Bullpen makes things interesting in ninth vs. Cubs

> 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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