Brewers sign Asencio

November 8, 2012

> The Brewers signed reliever Jairo Asencio to a minor league deal on Monday. The deal includes an invite to Spring Training.

It’s probably unfair for me to judge him based on just parts of three seasons in the Majors, but I’ve never been a huge fan of the guy. His numbers in the Majors, though they are a small sample size, are unimpressive: he has a 5.23 ERA over 58 1/3 innings. In 2012, he threw a career-high 40 1/3 innings between the Indians and Cubs. Asencio had a 4.91 ERA overall in 2012, but was significantly better with the Cubs, posting a 3.07 ERA in 12 games with them.

The Brewers are doing exactly what I expected them to do: attempt to rebuild the bullpen from scratch. Not saying that’s a bad thing; sometimes it works. I think Michael Olmsted, if he stays healthy, could be a huge contributor at the big league level. I don’t feel quite as strongly about Asencio, but you never know.

> Apparently Doug Melvin and Zack Greinke recently had a conversation, but it was “just about baseball.” Of course, the media has tried to blow this into a “the Brewers are extremely interested in Greinke” situation, but they didn’t take into consideration that Melvin and Greinke became very good friends outside the game during Greinke’s time in Milwaukee.

Not saying that I don’t want the Brewers to bring Greinke back, but it’s extremely unlikely. The Angels and Dodgers seem to be his most likely suitors at this point.

> Melvin also continues to preach that the Brewers are a “long shot” for Josh Hamilton, who recently announced he’s seeking $175 million years over seven years (not like he’s actually going to get that kind of deal with his injury/drug history, though).

One thing I’ve forgotten to take into consideration this offseason is that Melvin has probably been turned off of mega-deals because of his history with them. In 2001, when Melvin was the general manager of the Rangers, he was the man who signed Alex Rodriguez to the infamous 10-year deal. Of course, the Rangers wound up not being able to afford it and had to send A-Rod to the Yankees. But perhaps that’s why Melvin is being so hesitant with these big-name free agents.

> The finalists for each major award were announced tonight. I’m really not a big fan of this “finalist” concept that has been introduced this year for awards, but here they are:

AL Rookie of the Year: Yoenis Cespedes, Yu Darvish, Mike Trout

NL Rookie of the Year: Todd Frazier, Bryce Harper, Wade Miley

AL Manager of the Year: Bob Melvin, Buck Showalter, Robin Ventura

NL Manager of the Year: Dusty Baker, Bruce Bochy, Davey Johnson

AL Cy Young Award: David Price, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver

NL Cy Young Award: R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw

AL MVP: Adrian Beltre, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano Hamilton, Trout

NL MVP: Ryan Braun, Chase Headley, Andrew McCutchen, Yadier Molina, Buster Posey

I’ll reveal my own picks for each award sometime before next week. (By the way, all of my picks were correct last year.)

> Juan Nieves, who threw the only no-hitter in Brewers history back in 1987, was hired as Boston’s hitting coach today.

> Brooks Conrad signed with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan. Maybe he’ll hit higher than .000 over there.

> Minor moves:

Twins: Re-signed Sam Deduno and Esmerling Vasquez to minor league deals.
Braves: Signed Wirfin Obispo to a minor league contract.
Orioles: Outrighted Steve Tolleson, who elected free agency.
Mariners: Claimed Scott Cousins off waivers from the Blue Jays.
Yankees: Claimed David Herndon off waivers from the Blue Jays; claimed Josh Spence off waivers from the Padres.
Mets: Outrighted Mike Nickeas and Fred Lewis, both of whom elected free agency; released Jason Bay (that’s probably more than a minor move, but he was so hilariously bad for them that I can’t consider it major).
Diamondbacks: Signed Eddie Bonine to a split contract.
White Sox: Acquired Blake Tekotte from the Padres.
Padres: Acquired Brandon Kloess from the White Sox.

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The Championship Series begin

October 14, 2012

> All of the Division Series have come to a close. And, considering it was the first time in history that all of the necessary DS games were played- each series went to five games for 20 games total- I don’t think any of them was a bad series.

