Games Notes, Brewers at Pirates

by jjvedamuthu

More game notes MIL @ PIT 4/17/14

Series previews from a Pirates blog ( Raise the Jolly Roger) and a Brewers blog (Disciples of Ueker).


Milwaukee Brewers

1.CF: Carlos Gomez

2.SS: Jean Segura

3.RF: Ryan Braun

4.3B: Aramis Ramirez

5.C: Jonathan Lucroy

6.LF: Khris Davis

7.1B: Mark Reynolds

8.2B: Scooter Gennett

9.SP: Yovani Gallardo


Pittsburgh Pirates

1.LF: Starling Marte

2.C: Russell Martin

3.CF: Andrew McCutchen

4.3B: Pedro Alvarez

5.2B: Neil Walker

6.1B: Gaby Sanchez

7.RF: Travis Snider

8.SS: Jordy Mercer

9.SP: Edinson Volquez

Single by Gomez on the first pitch. The Brewers swing at lots of first pitches, the Pirates announcers tell me, and they don’t strike out a lot. Probably avoiding First Pitch Strikes.

Segura sacrificed.

Braun came up with one out and Gomez on second to a chorus of boos. Strange play: Braun grounded sharply back to the mound, and Volquez had Gomez caught off second. Gomez sustained the rundown until Braun reached, returned to the bag safely, which made Braun out,  runner on second with two out and Aramis Ramirez at the plate. The Pirates should have executed the rundown, gotten Gomez out, and had a runner on first with two out. Instead, Ramirez ripped a single to center, Gomez easily scored from second and the Brewers jumped out to a 1-0 lead.

The Pirates’ announcing crew keeps talking about how the Brewers love to hit First Pitch Strikes. Perhaps they would be the team to avoid throwing them against, but the reason they are effective is because they are outlier, a team the does not try to work deeply into counts, their success with approach kind of dependent on the fact that other teams do work deeply in counts and thus pitchers can take advantage of that tendency by throwing first pitch strikes.

[Update: Curt Hogg of Disciples of Ueker wrote a good piece, “Taking a Look at the Brewers Aggressive Offensive Approach.” You should read it. He has cool charts showing that the Brewers are swinging at everything early in counts. This prevents pesky 1-0 and 0-1 counts from occurring.]

Indeed, a quick search shows the Brewers have the third-highest Swing % in the Majors so far this season. Looking at the spreadsheet I made earlier today, I found they see 3.64 pitches per plate appearance, which sits dead least in Major League Baseball, 1.88 standard deviations below the mean of 3.87. Not quite as the Twins are in the other direction, but significantly and notably below average.

Vogquez went 3-1 on Lucroy, who drew a walk–he is one of the Brewers who takes walks but only at a slightly above league-average rate. This brought young left fielder Khris Davis to the plate with two out and runners at first and second. Only 14 pitches thrown by Volquez to that point–two outs, two on, one run in, fourteen pitches. No deep counts. Davis grounded into a forceout. Wow. the Cardinals are already up 3-0 on the Nationals.

Marte looks lost at the plate like he did against Cincinnati, but he manages to draw a walk. I almost wet myself in surprise.

Martin lined out.

McCutchen came up with Marte on first and one out. Marte stole second on a 0-1 count. McCutchen took Gallardo deep. Pirates lead 2-1.

Gallardo’s location slightly off, but he starts to sharpen up facing Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker, to whom he throws some ungodly breaking stuff.


Top 2, Piratts 2 Brewers 1

Pirates shift left for Mark Reynolds with second baseman Walker to the left side of second. They use more shifts than anyone else in the NL, second only in all of baseball to the Kings of the Shift, the Tampa Bay Rays. I love the fact the Pirates are imitating the Rays. Aside from the Packers ownership model, I think the Rays should be the most emulated franchise in sports–smart, smart, smart. See also, Jonah Keri’s excellent The Extra 2%.

With one out, Brewer second baseman Scooter Gennett shoots a sharp liner to left that almost elude Marte. Gennett was held to single, but against most lumbering leftfielders, that goes for two.

