Brewers hang on after wild ninth

April 30, 2012

> Sorry for the lack of posts lately (it feels like I have to say that too often nowadays). Schoolwork and things like that have been piling up recently, so I just decided to take a bit of a hiatus from Breaking Wisconsin and Reviewing the Brew to make sure I stayed on top of my work. Plus, the Brewers had a three-game losing streak going into today, so it wasn’t like I was missing much, as far as posting goes.

> But I figured today would be a good day to come back. The Brewers managed to salvage one game out of this dismal series with the Cardinals, winning 3-2. Zack Greinke notched his third win of the season, and the Brewers managed to defeat Jaime Garcia at Busch Stadium for once. And, although the offense wasn’t somewhat non-existent for the third consecutive day, it was enough to take down the Cards.

For the second straight start, Greinke didn’t have his best stuff, but managed to pull a win out of his pocket. He went six innings while giving up one run on seven hits. His command wasn’t the sharpest, as he walked four and struck out just two. But, both of the strikeouts came against the Cards’ hottest hitter, David Freese, so it’s nice to know we have someone on the team capable of getting him out.

The Cardinals got on the board first in the second inning on Rafael Furcal’s RBI single. After that, I thought the Brewers were in for another rough day of bad pitching. But Greinke managed to dance around trouble every time he got into a jam after that.

The Brewers finally tied up the game in the sixth on Aramis Ramirez’s RBI single. A few batters later, Jonathan Lucroy hit a go-ahead, two-RBI double to give the Brewers a 3-1 lead that they wouldn’t again give up.

But they had to work for it. John Axford came on for the save in the ninth inning, and it didn’t start well. He walked Matt Holliday to lead off the inning, then gave up a single to Carlos Beltran. That advanced Tyler Greene (pinch-running for Holliday) to third. Axford then rallied to strike out Freese (man did it feel good to see him strike out three times). Axe then struck out another hot-hitting Cardinal, Yadier Molina, and that’s when the drama started. As Molina struck out, Beltran broke for second base. Lucroy threw down to second where Alex Gonzalez caught the ball, and they had Beltran in a rundown. As Gonzalez was chasing Beltran back to first, Greene broke for home in a dangerous attempt to tie the game. Gonzalez then threw back to Lucroy at home, and they tagged out Greene for a shocking finish to the game.

Regardless of all that happened, this was Axford’s 48th consecutive save, and he’s well into elite company at this point. 48 is the fourth longest save streak in Major League history, which is incredible, especially if you know Axford’s back story.

> The Brewers made a couple of roster moves prior to today’s game, sending Mike McClendon back to Triple-A. They called up journeyman Vinnie Chulk, who last pitched in the Majors in 2009 for the Indians.

But it was only a matter of time before McClendon was sent down. I used to have high hopes for this guy, especially when he was called up in September of 2010- he looked great. But now his mechanics are completely out of whack, and he doesn’t have any command. He ate up some valuable innings while he was up, but the 10.13 ERA was too much.

> On a non-Brewers note, Prince Fielder hit a home run today off another ex-Brewer, CC Sabathia. Fielder looked like a fool against CC in Interleague play last year, but the homer he hit today was a mammoth- and I mean a mammoth. But the Yankees still wound up winning, as the Tigers’ recent struggles continue.

> Tomorrow, the Brewers head out to the west coast for the first time this year, and will take on the Padres in a three-game series. Here are the pitching match-ups:

Randy Wolf (1-2, 7.17 ERA) vs. Joe Wieland (0-3, 4.76)

Shaun Marcum (1-1, 4.13 ERA) vs. Edinson Volquez (0-2, 3.60 ERA)

Yovani Gallardo (1-2, 6.08 ERA) vs. Cory Luebke (3-1, 2.61 ERA)

As you can see, Wolf is going tomorrow, and he’s coming off a solid start against the Astros. But he struggled for the most part in his first three starts. Anyway, despite the fact the Padres have close to no offense, Wolf has had a tough time with his former team in his career, going 6-5 with a 5.51 ERA against them. Not quite sure how he has a winning record, though.

