Sogard sizzling as Brewers face Giants (Jun 07, 2017)

BY AP • June 7, 2017

MILWAUKEE -- Eric Sogard isn't going to be bumped from the Milwaukee Brewers' batting order easily.

Since replacing slumping Jonathan Villar as the primary leadoff man the past 10 days, the veteran utility man has boosted a Milwaukee offense that took a hit when Ryan Braun went on the disabled list and Eric Thames cooled off after a torrid start to the season.

Sogard had two hits Tuesday in Milwaukee's 5-2 win over the San Francisco Giants, his sixth multi-hit game of the season, and he has reached base in each of his past 13 starts.

Even so, it is uncertain he will be atop the order again Wednesday when the teams play the third game of a four-game series at Miller Park.

How Sogard and Villar will split time will be determined on a day-to-day basis, Milwaukee manager Counsell said.

"I don't have it mapped out," Counsell said.

Complicating matters is the fact that Villar is unlikely to shake his slump while primarily riding the pine.

The second baseman had a breakout campaign last year, batting .285 with 62 stolen bases. However, through two months of the 2017 season, Villar has yet to find a way to duplicate that success. His average has floated near the Mendoza line all season, and his strikeouts have been piling up.

Now, with the Brewers trying to maintain their tenuous perch atop the National League Central and with Sogard punishing opposing pitchers, Counsell has gone with the hot hand lately.

"I think Jonny's got a challenge in front of him, just to get it going again," Counsell said. "It does become more of a challenge when you're not in the lineup every single day, but we've got a guy playing really well, and we've got to take advantage of that.

"I understand that makes it a little harder when you're not in there every day, but that's what's in front of him. It's not the first time it's happened to a guy, and I think he'll respond to it and come back from it."

Milwaukee will try to take a 2-1 lead in the series behind Jimmy Nelson, who made history in his last outing by becoming the first pitcher in Brewers history to strike out at least 10 batters while issuing no walks in two consecutive starts.

Nelson has bounced back nicely from a disappointing 2016 campaign, when he finished 8-16 with 4.62 ERA. He is 3-3 with a 3.36 ERA in 11 starts this season, 2-1 with a 1.77 mark over his past six outings.

"It took him probably half a season, he went through some struggles last year," Counsell said. "I think Jimmy kind of consistently stated that he felt good with what he was doing. He just wasn't getting the results. That's part of it. When you try something and it works immediately, that's the best-case scenario for sure, but sometimes it takes a little longer and you've got to be patient with it."

Nelson is 1-2 with a 5.50 ERA in three career starts against the Giants, who will send Ty Blach to the mound for his ninth start of the year in place of injured ace Madison Bumgarner.

Blach (4-2, 3.24 ERA) was dominant his last time out, holding the Philadelphia Phillies to seven hits Friday in a shutout, the first complete game of his career. He has not allowed more than three runs in any of his past five starts, posting a 4-0 record and a 1.91 ERA during that stretch.

"This kid has stepped in and done a nice job, a terrific job," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "You just love, and I talk about it so much, his nice, quick tempo."

Blach has never pitched against Milwaukee.



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