Postseason preview of the Brewers-D-backs NLDS

September 30, 2011

It’s been awhile. Sorry for not getting up an articles in a couple days; I’m having a pretty stressful week. I’ve had close to no time to even get on the computer, much less write a full article. But I’m back, and should have all the postseason coverage on this blog.

Speaking of the postseason. The last time I posted was when the Brewers clinched the NL Central on Ryan Braun’s clutch home run against the Marlins. From there, the Brewers went on to sweep the Marlins and win their regular season-ending series against the Pirates. The also finished with a franchise record 96 wins, which is astounding, if you think about it.

But wow, did some crazy things happen in both Wild Card races yesterday.

The Rays and Cardinals are headed to the postseason. If I told you that coming into September, you would have called me crazy. I would have called myself crazy. But it happened, thanks to historical September meltdowns by the Braves and Red Sox.

That’s right. The Red Sox. The dream fantasy team, that had Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester- I could go on forever. And they blew a nine-game Wild Card lead. That’s the largest Wild Card lead blown since it was introduced in the early 90’s.

Anyway, here’s what happened to them last night. After a rain delay that lasted a few hours in Baltimore, the Red Sox led the Orioles, 3-2, in the ninth inning. Jonathan Papelbon, one of the best closers in the game, was in to try and finish it off. And he blew it. He gave up two runs, the parting blow coming from Robert Andino- a name that no casual baseball fan has ever heard. But, he’ll always be remembered as part of what ruined what could have been a good season for the BoSox.

But something great had to happen in St. Pete if the Rays were to make the postseason, right? And it was great. They were playing the Yankees, and were down 7-0 going into the eighth inning. But, they scored six runs in the eighth, putting a ton of pressure on the Yankees to close it out in the ninth. The Yankees must not have felt that much pressure, though- they didn’t even put in all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera (ugh, it feels weird saying that) to close out a one-run game. That resulted in a game-tying home run by Dan Johnson (another name that a casual baseball fan has never heard). But, the Rays wouldn’t clinch their postseason berth until the 12th inning. It came on a line-drive home run by Longoria- his second of the game- and it left the Red Sox absolutely stunned. Even I’m still trying to get a grip on the fact that the Red Sox aren’t going to be in the postseason.

Anyway, the Cardinals can thank two players in particular for getting them into the postseason- Chris Carpenter and Craig Kimbrel. Carpenter tossed a two-hitter against the Astros, and Kimbrel, unable to contain his emotions in the ninth inning, blew a crucial save against the Phillies, ending the Braves’ season abruptly.

But, with all that out of the way, let’s get down to business. The regular season is over; now, we wait and see who’ll reach the Fall Classic.

Thanks to the Cardinals reaching the postseason, the Brewers will host the Diamondbacks in the NLDS. To be honest with you, this completely messes up my predictions for the postseason- I was hoping for a Brewers-D-Backs NLCS. But that obviously can’t happen now.

Anyway, here are the pitching match-ups for this series:

Ian Kennedy (21-4, 2.88 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (17-10, 3.52 ERA)

Daniel Hudson (16-12, 3.49 ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (16-6, 3.83 ERA)

Shaun Marcum (13-7, 3.54 ERA) vs. Joe Saunders (12-13, 3.69 ERA)

You can just tell by looking at the numbers that these are all going to be great match-ups. But, it couldn’t have come out better for the Brewers- and you’re about to figure out why home field advantage was so important to the Crew.

Gallardo and Greinke each have 11 wins at home this year. Gallardo has two losses, and Greinke has none. This is why home field advantage was so important. Both pitchers are practically invincible at home, especially Greinke, who is invincible at home (at least so far). Kennedy and Hudson obviously won’t be easy to beat, however, so expect a few pitchers’ duels. Oh, by the way, I just thought I should mention this- Gallardo is 5-0 with a 1.20 ERA in his career against the D-Backs. That could be a pretty big factor.

Then, the series changes venues- which also plots out in the Brewers’ favor. Marcum has been that one guy who is different from everyone in the rotation. Instead of being great at home, he’s great on the road- his 2.31 ERA on the road proves that.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now. The two ALDS’s start tomorrow between the Rays and Rangers, and Yankees and Tigers, so we’ll have those to keep us company until the NLDS starts. The Yanks-Tigers game will be interesting- CC Sabathia, a former Brewer, will face Justin Verlander, who has a no-hitter against the Brewers. That’s a game I won’t be missing.

Anyway, one more thing before I go- let me say that this could be a magical year for the Brewers.


