Milwaukee’s 5-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds should be best remembered for the Brewers’ bats remarkable incompetency, managing just one run and striking out nine times against the Reds’ Bronson Arroyo. However, in the top of the fourth inning, it looked like the one run, coming on Ryan Braun’s ninth home run in the top of the first, might do just fine for Marco Estrada. Chris Narveson’s replacement took a perfect game into the top of the fourth. Of course, that means he had just faced the very potent Reds lineup one time through, and hitters — particularly those of the quality Cincinnati owns — make adjustments the second time through the order.
With the way Estrada pitched in the top of the fourth, however, not many adjustments were needed. Estrada’s command of the strike zone disappeared completely, and the result was five straight hits: two home runs, two doubles and a single, eventually leading to the top five batters in the Reds order all scoring to open the inning. Observe:
The first hit of the inning — the solo home run by Zack Cozart — came on a pitch up and over the outer half, a typical power zone for right-handed hitters. Then Estrada went on to groove pitches down the middle to Drew Stubbs, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce. The pitch low in the strike zone is right in the wheelhouse of the classic left-handed power hitter, an archetype that fits both Votto and Bruce to a tee, and both teed off on Estrada. Votto’s double down the right field line scored Stubbs, and Bruce drilled a three-run homer over the Tundra Territory in right-center. Bruce’s bomb ranks as the second-longest homer at Miller Park this season at 442 feet, just six feet behind this majestic shot Ryan Braun hit off Esmil Rogers on April 21st.
There’s still some reason to believe in Marco Estrada as the Brewers’ fifth starter. He has 111 strikeouts to just 34 walks in his last 116.2 innings, and we’ve seen extended flashes of brilliance like he showed in the first three innings of Monday’s game. But the problem is Estrada’s stuff just isn’t good enough to consistently blow by hitters without pristine location, and that’s why he’s also given up 17 home runs over the last two seasons. If Estrada can’t fix this problem, Wily Peralta is ready and waiting at Triple-A.