The Pads will counter with Wieland, who was called up a few weeks ago because of an injury to Tim Stauffer. From what I’ve seen, he hasn’t pitched particularly bad, but has just fallen victim to the “run support” of the Padres.

> Anyway, that’s about it. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.


After slow start, Brewers storm back to crush Rox

April 22, 2012

> The Brewers’ offense has lookedextremely shabby early on this season, as three of their regulars came into today hitting below .200. For the first four innings of the game today, it looked like that trend was going to continue. But, from the fifth inning on, the Brewers put on one of their best offensive runs of the season, and showed they weren’t screwing around.

> The Brewers took down the Rockies today, 9-4. By that blowout score, you wouldn’t have thought that the offense struggled at all. But it did- especially during the first four innings, like I said before. But, after managing to put up a few runs in the middle innings, the bats broke out in the seventh inning, unlike they ever had prior to this game.

Marco Estrada got the start today in place of the injured Chris Narveson (more on that later). The news had just come to him yesterday, so no one knew how he would react. But, like he always does when he’s thrown into the fire that is the starting rotation, Estrada had a stellar start. He went five innings while giving up a run on two hits. He struck out nine and walked none. The reason he only went five innings is because Ron Roenicke put a pitch limit of around 80 pitches on Estrada, but he definitely could have gone longer with the way he was throwing the ball.

Onto the offense. For the first four innings, Rockies starter Drew Pomeranz was perfect, and it looked like he was going to throw the second perfecto of the day (also more on that later). He was finally given a run to work with in the fourth on Troy Tulowitzki’s solo home run. But, in the fifth, I don’t know what happened, but Pomeranz just lost it. He started the inning by walking Aramis Ramirez- who is hitting .151 now- on four pitches. Corey Hart followed that up with a ground-rule double to put runners on second and third with no outs. After that, Pomeranz gifted the Brewers a tie game on a wild pitch. Alex Gonzalez then hit an RBI double to make the score 2-1. Despite the fact Pomeranz would go on to walk two more batters and his defense would make a few errors behind him, he didn’t give up another run that inning.

In the sixth inning, Roenicke made yet another idiotic bullpen move: he put in Manny Parra in a 2-1 game. He naturally struggled and gave up a run, then Mike McClendon, who came in after Parra got two outs, gave up the lead, making it 3-2. But, in the bottom of the sixth, Ryan Braun tied the game with a solo homer, which broke him out of a huge slump- he didn’t have a hit the entire homestand prior to that at-bat.

But the seventh inning is when the Brewers broke loose. Rickie Weeks hit an RBI triple to give the Brewers a 4-3 lead, followed by a Carlos Gomez RBI single. Braun then hit the second RBI triple of the inning to make the score 5-3. Then, after an intentional walk to Hart, Gonzalez murdered a line drive blast into the Brewers’ bullpen to pretty much put the icing on the cake for the Brewers.

The Brewers definitely needed a game like this, though. Despite the fact they have the highest team ERA in the NL, their pitching has been pretty good lately; the bats just haven’t quite heated up yet. After today, it looks the offense will start to pick it up.

> The reason Estrada was starting today was because of an injury to Narveson. Apparently, the morning after he got shell-shocked by the Braves, Narveson said his shoulder was sore. He got an MRI, which revealed at least one significant tear on his rotator cuff, a vital part of the shoulder. If this holds true, Narveson will more than likely have season-ending surgery, which is too bad, since he just had surgery at the end of last season.

But I wonder if the MRI got it wrong for once. I’m pretty sure if you tore your rotator cuff, your shoulder would be a little more than just “sore.” So maybe it’s just a pulled muscle or something. But I guess I wouldn’t know; I’ve never torn my rotator cuff, and hopefully never will.

Anyway, McClendon was recalled from Triple-A because of this (which is why I question Roenicke’s decision to throw him into a pressure situation like that right away). The Brewers also called up prospect Wily Peralta because Kameron Loe is taking a bereavement leave, and will be gone at least three days. So that’s probably just a temporary move, but I’d like to see Peralta get some action in the Majors for once.

