First WC game brings about controversy

October 6, 2012

> It was an ugly, ugly sight today in Atlanta, where the Braves and Cardinals played the first ever Wild Card play-in game (or whatever you want to call it). As you’d expect, it was dramatic as ever, but things took a turn for the worse in the eighth inning.

With the Cards up 6-3 in the eighth inning, Mitchell Boggs was pitching, and allowed two baserunners to start the inning. Then, Andrelton Simmons hit what looked like a routine pop-up off the bat, and shortstop Pete Kozma and left fielder Matt Holliday each went for it. It appeared Kozma had the ball played and was about to catch it, but at the last second he ran out of the way, expecting Holliday to take charge. But, as they stared at each other in shock, the ball fell in between them. This would have loaded the bases for the Braves and set them up for a comeback.

But, after the play appeared to be over, Sam Holbrook- the left field umpire- signaled that the infield fly rule had come into effect. In other words, Simmons was out, despite the fact neither fielder caught the ball.

At first glance, it looked like Holbrook blew the call: an outfield umpire shouldn’t be calling an infield fly rule, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t how the rule works. Since Kozma- an infielder- was close enough to the ball to have made a routine play on it, the rule still came into effect.

Braves fans didn’t take it well. In fact, they went as far as throwing trash on the field, which induced a 20-minute delay and forced Mike Matheny to do some jumbling in his bullpen.

So the first instinct is to blame Holbrook, but, in reality, he was just following the rules, and we can’t blame him for that- even if the rule is beyond stupid. The infield fly rule is supposedly there to keep runners from getting doubled off (or tripled off, in some cases) on shallow pop-ups like that. But, if the fielder misses it, why should he get credit for an out? That’s his fault, and the other team should be allowed to take advantage.

But, as usual, a Bud Selig idea gets off to an awful start. My opinion on the Wild Card play-in games is for another day, however.

MY TAKE

> It’s worth noting that Holbrook was the same umpire who ejected Zack Greinke after just three batters in Houston a few months back. That was a bad call, but is probably irrelevant in this situation.

> I’m really surprised at the hate Braves fans were getting for throwing garbage on the field. Sure, it’s a classless move. But what would you have done if you were a Braves fan, and you saw a play like that occur and didn’t receive an explanation for it right away? I really don’t blame the fans at all.

POSTSEASON COVERAGE

> In the midst of this controversy, the Cards wound up beating the Braves by the same score of 6-3. Kyle Lohse got his first postseason win, and Matheny used his bullpen effectively. On the other side, Kris Medlen took a rare loss (though only two of the five runs he allowed were earned).

> The Rangers not winning the AL West proved costly, as the Orioles knocked them out in the American League WC game, winning 5-1. Joe Saunders, despite being 0-6 with a 9.38 ERA in Arlington in his career coming in, got his first postseason win. Former Brewer J.J. Hardy contributed one RBI for the O’s.

THE NEWS

> The was a Brewers press release yesterday in which Doug Melvin addressed a few issues going into 2013. I’ll have my opinions on that up within the next few days.

THE NUMBERS

> The Braves- who had the fewest errors in baseball during the regular season- committed three in a game when it mattered most.

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Thanks, Jonny

September 11, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Braves are known for having one of the better bullpens and defenses in baseball. But neither were present tonight, as the Brewers handily took advantage of both of those absences to run away with a 4-1 win.

Mike Minor was on his game, but pitch count got him. He needed 115 pitches to get through just 5 2/3 innings of shutout baseball. But it’s a good thing he needed all those pitches; there’s no telling what would have happened had he remained in the game.

The first run of the game came in the fifth inning on an Andrelton Simmons double play; you know it’s a pitchers’ duel when the first run of the game scores in that way that late. The Braves put in Jonny Venters to start the seventh inning, but he would hand the Brewers the game on a silver platter. He gave up a single to Martin Maldonado and a walk to Jean Segura to start the inning. Jeff Bianchi then put down a bunt that was only meant to advance the runners, but Venters foolishly went for the runner at third base (who he wouldn’t have gotten anyway), and ended up throwing the ball away. That allowed pinch-runner Eric Farris to score and tie up the game.

The Braves removed Venters for Chad Durbin, who let the floodgates open even more. After walking Jonathan Lucroy, he gave up a go-ahead two-run double to Norichika Aoki, who continues to show off his power stroke. Carlos Gomez tacked on the final run with a sacrifice fly.

The bullpen was solid, with Jim Henderson and John Axford putting up scoreless innings to finish off the game.

MY TAKE

> Aoki has come out of nowhere lately as another power threat in the lineup. After putting up a few extra-base hits in yesterday’s game- including a game-tying home run in the ninth- he hit two more doubles today.

> Wily Peralta was solid, going six innings while giving up a run on seven hits. He walked one and struck out four.

Peralta actually looked pretty wild, at least early on. He threw close to half of his pitches for balls and worked behind in the count for the most part. But, with as good of stuff as he has, I suppose it isn’t that huge of a factor.

THE NEWS

> Corey Hart was out of the lineup tonight with an apparent injury to the arch of his left foot. He’s considered day-to-day for now.

> In Ben Sheets’ first return to Milwaukee since he left in 2008, he talked to the media about his injuries and doubters since then.

> The Astros released former Brewers closer Francisco Cordero. I’m guessing he’ll just retire now; after the year he’s had, I can’t imagine any team being even remotely interested in him.

THE NUMBERS

> The Braves got caught on the basepaths four- yes, four– times. Martin Prado got caught trying to take an extra base twice, Martin Maldonado picked off Freddie Freeman at first base on a snap-throw, and Maldonado threw out Jason Heyward attempting to steal second base.

> I forgot that the Braves signed former Brewer Lyle Overbay to a Minor League deal awhile back. He hit a single in the seventh inning.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Tim Hudson (14-5, 3.59 ERA) vs. Marco Estrada (2-6, 3.99 ERA)

The Brewers haven’t faced Hudson since May of 2011, and it wasn’t pretty. Hudson threw a one-hit shutout that day. In fact, that was the same day Zack Greinke made his Brewers debut.