Braun brings back memories of ’08 as Crew clinches Central

September 24, 2011

It’s that time of year. The playoffs are beginning to take shape, and invitations are being sent out. For the first time since 2008, the Brewers received one of those invitations. But, the Brewers have a much better team than they did in ’08. Oh, and they won the division, not the Wildcard.

The Brewers clinched their first division title since 1982 today in a 4-1 win over the Marlins. They also received some help from the Cubs, who defeated the Cardinals and lowered the Brewers’ magic number from one to zero. Anyway, the way the Brewers won this game was actually kind of scary, just because of how similar it was to when they clinched the Wildcard in 2008.

In 2008, on the last day of the season, Ryan Braun stepped up to the plate with a man on base and the Brewers down by a run against the Cubs in the bottom of the eighth inning. He hit a two-run homer to give the Brewers the lead, and eventually clinch the Wildcard and go to the postseason.

Tonight was slightly different, but in a very similar situation. Braun stepped up to the plate with two guys on, with the game tied 1-1. Then, on a 3-1 count, Braun crushed a Clay Hensley pitch into dead center field to give the Brewers a 4-1 lead. But it literally felt exactly the same as it did in ’08. It was unbelievable.

Anyway, now that the Brewers have clinched their spot in the postseason, they can finally begin to align their postseason roster and rotation- something Brewers fans have been avidly waiting for. The rotation probably won’t be set up until we figure out whether or not the Brewers are starting on the road or at home, however.

The Brewers will look to win this three-game series against the Marlins, and hopefully gain some momentum heading into the postseason. Zack Greinke (15-6, 3.75 ERA) will go for the Brewers, and he’ll be looking for his 16th win of the season, which would tie a career-high for him. Greinke is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his career against the Marlins.

The Marlins will counter with Alex Sanabia (0-0, 1.29 ERA), who has just one start this year, which came against the Phillies. He’s never faced the Brewers in his career.


Brewers can’t get anything going against Garza in finale

September 22, 2011

I didn’t get to see much of today’s game. Stupid day games during school… And what makes it worse is that the Brewers never win while I’m at school.

The Brewers fell to the Cubs today, 7-1. That means the magic number will remain at three for the time being, while we wait for the outcome of the Cardinals-Mets game (the Mets are currently winning, 4-3 in the third inning). Anyway, today was the Brewers’ final road game of the season, and it did not go well. Matt Garza threw a complete game, despite some shaky defense from his team in the ninth inning. Garza became the fifth pitcher to go the distance against the Brewers this year, the others being Tim Hudson, Jaime Garcia, Cole Hamels, and Chris Carpenter.

Randy Wolf did not have a good start, going six innings while giving up six runs on 10 hits. He walked one and struck out five. Now, I’m not one to make excuses, but it was obvious Wolf’s start took a turn for the worse after he was hit in the left forearm (his pitching arm) while trying to lay down a bunt in the third inning. He was cleared to stay in the game, but Wolf said afterwards that the injury affected his cutter.

The biggest blow of the game came in the sixth inning on Marlon Byrd’s three-run homer that broke the game open for the Cubs. Coincidentally enough, the pitch Byrd hit out was a cutter from Wolf.

According to Mike Bauman of MLB.com, the NL MVP race is now a two-horse race between Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. I was hoping that someone wouldn’t say that, because now it’ll probably jinx both Braun and Fielder, and Matt Kemp or Justin Upton will end up winning. Out of those four, Braun is my choice (not because I’m biased, simply because he’s been the most consistent out of them). Kemp will for sure get votes taken away from him because he’s on a non-contending team in the Dodgers (that’s just how the MVP race works). And I don’t know about Upton. I know he’s having a great season, but for some reason there’s just something about him that makes me think he’s not going to win the MVP.

There’s also been talk recently of Albert Pujols winning the MVP, but I just can’t see that happening this year. He’s finally over .300 (he was hitting .304 to begin the day) and he leads the league in home runs, but his RBI total is down. Before last year, I would have also said that he was injured for two weeks, but Josh Hamilton was injured for nearly a month and still won the AL MVP in 2010, so I guess I can’t use that excuse anymore. But again, I don’t see Pujols winning it this year (I don’t even think the Cards making the playoffs could help at this point).

