The blowpen strikes back

August 30, 2012

POSTGAME

> The bullpen was in mid-season form today, managing to blow what was once a 9-3 lead and turned it into an 12-11 loss to the Cubs. And it’s too bad, because there were a lot of great storylines for the offense.

Shaun Marcum wasn’t himself today, and it showed early, as the Cubs got RBI hits from Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, and David DeJesus in the first two innings. But the Brewers stormed back against Cubs starter Brooks Raley, posting a five-run third inning that included a grand slam from Jonathan Lucroy. Ryan Braun hit a two-run homer the next inning.

The Brewers tacked on two more on a Lucroy single in the sixth, but the bullpen had another episode, allowing six runs. There were extra-base hits, bases-loaded walks, and basically everything you don’t want to see.

Cody Ransom promptly gave the Brewers the lead on a solo shot in the seventh, however. Lucroy tacked on another RBI in the eighth for a seven-RBI day.

With John Axford for some reason unavailable after pitching the last two games, Francisco Rodriguez was put in for the save. After striking out Joe Mather to start the inning, K-Rod gave up a double to DeJesus, walked Luis Valbuena, gave up an RBI single to Castro, an RBI double to Rizzo, then a walk-off single to Alfonso Soriano. Yep, went from good to bad pretty quickly.

MY TAKE

> Why K-Rod was used in the closer’s role today is beyond me. He had been pitching great in the eighth inning recently, having not given up a hit in his last eight appearances. So, instead of keeping K-Rod where he had been producing, Ron Roenicke used Jim Henderson in the eighth, where he threw a scoreless inning.

But I don’t get why Henderson isn’t the back-up closer (or just the regular closer). K-Rod has proven he’s not going to get better this year, and he’s definitely not coming back next year. So why bother using him there?

> I’ve been a Manny Parra-backer for pretty much his entire career, but what a pile of junk he’s turned into. After being removed from the starting rotation in late 2010 following a 3-10 record and an ERA over 5.30, he was put into the bullpen, where he threw well until the end of the season. He didn’t pitch at all in 2011 due to a series of back and elbow injuries, but was going to be relied on heavily as the one lefty in the ‘pen this year.

And he’s been terrible. He has a 4.62 ERA, and hasn’t been able to touch the strike zone half the time. That showed again today, as he walked two in a third of an inning while allowing some of Livan Hernandez’s runs to score.

But what gets me is that Parra came out earlier this year and, following a bullpen explosion similar to this one, that he “was having a good year, no matter what anyone else said,” and that the breakdown was a fluke.

Nope, it happens every other outing. Parra better be sent packing along with K-Rod at season’s end.

THE NEWS

> Roenicke said he wasn’t bothered by the lack of complete games. I love how he just keeps brushing off this stat nonchalantly, continuing to say that our bullpen should be able to pick up one or two innings.

Well guess what, Ron? The Brewers have no complete games, and the worst bullpen in baseball. Those two things do NOT add up. This is what people who continue saying this season isn’t RRR’s fault are failing to understand.

> The Brewers will unveil the new Bob Uecker statue at Miller Park tomorrow.

THE NUMBERS

> Lucroy hit his second grand slam of the year. It was also his second seven-RBI game of the year.

> Rickie Weeks went a perfect 5-for-5.

> Ransom went 3-for-4. I was hoping I’d be able to write here that he didn’t strike out for once, but the one time he was retired- in the ninth inning- was via the strikeout.

> Hernandez and Parra gave up a combined six earned runs in that disaster sixth inning.

> The match-ups for the upcoming Pirates series:

Jeff Karstens (5-3, 3.47 ERA) vs. Mark Rogers (2-1, 4.28 ERA)

Marco Estrada (2-5, 4.02 ERA) vs. A.J. Burnett (15-5, 3.67 ERA)

James McDonald (12-6, 3.57 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (14-8, 3.52 ERA)


Fiers dominates once again

August 30, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers pretty much let Mike Fiers and the Cubs’ defense do the work tonight in their 3-1 win. Fiers had yet another stellar performance, going 7 1/3 innings while giving up a run on four hits. He walked one and struck out six.

The Brewers got on the board in the first inning on Aramis Ramirez’s RBI fielder’s choice. The Cubs answered back in the second inning on a Darwin Barney RBI groundout, and from there it was a pitcher’s duel. Fiers was dominant, but so was Jeff Samardzija, who struck out 10 over seven innings.

