Brewers hand win to Cardinals in series opener

This is exactly the kind of game that will not help you late in the season or in the postseason.

The Brewers fell to the Cardinals today, 2-1, in the opener of a three-game set at Miller Park. It was just the third time since the All-Star break that the Brewers lost at home, and their overall record at Miller Park is now 50-17. It was a pitchers’ duel for most of the game, but, the pitcher for the Brewers didn’t have much of a say in the turnout.

Shaun Marcum tossed a gem. Just like he did his last time out against the Pirates. But, the results were the same. Marcum took a tough luck loss, as he went seven innings while giving up two runs (none earned) on four hits. He walked three and struck out four.

And those two unearned runs were the only runs the Cards scored. They came in the fifth inning, and, to start that inning, the Brewers committed two consecutive errors. The first one was by first baseman Prince Fielder, who let a ball that should have been a routine grounder bounce through his legs, allowing Skip Schumaker to reach. The next one was a botched play by second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. He took what should have been a routine double play ball and turned it in to an embarrassing play in which the ball bounced off his chest, followed by him throwing the ball to first base like a girl. That throw allowed Rafael Furcal to reach. Both Schumaker and Furcal would come around to score on a RBI single by the pitcher, Edwin Jackson, and a sacrifice fly by Jon Jay, respectively.

But this is the one thing that drives me absolutely insane about the Brewers. They have pitching. They have offense. Both of those are extremely important aspects of the game. But, they don’t have the third aspect, which is defense. You need all of them to succeed. Having two of three doesn’t cut it. And there’s proof that they have bad defense- Casey McGehee (third base), Yuniesky Betancourt (shortstop), and Fielder (first base) all lead the league in errors at their respective position. That’s saying something.

The only other contending team I can think of that manages to get by with horrible defense is the Rangers. But, the reason they have to account for so many errors is because of their shortstop, Elvis Andrus, who leads the Majors in errors at any position. Anyway, I guess I’m losing my point here, but what I’m saying is the Brewers need to pick it up defensively if they want to go deep in the postseason.

Anyway, the only Brewers run came on a Nyjer Morgan RBI double in the sixth inning. In that same inning, the Brewers 3-4-5 combo- Ryan Braun, Fielder, and McGehee- were due up with a guy on second and no outs. So what do they do? Get retired in order by Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson and strand the baserunner. Great.

The Brewers threatened in the ninth against Cardinals closer Fernando Salas with runners on first and second with Mark Kotsay up, but he grounded into a game-ending double play. That followed a botched bunt by Betancourt that practically turned into a double play itself.

Now, I’d be more angry about this loss if the race in the NL Central were tighter. With the loss tonight, the Brewers still hold a whopping 9.5 game lead over the Cardinals in the Central, which I’m still comfortable with for now. Had the Brewers won, the Cards would have fallen to an 11.5 game deficit.

Anyway, now that I’m done venting about the Brewers’ defense, I’ll get into tomorrow’s game. The Brewers and Cardinals play the second game of this three-game set at Miller Park tomorrow night, and the Brewers will send Randy Wolf (11-8, 3.37 ERA) to the mound. Wolf’s last start against the Cardinals was great: he went eight shutout innings and was poised to toss a complete game. Anyway, Wolf is 7-7 with a 3.80 ERA against the Cards in his career.

The Cardinals will counter with Jake Westbrook (10-7, 4.75 ERA), who hasn’t really impressed me any time I’ve seen him pitch. Westbrook is 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA in his career against the Brewers, and both of those losses came this year.

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