After ANOTHER September off-day tomorrow, the Brewers will start their final homestand of the year on Friday, and probably clinch the division in front of home fans, hopefully against the Marlins in the first series. Yovani Gallardo (17-10, 3.60 ERA) will go for the Brewers, and he’s coming off a 13-strikeout performance against the Reds his last time out. He’s struck out a total of 25 batters over his last 13 innings, and is now in fifth place for strikeouts in the NL. And I thought his strikeout numbers were down this year… Anyway, Gallardo has crushed the Marlins in his career, going 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA against them.

The Marlins will counter with Chris Volstad (5-12, 5.13 ERA), who, in my opinion, really hasn’t pitched as bad as his record and ERA show. He’s been victim of low run support, especially lately. Volstad is 1-1 with a 1.86 ERA in his career against the Brewers.

UPDATE: The Cardinals ended up winning against the Mets, 6-5. The Cards were actually losing, 4-3, but Pedro Beato gave up a go-ahead homer to David Freese in the seventh inning. Anyway, the Braves are choosing the worst time of year to fall apart. They lost again today, and now the Braves lead the WC by 1.5 games. And a few weeks ago I thought all the races were over…


Marcum dominates Cubs as Brewers lower number to 3

September 21, 2011

The difference between Shaun Marcum’s home and road performances are starting to scare me a bit. But I guess we need that one guy who’s the exact opposite of the rest of the pitchers on the team.

The Brewers defeated the Cubs today, 5-1, and evened up this series at 1-1. The Brewers also whittled their magic number down to three, and it’ll stay that way for the night, as the Cardinals just out-slugged the Mets, 11-6. But, if you think about it, that may be a good thing, since the Brewers are now forced to clinch the Central at home (tomorrow is the last road game of the season).

Marcum continued his road dominance today, going eight innings (tying a season-high) while giving up just one run on five hits. He struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter. Marcum’s road ERA coming into today was 2.31, so I’m guessing it either fell to the low-2.00’s or into the 1.00’s. Anyway, the scary thing is Marcum’s road ERA is more than two runs lower than his home ERA. But, that could be very beneficial for the Brewers in the postseason, and gives them multiple ways to align their rotation, whether or not they start at home or on the road.

Most of the offense for the Brewers came in the third inning, and it all started with Randy Wells giving up a double to Marcum. Corey Hart followed with a RBI double. Then, Nyjer Morgan and Ryan Braun both hit RBI singles to give the Brewers  a 3-0 lead. Rickie Weeks also added a RBI single in that inning. Weeks would later ground into a force out in the fifth inning to give the Brewers their fifth and final run. The only run the Cubs would score was on a Starlin Castro homer in the sixth inning.

Anyway, we all know that Francisco Rodriguez hates pitching in non-save situations. So Ron Roenicke put him into the ninth inning today, but in another non-save situation (which I find kind of funny). But, K-Rod ended up striking out the side in the ninth, so he must not hate it that much.

The Brewers will go for a series win tomorrow at 1:20 PM CT, and will send Randy Wolf (13-9, 3.45 ERA) to the mound. Wolf is coming off a good start against the Reds, in which he went 7+ innings while giving up three runs and picked up the win. He hasn’t had great success against the Cubs in his career- he’s 6-10 with a 4.01 ERA against them- but is doing slightly better this year, as he has an ERA around 2.00.

The Cubs will counter with Matt Garza (8-10, 3.51 ERA). He went nine innings in his last start against the Astros, but still took a no-decision. Garza is 1-1 with a 7.71 ERA in two career starts against the Brewers.

By the way, sorry for a post shorter than usual tonight. It’s been kind of a stressful week thus far, but I’m still trying to find time to get posts up.


Brewers’ rally against the flameout falls short

September 20, 2011

I see nothing in Carlos Marmol. Absolutely nothing.

The Brewers fell to the Cubs today, 5-2, and their magic number will stay at four for at least another day. That’s because the Cardinals beat Roy Halladay and the Phillies (talk about a worthless bunch). But that’s why I hate the Phillies- when I want them to win, which is rare, they don’t. And they win the rest of the time.

Anyway, back to the Brewers and Cubs. All five Cubs runs were driven in by Geovany Soto, who hit two two-run homers and had a RBI single. The only Brewers runs came on home runs by Jerry Hairston Jr. and Casey McGehee.

Chris Narveson had a very short start today, going just four innings while giving up three runs (two earned) on four hits. But, I guess you can’t blame him- the Brewers have been yanking him in and out of the starting rotation over the past few weeks, plus he was injured before that. Switching a pitcher between the rotation and bullpen rapidly is NOT how you help him recover from an injury. Anyway, Narveson took his first career loss against the Cubs with the loss today.

