Barnes staying positive despite recent funk

Barnes staying positive despite recent funk

ST. LOUIS -- For the first three-plus weeks of the regular season, Jacob Barnes was one of baseball's most reliable relievers. Then he turned into one of the Brewers' shakiest.

Yet Barnes expressed unshaken confidence Tuesday after finding trouble for the second time in as many nights in the Brewers' 2-1 loss to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

"Your biggest thing is you want to get back out there," said Barnes. "It was good for me, and exciting for me. Unfortunately, that ball found that hole."

It marked the second straight night a ball off Kolten Wong's bat found a hole at Barnes' expense. On Monday, Barnes inherited a 4-2 lead in the eighth inning and lost it on Jedd Gyorko's home run and Wong's run-scoring single through the infield.

A night later, Barnes took over with Cardinals runners at second and third with one out in the seventh inning of a scoreless game, and was burned again by a fly ball and a ground ball. This time, it was Yadier Molina's sacrifice fly to deep center field, and, following a costly walk to Randal Grichuk, Wong's single right through the Brewers' infield shift.

Wong's RBI single

"I felt like it was a good spot for him," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of turning back to Barnes. "Right-handed hitters, and Jacob has been really successful against right-handed hitters. He has gotten strikeouts. It just didn't play tonight."

His recent funk is a far cry from Barnes' first 12 appearances of the season. In his opening 12 1/3 innings, Barnes allowed one unearned run, four hits and five walks while striking out 15. Opponents' batting average on balls in play was .148.

But in his three most recent outings, one-third of an inning Friday against the Braves, a full inning Monday against the Cardinals and another two-thirds of an inning Tuesday, Barnes has been charged with five runs, all earned, on seven hits and three walks, with two strikeouts. Plus, there were the two inherited runners Tuesday that were charged to Brewers starter Wily Peralta.

"He's nasty," said Wong. "He's one of those guys where you have to sit and hope he makes a mistake. I got two that luckily I was able to put in play and get base hits off of."

Said Barnes: "Unfortunately, the ball rolls that way sometimes."

Barnes is still throwing hard, topping out at 97.7 mph on Tuesday, according to Statcast™. His average four-seam fastball velocity did dip slightly, but the two poor outings prior to Tuesday rank among Barnes' five best four-seam fastball averages this season:

Barnes has maintained his velocity throughout. (Statcast)

Counsell believed the most damaging plate appearance in Barnes' inning Tuesday was the walk to Grichuk, which extended the inning for left-handed-hitting Wong. But Barnes insisted he executed his pitch against Wong, only to see a ground ball find a hole.

He was keeping his head up.

"It's part of it," Barnes said. "You never want to give up runs, but you have to keep that [positive] mindset, because if you let yourself get down, then it starts really going down. You have to look at the bigger picture of it and say, 'Hey, they weren't bouncing balls off walls or anything. It was a ground ball that found a hole.'"

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.