But the Cubs’ defense unraveled behind him in the seventh. After Samardzija himself allowed Nyjer Morgan to reach on an error, Jean Segura drove in the go-ahead run with a single. Then the Cubs defense did something that I can’t really explain, so you can watch it here.

Manny Parra finished off the eighth for Fiers, and John Axford recorded his 22nd save.

MY TAKE

> Fiers had 82 pitches through seven innings, so, thankfully, Ron Roenicke put him back out for the eighth. He gave up a single to Barney to lead off the eighth, and almost erased him with a double play (Corey Hart botched that and a few other plays tonight).

Roenicke took out Fiers after that when he was at just 87 pitches. I was hoping tonight would be the night we see the first Brewers complete game since April of 2011, but now I’m starting to think we’ll never see one over the tenure of RRR.

THE NEWS

> The Brewers set up their Arizona Fall League roster. The prospects going are Nick Bucci, Kyle Heckathorn, Santo Manzanillo, Jimmy Nelson, Hunter Morris, Khris Davis, Brock Kjeldgaard, and Johnny Hellweg. Mat Gamel could also be ready in time.

> The Orioles won’t make the Randy Wolf signing official until Friday.

THE NUMBERS

> The Brewers eight-game streak of 10 or more strikeouts ended. They recorded seven tonight.

> Jonathan Lucroy had a rough night, going o-for-4 with three strikeouts.

> The Reds won their Major League-leading 80th game.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.19 ERA) vs. Brooks Raley (1-2, 6.64 ERA)

Keep in mind this could be Marcum’s final start as a Brewer, as he was placed on waivers yesterday.


Yo does the job again

August 29, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers once again handled the Cubs with ease tonight, winning 4-1. Yovani Gallardo had another stellar start, going seven innings while giving up a run on three hits. He walked three and struck out nine.

The Brewers jumped on Travis Wood early, as Jeff Bianchi hit his first career home run- a three-run blast- in the second inning. The only Cubs run came on a home run from Wood, the pitcher. Other than that, the Cubs’ offense was rather lifeless.

The 2011 bullpen was successfully revisited tonight, as Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford got the hold and save, respectively. If only we could have had that a few months ago.

LOOKING INTO THE NL MVP RACE

> Recently I’ve been mulling over who I think should win the major baseball awards come the end of the season, and I’ve found there are a lot of interesting award races around the game. One I’m having a particularly tough time with is the National League MVP race.

Our own Ryan Braun took it home last year after posting a career high in batting average and leading the Brewers to the playoffs. But, while Braun is nearly duplicating the numbers he put up last year- and on pace for a career high in home runs- I can’t see him taking it home this year. The Brewers aren’t remotely close to contention, which we all know always affects the MVP race. And his eventful offseason is certain to take more than a few votes away.

Other than Braun, I see three candidates for the MVP (all on contending teams): Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, and Matt Holliday. Obviously there are other sleeper guys around the league, such as Adam LaRoche, Freddie Freeman, Carlos Beltran, and so on, but the three I listed prior seem to be the choices whom all the buzz is surrounding.

Everyone was pretty much handing McCutchen the award in July, which is clearly too early. He was hitting around .370 at the time, but has fallen into the .340’s. That still isn’t bad, but, as McCutchen has fallen, so have the Pirates. If that continues, my vote would not go to Cutch.

Posey and Holliday are my top two right now; both are valuable assets to their contending teams. Assuming the Giants and Cardinals stay where they are in the standings into the playoffs, my vote would go to Posey. The Giants have an otherwise weak offense without him, while the Cardinals still have a lineup of perennial All-Stars without Holliday.

That’s my opinion on the race right now. I would be thrilled if Braun somehow came out with the award again, but I have a feeling one of the guys I listed will to do Braun what Braun did to Matt Kemp last year.

MY TAKE

> Bianchi must have been listening when I called him Brooks Conrad 2.0 the other night, because he’s gone on a tear since I criticized him in Pittsburgh. After starting his career with an 0-for, Bianchi had five consecutive hits, ending with his first career homer in the second inning.

Needless to say I’m liking the Jean Segura-Bianchi shortstop tandem than I did the Cody Ransom-Cesar Izturis tandem.