> This doesn’t have to do with the Brewers, but Philip Humber of the White Sox threw the 21st perfect game in MLB history today. It came against the Mariners, who can’t score runs to save their lives anyway, but it’s a historic feat nonetheless.

The 27th out of the game was ex-Cardinal Brendan Ryan, who struck out swinging (sort of) on an awful 3-2 pitch. Had he not swung, Ryan would have walked, and broken up the perfect game. He check-swung, though, and we may never know if he swung or not, but it was called that he broke the plane. It was an awful pitch, though, so I don’t even see how he could have even moved that bat at a pitch like that.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will play the rubber game of this series tomorrow at 1:10 PM CT. Yovani Gallardo (1-1, 4.58 ERA) will go for the Brewers, coming off a decent start against the Dodgers. But he’s been awful in his career against the Rockies, going 0-4 with a 6.69 ERA against them. Most of those bad numbers have come at Coors Field, though, where Gallardo’s career ERA is miles over 10.00.

The Rox will counter with Jeremy Guthrie (1-1, 7.79 ERA), whom they acquired from the Orioles during the offseason. Guthrie has never faced the Brewers in his career.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.


Kottaras comes through as Brewers stun Dodgers

April 18, 2012

> It’s games like this that remind me how great it is to a Brewers fan. Not that I ever forget how great it is, but it’s nice to have a refresher like this once in awhile: especially when it comes following a four-game losing streak.

> After multiple blown leads, the Brewers came out on top against the Dodgers today, winning 5-4. The big headline was George Kottaras’ walk-off two-run double in the ninth, as he once again proved that he is by far the best backup catcher in baseball. But there were a few other storylines along the way that changed the tide of the game a few different times.

The Brewers got on the board in the second inning on Mat Gamel’s first home run of the year, a no-doubter off Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley. Cesar Izturis tacked on another run later in the inning for his first RBI of the year, making the score 2-0. The Dodgers wouldn’t score until the fifth, when Yovani Gallardo, who had been nearly flawless up until that point, fell off a bit (although the run wasn’t really his fault). Juan Rivera led off the inning with a double, followed by a James Loney single that put runners on first and third with no outs. Juan Uribe then hit what should have been a routine pop-up to shallow right field, and second baseman Rickie Weeks caught it. But, while transferring the ball from his glove to his hand, he dropped the ball, which allowed Rivera to score from third. For some reason, the run, despite scoring because of an error, was charged as an earned run to Gallardo. Sometimes I don’t really understand how errors work and what determines an earned run from unearned run, but I’m no scorekeeper.

Anyway, the Dodgers managed to tie up the game in the seventh on Loney’s RBI double. Gallardo would get out of the inning after that, and wound up taking a no-decision. But, he had another solid start: seven innings, two runs on seven hits, seven strikeouts, and one walk.

The Brewers then re-took the lead in the bottom of the inning on a Norichika Aoki squeeze bunt to score Gamel, making the score 3-2. But, in the eighth, Francisco Rodriguez’s early season struggles continued, as he coughed up a go-ahead two-run shot to Andre Ethier.

But, despite the fact it appeared things were going the Dodgers’ way, the Brewers just wouldn’t go away. Corey Hart led off the ninth with a single off closer Javy Guerra, and Gamel followed that with a walk. Jonathan Lucroy then struck out for the first out of the inning- or the last out, depending on how you look at it. That’s because Kottaras came up and hit his two-run double to stun the Dodgers, who came into today with a record of 9-1, and probably thought they were unbeatable.

> As I said earlier, this was a very importantwin for the Crew. Not just because it was in walk-off fashion (although that made it that much better), but because they were in the midst of a four-game slide. But it appears this year might end up being similar to last year, as far as the home/road splits go.