This brings Gallardo to the plate, who is quite a good hitter for a pitcher. He makes as if he’ll bunt, making the Pirates announcers happy as he has hit 4 HR against Pirate pitching in the past (he is also a career .206 hitter). Gallardo executes the sacrifice, Two out, runner on second, Carlos Gomez at the plate.

Carlos Gomez is really coming into his own. Repeated articles on major sports media websites have recently touted his emergence. Volquez starts with slider on the outer half. Gomez, showing great improvement since his days as a Twin, makes contact with it but rolls it to shortstop, and the Pirates escape the inning without harm.

Bottom 2

Sanchez leading off. Gallardo fell behind 3-1, his fastball high. But Sanchez did him a favor on an inside fastball off the plate, skying one for an out down the third-base line.

Travis Snider dealt a cutter inside that he pulled to Reynolds at first, who made the play unassisted. Two out.

Mercer, shortstop, took fastball on the inside corner for strike one. Hitting only .171, Mercer must have a hell of a glove. He falls behind 0-2 watching a slider on the outer corner. At 0-2, Gallardo went off thep late with the slider for a bll, then came back with another one that Mercer couldn’t resist, and down he went on strikes.

Top 3

Voquez gets ahead of Segura then throws him a ball before Segura grounds up up the middle, Walker making a nice play on a high chopper over the mound.

Braun hits a a first-pitch breaking ball on the outer half off the wall in right, beating the Snider’s throw to second base for a one-out double. (I wonder how much closer that play at second would have been if Gregory Polonco had been playing right.)

Aramis Ramirez again at the plate with one out and Braun on second. At 1-1, Volquez throws Ramirez the same pitch he threw Braun, but Ramirez doesn’t wait on it, and he rolls over it and grounds out toe left side, Braun holding at second.

Lucroy comes up with two out and Braun at second. Lucroy takes ball one. He’s already seen more pitches tonight that large stretches of the Brewers lineup have collectively. At 2-0, Volquez throws a fastball on the inner corner that Lucroy squares up for a basehit to center past a diving Mercer. Braun scores easily, and the game tied.

Volquez made Khris Davis look bad on two swings at sliders that clearly fooled him. But Davis must have recognized the third, which Volquez hung on the outer half. Davis lined it the right of second base. Because the Pirates had the far left shift on for Davis, Walker could not make the play to his left, and Davis collected a single that sent Lucroy to third. A mound visit ensued.

Mark Reynolds stepped up with runners at the corner. He glowered and Volquez fidgeted. Volquez bounced a slider to fall behind 1-0, but Reynolds bailed him out, popping up to Martin behind the plate.

Bottom 3

Brewers already have 6 hits against Volquez.

[Food Break]

My GameDay App told me the Pirates went downin order.


Top 4

Gomez comes up none one two out, but only two out because Snider made a nice play on a sinking liner off Gallardo’s bat. Gomez skied a flyball to left that Marte hauled in. Going bottom 4 still tied at 2.

Bottom 4

Shift on for Alvarez. He watches two pitches go by, 1-1. He hits the next pitch a long way down the left field line but foul. He then stroked a basehit to left bringing Walker to the plate, runner on first and none out.

Walker had a big series against the Reds, but he looked pretty out of sorts in his first plate appearance. He takes strike one and kicks at the dirt. He fouls off the next offering, falling behind 0-2. He fouls off another. Gallardo bounces a breaking pitch, Alvarez advances, Walker at 1-2. Walker then ground to first, moving Alvarez to third.

Runner on third, one out, Sanchez at the plate. Gallardo mixes pitches nicely and strikes him out rather coolly, bringing Snider to the plate with two out. He stikes out.

Mercer grounds out.

Top 5

Segura grounds out.

Volquez strikes out Braun swinging, for his first strikeout of the night.

He’s now retired 6 in a row. Steve Blass suggests he may have “found a groove.”

And Volquez induces weak contact from Ramirez, who grounds out on a tapper in front of the mound fielded by the catcher, Russell Martin.

Bottom 5

Halfway through tonight’s action, Brewers with 2 runs, 6 hits and no errors. The Pirates with 2 runs, 3 hits and no errors.

