Brewers take series from Jays

> The Brewers completed a much-needed series win today, as they took two out of three from the Blue Jays. I haven’t had time to post over the past few days, so I’m just going to quickly recap all three games, then talk about a few things after as well.

> The Brewers took the first game, 7-6, in a hard-fought win. The game started in a way the Brewers weren’t hoping to see- Brett Lawrie, the former Brewers farmhand, hit a lead-0ff home run off Randy Wolf on the second pitch he saw. But the offense broke out against Jays starter Henderson Alvarez, scoring six runs in just the first two innings. This included RBIs from Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, Norichika Aoki, and Aramis Ramirez. But, with the score 6-3 in the seventh and two men on, Jose Bautista hit a game-tying home run (I’ll go more in depth on that situation later). The Brewers then answered back the next inning on an overturned home run by Ramirez. It was a line drive shot that was actually lower than the top of the wall in left field, but it hit off the yellow strip of padding that extends below the foul line. The ball was first called foul, but Ron Roenicke went out to argue, and the umpires eventually overturned the call after going in to look at the replay.

> Last night’s game, the Jays’ 10-9 win, should have been a fairly easy win for the Brewers, but the bullpen made sure that didn’t happen (again, I’ll talk about our bullpen issues later this article).

The Jays were leading 6-5 in the sixth inning, and after the Brewers loaded the bases with one out, they put in Jason Frasor to pitch to Ramirez. Ramirez then came through with yet another clutch hit, just as he had the night before. But this one was a grand slam to give the Brewers a 9-6 lead. Unfortunately, a combined four runs given up by Manny Parra and John Axford (yet another blown save for him) would end up being the fate of the Brewers.

> Today’s game was yet another offensive outburst for the Brewers, which is a good sign for them, considering the scored at least seven runs in all three of these games. After Edwin Encarnacion homered in the top of the second, the Brewers answered back with five in the bottom of the inning, getting home runs from Corey Hart, Martin Maldonado, and Carlos Gomez. Braun also hit a home run in the seventh inning for his 20th of the year.

> Last night (the 10-9 loss), Tyler Thornburg was making his Major League debut in place of the injured Shaun Marcum, who may actually hit the disabled list. Anyway, his debut appeared to be going fine, but it appeared to me (I was at the game) that nerves may have gotten to him in the sixth. He gave up three consecutive home runs to Colby Rasmus, Bautista, and Encarnacion. But it turned out it might not have been nerves; it may have been a serious drop in velocity, which is a cause for concern. The scoreboard at Miller Park had Thornburg topping out at 96 MPH, and I noticed the scoreboard had him clocked in the mid-to-high 80’s on all of the home run balls. Because of the angle I was at, I just assumed he had hung a couple of sliders due to nerves, but those actually might have been Marcum-speed fastballs. Those type of fastballs can be effective, but, since Thornburg had been throwing in the mid-90’s previous to that and he probably wasn’t getting much movement on them, you can imagine why it was easy for the Jays hitters to start picking him up.

> Despite the fact the Brewers won this series, the bullpen continued to slump. In the first game of the series, Wolf left the game with a 6-3 lead, hoping to pick up his first win since the end of April (despite he’s pitched well enough to win his past three or so starts). But he would have no such luck- Kameron Loe came in and promptly gave up the game-tying shot to Bautista.

Then, last night, after Thornburg’s debut, Tim Dillard came in and gave up a run to finish the sixth. Like I said earlier, Parra pitched the seventh inning of that game, giving up two runs to cut the Jays’ deficit to one run. After Francisco Rodriguez, who has been pitching a lot better as of late, threw a scoreless eighth last night, Axford came in and blew yet another save, giving up back-to-back home runs to Rasmus and Bautista.

Today the bullpen wasn’t as bad, but Dillard did allow an inherited runner to score, which charged an extra earned run to Yovani Gallardo.

But it goes without saying that the bullpen has been flat-out terrible lately. Loe is supposed to enter the game and get groundball outs against power hitters, not give up go-ahead or game-tying home runs. And I have no idea what’s going on with Axford; he may be getting the Brewer-closer syndrome. Previous victims of this include Dan Kolb, Derrick Turnbow, Eric Gagne, and Trevor Hoffman. I don’t know what it is; it feels like we have closers who are stellar for a year and a half, then it’s like they go out there and forget how to pitch. Anyway, maybe Axford shouldn’t be listed with those other names yet, but I can’t imagine the Brewers are going to stand for this much longer.

By the way, just an interesting note from the end of today’s game: Michael Fiers pitched the last inning. He was scheduled to start the first game of the White Sox series, but maybe this means Marco Estrada will be back by then. That, or the Brewers have different plans that we don’t know about.

> As I said earlier, Marcum may be on his way to the disabled list. He experienced shoulder tightness prior to his would-have-been start against the Blue Jays, his former team, so Thornburg was called up for the emergency start.

But this is why I question taking Fiers out of the rotation (assuming he has been taken out). Unless Thornburg is staying to take Marcum’s spot in the rotation until he comes back, which the Brewers hinted they wouldn’t do, I can’t imagine why they would remove Fiers in a situation like this.

> Anyway, that’s about it. The Brewers have an off-day tomorrow, then start their final Interleague series, this one against the White Sox. Here’s what the matchups are looking like:

Michael Fiers? (2-2, 3.60 ERA) vs. Chris Sale (8-2, 2.46 ERA)

Zack Greinke (7-2, 3.10 ERA) vs. Philip Humber (3-4, 6.01 ERA)

Randy Wolf (2-5, 5.11 ERA) vs. Jose Quintana (2-1, 1.53 ERA)

UPDATE: Actually, I recall Brian Anderson saying during today’s broadcast that Greinke got bumped up in the rotation to face Sale, but will be pitching on regular rest because of the off-day. So, either the Brewers are skipping Fiers’ spot in the rotation this time around, or they’re just going to go with a four-man rotation until Estrada returns.

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