THE NEWS

> Shaun Marcum was placed on waivers today. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him get nabbed by a contender.

> Randy Wolf didn’t go unemployed for very long, as it was reported that the Orioles signed him earlier today. They’ll likely use him as a relief since they’re primary lefty out of the ‘pen, Troy Patton, is taking a long time to recover from an injury. But Buck Showalter didn’t rule out using him as a spot starter in the ever-changing O’s rotation.

UPDATE: The Athletics also had “serious interest” in Wolf before he signed with the Orioles.

> Pitching coach Rick Kranitz said he doesn’t want Brewers pitchers trying too hard to get strikeouts in what could be a record-breaking season.

“I don’t want to see guys try to get strikeouts. They are a product of strike one and strike two. But when the situation dictates it, we’ve got guys who know how to strike guys out.”

“I’m just as happy with a shutout with no strikeouts and no walks. I don’t want to get caught up in all that [strikeout talk]. That’s why you have a defense out there.”

The Brewers are on pace to break the team strikeout record set by the 2003 Cubs, who featured elite arms such as Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.

> The Pirates released Erik Bedard. His final start with them was a loss at the hands of the Brewers just a few days ago, when he gave up seven earnies in 4 2/3 innings.

THE NUMBERS

> Gallardo made strides in quite a few stats tonight. He reached 14 wins for the third consecutive year. He won his sixth consecutive decision. He struck out nine for the third consecutive start. He threw his Major League-leading 22nd quality start. Yep, he’s the ace of the staff right now.

> Brewers pitchers struck out 10 for the eighth straight game.

> Holy crap, Justin Verlander gave up eight earned runs today.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Mike Fiers (7-6, 2.98 ERA) vs. Jeff Samardzija (8-11, 4.09 ERA)


Brewers tally 15 in blowout

August 28, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers absolutely annihilated the Cubs tonight, demolishing their rivals 15-4. It was actually a rather close game through eight innings, but the Brewers put up a very crooked number- a nine-spot- in the ninth inning.

Basically everybody had a good day at the plate. Aramis Ramirez went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and Ryan Braun went 4-for-6 with five RBIs, those just being the highlights. But the biggest blow was to start the ninth inning, when Braun, Ramirez, and Corey Hart hit three consecutive home runs off Alex Hinshaw. And Braun’s home run went out of Wrigley Field.

Yeah, it was that kind of night.

THE PROBABLE BATCH OF SEPTEMBER CALL-UPS

> With September just around the corner, most teams are probably starting- or already have- looking over prospects to recall and take a look at. Last year, the Brewers were contending at this time, so they only called up four players who they thought would help them to the postseason- Taylor Green, Logan Schafer, Martin Maldonado, and Mike Fiers. Maldonado and Fiers are both having success on the Brewers roster right now, and that month of experience at the big league level could have helped them.

This year, the Brewers aren’t close to contending, and will probably call up a larger crop of players to let them audition for roster spots next year. Here are some players who we could see come up and get playing time in September:

Green, 3B: Green has already spent time with the club this year, but was optioned back to Triple-A in July after most of his playing time diminished. His .198 batting average at the big league level probably didn’t help much either. Green is hitting a sub-par .269 at Triple-A this year, but is hot over his past 10 games, with a .300 average and three home runs.

Green is blocked at basically every position he plays- third base (primary), second base, and first base- at least for the near future. If he were to win a shot at the Brewers’ roster in 2013, it would be a similar role that he played earlier this year (utility/bench player). But he’d have to prove he can still swing the bat even without full playing time.

Schafer, OF: The speedy outfielder is hitting .270 with nine home runs and nine triples for the Sounds this season. He had a decent Spring Training, but didn’t really have a chance at making the team because the Brewers had (and still have) five big league caliber outfielders. With Nyjer Morgan likely leaving for the free agent market next year, Schafer could make the team as the fifth outfielder, but that still might be a long shot.

Schafer got the call last year, and got one hit in three at-bats for the Brewers.

Caleb Gindl, OF: Gindl typically hits for average, but is having a bit of a down year this year with just a .263 average. He’s very likely to get called up, though, having won the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week last week after posting a monster .533 average. Gindl hasn’t seen any Major League time yet.

