MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers kept hoping Eric Sogard would find a way out of his funk and return to the form that made him a key component to last year’s surprising team.
It never happened and the Brewers finally ran out of time and roster space, leaving no choice but to designate the 32-year-old for assignment when Tyler Saladino was activated from the disabled list Thursday.
With Jonathan Villar unable to reproduce his 2016 magic, Sogard provided a spark atop Milwaukee’s lineup last season. He batted .273 with a .393 on-base percentage in 94 games and signed a $2.4 million deal to return to Milwaukee in 2018.
But he got off to a painfully slow start and saw his playing time diminish even further as Villar showed improvement at second base. Through 55 games this season, Sogard was batting .134 with a .241 OBP and .165 slugging percentage.
With Tyler Saladino returning from the disabled list and recently promoted Brad Miller swinging a hot bat, Sogard became the odd-man out.
“Eric got in a little slump, had some bad luck, and he could never get out of it,” manager Craig Counsell said. As we’re getting healthier, we kind of ran out of space. He’s made a big contribution here, and was a real pro throughout all of this in how he prepared and provided us value.”
Counsell’s squad extended its winning streak to four games with a victory in the series opener and will try to move 18 games above .500 for the first time since the 2014 season Friday as it continues a four-game series with the Braves at Miller Park.
Rookie right-hander Freddie Peralta gets the nod for his sixth career start. He earned his first career loss in his last outing but still made a good impression, putting up zeroes for four innings after allowing three runs to score before recording an out in an 8-2 loss to the Reds on Sunday in Cincinnati.
“I thought he handled it very well,” Counsell said. “That’s a game where we’re probably two hitters from probably removing him from the game, and then he goes five innings and keeps us in the game.”
Peralta has been magnificent otherwise since returning for a second big league stint June 19. He’s 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA in three starts and has struck out 22 batters while walking only four in 18 innings.
He also made a pair of starts for the Brewers in May and takes the mound Friday with a 3-1 record and 2.28 ERA overall.
Right-hander Mike Foltynewicz gets the nod for the Braves, as he tries to lock down a spot on the National League All-Star team.
Foltynewicz has an 0.87 ERA over his last nine starts, holding opponents to a .146 average during that stretch with 64 strikeouts in 52 innings.
Opponents scored more than one run against him in one of those outings and he’s held opponents scoreless in five of them, including his last time out when the Cardinals managed one hit against him in five innings.
He credits his slider for the recent run of success.
“I’m really proud of how far that pitch has come,” Foltynewicz said. “I’ve been working like a dog on it the past couple of years, and it’s come a long way. I’m throwing it for strikes when I need to, especially in 3-2 counts. I get to 3-2 a lot, so it’s a good pitch for me.”
Foltynewicz has dominated the Brewers during his four seasons in the big leagues, posting a 1.48 ERA in four career starts against Milwaukee. He faced them twice last season, allowing two earned runs (five total) over 11 innings while striking out 15.