> Despite a very discouraging first game of this series, the Brewers managed to battle back and take a much-needed two-of-three from the Cardinals. They sealed the deal today with a 4-3 nail-biter win. And we’d better get used to these nail-biters- they’ll be happening pretty often with Francisco Rodriguez assuming the closer duties.
The Cardinals have been slumping hard- and I mean hard- recently. If not for John Axford wrapping the gift to give them in the first game of this series, they would be 0-6 since the All-Star break. I thought Axford blowing the game like that was going to give the Cards a new hope and they were going to go on a hot streak from there, but that hasn’t appeared to be the case.
The sloppiness that has been Cardinals baseball the past few days showed up again today, mostly in the first inning. Norichika Aoki got on base to lead off the game, courtesy to an error by shortstop Rafael Furcal. After Nyjer Morgan hit a single, Adam Wainwright hit Aramis Ramirez with a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Corey Hart then came through with a broken bat, two-RBI single to give the Brewers the early lead. Two batters later, one of the funniest plays I’ve ever seen occurred. Carlos Gomez hit your routine groundball to Furcal, and he fielded it cleanly. It looked at first like his throw was going to be fine, but it tailed off at the end, forcing first baseman Lance Berkman to come off the bag. But, Berkman’s momentum must have been a lot greater than I thought, and he tumbled over and nearly did a somersault. Not only that, but the ball flew out of his glove as he was rolling. This error allowed two runners to score and gave the Brewers a nice 4-0 lead to work with for the rest of the game.
And that was all they would need. The Cardinals got two runs off Tyler Thornburg: a David Freese solo home run in the second and an Allen Craig solo blast in the third. Other than those two runs, the Brewers’ bullpen shut the Cards down for the most part.
But K-Rod saves are always interesting, and the tale was no different today. After striking out Skip Schumaker to start the inning, Carlos Beltran hit a pinch-hit double. K-Rod then walked Furcal, but came back to strike out Matt Holliday (who was also pinch-hitting). But K-Rod walked Craig to follow that up, and the Cards’ third run came on Freese’s bases-loaded walk. To be honest with you, though, I was fine with that- better off walking him and giving up one run than letting him hit an opposite field bases-clearing double. Anyway, K-Rod finished the game by getting Berkman to fly out.
> Thornburg was making a spot start today in place of Zack Greinke, who is taking ten days off to “recharge” (although I think something else is going on behind the scenes). Thornburg’s start didn’t go all that well: he went just 4 2/3 innings while giving up two runs on five hits. He walked four and struck out five. Those numbers aren’t bad, but he needed 103 pitches to get through just 4 2/3 innings. He also served up two home runs, which brings his season total to seven home runs given up in just twelve innings. But all of the home runs are coming on elevated fastballs in the low 90′s, which, if not set up by the correct pitches, can mean trouble. Thorn has shown flashes of a great breaking ball and a decent change-up, though, which leads me to believe he can be successful in the future.
> But the bullpen managed to pick up Thornburg. Axford, removed from the closer’s role two days ago, came in and pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings to finish the fifth and sixth innings. Manny Parra threw a scoreless seventh, Jose Veras had a 1-2-3 eighth, and K-Rod got the save, despite walking three batters in the process.
> After an off-day tomorrow, the Brewers move into their final series of this crucial stretch everyone has been talking about- a three-game series against the Reds in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, the Brewers would probably need a sweep to get out of there as legitimate contenders, which I can’t see happening. But it’s worth hoping for, I suppose.
Anyway, here’s what the matchups for the series look like:
Marco Estrada (0-3, 4.13 ERA) vs. Homer Bailey (8-6, 3.93 ERA)
Yovani Gallardo (8-6, 3.59 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (4-6, 4.03 ERA)
Michael Fiers (3-3, 2.01 ERA) vs. ???