Milwaukee goes 6-1 as relievers shut down late innings
By Matt Kelly
With the Brewers out of contention, much of the chatter surrounding the team of late has been directed toward where All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy will end up by Monday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline. But for those following the team closely, the more enjoyable story last week was Milwaukee's play on the field.
The Brewers enjoyed their finest week of the 2016 campaign, winning each of their series and going 6-1 overall -- punctuated with a weekend sweep of the division-rival Pirates. Keying the Brew Crew's hot week were the relievers, whose solid performances earned them the Bullpen of the Week award presented by The Hartford.
As part of the MLB Prevailing Moments program, each Monday throughout the 2016 season, MLB.com is honoring the "Bullpen of the Week presented by The Hartford." An industry-wide panel of MLB experts, including legendary stats guru Bill James, constructed a metric based on James' widely renowned game-score formula, to provide a weekly measurement of team-bullpen performance.
Here's how the Bullpen Rating System is compiled for each week. For reference, a weekly score of 100 is considered outstanding:
• Add 1.5 points for each out recorded
• Add 1.5 points for each strikeout
• Add 5 points for a save
• Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed
• Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed
• Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed
• Subtract 1 point for each walk
• Subtract 5 points for a blown save
Milwaukee captured its first Bullpen of the Week Award this season by scoring a total of 107 points. Brewers relievers combined to allow only three earned runs over 22 1/3 innings, while striking out 29 batters and walking just six. Closer Jeremy Jeffress, who also has been mentioned in trade rumors, earned four straight saves from Thursday through Sunday to make him 27-for-28 in save opportunities this season.
Milwaukee's bullpen displayed an ability to withstand adversity and succeed despite unexpected circumstances. Here's a look at their biggest obstacle:
The unexpected: A back-and-forth affair saw Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett give Milwaukee a 4-3 lead over the D-backs on Tuesday with an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth. The following inning, left-hander Will Smith came in for starter Matt Garza but gave up a bunt single to Arizona's Michael Bourn and helped advance the runner with a throwing error to first base. Bourn advanced to third on a groundout, and then Smith walked the next batter before exiting the game. His successor, Tyler Thornburg, gave up an RBI single to Paul Goldschmidt, blowing the save and allowing Arizona to tie the game at four.
How they prevailed: With the game still tied at four, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell sent Thornburg back out to the mound to start the eighth inning. Working around a leadoff single and a walk, Thornburg responded by striking out the Arizona side and stranding the go-ahead runs on the basepaths. The Brewers offense rallied back for five runs in the bottom of the frame, and Jeffress closed out the 9-4 win with a perfect 1-2-3 ninth.
The Braves' bullpen placed second in the BRS standings with 91 points, followed by the Reds with 88.5. Since returning from the disabled list on June 3, Jim Johnson has flourished in the closer's role for Atlanta. In 24 games since his return, Johnson has gone 2-1 with six saves and a 1.82 ERA.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.