> The Giants came all the way back from an 0-2 deficit in their series against the Reds and won three straight to reach the NLCS. Their offense was non-existent during the first two games. But, after a Scott Rolen error in the 10th inning of Game 3 gave them a gift win, the offense exploded in Games 4 and 5. The highlights were Pablo Sandoval’s two-run homer in the seventh inning of Game 4 and Buster Posey’s grand slam in Game 5 that pretty much sealed the series.

> The Tigers nearly allowed the other Bay Area team- the Athletics- to come back from an 0-2 deficit against them, but Justin Verlander was having none of that. He threw a four-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts to abruptly end the A’s miracle season and send the Tigers to the ALCS.

> The Yankees’ offense only showed up for one inning during the entire series with the Orioles, but CC Sabathia didn’t need much yesterday. He threw a complete game to also end a dream season for the O’s. The big story was that Alex Rodriguez- the highest-paid player in baseball- was benched in Game 5 of the series, but Raul Ibanez’s .444 ALDS average picked up the slack.

> Despite the fact they were down 6-0 early, the Cardinals did exactly what they did in the 2011 World Series. Down 7-5 going into the ninth inning, they ambushed Nationals closer Drew Storen with four two-out runs. With the bases loaded, Daniel Descalso hit a hard ground ball up the middle that deflected off of shortstop Ian Desmond’s glove- I leave it up to you as to whether or not Desmond should have had the ball- and boom, tie game. Then Pete Kozma, some rookie shortstop that no non-Cards fan had heard of until late September, hit the go-ahead two-run single to sink the Nats.

Hate to say it, but this season might once again by written in the stars for the Cardinals. (Yes, that pun was definitely intended.)

MY TAKE

> PLEASE quit calling the Cardinals a “cinderella story.” Yes, they won in dramatic fashion last night, but that doesn’t put them in that category. A cinderella story is a team that, at the beginning of the year, is expected to finish near last in their division, then go on to have a miracle season. This year, that was the Orioles and Athletics (you could argue the Nationals, but I don’t think anyone expected them to be terrible this year).

Sure, the Cards lost Albert Pujols, Tony La Russa, and Dave Duncan. But there was still way too much talent on that team coming into 2012 for them not to contend.

So I guess if you expected the Cardinals to finish in dead last and lose 100 games coming into this season, then sure, they’re a cinderella team to you. But there’s clearly a problem if you expected that.

> There aren’t series MVPs handed out in the Division Series, only for the Championship and World Series. But, if they did exist in the DS, these would be my MVPs for each series:

Giants: Sandoval

Cardinals: Kozma

Yankees: Ibanez

Tigers: Verlander

I actually had a tough time picking for the Giants, but Sandoval was the only Giants hitter to hit over .300 for the series. And I couldn’t give it to a pitcher, since the starters especially underperformed in this series. The rest of MVPs were rather easy, however.

THE NEWS

> Shaun Marcum doesn’t expect to pitch for the Brewers next year.

> Following outright assignments, relievers Vinnie Chulk and Tim Dillard each elected free agency.

> The Brewers also outrighted Cody Scarpetta and Eric Farris to Triple-A Nashville, but neither has the right to elect free agency.

> News has surfaced regarding Francisco Rodriguez and his arrest for domestic violence sometime in September. The incident took place in Wales, a suburban city about 45 minutes to an hour away from Milwaukee.

But apparently K-Rod has a history of things like this that I wasn’t aware of. In late 2010, he had to take anger management classes after “an altercation” with one of his relatives at Citi Field during his days with the Mets.

It seems he’s doing everything he can to make sure he can’t find a deal anywhere else for 2013. His horrible 2012 campaign made it bad enough, but you can bet teams that see this on his resume won’t be impressed.