Casey Coleman, on the other hand, dominated the Brewers- just like all pitchers with ERAs over 7.00 do. He went six innings while giving up a run on just two hits. He walked three and struck out eight.

The Brewers rallied against Marmol in the ninth inning, starting with a McGehee solo homer. But, Marmol, after giving up back-t0-back hits, would strike out Taylor Green and Corey Hart to end the game.

Anyway, there are a couple reasons I called Marmol a “flameout” earlier. I just don’t see anything in him. First off, the catcher-converted-into-pitcher is having a horrible year. He has a 3.91 ERA- which is actually pretty high for a closer- and has 34 saves. Sure, 34 saves sounds alright- unless you compare it to the 43 opportunities he’s had. That’s nine blown saves. Marmol actually lost the closer’s role for awhile to Sean Marshall, but was recently inserted back into that slot. Anyway, another reason I don’t see anything in Marmol- his signature pitch, the slider, doesn’t even break half of the time. It just spins up to the plate, resulting in hard-hit balls. And, when the slider does break, it breaks way out of the zone. He’s had outings this year where he walks four or more batters this year, and gives up six or more runs. Not something you want to see from a closer.

Anyway, one more thing- Mariano Rivera broke Trevor Hoffman’s save record with his 602nd career save today. That didn’t take too long; Hoffman barely held onto the record for a year. But Rivera is definitely going to have more than 602 saves- he has a 1.98 ERA, and he’s 42. That’s something you don’t hear too often… Anyway, there’s no other active closer even remotely close to 600 saves- the next closest is ex-Brewers Francisco Cordero. But I can’t see Cordero getting to 600 saves.

But who knows. Maybe in 15 years, we’ll be celebrating John Axford’s 600th save. That’s looking pretty far ahead. But, I’d love to see it, no matter when it comes- if it comes, that is.

The Brewers will look to even up this series in Chicago tomorrow at 7:05 PM CT. Shaun Marcum (12-7, 3.40 ERA) will go for the Brewers, and he’ll be in search for some run support- something he hasn’t gotten over the past month. Marcum has been that one starter that has been amazing on the road for the Brewers, however. He has a sub-3.00 ERA on the road this season. Anyway, Marcum has one career start against the Cubs, in which he gave up two runs over six innings and earned the win.

The Cubs will counter with Randy Wells (7-4, 4.93 ERA). Wells hasn’t lost over his last nine starts, but is 2-3 with a 4.53 ERA in his career against the Brewers.


For third straight day, Brewers hammer Reds

September 19, 2011

If you didn’t see the Brewers’ offense before this series, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you they’d struggled against the Cardinals, Phillies, and Rockies. But, with all the offense in this series, I doubt the Brewers would remember how badly they were struggling, either.

The Brewers won their 90th game of the season today against the Reds, beating them 8-1 in yet another blowout win. With this blowout win, the Brewers outscored the Reds 24-5 in this series sweep of them, and also held them to just two hits in each of the past two games (courtesy of Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke). Anyway, the Brewers’ magic number now goes down to four, and, if the Cardinals lose to the Phillies in a game that’s starting right now, then it will fall to three.

Zack Greinke had a great start today and earned his 15th win of the season. That’s actually remarkable, considering he missed all of April and didn’t make his season debut until May 4th. He’s now just one win away from tying a career-high in wins (his career-high, 16, came in 2009, his AL Cy Young year). Anyway, Greinke went seven innings while giving up one run on two hits. He walked three and struck out 10, as he continues to be a strikeout machine. (Also note that Greinke is in the top 10 in the league in strikeouts despite missing a month.)

The Brewer offense started the game with a bang in the first inning. Carlos Gomez and Prince Fielder both hit two-run homers off Matt Maloney, who was making a spot start in place of Dontrelle Willis. Maloney clearly wasn’t ready for this start, as he lasted just 1 2/3 innings while giving up seven runs (six earned). Anyway, Rickie Weeks’ two-run single in the second inning made it 7-0, and Corey Hart’s solo shot in the sixth finished the Brewers’ scoring. The only run the Reds scored was on a Devin Mesoraco RBI single in the fifth.

Ryan Braun had another good day at the plate, going 3-for-4 and raising his batting average to .336. Jose Reyes of the Mets, who Braun has been competing with for a batting title over the last month, wasn’t in the Mets’ starting lineup today. Reyes is currently hitting .331, so hopefully Braun can maintain the lead he has on him.

Oh, and one more thing, Logan Schafer got his first career hit today off usual Reds closer (and former Brewers closer) Francisco Cordero. I guess the fact that it was off Cordero makes it that much better.