Brandon Kintzler, RP: I’m almost certain Kintzler will be a September call-up, and that would complete his journey back. Kintzler was a September call-up in 2010 and was rather ineffective then, but made the roster out of ST in 2011. He posted a 3.68 ERA in nine games in ’11 before going down for the year, and he’s been out ever since with a series of elbow and shoulder problems. Kintzler currently has a 3.23 ERA between Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A.

Personally, I see a bright future for Kintzler. His stuff tells me he could be a future setup man, which is exactly what the Brewers need right now.

Rob Wooten, RP: Wooten is probably a long shot, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him come up. He posted a stellar 1.74 ERA with eight saves in 17 games for the Stars, and is now playing for the Sounds, where he has a 3.88 ERA. I considered Jim Henderson (before his call-up) and Wooten the two best relievers in the Brewers organization this year.

Fautino De Los Santos, RP: The Brewers quietly acquired De Los Santos in the deal with the Athletics for George Kottaras, and he could be a talented arm. He posted a 4.32 ERA in 34 games for the A’s in 2011 and is an extreme strikeout pitcher. He also walks his fair share of batters, which draws him an alarming comparison to Jose Veras, but we just have to hope no one else can be that bad.

Tyler Thornburg, SP: Thornburg was up for awhile with the Brewers earlier this year, making two starts in July. He struggled with long ball, allowing seven homers at the big league level, more than he had allowed during the entire season in the Minors. But, if the Brewers do indeed shut down Mark Rogers and/or Fiers, Thorn could see a few starts in September, or at least work out of the bullpen.

Wily Peralta, SP: Already a leading candidate for the rotation next year, the Brewers have said that Peralta will more than likely make some September starts (more likely than Thornburg). Peralta has just one inning of big league experience, which came earlier this year against the Rockies.

My only concern about Peralta is that he can let his nerves get to him at times- at least in the past. In ST of 2011, the Brewers gave him a few starts, and he got rocked- and I mean rocked- each time. That’s probably behind him by now, but it’s something worth watching out for if he’s in the bigs this September.

If that is in fact behind him, though, watch out- he has some of the best stuff I’ve seen out of a Brewers prospect in quite some time (probably since Yovani Gallardo). His two best pitches are a high-90’s running fastball and a slider, which, not surprisingly, were the only two pitches he used in his debut (which was in relief). But he’ll be forced to at least bring out the change-up or curve if he’s starting.

Eric Farris, 2B: He has just one big league at-bat under his belt, but this kid has a ton of speed. Farris isn’t a power hitter, but does have a career .287 average, which tells me he’ll eventually become a good lead-off hitter/table setter.

Farris is blocked for the next few years by Rickie Weeks, whom the Brewers just have too much money invested into to give someone else a chance.

Scooter Gennett, 2B: Despite his small stature, Gennett has a ton of potential, probably more so than Farris. Like Farris, he has speed and hits for average, with a career .302 Minor League BA. He’ll probably eventually be the Brewers’ starting second baseman if Weeks continues to flail himself out of the job. But, like Farris, Gennett is at least blocked until Weeks’ four-year contract ends.

Obviously not all of these guys are going to be called up; the clubhouse would turn into a mad house. But I’d say the most likely to be called up of the players I listed are Green, Kintzler, and Peralta.

THE NEWS

> Ron Roenicke said it has yet to be decided on whether or not Carlos Gomez will be the starting center fielder next year.

“The at-bats, he’ll have a real good game, and then all of a sudden, the next day it will be just so-so. We’re wanting him to string together a lot of them.”

“Defensively, I know he dropped the one ball [in Tuesday's loss to the Pirates], but we know he’s going to play good all the time. Baserunning, he’s really good stealing bases. But the offensive part is the part we’ve always wanted him to be more consistent, and that’s what we would still like to see, a little more consistency.”

“If you’re going to swing at that first pitch, you need to square it up a lot. Gomey can do those things, which is what excites you about what he could do if he gets consistent.”

“You can learn a lot after 26 years old. I don’t know what’s going to happen with him. We all like him. Regardless of whether he’s starting for us or platooning, we like him a lot.”

> Tim Dillard was optioned to Double-A. I hadn’t picked up on this, but Dillard had a 9.42 ERA since being sent back to Triple-A a few months ago. Sort of why he wasn’t on the prospect list.