> Other than that, there hasn’t been much to report about the Brewers lately, so let’s get on to the minor moves around baseball the past week:

White Sox: Outrighted Ray Olmedo, who elected free agency.
Blue Jays: Outrighted Jesse Litsch, Aaron Laffey, Bobby Korecky, Robert Coello, and Scott Richmond, all of whom elected free agency.
Pirates: Outrighted Doug Slaten, who elected free agency.
Padres: Outrighted Ross Ohlendorf, who elected free agency.
Rays: Outrighted Brooks Conrad, who elected free agency.
Indians: Outrighted Shelley Duncan and Luke Carlin, both of whom elected free agency.
Red Sox: Outrighted Jason Repko and Guillermo Quiroz, both of whom elected free agency.
Diamondbacks: Re-signed Brent Clevlen.
Giants: Outrighted Shane Loux and Justin Christian to Triple-A.


Yo does the job again

August 29, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers once again handled the Cubs with ease tonight, winning 4-1. Yovani Gallardo had another stellar start, going seven innings while giving up a run on three hits. He walked three and struck out nine.

The Brewers jumped on Travis Wood early, as Jeff Bianchi hit his first career home run- a three-run blast- in the second inning. The only Cubs run came on a home run from Wood, the pitcher. Other than that, the Cubs’ offense was rather lifeless.

The 2011 bullpen was successfully revisited tonight, as Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford got the hold and save, respectively. If only we could have had that a few months ago.

LOOKING INTO THE NL MVP RACE

> Recently I’ve been mulling over who I think should win the major baseball awards come the end of the season, and I’ve found there are a lot of interesting award races around the game. One I’m having a particularly tough time with is the National League MVP race.

Our own Ryan Braun took it home last year after posting a career high in batting average and leading the Brewers to the playoffs. But, while Braun is nearly duplicating the numbers he put up last year- and on pace for a career high in home runs- I can’t see him taking it home this year. The Brewers aren’t remotely close to contention, which we all know always affects the MVP race. And his eventful offseason is certain to take more than a few votes away.

Other than Braun, I see three candidates for the MVP (all on contending teams): Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, and Matt Holliday. Obviously there are other sleeper guys around the league, such as Adam LaRoche, Freddie Freeman, Carlos Beltran, and so on, but the three I listed prior seem to be the choices whom all the buzz is surrounding.

Everyone was pretty much handing McCutchen the award in July, which is clearly too early. He was hitting around .370 at the time, but has fallen into the .340’s. That still isn’t bad, but, as McCutchen has fallen, so have the Pirates. If that continues, my vote would not go to Cutch.

Posey and Holliday are my top two right now; both are valuable assets to their contending teams. Assuming the Giants and Cardinals stay where they are in the standings into the playoffs, my vote would go to Posey. The Giants have an otherwise weak offense without him, while the Cardinals still have a lineup of perennial All-Stars without Holliday.

That’s my opinion on the race right now. I would be thrilled if Braun somehow came out with the award again, but I have a feeling one of the guys I listed will to do Braun what Braun did to Matt Kemp last year.

MY TAKE

> Bianchi must have been listening when I called him Brooks Conrad 2.0 the other night, because he’s gone on a tear since I criticized him in Pittsburgh. After starting his career with an 0-for, Bianchi had five consecutive hits, ending with his first career homer in the second inning.

Needless to say I’m liking the Jean Segura-Bianchi shortstop tandem than I did the Cody Ransom-Cesar Izturis tandem.

THE NEWS

> Shaun Marcum was placed on waivers today. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him get nabbed by a contender.

> Randy Wolf didn’t go unemployed for very long, as it was reported that the Orioles signed him earlier today. They’ll likely use him as a relief since they’re primary lefty out of the ‘pen, Troy Patton, is taking a long time to recover from an injury. But Buck Showalter didn’t rule out using him as a spot starter in the ever-changing O’s rotation.

UPDATE: The Athletics also had “serious interest” in Wolf before he signed with the Orioles.

> Pitching coach Rick Kranitz said he doesn’t want Brewers pitchers trying too hard to get strikeouts in what could be a record-breaking season.

“I don’t want to see guys try to get strikeouts. They are a product of strike one and strike two. But when the situation dictates it, we’ve got guys who know how to strike guys out.”

“I’m just as happy with a shutout with no strikeouts and no walks. I don’t want to get caught up in all that [strikeout talk]. That’s why you have a defense out there.”

