Early offense helps Nelson ease nerves, earn first win
MAY 25, 2014 6:30p ET
What Jimmy Nelson showed the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday is he's capable of navigating through a big-league lineup without having his best stuff.
Making a spot start in place of Yovani Gallardo, Nelson was spotted an early 6-0 lead and fought his way through 5 2/3 scoreless innings to earn his first major-league win in Milwaukee's 7-1 victory of the Miami Marlins.
As expected, the Brewers optioned Nelson back to Triple-A Nashville following the game and purchased the contract of infielder Irving Falu from the Sounds.
"It was just a battle today," Nelson said. "I was fighting myself mechanically, not getting ahead of guys. The good thing is the guys did a great job of picking me up those first couple of innings, throwing up a five spot like that.
"Even when I had some guys on and was struggling a little bit, (Jonathan Lucroy) came up to me, guys came up to me and still had confidence in me."
Nelson, ranked as Milwaukee's top prospect by MLB.com and Baseball America, had runners in scoring position against him in four of the six innings he worked in but was able to work out of trouble.
The Marlins posed their best scoring threat against Nelson in the fifth by loading the bases with one out on a bunt single, a single to center and a walk. Nelson responded by striking out Derek Dietrich on three pitches, freezing him with a slider. Another slider induced a pop up off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to end the inning with no damage.
"He's got really good stuff," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He had a lot of balls get away from him today, but he made some great pitches when he needed to and threw some great sliders that inning to get out of it. With him it's just going to be a matter of trying to command the ball and not letting so many balls get away from him."
The Brewers staked Nelson to an early lead to an early lead by pounding former teammate Randy Wolf for six runs in the first three innings. Back-to-back doubles by Ryan Braun and Lucroy got the Brewers on the board in the first, while Carlos Gomez plated Lucroy with an RBI single.
Milwaukee made it 3-0 in the opening frame when Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich made a fielding error on a base hit by Rickie Weeks allowing Gomez to score.
Braun continued what would turn into a four-hit day with an RBI triple in the second, scoring himself on another Lucroy double. Playing for the second straight day after missing Friday's game due to an oblique injury, Braun finished a home run away from the cycle. It was encouraging for the Brewers to see Braun driving the ball to the opposite field Sunday, possibly a sign his oblique is feeling better.
"Hopefully it continues to get better," Braun said of his oblique. "I feel pretty good, so I'm optimistic I'll continue to head in that direction. There are a lot of guys swinging the bat well, so if I get on base I'll put myself in position to hopefully score a lot of runs."
The early offense allowed Nelson to settle in and pitch through some of the command issues he had Sunday afternoon.
"I was pretty anxious those first couple of innings," Nelson said. "It took me a little bit to settle down there. (Martin Maldonado) did a good job of settling me down and keeping my mental side of the game, getting back in a zone. You aren't always going to have your best stuff, and by no means did I think I had my best stuff, but I felt like I battled."
Nelson will now head back down and join Nashville's rotation, as Gallardo's injury isn't serious enough to send him to the disabled list. Despite allowing just one run in five innings, the 24-year-old expressed displeasure with the way he threw the ball in his first big-league start last September against the Mets, mostly due to the fact he walked three batters.
The young right-hander will likely nitpick Sunday's start because of the walks and ball-strike ratio he finished with, but Nelson again proved why the Brewers feel his future is bright in the major leagues.
"He's not satisfied with walking people and getting behind," Roenicke said. "You saw his pitch count at one time was 33 (strikes) and 33 (balls). We have to get away from that, but this guy has good stuff. He battles and wants to be out there. He has a lot of good things going for him.
"We'll see what happens with our staff. We like our guys but if something happens with an injury, we feel really good about bringing him back."
Clinching the series win over Miami, who has the best home record in baseball at 20-8, gave the Brewers a 4-6 record on their longest road trip of the season.
"We needed it," Braun said. "This is a really good team, especially at home where I think they've been the best in baseball so far. We feel good about ourselves going home with some momentum. Hopefully we continue to play good baseball."
Roster moves: With Jeff Bianchi being outrighted to Triple A to clear a roster spot for Nelson to pitch Sunday, the Brewers had an opening on the 40-man roster to bring up an infielder from Nashville to fill the void.
Milwaukee had its choice of a few candidates to bring up but chose Falu, as his experience at shortstop is necessary with Bianchi off the roster.
Falu is hitting .288 with a home run and eight RBI for Nashville, playing 17 games at third base, 14 games at shortstop and 12 games at second base. The 30-year-old has played in 25 games in the big leagues with a .337 batting average.
He made his big league debut with Kansas City in 2012 and hit .341 in 91 plate appearances over 24 games. Falu spent most of 2013 in Triple A, going 1-for-4 in his only game with the Royals.
In addition to making the roster move, the Brewers announced Gallardo will start Wednesday against Baltimore at Miller Park. Gallardo was bumped back from his scheduled start Sunday after spraining his left ankle last Tuesday in Atlanta.
Originally scheduled to start Wednesday, Marco Estrada will be bumped to Friday against the Chicago Cubs.
"He wanted to pitch today," Roenicke said of Gallardo. "What we talked about with him was, 'Yo, I want you to pitch whenever you are ready.' Wednesday we should have no issues at all. He's really good today. Hopefully there won't be any issues."
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