Villar's 9th-inning homer lifts Brewers over Dodgers
By Jack Baer and Adam McCalvy
LOS ANGELES -- Jonathan Villar's two-run homer in the top of the ninth was the final blow dealt by the Brewers in an 8-6 slugfest at Dodger Stadium on Thursday night.
The Brewers pressured the Dodgers' pitching staff all night, forcing starter Scott Kazmir out of the game after 93 pitches in four innings. However, the Dodgers responded and tied the game at 6 in the sixth inning, chasing Brewers starter Junior Guerra and ensuring both starters would have a rough night at the office. As the game went to the bullpens, it was Pedro Baez who gave up Villar's 420-foot blast to straightaway center.
"It was a fun game on our end, but that was an interesting game," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell, breathing a sigh of relief after closer Jeremy Jeffress stranded the bases full of Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth. "There were a lot of big pitches, a lot of big plays. Villar, man, he really got that ball."
Trayce Thompson carried the Dodgers on offense, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs and the team's only two extra-base hits. He was a major component of both of the Dodgers' three-run innings, hitting a three-run homer in the third and leading off the sixth with a double.
"Stuff's just starting to fall for us," Thompson said. "Everyone's been swinging the bat well, it's just that on paper it doesn't look so good. Howie [Kendrick] and J.T. [Justin Turner] especially, they've been hitting the ball as hard as anybody around the league. "
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Right off the top:Chris Carter's two-run home run in the Brewers' three-run fifth was his team-leading 18th this season, but the Brewers also found power at the top of their order. Two-hole hitter Aaron Hill hit a go-ahead solo shot to spark that rally, extending a hot streak in which he's 40-for-127 (.315) with six home runs over his last 40 games. Leadoff hitter Villar pushed the Brewers over the top in the ninth with a two-run homer to dead center field, giving him six home runs for the season including four in 15 games this month.
"This dude is playing at an All-Star level at shortstop, on both sides of the ball," Ryan Braun said of Villar. "He's got huge power. I don't think he's tapped into his power yet. I think he has potential to be at least a 20-25 homer guy once he's able to translate his [batting practice] power to his game swing." More >
Thompson turns it around: Thompson entered Thursday with just one hit in his last four games, but he soon turned it around with a game-tying homer in the third inning. The 408-foot shot was Thompson's 11th of the season and moved him into a tie for second on the team with roommate Joc Pederson. Only their third roommate, Corey Seager, has more with 15.
"Just a fastball out over the plate, put a good swing on it," Thompson said. "Wasn't feeling too great during that at-bat, checked my swing on the first pitch in the dirt. Wasn't seeing the ball too well. Decided to bear down and got a pitch I could handle."
Bobbling a lead: After a sloppy loss in San Francisco on Wednesday, the Brewers were back at it in the sixth inning Thursday night. Center fielder Keon Broxton was charged with errors on consecutive Dodgers' singles when the bouncing ball clanked off his glove, each time giving the batter an extra base. Reliever Will Smith contributed another free bag with a wild pitch, his third in his last two appearances, pushing the tying runner to third base for Turner's pinch-hit sacrifice fly -- one that the Brewers challenged to no avail. The miscues added up to a three-run inning for L.A. and a 6-6 tie.
After the Brewers rallied in the ninth, Broxton said, "I owe [Villar] my life, that's how I feel right now." More >
Kazmir Ks: Kazmir entered the fourth inning with 75 pitches and not looking as if he had much left, but he at least exited with his held high by striking out the side. Despite that perfect inning, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts decided to pull the starter due to the high stress of 93 pitches in four innings.
"I felt like I was [ready for a fifth inning], but I respect the decision that Doc made," Kazmir said. "Ninety-something pitches in four innings, you don't deserve to go back out there in the fifth inning I think." More >
"We never have our heads down. We have our heads up, every time." -- Villar, on the Brewers' bounceback from being swept in three games in San Francisco by a combined score of 24-8
"It was just about that situation. [Turner]'s intense, [Grandal]'s intense, and when you play 162 games, there's going to be situations where emotions come out. That's baseball." -- Roberts on a dugout argument between Turner and Grandal after Grandal's baserunning mistake nearly cost the team the tying run.More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Carter struck out swinging in the first inning, but didn't miss his next two times up. His double amid Milwaukee's three-run rally in the third inning left the bat at 111 mph, according to Statcast™, and his two-run homer in the three-run fifth clocked 107 mph. Entering the day, Carter's batted balls averaged 94.4 mph off the bat, tied for ninth in the Majors among hitters with at least 30 events.
It took instant replay to confirm the Dodgers' tying run in the eventful sixth. With two outs and runners at the corners, Turner skied a flyout to left fielder Braun, who alertly threw to second base with urgency. Just as alertly, second baseman Scooter Gennett noticed Yasmani Grandal had tagged up at first base and was trying for second while the other runner, Pederson, was tagging for home. Gennett made a move for Grandal and tagged him just as Pederson touched home plate, where umpire Ryan Blakney signaled immediately that the run counted. After the Brewers challenged, the call stood.
"Those plays are out of your hands as the manager," Counsell said. "Somebody is making the call 3,000 miles away, and I don't know what they're looking at. My assumption is they didn't have clear video of the tag being made. That's the only thing I thought we might be in trouble with."
With two men on and one out in the first inning, Jonathan Lucroy hit a long fly ball down the third-base line that landed almost directly behind the left-field foul pole. Third-base umpire Tim Timmons initially called the ball foul and a crew-chief review confirmed the call. Kazmir proceeded to get out of the inning unscathed.
WHAT'S NEXT Brewers:Zach Davies will try to keep rolling with his terrific changeup when he starts against the Dodgers on Friday at 9:10 p.m. CT. After losing his first three starts with an 8.78 ERA, Davies is 5-0 with a 2.55 ERA in his last eight outings. The Brewers have won six of those games.
Dodgers:Julio Urias hasn't had the easiest four starts to open his MLB career, currently holding a 5.98 ERA, but he has been trending slightly upward recently. The 19-year-old will make his fifth appearance of the season Friday, with first pitch scheduled for 7:10 p.m. PT.