The Brewers are on pace to break the team strikeout record set by the 2003 Cubs, who featured elite arms such as Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.

> The Pirates released Erik Bedard. His final start with them was a loss at the hands of the Brewers just a few days ago, when he gave up seven earnies in 4 2/3 innings.

THE NUMBERS

> Gallardo made strides in quite a few stats tonight. He reached 14 wins for the third consecutive year. He won his sixth consecutive decision. He struck out nine for the third consecutive start. He threw his Major League-leading 22nd quality start. Yep, he’s the ace of the staff right now.

> Brewers pitchers struck out 10 for the eighth straight game.

> Holy crap, Justin Verlander gave up eight earned runs today.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Mike Fiers (7-6, 2.98 ERA) vs. Jeff Samardzija (8-11, 4.09 ERA)


Marcum gets screwed over in return

August 26, 2012

POSTGAME

> It looked like Shaun Marcum was going to have a solid return from the disabled list tonight, but his defense had other ideas in the Brewers’ 4-0 loss to the Pirates. All four runs came in the fifth inning, none of them charged to Marcum.

Carlos Gomez started the inning by dropping what would have been a routine line drive out, and instead allowed Neil Walker to reach. Of course that run had to come around to score, as Michael McKenry doubled two batters later. Then Marcum let his frustration get to him, allowing three straight RBI hits to Jeff Karstens (the pitcher), Jose Tabata, and Travis Snider.

The Brewers never really posed much of a threat against Karstens all night. They got back-t0-back singles against him in the eighth inning before he left with an injury, but the Pirates’ bullpen bailed him out.

MY TAKE

> I haven’t seen anything in Jeff Bianchi. He got two hits in final two at-bats tonight, but had been 0-f0r-18 prior to that. He also made an error behind Marcum (he should have had three errors, actually). One of them came when he completely missed a cut-off throw from Norichika Aoki (it wasn’t the greatest throw, but there’s no reason he couldn’t have caught it) in the third inning. Then he botched another cut-off throw in the fifth, which definitely should have been an error. The only error he was actually charged with was a Yuniesque play in which the ball went under his glove on a routine play.

In other words, he’s basically been a Brooks Conrad 2.0. Maybe Jean Segura was unavailable tonight (or Ron Roenicke was giving him a “breather”), but I don’t want to see much more of this guy at shortstop.

> Marcum didn’t throw the ball too bad at all for his first start since June. He gave up a few hard-hit balls here and there, but definitely didn’t deserve this fate.
THE NEWS

> Bullpen coach Lee Tunnell is confident that John Axford will get back to his former self eventually.

“It’s a different thing [making adjustments] here than in A-ball. I think he’ll get it figured out. There’s flashes of it. His last three games were pretty solid, so it’s just a matter of staying locked in, I think.”

“If he goes through this tough year the right way, it’ll help him the rest of his career. Look at how he got to us- he has resilience. He has that in his personality.”

If you didn’t know, Tunnell was named the bullpen coach after Stan Kyles was unfairly fired.

> The Brewers outrighted Mike McClendon to Triple-A to make room for Bianchi on the roster.

> The huge blockbuster trade between the Dodgers and Red Sox was approved today. Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto will head to LA in exchange for Rubby De La Rosa and four other Minor League players.

> Zack Greinke had his first legitimate good start for the Angels yesterday, going 7 2/3 innings while giving up one run against the potent Tigers lineup.

THE NUMBERS

> The Brewers out-hit the Pirates 9-7, yet were shut out and lost by four runs.

> Brewers pitchers didn’t give up an earned run today.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Mark Rogers (1-1, 5.02 ERA) vs. Erik Bedard (7-13, 4.76 ERA)

 


Fiers not perfect, but still stellar in win over Cincy

August 8, 2012

Postgame

> I missed pretty much all of today’s game, but I have to say I knew what I was going to be missing. The Brewers defeated the Reds today, 3-1, in yet another amazing performance by Mike Fiers. I know I’ve said this about nearly all of his starts, but I think today was the best performance of his young career. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Brewers jumped on Reds ace Johnny Cueto right away in the first inning. Aramis Ramirez stayed hot and smacked a two-run shot into left field to give the Brewers the early lead.

