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The Milwaukee Brewers are pouring some deliciously delightful baseball lately; going into Sunday, they’ve won eleven straight games, their first double-digit winning streak since 2003. They hold a crisp eight-game lead over the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central, the widest margin any division leader has over the next-placed team. Their road record of 25 wins and 15 losses is tied with the Boston Red Sox for the best in all of Major League Baseball. With 50-plus wins locked in before the All-Star break, the Brew Crew’s success has been enjoyable to watch, so get yourself a glass ready for the tap.
Milwaukee’s recipe for success goes beyond your typical water, barley, hops, and yeast. The addition of Willy Adames has proved to yield great dividends, as a prior column written last month mentioned Milwaukee’s noticeable success since the trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. The production has not dropped off at all; since joining the Brewers on May 22, Adames is slashing .293/.373/.543/.916 including 11 doubles, eight home runs, 29 RBI, and two stolen bases in 158 plate appearances over 39 games. Though he showcases power, he’s also been successful at putting the ball in play, and that shows, via his .344 BABIP. He’s also earning franchise accolades: Adames is the fifth player in Brewers history to have a four extra-base hit game as he pulled this accomplishment off on June 19, versus the Rockies.
Adames sliding down the railing of the visitor’s dugout at PNC Park on Friday after his solo shot homer is just a small sample of evidence that the Brewers are enjoying life unabashedly. Some of Adames’ teammates commented that he brings an electrifying presence to the clubhouse, and the proof is in the pudding: the Brewers have a 30-10 since bringing Adames aboard.
It isn’t just Adames that’s drafting a good time - strong pitching performances and run production in big spots have contributed to Milwaukee’s success. Josh Hader was named National League Reliever of the Month for June, where he notched eight saves, striking out 18 in 11 scoreless innings. He carries forward an incredible 0.55 ERA — currently the best among relievers. Jace Peterson has stepped up after being rejoining the Brewers on June 8: he carries a .916 OPS over 74 plate appearances going into Sunday. He went 2-for-5 in Saturday’s game versus the Pirates, with 4 RBI contributing to the Crew’s 11-2 win. Avisail Garcia is 11-for-31 in his last 7 games with two homers and 10 RBI. Omar Narvaez has been hot lately as well, and is 8-for-26 in his last 7 games, with one homer and four RBI.
The starting rotation has especially been strong: Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer have a collective ERA of 2.98. Peralta is also the first pitcher in Brewers history to go 10 straight starts with seven-plus punchouts. They’re also getting home run power from unexpected places, as three have been hit by pitchers this year (two by Houser, one by Lauer.)
With a 30-10 record in their last 40 games, the Brewers are proving to be something special, and carry forth great momentum as they head into the second half of the season.
Shohei Ohtani clobbered two homers on Friday; he now leads all of Major League Baseball in home runs, with 30. If that wasn't enough, in the ninth inning of that game he drew a walk, stole second base, and then was plated by Jared Walsh, who hit a walk-off single. 15 of Ohtani’s 30 home runs have happened in the last 30 days; he’s also stolen five bases, and is slashing .333/449/.988 in that time frame. Not too shabby for a pitcher!
On the home run watch in the National League, Fernando Tatis Jr. leads at 26; next is Kyle Schwarber, with 25. Interestingly enough, Tatis is second in the NL with stolen bases at 17, just one behind Trea Turner who has 18. It’s been a long while since anyone has led the league in both categories; 1932, to be exact. It’s possible that Tatis can pull this rare feat off in 2021; another candidate not far behind is Ronald Acuna, Jr. who is third in home runs with 22, and third in stolen bases with 16.
Speaking of league leaders, Kyle Schwarber of the Nationals has rightfully earned Player of the Month accolades for June; a record-setting 16 leadoff home runs helped seal that title. For the month of June, Schwarber ranked first in home runs with 16, first in RBI with 30, first in slugging percentage at .760, and first in OPS at 1.122.
