MILWAUKEE — Before the game, Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke spoke to how impressed he was with New York Mets rookie starter Jacob deGrom. Little did he know just how good the right-hander was about to be against his team.
In a battle of two of the better young pitchers in the National League, deGrom held the Brewers scoreless over 6 1/3 innings Sunday, leading the Mets to a 2-0 victory at Miller Park.
Brewers rookie Jimmy Nelson wasn’t nearly as sharp as deGrom was, but the left-hander battled to keep his team in the game. Nelson was the benefactor of three double plays in his seven innings of work, but he was burned by a two-run home run from Lucas Duda in the sixth.
"I thought his command wasn’t as good today," Roenicke said of Nelson. "His slider wasn’t as good today. That was probably the biggest difference. He didn’t have that pitch to go with to put guys away. He had a lot of (sliders) up in the zone. The homer was a slider. But saying that, he still did OK. He still only gave up two runs."
DeGrom entered Sunday on a stretch of three impressive starts in a row, lasting at least seven innings in all three with a total of two earned runs allowed. He baffled the Brewers for most of the afternoon, allowing just four hits in 6 1/3 innings.
The 26-year-old now has a 0.66 ERA over his last four starts and finished July with a 1.38 ERA in five starts. According to ESPN Stats and Info, deGrom has had one or fewer hard hit balls against him in seven of his 14 starts this season.
"He’s tough," Roenicke said. "He doesn’t miss too much with it up in the zone. Everything always seems to be down.
The Brewers almost got a big break for a run when first baseman Mark Reynolds hit a towering fly ball off one of the roof supports in left field. After hitting the support wire, the ball fell into fair territory, as Khris Davis easily scored from first base with two outs in the inning.
Home-plate umpire Dan Bellino immediately called the ball dead, ruling the ball struck the wire in foul territory, making it a foul ball. The play was reviewable, but Roenicke said the Brewers did not have any kind of camera angle to see if the call was correct or not.
"Once it went up there it disappeared on me," Roenicke said. "I didn’t know where it hit. It’s a hard one for the umpire. You aren’t used to looking up there at it. But Dan (Bellino) said he was on it.
"What they have to do is pick a point out to begin with on those cables knowing where fair or foul is and then try to remember it when the ball goes up."
Reynolds also hit a support wire on the roof during one of Milwaukee’s two exhibition games with Kansas City at Miller Park just prior to Opening Day. That ball was ruled fair, as Reynolds ended up with a double.
"Honestly, I didn’t even see it," Reynolds said of the ball he hit Sunday. "No idea."
Nelson’s command was shaky all afternoon, but he really struggled to locate the ball in the early innings. A double play got him out of the first inning, while another twin killing left the bases loaded for the Mets in the second.
Making his fourth start of the season, Nelson was able to last seven innings with just two runs allowed despite being all over the place with his command.
"It was alright. Kept us in it," Nelson said. "Still a little wild, but I feel like they picked me up behind me. We had a couple double plays there and made the pitch when I needed to except for the one to Duda. Just got too much of the plate and he did what he was supposed to with it."
Milwaukee had its chances to scratch together runs in the late innings, especially in the seventh. Mets manager Terry Collins opted to keep deGrom in at 109 pitches, but he soon removed him from the game after singles by Davis and Jean Segura put two on with one out.
Roenicke had a pair of regulars at his disposal with Scooter Gennett and Aramis Ramirez not in the starting lineup and gave each a crack at delivering a big hit.
Mets reliever Vic Black got Gennett to pop out to third on a 3-2 fastball, while Ramirez sent a soft flare to second baseman Daniel Murphy for the final out of the inning.
"I felt good with Scooter coming up to bat," Roenicke said. "You are going to get good fastballs usually from Black. I thought we had a good shot there. We didn’t have many opportunities."
The only other serious scoring threat the Brewers presented was in the ninth, as Davis singled with one out. After Reynolds struck out, Segura snuck a ground ball back up the middle to bring the winning run to the plate, but Lyle Overbay grounded out to second to end the game.
By splitting the four-game series with the Mets, the Brewers wrapped up the homestand at 5-2. Despite the offensive struggles Sunday, Roenicke is pleased with how his team is playing heading out on a tough six-game trip to Tampa Bay and St. Louis.
In those two cities, the Brewers will face numerous good pitchers, starting with Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb and David Price against the Rays.
"I like the way we played," Roenicke said of the seven-game homestand. ‘We didn’t swing the bat real well against real good pitching today. That’s OK."