Cueto did settle down after that inning, turning in a good start (7 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 0 BB, 9 K). But, after that first inning, Fiers never looked back either, and out-pitched an opponent who has been tough on the Brewers recently.

Fiers threw eight stellar innings while giving up one run on three hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out seven. The eight innings are a new career-high in innings pitched for Fiers. He also lowered his ERA to 1.80, which is just flat-out remarkable.

But the story tonight was Fiers’ bid for perfection. He needed just 66 pitches to get through the first six innings, which were flawless. But, Zack Cozart led off the seventh inning with a double to break up the perfecto. Two batters later, Brandon Phillips drove him in with a sacrifice fly, which wound up being the only blemish on Fiers’ line.

Fiers ran into a bit of trouble in the eighth as well. He started off the inning by striking out Scott Rolen, but then gave up a single to Xavier Paul. Two batters later, Ryan Hanigan hit a single to put runners on first and third with two outs. But, Fiers did what he’s done so well all year: get out of the tough jams. He struck out Ryan Ludwick to end the threat in the eighth.

The Analysis

> There really isn’t much more you can say about Fiers at this point, other than he’s turned himself into a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate. You can say all you want about the over-hyped Bryce Harper (who is now hitting under .260, mind you), but my vote would go to a pitcher with a sub-2.00 ERA, rather than some overrated 19 year-old outfielder who’s only in the conversation because of his age.

Anyway, I decided to check out some scouting reports regarding Fiers today to see what the prospect experts were saying about him. What I found interesting is that his scouting report is nothing compared to the stats he’s putting up. But I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise- Fiers has a mid-to-high 80’s fastball, a solid cutter, and two plus off-speed pitches. That usually makes for a good fly-ball pitcher, but that isn’t what Fiers is doing: he’s being a dominant strikeout pitcher at the Major League level.

The News

> Ron Roenicke once again talked about the frustration he’s having with Francisco Rodriguez’s role in the bullpen. We know, Ron. We know.

> As I mentioned in today’s pregame post, Brooks Conrad was designated for assignment by the Rays today. The man of the .000 batting average wasn’t going to last long there anyway.

The Numbers Game

> The theory I’ve been talking about the past few days finally occurred today: Jim Henderson closed out the game. He preserved Fiers’ two-run lead with a scoreless 1-2-3 inning, including a strikeout. Henderson is throwing the ball the best in the bullpen by far right now, so hopefully we see him in these situations more often.

> Jonathan Lucroy had been slumping since his return from the disabled list, with his batting average dropping from .345 to .327. But, he went 2-for-3 today to bring the BA back up to .329.

> The Brewers’ third run came on Jean Segura’s first RBI as a Brewer (and in the Majors overall), which was a groundout off Cueto in the seventh inning. Segura is still looking for his first hit.

> And that’s about it. I leave you with tomorrow’s match-up. So let’s just say it’s a good thing the Brewers took the first two games.

Mat Latos (10-3, 3.94 ERA) vs. Randy Wolf (3-8, 5.57 ERA)

 


Fiers’ sub-2.00 ERA hopes to give Brewers series win

August 7, 2012

Pregame

> With the Brewers taking last night’s game, they have a chance to claim this series against the Reds tonight.

And they’ve got the perfect pitcher on the mound to do it: Mike Fiers (5-4, 1.88 ERA). He has been phenomenal since his call-up in late May, as that sub-2.00 ERA shows (despite the lousy W-L record). He made his debut at Dodger Stadium and threw well that game, going seven innings and giving up one run for his first career win. I’ll admit I was completely sold after that game for two reasons: it was just one game, and Dodger Stadium is extremely pitcher-friendly. That theory actually appeared to be coming true after Fiers went 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA in his first two starts at Miller Park (obviously a hitter-friendly park). But, after those two games, Fiers has been nearly unstoppable, posting an ERA below 1.00 since those games.