On Friday, Salvador Perez of the Royals announced his intention of participating in the Home Run Derby next week on July 12, after being elected the starting catcher for the American League. He knocked in his 20th homer of the year that same night, and went 3-for-4 on the evening as the Royals beat the Twins, 7-4. Perez is on his way to match — and perhaps surpass — the career-best 27 home runs he clobbered in both 2017 and 2018.
As of Saturday night, Tyler Stephenson is rostered in only 15% of Yahoo leagues; the 24-year-old’s June has especially been hot. He slashed .305/.453/.542 in that month, contributing to an outstanding .996 OPS over 75 plate appearances in 23 games. Stephenson drove in the winning run on Thursday off Mark Melancon and the Padres for his third career walk-off win — and he has yet to play a full season of baseball. The rookie catcher currently has five home runs, 22 RBI, and 31 runs scored on the season.
Alek Manoah (7 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 1 BB, 10 K on Friday), Jake Fraley (2-for-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 2 SB on Friday), Nathan Eovaldi (7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6K on Thursday), Nate Lowe (2-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB on Thursday), Chris Bassitt (7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K on Wednesday), Trea Turner (4-for-4, 4 R, HR, RBI, 2 SB on Wednesday), German Marquez (9.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K on Tuesday), Cedric Mullins (4-for-5, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB on Tuesday), Freddy Peralta (6 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 4 BB, 8 K on Monday), Jose Ramirez (3-for-5, HR, 2B, 5 RBI, 2 R on Monday)
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Kolten Wong was placed on the 10-day injured list on Friday, after a nagging left calf strain injury caused him to exit Thursday’s game. Before Thursday, Wong missed four straight games hoping to avoid another trip to the IL; he re-aggravated the injury in his first at-bat, and had just one more at-bat before leaving the game.
On Saturday, Mets manager Luis Rojas said that David Peterson could miss up to eight weeks after being diagnosed with a strained right oblique. Peterson has already been placed on the 10-day injured list, and it sounds like he could potentially be sidelined until late-August or early-September.
On Saturday, the Diamondbacks placed RHP Zac Gallen on the 10-day injured list with a right hamstring strain. An MRI revealed the strain, and the righty will be out for at least well-past the All-Star break. Disappointing news, as Gallen had been activated on June 17, after being out with a forearm strain.
Danny Jansen of the Blue Jays was reactivated on Saturday, fully rehabbed from his right groin strain. He will likely share catching duties with Reese McGuire behind the plate, and working with Hyun Jin Ryu at the least. Riley Adams was optioned back to Triple-A in a corresponding move.
Jose Ramirez was seen out on the field before Cleveland’s matchup with the Astros on Saturday, but not well enough to be re-inserted into the lineup. Ramirez fouled a ball off his face this Wednesday during the first game of a doubleheader; on Thursday, he injured his elbow while diving after a ball at third base. He is said to be “minimally better,” and remains day-to-day.
While we took a break from this section in last week’s column, Brett Phillips of the Rays somehow found another way to make sure there was something fun to write about this week. “Some people on Twitter are calling me the next Shohei,” Phillips said with a perfect deadpan to reporters in a post-game interview on Friday. Phillips found himself on the mound this weekend as a position player pitching - usually occurring to save bullpen arms in a blowout, to make the best of a bad situation. And that was the story - in an 11-1 routing by the Blue Jays, the Rays brought Phillips into the game in the ninth inning, and the results to follow were...interesting to say the least.
Beyond Phillips’ child-like excitement as he percolated in the bullpen before being released to the mound, his relief appearance wasn’t necessarily anything to write about. After a very spirited sprint out of the gates with the Rays down nine runs, Phillips gave up two hits and two walks, and one more run to the Blue Jays’ total, and also committed a rather hilarious balk as he dropped the ball while making a crane-like stance on the mound. He did hit 94 on the radar gun, and changed speeds to the extreme by finding the mid-40s with some eephus tosses; he was able to get a few swinging strikes. You would have thought this was Phillips’ first pitching performance, and that’s because it absolutely was.
And that’s the week that was; next week will be the last before the All-Star Break. We’ll continue with more hot streaks, awesome performances, and fantastic stories as we head into the midpoint of the season.