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Guerra Gets 1st Major League Win As Brewers Edge Angels

On a team full of youngsters, one “junior” member of the Brewers certainly proved he could hang on the senior circuit. Journeyman Junior Guerra, making his first big league start, picked up the win as the Brewers rallied from an early deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 5-4 and take the first two games of this mid-week set.

Guerra picked up that first win of his career, tossing six innings while giving up 4 earned runs on 7 hits, walking 1 and striking out three. The journeyman, who was out of affiliated baseball for six years after a PED suspension in 2009, outpitched and outlasted Nick Tropeano (1-1) who took the loss and struggled with his command, giving up five earned runs and five walks over five innings.

"He was excellent. He came out ready to go... he was efficient the whole time. He certainly had pitches left out there," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell.

The 31-year-old “rookie” Guerra struck out Yunel Escobar to start things off. Rafael Ortega got things going for the Halos with a swinging bunt, laying it perfectly down the third base line for the Angels’ first hit of the game. A hard ground ball by all-star center field Mike Trout seemed to be a tailor-made double play, but it was bobbled by 3B Colin Walsh, who could only get Trout at 1st. Sure enough, that came back to hurt the Crew. Albert Pujols hit a double off the top of the right field wall, easily scoring Ortega. However, he also ran into the final out of the inning, lumbering around first and stumbling into 2nd, coming off the bag and allowing Jonathan Villar to apply the tag.

The Brewers would get two runners on in their half of the inning thanks to a Villar single and a walk by Jonathan Lucroy walk. Villar was able to swipe his 8th stolen base of the year in the inning, but Milwaukee stranded two after a Kirk Nieuwenhuis check swing strikeout.

Guerra was able to work a 1-2-3 second inning, with the Brewers only able to muster a walk in their half of the inning. Both offenses got to work in the 3rd, however. Cliff Pennington worked the count and drew a one-out walk for the Angels. Back to back singles by Escobar and Ortega lead to the 2nd run of the game. Frustration began to show. A balk was called against Guerra, advancing runners to 2nd and 3rd. Then as fate would have it, Trout placed a soft single perfectly down the right field line to score two and give the Angels a 4-0 advantage. It looked like the wheels were about to come off the hinges for Guerra, as he fell behind Pujols 3-0 in the next at bat, before getting the slugger to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.

The Brewers were able to get their mojo back in the bottom of the 3rd thanks to the long ball. After two quick outs to start the inning, Lucroy (2 for 3) got a two-out rally going with a base hit. The hottest Brewer of them all, Chris Carter, continued his torrid homestand by slamming the first pitch he saw into the center field batter’s eye for his 8th home run of the season. The 2-run shot trimmed the Milwaukee deficit in half, making it 4-2.

The Brewers flashed some leather in the 4th. After Kole Calhoun’s leadoff single over a leaping Yadiel Rivera, Andrelton Simmons hit a line shot basically right at the glove of Chris Carter, who stepped on 1st base to double off Calhoun. Carlos Perez was also swinging early, hitting the first pitch he saw into shallow center. Kirk Nieuwenhuis charged hard and made a diving catch to end the inning and keep the score 4-2 in favor of Los Angeles.

It would stay that way until the bottom of the 5th when the Brewers bats broke out. Domingo Santana really deserved a base hit to start the frame, but was robbed of one he hit in the hole thanks to a fantastic diving stop by Escobar. Jonathan Villar drew a walk to start the rally, and then back to back homers put three on the board. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy tagged his long-awaited 1st homer of the year to the left field seats to tie the game. Two pitches later, red hot Chris Carter smashed a mammoth 431-foot blast to deep left center field to give Milwaukee the lead. Tonight’s game is the 13th career multi homer game for Chris Carter, and his 2nd of the home stand.

"It's just easy right now.... he's sticking to his swing and doing what works," Counsell said. "Two homers, two out of three nights, that's incredible for anyone. He's on a good run certainly."

The teams exchanged a quick set of zeroes in the 6th, and the bullpen took over the game on both sides.

You could compare the top of the 7th with a escape act performed by the likes of Harry Houdini. Reliever Michael Blazek was not sharp at all, allowing the first three runners to reach base with two walks and a Perez single. The Halos had the bases loaded, no outs, and were primed for a rally. It looked like one run was about to score when Cliff Pennington hit a soft fly into shallow right field. The second baseman Rivera had to make a running catch while not squared up with the plate, but the runner at 3rd, Simmons, decided against trying for home. Rivera threw home to prevent the tag and fired it in there wildly. The ball flew a solid foot over Lucroy’s head and towards the backstop, however, not far enough away to allow Simmons to have a chance at the plate. The bases were still loaded for Escobar, who had singled and doubled in his last two at bats. The count went to 1-1 before Escobar hit a sharp ground ball to Villar, who started the 6-4-3 double play to get out of the inning unharmed.

"It was a roundabout way to get a zero on the board," Counsell said.

The Brewers had their own struggles to take advantage of men in scoring position. The Crew looked to add some insurance in the bottom of the 8th. Nieuwenhuis led off with a double to left, advancing to third on a single by pinch hitter Aaron Hill. However, Ramon Flores was caught looking, striking out for the first of the inning, and then Rivera grounded into a 1-6-3 double play to end the frame.

Los Angeles went fairly quietly in the 9th against Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress, with pinch-hitter Ji-Man Choi striking out to end the ballgame.

Guerra (1-0) picked up the win, Tropeano (1-1) took the loss. It was save #7 on the young season for Jeffress. The Brewers improved to 11-15 and 3-2 on their home stand with the win. Milwaukee is  now 8-8 at Miller Park this season. The Angels fall to 12-15 on the season. They are now 6-9 away from Southern California.

The Brewers go for the sweep  on Wednesday at Miller Park. RHP Zach Davies (0-3, 8.78 ERA) takes the ball for the Brew Crew against LHP Hector Santiago (2-1, 3.34 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 12:40 p.m.

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