> Alex Gonzalez has yet to return to the Brewersdue to some complications after the birth of he and his wife’s first child. So Izturis once again started in his place, and didn’t do as bad as usual, as he actually notched two hits. But hopefully Gonzalez returns soon; the left side of the infield just feels so much more secure with him there.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will play the second game of this three-game series tomorrow at 7:10 PM CT. They’ll send Zack Greinke (1-1, 6.75 ERA) to the mound, who will be looking to bounce back from an awful start against the Cubs (3 2/3 innings, eight earned runs). He’s 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his career against the Dodgers over two starts.

The Dodgers will counter with a familiar face to the Brewers- lefty Chris Capuano (1-0, 5.40 ERA). The Brewers faced him twice last year during his time with the Mets. Cappy went 1-0 with a 4.63 ERA in that span.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts. Let’s hope the Brewers can use this momentum to get into a winning streak; they’ve got ground to make up in the Central now.


Brewers swept in Atlanta… again

April 17, 2012

> Sorry for the lack of posts recently, I’ve been pretty busy lately. But, then again, there’s been just about nothing to post about: except the Brewers getting embarrassed by a couple of young Braves pitchers, whom they should have crushed.

> The Brewers were swept in a three-game series by the Braves at Turner Field- again. They now have a seven-game losing streak going in Atlanta, a venue that just hasn’t been kind to them ever since 2010. They lost the first game, 10-8, after an amazing comeback of five runs. But a broken bat single by Dan Uggla in the eighth- which wouldn’t have gotten through if the Brewers didn’t use such a stupid shift on him- decided the fate of the game. They lost the second game, 2-1, despite a stellar effort by Shaun Marcum. He gave up both runs, but neither were his fault (although one was earned, and I’m not sure why). The Brewers were shut down by Mike Minor in that game, a somewhat inconsistent young pitcher entering his second full season in the Majors. The Brewers lost the last game, 7-4, following a rough outing by Chris Narveson.

So the only bright spots in this series were Marcum’s good start, and the fact that Corey Hart managed to stay hot, as he hit two homers and a few doubles.

> But now the Brewers are coming home, where they were extremely successful last year. They’ll start a three-game series against the Dodgers, and will thankfully miss Clayton Kershaw’s spot in the rotation, so they’ve got a good chance to win all three. Anyway, here are the match-ups:

Chad Billingsley (2-0, 0.63 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (1-1, 5.91 ERA)

Chris Capuano (1-0, 5.40 ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (1-1, 6.75 ERA)

Aaron Harang (0-1, 5.91 ERA) vs. Randy Wolf (0-1, 10.61 ERA)

Gallardo will make his third start tomorrow. His first was a disaster against the Cardinals, but his next one against the Cubs wasn’t so bad. Gallardo is 0-3 with a 7.66 ERA in his career against the Dodgers, which looks bad, I know. But, coming into last year, his ERA against the Dodgers was a whopping 10.80, and he changed that with a stellar eight inning, one run outing against them in August (or somewhere around there). Unfortunately, he took a no-decision that day.

Billingsley, meanwhile, is off to an unbelievable start, shown by his sub-1.00 ERA. He’s given up just one run so far, which was a home run to Clint Barmes of the Pirates. He’s 2-1 with a 4.54 ERA in his career against the Crew.

> Anyway, that’s about it. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.


Greinke hammered as Garza dominates Crew

April 13, 2012

> Remember how in last night’s post I said that Zack Greinke had thrown two good games against the Cubs and one bad?

Well, he evened that ratio out today in the Brewers’ 8-0 loss to the Cubs. They still took three of four in the series, but this isn’t a good way to end it. After tossing seven shutout innings against the reigning World Champ Cardinals, Greinke got shelled by the Cubs, tagged for eight runs in just 3 2/3 innings. His ERA ballooned from 0.00 to 6.75, which is never good, especially if it happens in just one outing.

Greinke was solid the first two innings, as he retired the first six batters he faced. But, the third inning is when things started to fall apart, as the Cubs put up a six-spot on him. Since I was in school during most of the game, I didn’t get to see the third inning. But, judging by the replays I saw, everything looked up in the strike zone. That’s just asking for trouble against a free-swinging team like the Cubs.

