last year, Guerra, at age 31, became the oldest rookie since Jim Turner in 1937 to post an ERA under 3.00 in 20+ starts.
The loss for Peralta was his first since moving to the bullpen three weeks ago; he had started the year 3-0 with a 2.65 ERA but was dropped from the rotation after failing to last 6 innings in any of his next 5 starts, allowing 4+ runs in four of them. Knebel’s blown save was his first since assuming the closer’s role from Neftali Perez two weeks ago; Perez’s ERA has been above 5.00 for more than a month. This was Iannetta’s first career game-tying or go-ahead home run when behind in the 9th or extra innings.
Game 3 matched D-back ace Zack Greinke against Chase Anderson for Milwaukee. Greinke walked a pair in the 3rd inning to load the bases, then had them cleared on a two out double by Brewer catcher Jett Bandy. When Milwaukee tacked on two more in the 6th, Greinke got the hook. While Greinke was off his form, Anderson was dialed in. After walking the first two D-back batters of the game, Anderson retired 21 of the next 22, before facing Arizona shortstop Nick Ahmed leading off the eighth inning with a no-hitter still intact. Alas, Ahmed singled to center on a 2-0 pitch and Anderson’s day was done. Final score: Brewers 6, D-backs 1.
Bandy’s bases-clearing double was his second straight multi-RBI hit with the bases loaded, a nice turnaround from 1 for 11 (a single) with two sac flys to start his career. This was Anderson’s third one hit game of 6 IP or more, with the other two also featuring long strings of hitless ABs: pitching for the D-backs in 2015 against the Giants, Anderson took a no-hitter into the 7th inning before Buster Posey singled with one out on a play recorded as “ground ball in front of home” (guess you had to be there); and later that season against the Dodgers, Anderson surrendered a Chase Utley home run on his first pitch of the game and then went six hitless innings before being relieved starting the 7th. Struggling at Miller Park is pretty rare for Greinke; in 172.2 IP, more than any other opposition ballpark, this was only his third loss against 16 wins, that success following from a 10.6 SO/9, almost two whiffs better than his Dodger Stadium rate, the best of his three home ballparks.
Looking for a win in Game 4 and a series split, Milwaukee sent Jimmy Nelson to the hill to face Arizona left-hander Patrick Corbin. Corbin struggled from the outset, surrendering a triple on an 0-2 pitch to leadoff batter Keon Broxton. Corbin then walked the bases loaded, still with nobody out, so was probably fortunate to get out of the inning allowing only two runs. The Brewers loaded the bases again in the fourth, and then cleared them with a Domingo Santana granny and the rout was on. The D-backs put up a four-spot in the 8th to make the score semi-respectable, but the issue was never in doubt. Final score: Brewers 9, D-backs 5.
Santana’s grand slam was the first of his career, upping his career totals to 26 HR and 85 RBI in 663 PA; the 24 year-old’s current 2017 stats project to 26 HR, 84 R, 78 BB and 87 RBI in just 560 PA for the season. Jimmy Nelson scattered 7 hits over 7 innings for the win, allowing only one run and striking out 10, just the second double-digit strikeout total of his career, in his 85th start. Nelson has hit just one batter this season in 56.1 IP, after leading the majors in HBP the last two years and entering this season with a career mark of one hit batter every 11.5 IP, the third highest rate since 1901 in 400+ IP over a pitcher’s first four seasons (nos. 1 and 2 were teammates on the 1999 Devil Rays, Rolando Arrojo and Ryan Rupe). That propensity for plunking may be related to Nelson’s 21-38 career record (.356 W-L%) starting this season that almost set a franchise record for lowest winning percentage in 400+ IP over the first four seasons of a career; only Skip Lockwood (23-43, .348), who debuted with the original Seattle Pilots, has had a tougher time racking up the W’s to start his Brewer career.