THE NUMBERS

> 15 runs. 21 hits.

> Every Brewers starter- including Marco Estrada- had a hit tonight.

> The ninth inning lasted almost exactly 35 minutes. It took the Cubs 25 minutes to record an out.

> Every Cubs pitcher, except Alberto Cabrera, gave up a run tonight. Justin Germano, Michael Bowden, Manny Corpas, Hinshaw, and Lendy Castillo all got their heads blown off.

> Brewers pitchers have quite a streak going- seven consecutive games with 10 or more strikeouts. That’s the longest streak of its kind since 1900.

> Estrada notched his second win of the season tonight. Both have come against the Cubs.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Yovani Gallardo (13-8, 3.62 ERA) vs. Travis Wood (4-10, 4.76 ERA)

I sort of wasted most of this article on the September call-up piece, but I wanted to get that up at some point before the month ended. I would have saved it for another day had I known this game was going to happen, however.

THE EXTRAS

> The Cubs needed Joe Mather, an outfielder, to finish the ninth inning for them.

> Here’s a clip of Hinshaw’s reaction after he gave up the third consecutive home run. Possibly one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. (Special thanks to Jaymes Langrehr from Disciples of Uecker for creating it.)


Brewers handily take series from Bucs

August 26, 2012

POSTGAME

> It doesn’t matter how good the Pirates are or how bad the Brewers are: history tells us it’s likely the Brewers will always beat the Pirates. That happened again today, as the Brewers KO’d the Pirates 7-0.

Erik Bedard held the Brewers hitless through the first three innings, but the Brewers jumped all over him in the middle innings. Carlos Gomez hit a three-run blast off him in the fourth inning, then Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run shot following a Rickie Weeks RBI single in the fifth. The Brewers’ last run was Norichika Aoki’s sacrifice fly in the sixth.

BUCCOS RUNNING OUT OF TIME

> This is starting to become a common theme for the Pirates. Last year, they were in first place at the All-Star break for the first time since 1992. The quick assumption was that they’d finally reach the playoffs (or at least finish over .500) for the first time since that year as well.

But there was no such luck. The Pirates couldn’t even win 20 games down the stretch, and faded out of contention to a 72-90 record.

This year, the Pirates seemed to have stepped it up a notch, and have been contending for most of the year. But now they may be fading away yet again. They’ve lost 12 of their last 17 games, and have been struggling against the teams that most contending teams would beat (i.e. the Brewers, and they were swept in four games by the Padres prior to this series).

The reason for this happening two years in a row is probably because the young players are putting too much pressure on themselves. A perfect example of that is James McDonald, who had an ERA hovering around 2.20 before the All-Star break. Since the break, his ERA is over 8.00. That’s a sign he’s probably trying to do too much, and the same can be said for other young players on his team.

But the front office isn’t really helping them, either. They traded ex-Brewer Casey McGehee to the Yankees during a stretch in which he was really helping the Pirates win games, then attempted to replace him by acquiring Gaby Sanchez from the Marlins. I didn’t understand that all, considering Sanchez, a former All-Star, was hitting below .200 and had been in the Minors for most of the year with the Marlins. And all the Pirates got in return for McGehee was struggling reliever Chad Qualls. So that was clearly a bad series of moves. The Wandy Rodriguez trade looked good on paper, but Rodriguez has an ERA above 5.00 since joining the Pirates.

And while the Pirates continue to struggle, other teams are pulling away and are simply making themselves better than the Pirates. I want to say the Braves have a Wild Card spot locked up, but I can’t after last year. The Cardinals have pulled ahead of the Pirates in the WC chase as well. And there’s almost no chance the Bucs can compete with the juiced Dodgers.

While I wanted to see the Pirates contend for once this year, I can’t see it happening now. There are just too many teams that are better than them, and their struggles are holding them back.

MY TAKE

> Mark Rogers had a strange start today. He shut down the Pirates, but did so in a rather inefficient way, needing 101 pitches to get through just five innings. His three walks may have contributed to that.

When Rogers was first drafted, some considered him a future ace. At the time, that may have bode true, but after all these injuries he’s gone through, I don’t know if he’ll ever reach that point. That’s not to say he can’t be a solid two or three starter, because his stuff is definitely still there. But now I’m doubting he’ll ever be that true No. 1.