Fiers will be opposed by a tough opponent in Reds ace Johnny Cueto (14-5, 2.52 ERA). These two already faced off at Great American Ball Park a few weeks ago, with Fiers taking the loss despite giving up only one earned run. But, Cueto hasn’t been very sharp his past two outings, despite recording wins in both. One of them was against the Rockies at Coors Field, which is understandable with the way the ball has been flying out of there this year, but the other was against the Padres, a team you expect an ace to dominate. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Brewers knock him around a bit.

Despite all the praise I’ve been giving Fiers lately, this is actually his final test to see if he’s a real Major League pitcher. The Reds are the first team Fiers will have faced multiple times. A lot of times with rookie pitchers, they might get away with an outing against a team that hasn’t seen him before, which brings the luck factor into this. I hope that isn’t the case with Fiers (and I doubt it is), but we’ll find out tonight.

The News

> The Rays designated Brooks Conrad for assignment today. Do I even need to go there, though?

> Earlier today, I was reading an article by Richard Justice on the Roy Oswalt situation with the Rangers, and I honestly couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I read it. Not because it was funny, but because it’s the type of writing I love to read, and on rare occasion do any professional writers do it anymore.

First, though, let me brief you if you’re unaware. Oswalt signed a mid-season contract with the Rangers a few months back, a move that was anticipated by many. But, the deal never really panned out, as Oswalt struggled to a 6.49 ERA in the Rangers’ rotation (despite posting a 3-2 record). So, the Rangers went out and acquired Ryan Dempster, and Oswalt was moved to the bullpen. Simple as that.

Or not. Oswalt had been pitching solidly out of the Rangers’ ‘pen the past few weeks, but the other night that may have come to a halt. After Oswalt had thrown two innings of relief, Rangers manager Ron Washington asked him to go back out for a third inning. But, Oswalt told him he’d had enough. That’s where the dilemma starts.

Oswalt had made it clear to the Rangers, though he may not have said it publicly, that he wanted to start. In other words, he was putting himself in front of his teammates, something that doesn’t go on in the Rangers’ clubhouse (or any contending team’s clubhouse, for that matter). So Washington took Oswalt’s gesture the other night as him declining to pitch because he wasn’t starting.

I’ll admit I’ve never been a fan of Oswalt’s attitude, even going back to his days with the Astros. The talent was definitely there in the early and mid-2000’s, so you could ignore it. But now, Oswalt is well past his prime, but still has that same attitude. That will drive people in the wrong direction regarding Oswalt. So if he doesn’t get his crap together and accept his role, he may not be on a Major League roster much longer.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because I recall Brewers fans suggesting they sign Oswalt. While that may have looked good at the time, I’m considering it a bullet dodged at this point.

The Numbers Game

Basically everyone had a good night in the Brewers lineup last night, so here are the highlights.

> Martin Maldonado went 3-for-4 with three RBIs. He knocked two doubles and a home run, bringing his average up to .286. Needless to say he’s showing that he doesn’t want to become dead weight now that Jonathan Lucroy is back.

> Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart each went 2-for-4 with home runs last night. They seem to be always be hot at about the same time.

> Despite the power display, though, three hitters in the Brewers lineup went 0-for-4: Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, and Jean Segura. Gomez had been hot for awhile, so I don’t expect him to keep up that pace for the rest of the season. It was Segura’s Brewers debut, so the nerves probably got to him. But keep in mind it wasn’t too long ago that Braun’s average was up in the .320 range.

> And that’s about it. I’m going to miss most of tonight’s game because I’m going to a concert, so I’ll try and get up the postgame when I get home (should be somewhere around midnight). Anyway, I leave you with the probable lineup for tonight:

  1. Norichika Aoki RF
  2. Nyjer Morgan CF
  3. Ryan Braun LF
  4. Aramis Ramirez 3B
  5. Corey Hart 1B
  6. Rickie Weeks 2B
  7. Jonathan Lucroy C
  8. Jean Segura SS
  9. Mike Fiers P

Brewers drop series on south side

June 25, 2012

> I usually take pride in the fact that I know most of the players in the MLB. Whether or not they’re All-Stars or no-names, I tend to to know most of them. So, when the Brewers lose on a walk-off hit from a player I’ve never even remotely heard of, it’s not a good sign.