Volquez leads off for the Pirates.

Volquez watches two pitches and gets ahead 2-0. Gallardo throws a strike that Volquez turns away from. Taking all the way. Strike two catches the bottom of the zone. Volquez pops one up foul on the first-base side, and Mark Reynolds makes a nice catch, running into the railing and reaching into foul ground to record the out. Nice job by Reynolds, never known for his work in the field.

Marte takes a strike one slider. At 2-1, Marte popped up a low fastball into shallow right field where second baseman Scooter Gennett made the play.

Martin took strike one. Ahead 1-2, Gallardo came inside with a fastaball that Martin fouled off. Then a looping slider low and away. At 2-2 he again came inside and Martin again fouled it off. Good at bat for both of these guys. High and away by Gallardo resulted in a full count. Gallardo high and tight fastball that barely missed off the inside corner, Martin draws a well-earned walk. But the Pirate broadcasters don’t really notice that.

McCutchen sees a first pitch slider he hits in the air to right. Braun catches it. On to the top of the sixth.

Top 6

This has been a relatively well-pitched ballgame. Volquez had to work out of trouble early but settled in. Gallardo has been very good but for the mistake McCutchen hit out.

Lucroy-Davis-Reynolds to bat in the top of the sixth.

Lucroy spanks the first pitch he sees to left for a hit. Sharply hit again. It was not a terrible pitch. It was a strike but on the inside edge. Lucroy is just dialed in right now.

One on, no out,

Khris Davis. He takes ball one. (*Sigh*) Lucroy runs on the next pitch, a strike, and Martin’s throw beats the runner. So, Khris Davis, none on, one out. (At this point I’d like to express dismay over that decision to send the runner given what it does for Brewer run expectancy., That just took the Brewers’ run expectancy for the inning from .8074 to .2553, which, I gotta’ say, is a big favor to the Pirates; had he been safe their run expectancy would only have risen to .9936.) On the other hand, Roenicke must be playing for a one-run game, confident if he scores his bullpen will lock down the Pirates. It’s been good so far for the Brewers, but it isn’t the bottom of the ninth inning. You never know how many runs you’ll need in order to win.

Davis crushes a pitch to left, but the wind is coming in slightly from left and left field is enormous in Pittsburgh and the ball hangs in the wind for Starling Marte to collect.

Reynolds. He just made a nice play in the field. You know what they say. Volquez falls behind but gets a big swing and a miss to even it at 1-1. Reynolds fouls that fastball off to the right. A changeup off of the plate inside induces another swing and miss from Reynolds and the side is retired. No runs scored.

Bottom 6

Alvarez leads off for the Pirates, and he works to a 3-2 count. On his one hundredth pitch, Gallordo misses and walks Alvarez.

Walker flies out to left.

One out, one on, Sanchez to hit. Gallardo scheduled to bat second in the top half of the inning. Someone up in the Brewer pen. Gallardo throws first pitch cut fastball for a strike. Sanchez fouls the next pitch off to the right. 0-2. Gallardo at 104 pitches. Wipeout slider wipes Sanchez out.

Travis Snider. Runner at first, two out. The count runs to 3-2. Snider kills all suspense by tapping a dribbler in front of the mound, and Gallardo throws him out.

Top 7

Gennett singles to lead off the 7th.

Volquez has still only thrown 69 pitches at this point! Buy he falls behind 1-0 to the pinch hitter Logan Schafer, who is batting for Gallardo. Schaefer bunts the next pitch foul. And once again it is evident Roenicke is playing for a one-run game. He again shows bunt at 1-2 but it’s a ball and the count evens. And then Schafer bunts foul, striking out and handing the Pirates a gift.

So, one out, one on, Carlos Gomez steps in. Volquez begins with a pitchout, but no one is going anywhere, and it is now 1-0. Gennett running on the pitch and again Martin throws out a would-be Brewer basestealer. So two out, none on, Another favor from Ron Roenicke, who suddenly doesn’t trust his batters to push across runs conventionally but is trying one-run tactic after one-run tactic.

