Lauer stung by big inning in 2nd straight start

August 13th, 2020

MILWAUKEE -- In a 60-game regular season, how soon is too soon to move away from a starting pitcher whom the Brewers consider a part of their present and future?

The Brewers have and stretched out and at the ready should the team opt to replace , who endured another miserable second inning in Wednesday’s 12-2 loss to the Twins at Miller Park.

“We're going to have to talk about it,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “There's two things: I think a short season plays into it, and we have some guys who are throwing the ball well.

“So, we're going to have to talk about it.”

In Burnes and Peralta, the Brewers have starter types in reserve. Burnes struck out eight batters in 5 1/3 innings of relief against the Reds on Saturday and has held opponents to 6-for-41 (.146) in 2020. Peralta struck out eight batters in four scoreless innings of relief against the Twins on Monday and has held opponents to 5-for-35 (.143). Burnes threw 77 pitches in his most recent outing, and Peralta 61.

Counsell has plenty of time for that talk. Because of the way the rotation aligns around an off-day on Monday, the team wont require a starter in Lauer’s spot until Aug. 22 in Pittsburgh. 

On Wednesday, the Brewers' troubles went beyond that one inning in a loss that grew so lopsided -- it was 11-0 in the middle of the fifth -- that the Brewers pulled Christian Yelich and Avisaíl García and put Orlando Arcia in center field for the first time in his career, then sent infielder Jedd Gyorko to the mound to pitch the ninth.

But it all began with Lauer. Five days after the left-hander allowed six runs in the second inning against the Reds in his first Brewers start, Lauer allowed five runs on five hits and a walk in the second inning against the Twins. In each start, the defense let him down. Against the Reds, Yelich couldn't come up with a catch on a hard-hit fly ball in left field. Against the Twins, Yelich lost Jake Cave’s RBI double in the sunlight pouring through the windows, and García missed Mitch Garver's two-out line drive to center field, when a catch would have ended the inning with the Brewers in a 2-0 deficit.

Instead, the Twins made it a five-run inning against Lauer. He pitched 3 2/3 innings in all, and was charged with seven earned runs on nine hits and a run-scoring wild pitch. In two starts since a sparkling relief appearance against the Cubs on July 26, Lauer has been saddled with 13 earned runs and 14 hits in 6 2/3 innings.

“When you have a blowup inning like that, it definitely turns into trying to survive and go as long as you possibly can to eat innings and keep the team in it,” Lauer said. “You don't want to come out of a game early and crush your bullpen.”

He lamented his “bad baseball luck” and his occasional lack of aggression against the power-hitting Twins. Lauer has the tools to be aggressive; against the Cubs in his season debut after a season-opening stint on the COVID-19 related injured list -- he never had the virus but was in close contact with someone who did -- he struck out six while allowing one hit and one walk in 2 2/3 impressive innings.

But since shifting to the rotation, Lauer's fortunes have turned for the worse.

“I have to challenge guys more,” he said. “Just put my stuff against theirs and see what happens instead of trying to be so fine from the get-go.”

The Brewers see better days ahead for the 25-year-old, whom they acquired with infielder Luis Urías from the Padres in November for right-hander Zach Davies and outfielder Trent Grisham. The Brewers wanted a lefty for their rotation, and in Lauer they acquired five years of club control compared to Davies' two.

So far, however, the Padres have received more production. Davies has a 2.78 ERA through four starts, and Grisham entered Wednesday with four home runs and an .848 OPS through 79 plate appearances for San Diego.

Urías is just getting his Brewers career underway after joining the Brewers this week from the COVID-19 related injured list. He delivered his first two RBIs with a single in the sixth inning Wednesday that cut the deficit to 12-2.

In addition to Lauer's role being in the balance, the Brewers face a decision on , who followed Lauer to the mound but exited mid-batter in the Twins' four-run fifth inning when a callus broke open on his right index finger.

That cut short an inning that began with a groundout before the Twins went home run, single, single, walk, run-scoring walk, run-scoring walk against Grimm. He may require a stint on the 10-day injured list.

“We're going to have to make a decision on it. It's possible that we'll have to do something,” Counsell said.