> The Brewers fell to the White Sox today, 1-0, in ten innings. The bullpen as a whole has been terrible this year, and they’ve pretty much taken turns on who gets the loss. Today, it was Manny Parra, who gave up a walk-off single to a .190-hitting rookie named Eduardo Escobar. Who is he? Beats me. Nor do I care. But I do care about the fact that the Brewers basically don’t have a bullpen anymore.

On the bright side, the Brewers got another stellar starting pitching performance today, this one from Michael Fiers, who had the best start of his young career. He hurled 7 1/3 shutout innings while giving up five hits. He walked one and struck out seven, lowering his ERA to 2.70.

Marco Estrada is returning this week, but, with Shaun Marcum likely to be on the disabled list for the next two weeks, Fiers will still get a chance to make his mark in Milwaukee. I was doubtful for a while, but, if Fiers pitches better than Estrada while Marcum is on the DL, I’d love to see him stay in the rotation rather than Estrada.

Meanwhile, the Sox got another great start from Jose Quintana, who has come out of nowhere and put up unbelievable numbers. His ERA is 1.25 since his call-up last month, and this was his second straight start of eight innings and no runs. He shut down the Cardinals his last time out, so I guess I’m not going to get too worried that the Brewers couldn’t get much going against him.

> I’ve just about had it with Nyjer Morgan. His acts and things were funny and entertaining last year, but now I’m realizing that was just because he was performing on the field to back it up. After the Brewers acquired him in March of 2011, he went on to hit .304 and was a huge part of the Brewers’ NLCS run.

But now he just looks like an idiot, and his performance on the field is making sure of it. Today, in the ninth inning, the Brewers had two runners on, from singles by Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart, with one out. Morgan was pinch running for Ramirez and was on second. After Rickie Weeks struck out, George Kottaras was up to bat and had a 3-1 count. He swung and missed at the next pitch. For some reason, Morgan was “running” on the pitch, but was thrown out by a mile by White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski for the third out. It was obvious Morgan thought there was a 3-2 count. But, upon watching the replay, Morgan was barely even running. It looked like he was taking a walking lead from second, but, instead of running back to second on Pierzynski’s throw, he kept running to third and was an easy out. That’s stupid enough, but Morgan had to make it worse in a postgame interview, saying that “mistakes are part of his game.”

Designate him for assignment. Now.

> He can follow Brooks Conrad out of town. Speak of the .075 hitter, he’s hitting .500 with the Rays. He had a double yesterday, then a pair of two-run doubles today. So, in two days with his new team, he doubled the production he put up in nearly three months with the Brewers.

Have fun with your new team, Brooks. We won’t miss you.

> Today, Rowan Kavner wrote an articleabout Cody Ransom’s versatility in the field. But what he didn’t mention is the fact that Ransom has struck out 36 times in 87 plate appearances with the Brewers, and 57 in 126 all year. That’s a worse strikeout rate than Weeks.

> I could go on writing about the flaws of this team, but I’d be here all night. So let’s just preview the upcoming Brewers-Reds series, which is going to be the defining series of the year for the Brewers, any way you look at it.

The Reds are currently 39-32, good for first place in the National League Central. They were on a tear that included a six-game winning streak just last week, but have cooled off since. They’re 6.5 games ahead of the Brewers in the standings, meaning if the Brewers somehow came through to sweep them, we’d be just 3.5 games back. However, if the Reds swept the Brewers, they’d be 9.5 games out, and the season would might as well be over. So the Brewers have to at least take two out of three in this series at all costs in order to stay in relative shouting distance to the rest of the division.

The series starts tomorrow at the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park. The last time the Brewers visited there, in September of 2011, they swept the Reds in three games. Here are what the pitching matchups look like:

Yovani Gallardo (6-5, 4.22 ERA) vs. Mat Latos (5-2, 5.20 ERA)

Marco Estrada (0-3, 4.50 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (3-5, 4.19 ERA)

Zack Greinke (8-2, 2.81 ERA) vs. ???