The Brewers will travel to Chicago and start a three-game series with the Cubs tomorrow. Chris Narveson (10-7, 4.40 ERA) will make his first start in awhile. The Brewers skipped his spot in the rotation due to off-days the last time through, but, in his last start, he gave up six runs over 5 2/3 innings against the Phillies. Anyway, Narveson has had a lot of success against the Cubs in his career, going 6-0 with a 3.41 ERA against them.

The Cubs will counter with Casey Coleman (2-8, 7.06 ERA). He’s still replacing Carlos Zambrano, who won’t pitch for the Cubs for the rest of the season, and probably won’t pitch for the Cubs next year, either. Anyway, back to Coleman- he’s 0-2 with a 6.20 ERA in his career against the Brewers.

By the way, Justin Verlander of the Tigers picked up his 24th win of the season today against the Athletics. You never see guys getting win totals in the mid-20’s in this day and age. But Verlander is definitely something special… He can’t win 30 games, but, he could probably win 26 or 27 games, which would still be remarkable.


Brewers pound Reds again behind Gallardo’s 13 K’s

September 18, 2011

I knew the Brewers’ offense would come around in this series. I mean, who has a better pitching staff to get an offense going than the Reds? (Well, maybe the Royals, but they aren’t in the NL, unfortunately.)

The Brewers crushed the Reds again today, 10-1. Coming into this series, the Brewers’ offense had mightily struggled against the Cardinals, Phillies, and even Rockies. But, the Reds’ awful pitching staff has helped get them back on track. And, the Brewers are now extremely close to winning their first division title in 29 years, as their magic number now moves to five, thanks to a Cardinals’ loss to the Phillies. Not to mention the Diamondbacks lost to the Padres as well, so they’re now two games behind the Brewers for the second-best record in the National League. Oh, and yet another good thing for the Brewers- they’re one win away from 90 wins.

For the second straight start, Yovani Gallardo had the strikeout pitch working. He went six innings while giving up one run on just two hits. He also walked two and struck out a new career-high 13 batters. It was the second straight start Gallardo struck out at least 10, as he struck out 12 in his last start against the Phillies. And, Gallardo made a little history today as well- he became the second pitcher in Brewers’ history to strike out four batters in one inning, because Jonathan Lucroy couldn’t handle what would have been the third out of the fifth inning. The first Brewers to do it was Manny Parra, who struck out four in one inning last year.

Anyway, onto the offense. Ryan Braun got it started in the first by driving in his 100th RBI of the season with a single off Edinson Volquez. The Reds countered right away with Yonder Alonso’s game-tying solo homer in the second inning, but the Brewers’ offense took off from there.

Yuniesky Betancourt had a good day at the plate (which isn’t something you see too often from him anymore). He hit a solo homer in the fourth inning to give the Brewers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, and added on a RBI single in the sixth.

But, Braun delivered the knock-out punch to the Reds in the seventh inning with a three-run shot for his 31st homer of the year. Braun finished with a 3-for-5 night, and took the lead in the NL batting title chase. He’s now hitting .333, while Jose Reyes of the Mets is hitting .332.

Anyway, that wasn’t even the end of the offense. Mark Kotsay hit a base-clearing double in the eighth inning, and Nyjer Morgan followed that up with a RBI single. But that would finally be it for the offense.

By the way, Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ future Hall of Fame closer, earned his 601st career save today, which ties Trevor Hoffman for the most all-time. I was hoping Hoffman would hold onto that title longer, but I guess I wasn’t expecting Mo to have a 40+ save season at his age.

The Brewers will go for a sweep of the Reds tomorrow at 12:10 PM CT. They’ll send Zack Greinke (14-6, 3.87 ERA) to the mound. He’s coming off a short start against the Rockies that was plagued with long at-bats and bad defense, lasting just five innings, but the Brewers would come back and win that game. Anyway, Greinke is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his career against the Reds.

The Reds will counter with Dontrelle Willis (0-6, 5.04), who, no matter what he does, can’t find his first win with the Reds. And he’s pitched better than his record and ERA show, in my opinion. Willis is 3-2 with a 2.70 ERA in his career against the Brewers.

UPDATE 10:49a: Willis actually became a late scratch for the Reds earlier today due to back spasms. Matt Maloney (0-2, 6.88 ERA) will start against the Brewers in Willis’ place. This will be Maloney’s first start of the year. He’s also only faced the Brewers in relief, never in a start.


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