The Brewers dropped their fourth straight game on Tuesday, a 5-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves. They may have also lost their opening day starter Yovani Gallardo for a time with a sprained ankle. Fortunately, x-rays were negative, so any potential absence is very likely to be a short one. That’s about the only good news to come out of the night.
The offense was once again stymied, this time by young stud Julio Teherán. The offense struggled to put men on base and then failed to get any of those they did put on in. It was the second time the offense has been shutout during this four game stretch, highlighting the team’s biggest weakness so far this season. Coming into Tuesday, the league average for runs scored in a game was 4.00, and the Brewers had scored 3.82, which was good for 11th in the league. The loss pushed them below the Cardinals into 12th place in the league in runs scored. It also brought the Cardinals to within 2.5 games of the lead in the NL Central.
So is it time for Brewers fans to panic?
As hard as it is to watch a team struggle and a lead in the standings slip away, some sort of correction was always likely. The Brewers hot start was just too good to last forever and the Cardinals have a better team than they demonstrated over the first 40 or so games. All the injuries the Brewers offense has sustained lately just made the correction that much more likely to come sooner rather than later.
The team still has quite a bit right about it, though. The rotation is solid from top to bottom, and the team even has some depth in AAA that they can tap into if needed. The back end of the bullpen has still been mostly outstanding, and the peripheral numbers for those relievers look pretty good as well. They probably need to do some roster shuffling and upgrading over the coming weeks.
These would be my top priorities right now:
- Be looking around for a left-handed power bat to play at either first or left. I’ve written about this before, but it’s still a glaring issue. The team was probably too quick to send Caleb Gindl back to the minor leagues, because he’s shown some ability to hit major league right handers in the past and Elian Herrera really isn’t adding much to the roster at this point now that Logan Schafer is back to help in center. Khris Davis and Mark Reynolds both have their uses on the roster, especially against left-handed pitching, but the team really does need some lefty help. GM Doug Melvin seemed to shoot down the idea of Kendrys Morales this Sunday to Tom Haudricourt, but that could also just be posturing to try and get a better price on him. One way or another, the team needs to do something here, and soon.
- If Gallardo does need to hit the disabled list, I would be all for calling up Jimmy Nelson to take his roster spot. Nelson has made significant improvements to his game this year, and he quite probably offers the most upside of any of the available options. That isn’t to say that Mike Fiers isn’t deserving of a shot as well; he’s been even better than Nelson and does have experience on his side. If Gallardo has to miss only a start and not two, the Brewers could possibly just turn to Tyler Thornburg to cover the one outing. Of course, that would leave an already thin bullpen even further stretched out, and the team doesn’t have it’s next off day for more than a week.
- That brings us to the most controversial issue in Brewer-land these days: what to do with Wei-Chung Wang. The Gallardo injury could shine an even brighter light on this situation by forcing the team to either start Yo next time up or put him on the disabled list, because they probably can’t afford another roster spot locked up on a pitcher who can’t help them in the here and now. If Melvin isn’t going to be willing to put Wang on the disabled list at some point to free up his roster spot for a player who can help this year, then they’re going to have to juggle around him all season long like this. It would be a shame to have spent almost two months tying down a roster spot for Wang only to let him go back to the Pirates now, but the whole situation is taking on an air of inevitability that they just can’t go on like this much longer.
There are some other issues, like bolstering the bench and figuring out what to do with Rickie Weeks. These will need to be sorted out later on, but they can wait for now. The key at the moment seems to be just surviving as best as possible and hoping that the team doesn’t lose too much ground while waiting for reinforcements, either from other clubs or from within. It’s not a pretty situation, but this is why it was so important to bank those early wins the way they did. They can at least survive something like this and then look to make run at some point in the year without having fallen completely out of the race.