But all we can hope for is that Greinke bounces back in his next start. We can’t have him being as inconsistent as he was during the first half of last year.

On the Brewers’ side, there was absolutely no offense. They were shut out on three hits (all singles), all given up by Matt Garza, who went 8 2/3 innings. He probably could have finished the game off, but, in the ninth, he fielded a Norichika Aoki comebacker. He wound up and threw to first base- minus the first base. The ball went sailing into the crowd, and, on one angle of the play shown, it was questionable whether or not he was even trying to throw to first. Anyway, Garza was taken out after that, but Shawn Camp got the final out.

> But back to Greinke. I forgot to mention this yesterday, but he and his new agent have decided to table talks about a contract extension for now. Greinke was probably feeling all high and mighty after that start against the Cards, but hopefully this start opened up his eyes a bit.

> Zach Braddock was once again placed onthe temporary inactive list today, a spot on the roster he visited a few times last year. It still apparently has something to do with his sleep disorder and personal issues, and Gord Ash still won’t say anything beyond that.

I’m really starting to wonder about Braddock, though. He looked extremely promising in 2010, posting a 2.93 ERA in 46 games. But I don’t know if he’ll ever reach that point again in the direction he’s headed.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will travel to Atlanta tomorrow (actually they’re probably already there) for a three-game set against the Braves. Here are the probable pitchers:

Randy Wolf (0-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. Jair Jurrjens (0-1, 6.23 ERA)

Shaun Marcum (1-0, 4.50 ERA) vs. Mike Minor (0-1, 10.80 ERA)

Chris Narveson (1-0, 3.60 ERA) vs. Brandon Beachy (0-1, 1.80 ERA)

As you can see, Wolf is going tomorrow. He’s seen a lot of the Braves over his career, being a former Phillie. But he’s mightily struggled against them, with a 5-12 mark against the Braves with a 5.28 ERA.

Jurrjens, meanwhile, has had success against the Brewers in his career (2-1, 2.95 ERA against them). But he’s one of the more inconsistent pitchers in the game, especially since his injury in the middle of 2011.

> And that’s about it. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.


Without Braun, Hart, Luc, Brewers take series

April 12, 2012

> I didn’t get to see much of today’s game because it started while I was still in school (one reason I hate day games). But, I turned on the game just in time to see the Brewers take the lead, in a way that could make this game one of the pivotal Brewers moments early this season.

The Brewers took down the Cubs again today, 2-1, and have taken this four-game series, regardless of what happens tomorrow (but of course we want it to be a win). The pitching on both sides was great, as both teams had their aces going: Yovani Gallardo for the Brewers and Ryan Dempster for the Cubs. Going into today, both had been great against the opposing team.

But it was Gallardo who out-dueled Dempster. He went seven innings while giving one run on five hits. He struck out six and walked two. This was a much-needed start for Gallardo, who got murdered by the Cardinals on Opening Day, and showed today that it was a fluke.

The Cubbies got on the board in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Starlin Castro. After that, though, Gallardo locked down and returned to the from we’re used to seeing from him. Dempster had held the Brewers scoreless and looked like he usually did against them; until the seventh inning, that is. After he gave up a double to Mat Gamel, George Kottaras hit a go-ahead two-run blast that made the score 2-1, and that would hold until the end of the game. Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford combined for six strikeouts- both striking out the side in their respective innings- to finish off the game.

> One thing I didn’t realize until after the game (because I didn’t get to watch the game from start to finish) was that Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, and Jonathan Lucroy were all held out of the starting lineup. Those are some of the best hitters in the Brewers’ lineup, so it’s pretty remarkable that the Brewers could still manage to beat a pitcher like Dempster. Although Braun and Hart both have awful career numbers against Dempster.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will go for a sweep of the Cubs tomorrow at 12:05 PM CT (so I’m probably going to miss the whole game). Zack Greinke (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will go for the Brewers, and he’s coming off a stellar start against the Cardinals in which he went seven scoreless innings. He’s 2-1 in his career against the Cubs, with a 3.20 ERA (two gems and one disaster start).