Gomex flies out to right center, where Snider makes the catch.

Volquez 7 IP 2 ER.

The Stretch

Bottom 7

Volquez likely done as he is due up second in this half-inning.

Rob Wooten in for the Brewers. He only has 2/3 IP so far in 2014, promoted only 4 days ago from AAA Nashville.

Mercer strokes a 1-0 pitch for a line drive single.

Runner on first, none out. The pinch hitter for Volquez is Josh Harrison. He attempts to bunt, and I wonder what the hell is going on with these managers. Harrison fouls off the first pitch in the air. The Pirates’ announcers are lamenting that the Pirates haven’t sacrifice bunted much, being only tied for 9th in the NL. Strike two evens the count after many throws to first to check the runner. Harrison swings away at 2-2, and he pulls one into the seats in left just inside the foul pole. Two-run homerun. Pirates lead 4-2.

Screw one-run strategies in situation where only scoring one run doesn’t automatically win you the game.

Marte bats. He fouls off two pitches and falls behind 1-2. He puts the next pitch into play, a swinging bunt down the third-base line, and Marte reaches base safely on the infield hit..

Marte goes on a 1-2 pitch, and Lucroy throws the ball into centerfield. Marte to third on Lucroy’s error.

The infield plays in, but Wooten can’t find the strike zone and Martin walks.

Andrew McCutchen. None out, runners on the corners. McCutchen hits grounder to third, Marte hesitatd at third, but the double play could not be turned, and Marte scored. McCutchen safe at first on the fielder’s choice.

Pirates caught a break.

Brewers change pitchers.

Pirates lead 5-2.

Alvarez to bat next with a runner on first and one out.

Wooten’s performance is the worst by a Brewers’ pitcher in the four games the teams have played so far this season. The front edge of the Brewers ‘pen looked vulnerable.

Former Pirate lefty Zach Duke enters the game for the Brewers to face Alvarez. Alvarez walks, putting runners on first and second.

Neil Walker bats right-handed, his worse side by far. At 1-1. Duke throws a breaking ball, and the Pirates attempt a double steal! Alvarez thrown out at second, the Pirates challenge. This is big, runner on third with two out versus runners on second and third and one out (.3244 vs, 1.2522). The fans at PNC have seen a replay and are yelling “Safe! Safe! Safe!”

The umpires return, saying “Out!” (And he was, but just barely.)

So, runner on third, two out, Walker strikes out looking.

Top 8

Pirates 5 Brewers 2

Melancon in to pitch for the Pirates.

Melancon retires Segura on strikes, and induces Braun to fly out. He gets ahead of Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez flies out to Marte in left.

Bottom 8

[This gets ugly.]

Wei-Chung Wang, former Pirate minor leaguer, enters the game for the Brewers. Sanchez leads off, and he crushes the 0-1 off the left field foul pole and the Pirates lead 6-2.

Snider flies out to deep center. One out.

Mercer singles.

Jose Tabata pinch hits. Pirates have 17 HR in last 9 games. Unsustainable HR/FB rate? Probably. Tabata crushes one to right-center. He thinks its going out so he struts, but it drifts father to right and hits the taller right-field wall. He doubles and Mercer scurries home to score the seventh Pirate run.

Marte flairs one to short center. There are now runners at first and third with one out and the pitching coach and interpreter come out to check on Wang.

Martin spanks the first pitch to left. Tabata scores. Runners on first and second and one out. 8-2 Pirates.

This part of the Brewer bullpen—their left-handers—does not look that good.

McCutchen pops out to the catcher, Lucroy.

Wang is showing a lively 94 mph fastball despite his difficulties. Left-handed heat at that.

Alvarez falls behind 0-2, but then he unleashes a massive opposite-field blast to put the Pirates up it 11-2.

Walker grounds out.

Top of 9

Bryan Morris in to pitch for PIT.

Lucroy lined one to right that had a chance to drop in but Snider made a nice sliding catch. One down.

Davis flies to right.

Reynolds grounds out to third. Game over.

It started competitive, but the second- and third-tier lefties in the Brewers ‘pen just could not prevent baserunners and scoring.