Break on through: Crew's bats come alive vs. Phils
By Adam McCalvy and Todd Zolecki
MILWAUKEE -- Wily Peralta finally delivered a quality start, and the Brewers rewarded their struggling Opening Day starter with a go-ahead, six-run rally for an 8-5 win over the Phillies on Sunday at Miller Park.
Peralta surrendered four runs (three earned) on seven hits in his first six-inning outing this season, and he notched his first victory thanks to a 10-batter, six-run outburst in the sixth that turned a 4-2 Brewers deficit into an 8-4 lead. Scooter Gennett and Alex Presley homered in the frame, the biggest single-inning rally for Milwaukee this season. Relievers Michael Blazek, Tyler Thornburg and Jeremy Jeffress preserved the lead, Jeffress rebounded from a two-homer outing the night before by recording his sixth save in as many chances.
"We've been swinging it pretty good, and as starters, we have to step up and try to go deep," said Peralta, well aware that Brewers starting pitchers own baseball's highest ERA. "Every time we go out there, we have to step up and give us a quality start."
Most of the damage came against Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff, who hit an RBI single in the second for an early lead. But he was charged with seven earned runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.
"I don't know what happened to Eickhoff," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "They just kind of all together seemed to know what was coming. They hit him pretty hard, which is hard to figure."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Six pack: Entering Sunday's decisive sixth, the Brewers' biggest inning was their four-run seventh against the Twins on Wednesday. They blew that outburst away with a 10-batter, seven-hit rally that included six hits for extra bases. Gennett led off with a home run that cut the deficit to 4-3, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis followed three batters later with a go-ahead, two-run double off Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard's glove. Jonathan Villar made it 6-4 with a run-scoring double, and Presley -- batting in Peralta's spot -- capped the scoring with a two-run shot. It was Milwaukee's first pinch-hit homer this season.
"I thought [Nieuwenhuis'] double in the big inning was a key play to just keep that inning going and keep it alive," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He's done a nice job. It's kind of been sporadic playing time, which obviously we know isn't always the easiest thing. But he is a player that's been in that role before and he knows what to expect. I think he's comfortable in that role. So it's been good. He's produced."
Eickhoff breaks bad: Entering the game, Eickhoff had allowed only two extra-base hits on curveballs in his 11-start career. He gave up three Sunday: Ryan Braun's solo homer in the fourth and doubles from Nieuwenhuis and Villar in the sixth, when the Brewers scored six runs to take an 8-4 lead. Opponents had hit .081 (6-for-74) with a .108 slugging percentage against Eickhoff's curveball before Sunday. Eickhoff, who struck out all seven batters on breaking balls, surrendered a career-high seven runs to fall to 1-3 with a 4.07 ERA.
"Yeah, he's got a good curveball,' Counsell said. "He really has command of his curveball. He can throw it for strikes when he wants, and he bounces it when he gets ahead in the count. We did a nice job as the game went on, knowing what he was going to and getting pitches to hit." More >
Baby steps: Peralta recovered from some early trouble -- he hung a slider to Eickhoff in the second inning for a run-scoring single -- to deliver his most encouraging start to date. When he struck out red-hot Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco in the top of the sixth, it marked Peralta's first out past the fifth all season.
"With each start, I'm feeling better and better," Peralta said. "Today was a good one, better than the first four. I was locating pretty good today, mixing my pitches well. Pretty good down in the zone today."
Herrera, Franco keep hitting: Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera singled in the third to reach base safely in 16 consecutive games. Franco then singled to score Herrera as the pair has rejuvenated the Phillies' offense. The Phillies have averaged 6.25 runs per game in the past four games after averaging 2.5 runs per game in their first 15.
"Hopefully, we're a little bit better than we've been to this point. There is certainly room for improvement in some areas. It's always a matter of consistency. We haven't been very consistent in many aspects of the game, but I think we can be better than we've been to this point." -- Braun, on what he thinks of the Brewers after three full weeks
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With two more doubles Sunday, 14 of Brewers first baseman Chris Carter's 18 hits have gone for extra bases. His nine doubles tied the Cubs' Dexter Fowler and Braves' Nick Markakis for the Major League lead, putting Carter on pace for 73 doubles this season. The big league record belongs to Earl Webb, who hit 67 doubles for the 1931 Red Sox. More >
PROGRESS FOR BREWERS' SMITH
It's not a Philadelphia-Milwaukee series without a mention of Will Smith. The Brewers' reliever with the same name as the Philly-born entertainer played catch at Miller Park on Sunday morning, a small but significant step in his rehabilitation from a torn ligament in his right knee. It did not mean his comeback was imminent, however.
"He's still at the point where the knee needs to be supported and somewhat immobilized," Brewers general manager David Stearns said. "He is progressing well. We're still a couple of weeks away from a defined checkpoint [at which time the team will determine whether Smith needs surgery to repair his torn LCL]. All the returns so far have been positive, but we're not going to know until he really tests that knee."
The Phillies lost a challenge in the seventh inning, when Freddy Galvis was caught stealing second base. They thought Galvis' foot beat the tag from Gennett. But after a three-minute review, the play stood as called.
WHAT'S NEXT Phillies: The Phillies have a day off Monday before they open a three-game series at 7:05 p.m. ET Tuesday against the Nationals at Nationals Park. Right-hander Vince Velasquez hopes to bounce back after the Mets scored five runs (two earned) in 4 1/3 innings against him last week in Philadelphia. Velasquez struck out 25 batters in 15 scoreless innings in his first two starts this season.
Brewers: After a day off Monday, the Brewers hit the road for a quick, three-game trip to Wrigley Field. They will send their best starter to the mound for Tuesday's 7:05 p.m. CT series opener, when Jimmy Nelson matches up against the Cubs' Kyle Hendricks. The Brewers will contend with Jake Arrieta the next night in Arrieta's first start since his no-hitter in Cincinnati.