For the Cincinnati Reds to have success against the Milwaukee Brewers this season, they first must figure out a way to keep Eric Thames in the ballpark.
Thames homered twice Monday to lift the Brewers to an 11-7 victory in the series opener between the two teams, giving him seven long balls in five games against Cincinnati this season.
“He’s not missing,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “As the saying goes, you may get one good pitch to hit in your at-bat, you don’t want to miss it. He’s not missing it.
“It’s not that every pitch he’s hit against us has been a terrible pitch. He’s hit some good pitches, too, but he doesn’t miss a mistake. That’s where we’ve gotten into a lot of trouble with him.”
Cincinnati will send Scott Feldman (1-1, 2.38 ERA) to the mound Tuesday. The right-hander retired Thames three times April 14 when he limited the Brewers to two runs over five innings despite walking five.
The Brewers have won four of five from the Reds to start the season series between the National League Central rivals.
Thames has been a big reason why, as he is 9-for-19 (.474) with seven home runs, 11 RBI and 11 runs against Cincinnati.
“It has been fun to watch,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Thames’ power show. “I know that. It is tough to even know what to say about it. Seven homers against a team in five games is incredible.”
Milwaukee signed Thames to a three-year contract this offseason, bringing the 30-year-old back to the major leagues after he had a successful run in South Korea.
The decision has paid off better than anyone could have expected thus far.
“When I was a prospect and in the big leagues, I stressed out a lot, I drank a lot and thought, ‘Oh, my God, I have to hit a home run or I’m going back to Double-A or Triple-A,'” said Thames, who played for the Toronto Blue Jays (2011-12) and Seattle Mariners (2012). “In Korea and here, I’m just going to do my job and work as hard as I can so come game time I can relax and let it all go. It is amazing when stress levels decrease, you actually have fun and be loose and are able to relax. It is crazy.”
Feldman is 2-2 with a 3.46 ERA in five career starts against the Brewers. Ryan Braun and Travis Shaw each have homered against Feldman in their careers, but only Braun has more than 10 plate appearances against the veteran.
The Brewers will counter with Zach Davies (1-2, 8.24 ERA), who will be looking to get on track after four poor outings to begin the season.
Davies is 1-2 with a 4.28 ERA in six career starts against the Reds, including a no-decision after giving up three runs over five innings April 15.
Braun is day-to-day with a bruised left foot after leaving Monday’s game in the sixth inning. He fouled three different pitches off his left foot during his first-inning at-bat and continued to play until the injury stiffened enough to prevent him from running. X-rays were taken but came back negative.
Brewers catcher Manny Pina enters the Tuesday game on a 10-game hitting streak, carrying a .472 batting average during that stretch.
Reds shortstop Zack Cozart went 2-for-3 with a double, a triple and three runs Monday. His .386 average ranks second in the majors to the .394 mark of Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.