> Gomez is getting far more playing time than Nyjer Morgan nowadays, which I love to see. He’s hitting just .247, but is starting to show that power stroke everyone has been waiting for. With Morgan likely gone next year, I’m excited to see what kind of numbers Gomez will put up as a full-time center fielder.

THE NEWS

> The Brewers might not shut down Mike Fiers. They’ve been going back and forth on the decision regarding shutting him down, and have gone back to the good side.

If the Brewers do decide to shut down Fiers, it likely wouldn’t be until late September. But even Fiers himself has said he “feels fine” and would like to pitch the rest of the year.

> Ron Roenicke is going to stick with Weeks in the two-hole in the lineup. Weeks is just 8 for his last 50, but did get an RBI today.

> Vin Scully, the best sportscaster in history, is coming back to announce Dodgers games in 2013.

> The Orioles acquired Joe Saunders from the Diamondbacks. Not exactly the ace arm they were looking for, but we’ll see if he can help them with a playoff run.

> Roger Clemens went 3 1/3 innings in his first start with the Sugar Land Skeeters yesterday. He needed just 37 pitches and gave up no runs.

THE NUMBERS

> Rogers got his second consecutive win after the bullpen seemingly wouldn’t let him find one for a few starts.

> Jonathan Lucroy went a perfect 3-for-3, raising his average to .333.

> The Brewers have made five errors in their last two games. Whoever was saying defense has been a high point this year apparently jinxed it.

> Here are the probables for the upcoming Cubs series:

Marco Estrada (1-5, 4.23 ERA) vs. Justin Germano (2-3, 4.54 ERA)

Yovani Gallardo (13-8, 3.62 ERA) vs. Travis Wood (4-10, 4.76 ERA)

Mike Fiers (7-6, 2.98 ERA) vs. Jeff Samardzija (8-11, 4.09 ERA)

THE EXTRAS

> Yes. Yes we were.

But, according to this magazine, ESPN has the Packers going 16-0 and winning the Super Bowl. I’d take that.

> Wouldn’t you hate to play for a team called the “Sugar Land Skeeters?”


Marcum gets screwed over in return

August 26, 2012

POSTGAME

> It looked like Shaun Marcum was going to have a solid return from the disabled list tonight, but his defense had other ideas in the Brewers’ 4-0 loss to the Pirates. All four runs came in the fifth inning, none of them charged to Marcum.

Carlos Gomez started the inning by dropping what would have been a routine line drive out, and instead allowed Neil Walker to reach. Of course that run had to come around to score, as Michael McKenry doubled two batters later. Then Marcum let his frustration get to him, allowing three straight RBI hits to Jeff Karstens (the pitcher), Jose Tabata, and Travis Snider.

The Brewers never really posed much of a threat against Karstens all night. They got back-t0-back singles against him in the eighth inning before he left with an injury, but the Pirates’ bullpen bailed him out.

MY TAKE

> I haven’t seen anything in Jeff Bianchi. He got two hits in final two at-bats tonight, but had been 0-f0r-18 prior to that. He also made an error behind Marcum (he should have had three errors, actually). One of them came when he completely missed a cut-off throw from Norichika Aoki (it wasn’t the greatest throw, but there’s no reason he couldn’t have caught it) in the third inning. Then he botched another cut-off throw in the fifth, which definitely should have been an error. The only error he was actually charged with was a Yuniesque play in which the ball went under his glove on a routine play.

In other words, he’s basically been a Brooks Conrad 2.0. Maybe Jean Segura was unavailable tonight (or Ron Roenicke was giving him a “breather”), but I don’t want to see much more of this guy at shortstop.

> Marcum didn’t throw the ball too bad at all for his first start since June. He gave up a few hard-hit balls here and there, but definitely didn’t deserve this fate.
THE NEWS

> Bullpen coach Lee Tunnell is confident that John Axford will get back to his former self eventually.

“It’s a different thing [making adjustments] here than in A-ball. I think he’ll get it figured out. There’s flashes of it. His last three games were pretty solid, so it’s just a matter of staying locked in, I think.”

“If he goes through this tough year the right way, it’ll help him the rest of his career. Look at how he got to us- he has resilience. He has that in his personality.”

