> The Brewers dropped their second straight series to one of baseball’s worst teams tonight, losing to the Rockies, 8-6. You can put some of the blame on Randy Wolf, who got pounded for six runs in five innings, with his ERA escalating to 5.65 in the process. But most of the blame, at least offensively, falls on Ryan Braun, whose inexplicable struggles continued tonight.
The Rockies jumped on Wolf right away in the first inning. Carlos Gonzalez hit a two-run single to put the Rox up early, then Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco each followed him with RBI hits. The Brewers didn’t get on the board until the third inning on Norichika Aoki’s RBI bunt single.
Fast-forward to the ninth inning, where the Brewers appeared to be starting a rally. The score was a comfortable 8-3 in favor of the Rockies, so they put in Rex Brothers to hopefully finish the game. But the Brewers jumped all over him, with Corey Hart, Martin Maldonado, and Carlos Gomez getting three straight hits off him to produce a run. Brothers was pulled before he could record an out for closer Rafael Betancourt. Betancourt promptly recorded an out, which was a pretty lucky Jean Segura lineout. But Jonathan Lucroy followed that up with an RBI single to cut the deficit to 8-5. Then Aoki hit a first-pitch RBI single, and things were starting to look interesting. But, Rickie Weeks popped out, then Braun flew out on the first pitch. Rally killed in a matter of seconds.
LOOKING INTO BRAUN’S SLUMP
> Throughout his career, Braun has always been one of the most consistent hitters in baseball. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 2007, then took home the National League MVP last year. There was the drug scandal that put doubts into other’s minds, but Braun vindicated himself after his monster first half of this season.
But, the past few weeks, we’ve been seeing a different Braun. He’s been struggling mightily at the plate, something we have seen him do very seldom. Last Wednesday, Braun hit a double in the eighth inning of the Reds-Brewers game, and that snapped an 0-for-17 slump prior to that game. Unfortunately, that hit didn’t snap him all the way out of the slump. Coming into today, Braun was hitting .303 (keep in mind he was hitting around the .320′s not too many weeks ago). An 0-for-5 mark- with five important runners left on- dipped his average below .300 for the first time since May.
Recently, I’ve been analyzing Braun’s at-bats more closely than I have in a while, and here’s what I’ve noticed. Braun is swinging at the first pitch a lot more often than he usually does, and lately it hasn’t been working. You can bet that other teams are scouting this, and pitchers aren’t giving him as good of a pitch to hit on the first pitch. Second, Braun is looking at pitches that he normally wouldn’t, particularly late in the count, such as pitches right down the pipe. I’ll admit the entire team is actually doing that right now, but a hitter of Braun’s caliber shouldn’t be caught guessing that often.
Now, it’s worth noting that Braun has been dealing with blisters on his left hand lately, which can be a nagging issue. But, I highly doubt blisters can cause a slump like this. If they were really a problem, I think Braun would have said something by now.
I’m not trying to put all the team’s struggles on Braun’s back right now, because most of that is on the bullpen. But, when basically everyone in the lineup is productive on a night where they score six runs, yet Braun didn’t even have a hit, you know there were a few runs left on the field. And some of those are due to this slump of Braun’s.
> Brandon Kintzler was promoted to Triple-A today as he continues his comeback trail following various arm surgeries. Kintzler went down in early 2011, but had been solid going into May, posting a 3.86 ERA. He also spent a little time with the Brewers in September of 2010.
If Kintzler can prove he’s completely healthy, don’t be surprised to see him up come this September.
> There have been rumors flying that the Brewers are going to shut down Jed Bradley, one of their two first-round picks in 2011, for the season. Bradley is currently in Double-A, and has dealt with his share of injuries.
> After designating him for assignment last week, the Royals released Yuniesky Betancourt today. Is it bad that I had a dream about him returning to the Brewers last night?
> Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky passed away yesterday, at age 92. Pesky had a short career in the 40′s and 50′s because of his time spent in the military, but he quietly had a nice career, as his career .307 average shows. He stuck around with the Red Sox organization for basically the rest of his life after his career ended, and proved as a very influential figure for Boston. Anyway, my thoughts and prayers are with the Sox organization and their fans.
> Weeks and Braun, both of whom ended the ninth inning rally, each went 0-for-5 today, out of the two and three spots, respectively. Figures.
> Maldonado went 2-for-4 to bring his average up to .283, and Lucroy’s pinch-hit single brought his average up to .330. It might be safe to say that they’re one of the better young catching tandems in the Majors, considering either of them can start and put up consistent numbers at the plate while doing it.
> Tomorrow’s match-up:
Mark Rogers (0-1, 4.08 ERA) vs. ???