The Cubs will counter with Matt Garza (0-0, 3.00 ERA), who is starting his second year with them. He’s 2-1 with a 4.35 ERA in his career against the Crew.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.


Bullpen makes things interesting in ninth vs. Cubs

April 10, 2012

> Going into the ninth inning of today’s game, it didn’t appear that the Brewers would have any issues closing out this game. But, a few bullpen moves by Ron Roenicke made for a tight finish on the north side.

First off, though, the Brewers did defeat the Cubs, 7-5. Shaun Marcum picked up the win in his first start of the season, as he managed to make those dismal postseason starts in 2011 an afterthought. The offense wasn’t bad either, but again, the bullpen- at least in the ninth inning- nearly rose a few questions.

Marcum’s start was solid, as he went six innings while giving up three runs on five hits. He struck out six and walked none. Although he gave up two home runs in the first two innings, he did a good job of missing bats, something he was struggling with towards the end of 2011.

The Brewers scored right away in the first inning on an Aramis Ramirez sacrifice fly. Ramirez was making his first start in Chicago since leaving the Cubs, and it probably made Cubs fans miss him. Anyway, the Cubs answered back right away in the bottom of the inning on Darwin Barney’s solo home run. The Cubs then took a 2-1 lead in the second on a solo shot by Bryan LaHair. But, the Brewers tied it back up in the third on Rickie Weeks’ second home run of the year- yet another solo shot.

In the fourth inning, the Brewers made the first of two successful squeeze plays, this one by Marcum. But the Cubs evened the score in the fifth on a Blake DeWitt sacrifice fly. That followed a “triple” by Geovany Soto, but he only reached third because center fielder Nyjer Morgan lost the ball in the light and wind on what would have been a routine fly ball.

The Brewers then took a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish in the sixth on a Mat Gamel RBI triple. Jonathan Lucroy followed that up with a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-3. Ramirez then hit an RBI double in the seventh. Carlos Gomez tacked on one more run in the eighth on the second squeeze of the game by the Brewers.

Then came the ninth, where things got interesting. The Brewers held a 7-3 lead up until that point. Jose Veras and Francisco Rodriguez had handled the seventh and eighth innings respectively, so you’d think John Axford would come in for the ninth (despite the fact it wasn’t a save situation). But, like many managers do nowadays, Roenicke took the four-run lead for granted and put in Manny Parra instead. As we all know, he’s just returning after missing all of 2010, so he hasn’t had much work lately.

So, sure enough, Parra gave up a leadoff double to Ian Stewart. He then induced a groundout from LaHair, but Steward advanced to third on the play. Although it was already a save situation, Roenicke had Axford warming up along with Tim Dillard. So he decided to put in Dillard for some reason, I’m still not quite sure why. Dillard came in and walked Soto, and that was all he did. Roenicke then brought in Axford at last, but things were still starting to go downhill. On what could have been a game-ending double play, the third baseman Ramirez booted an easy grounder, which allowed Stewart to score, and left guys on first and second. Steve Clevenger followed that up with an RBI single, but the center fielder Gomez committed a missed catch error, allowing runners to reach second and third.

But Axford managed to strike out David DeJesus for the second out of the inning. He then walked Barney to load the bases. But, Axford finished the game by striking out Starlin Castro on three pitches.

> The back-end of the bullpen isn’twhat worries me at the moment, but more so the middle relievers. Dillard, Parra, and Kameron Loe haven’t looked particularly sharp so far. I know we’re only four games into the season, but hopefully this gets fixed soon.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will play the second game of this four-game series tomorrow at 6:05 PM CT. Chris Narveson will go for the Brewers, making his first start of the season. He’s dominated the Cubs in his career, going 6-1 with a 3.51 ERA against them.

The Cubs will counter with free agent acquisition Paul Maholm, who has seen a lot of the Brewers with the Pirates over the past few seasons. He’s 3-8 with a 4.45 ERA in his career against the Crew.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.


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