If you didn’t know, Tunnell was named the bullpen coach after Stan Kyles was unfairly fired.

> The Brewers outrighted Mike McClendon to Triple-A to make room for Bianchi on the roster.

> The huge blockbuster trade between the Dodgers and Red Sox was approved today. Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto will head to LA in exchange for Rubby De La Rosa and four other Minor League players.

> Zack Greinke had his first legitimate good start for the Angels yesterday, going 7 2/3 innings while giving up one run against the potent Tigers lineup.

THE NUMBERS

> The Brewers out-hit the Pirates 9-7, yet were shut out and lost by four runs.

> Brewers pitchers didn’t give up an earned run today.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Mark Rogers (1-1, 5.02 ERA) vs. Erik Bedard (7-13, 4.76 ERA)

 


Loe picks up Axford in shaky ninth

August 25, 2012

POSTGAME

> It was another bullpen classic tonight. The Brewers squeezed past the Pirates, 6-5, in a game that should have been a much easier win. They had a three-run lead going into the ninth inning, but, after a dominating performance on Wednesday, John Axford couldn’t handle it today.

The Brewers jumped on Wandy Rodriguez early, with back-to-back RBI hits from Corey Hart and Jonathan Lucroy to give them a 2-0 lead. But the Pirates answered back on an Andrew McCutchen two-RBI single in the fourth.

It was a pitchers’ duel between Mike Fiers and Rodriguez until the Brewers finally broke the game open in the seventh. Rodriguez was removed with a runner on second and two outs in favor of Jared Hughes, who got his head blown off by the Brewers. He started by hitting Rickie Weeks with the first pitch he threw, then walked Ryan Braun to load the bases. Aramis Ramirez made him pay with a bases-clearing double.

The Brewers had a 6-3 lead going into the ninth, so Axford was put in for what looked like an easy save situation, especially after his save Wednesday. But nothing is easy for him nowadays. He walked McCutchen and Garrett Jones to start the inning, then gave up an RBI single to Neil Walker. Axford seemed to find it for two batters, notching back-to-back strikeouts of Pedro Alvarez and Jeff Clement. But then he gave up another RBI single to Michael McKenry, and Ron Roenicke decided to yank him for Kameron Loe, who struck out Gaby Sanchez to record the save.

AXFORD CAN’T HANDLE IT ANYMORE

> I wrote an article yesterday regarding Axford’s confidence coming back after he recorded back-to-back saves. I also mentioned that he himself went up to Roenicke and personally asked for the closer’s role back.

But I guess I was wrong. Axford just no longer has the ability to string together good outings. I want to say he’ll get better, but each blown save (or practically blown save, which was the case tonight) just lessens my confidence in him more and more.

Yes, I know it’s probably too early to judge him, and there’s no reason that he can’t still turn it around before season’s end. But, at the same time, there’s no reason that he can’t become the next Derrick Turnbow, which, scarily enough, seems to be exactly what’s happening to him. Axford had a ton of saves last year and sub-2.00 ERA, and now can barely string together two good outings.

Sound familiar? Yes, it sounds very familiar. The exact same thing happened to Turnbow. And we all saw what happened to Turnbow after this happened to him.

I hate to be all negative about Axford, because he has great stuff, and still has the potential to be that dominant closer. But, just like Turnbow, he can’t get it together mentally anymore.

(Sorry if I brought back any bad memories with that photo.)

THE NEWS

> Randy Wolf said the Brewers organization treated him with respect and “has been outstanding” even after they released him. He’ll return to his home in Los Angeles to work out and hopefully wait on another big league opportunity.

> Shaun Marcum was offically reinstated from the disabled list today and will make his first start since early June tomorrow.

THE NUMBERS

> Fiers bounced back nicely after two rough outings against the Rockies and Phillies. He went 6 2/3 innings while giving up three runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out 10, which tied a career-high.

In Fiers’ two previous starts, he had a whopping 15.43 ERA.

> Braun got walked three times tonight, one of those times intentionally. Ramirez made the Bucs pay for all of those by going 2-for-4 with three RBIs.

> Jean Segura’s average has fallen to .189.

> Fiers finally recorded his first career hit, which was a bunt single to ignite the seventh inning rally.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Shaun Marcum (5-3, 3.39 ERA) vs. Jeff Karstens (4-3, 3.79 ERA)


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