Estrada picks up first win of ’12

August 22, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers once again handled the Cubs today, taking them down 5-2. Marco Estrada finally got his first win of the season that he probably should have had a few months ago, but it took this long for the bullpen to hold serve for him.

The Brewers’ first run came in the fourth on a bases-loaded infield single from Corey Hart. It was the first hit of the night given up by Cubs starter Chris Rusin, who was making his big league debut.

That was all the Brewers got that inning, but they received a gift run in the sixth on a bases-loaded wild pitch by Alberto Cabrera. The pitch after that, Jonathan Lucroy smacked a two-RBI double to extend the Brewers lead. The Brewers also got a run in the eighth on Carlos Gomez’s RBI single.

The Brewers carried a 5-0 lead into the ninth inning, but, naturally, the game had to end on a shaky note. Manny Parra could only record one out and allowed two baserunners, so Ron Roenicke went to Jim Henderson. He recorded the second out, but Roenicke decided to give the easy save opportunity to John Axford, who came in and converted the one-out opportunity.

WHAT’S UP WITH Z?

> Everyone remembers when the Angels made a splash at the Trade Deadline, acquiring Zack Greinke from the Brewers in the first blockbuster deal of this year’s deadline. The Brewers got Jean Segura in return, who would be part of their future plans, but the centerpiece was obviously Greinke, who everyone thought would make the Angels have the scariest rotation in baseball.

Not so much. Greinke has struggled mightily in his first five starts for the Angels, posting a 1-2 record with an ugly 6.19 ERA. When Greinke went to the Angels, his ERA on the season was 3.44, but, after allowing six runs in six innings to the Rays yesterday, his ERA has ballooned to 4.01.

Writers are tossing around many different reasons for Greinke’s struggles early in his Angels tenure, but I think there are two logical explanations.

The first is Greinke’s social anxiety disorder. He was spoiled that the first two teams he was with- the Brewers and Royals- were located in two of the smallest media market cities in baseball. But Los Angeles is a different story. At first glance, it might not look like it’s a pressure-packed place to play, given the struggles of the Angels and Dodgers in recent years. But, LA is considered the second-largest media market in baseball after New York, so you can bet the media hounds the players and managers there. Greinke could very well be succumbing to the pressure he’s never felt before. That makes you wonder why he didn’t stay and try to agree to an extension in Milwaukee, or even Kansas City. Greinke made it clear that he wanted to win, but probably not at the price of his anxiety acting up.

My second, and more likely, theory is that Greinke is off to another slow start with a new organization. Keep in mind Greinke was horrible during the first half of 2011 (his first year in Milwaukee), posting a 5.66 ERA prior to the All-Star break, but was one of the best pitchers in baseball during the second half. This could be happening to him again, but he doesn’t have an entire half to get adjusted this time.

I have a feeling that Greinke’s struggles are due to a little bit of both of these theories- for instance, the disorder could be what causes his slow start with new organizations.

But it’s definitely not all on Greinke; the Angels’ pitching staff as a whole has been atrocious in August. Coming into play tonight, they had a 6.76 ERA in August, by far their worst ERA of any month this years. And it’s mostly because of the starters. Along with Greinke’s struggles, C.J. Wilson hasn’t won since the All-Star break. After a great comeback year last year, Dan Haren is struggling with injuries and consistency again this year. Ervin Santana is having the worst year of his career. Heck, even Jered Weaver gave up nine earned runs the other day- to the Mariners. So something’s definitely wrong down in LA.

THE NEWS

> Shaun Marcum threw six innings and gave up one earned run in his final rehab start last night, so he should be set to make his first start since early June in the upcoming Pittsburgh series.

> Mike Fiers and Mark Rogers, the current targets of the Brewers’ innings-limit philosophy, will still make multiple starts before their limits come into play, according to Roenicke. But the Brewers will probably make up for that by limiting their pitch counts.

> MLB Trade Rumors confirmed that Hart has said he’d like to stay with the Brewers after his current contract runs out.

THE NUMBERS

> Estrada and Rogers each received their first win of the season on back-to-back nights. Estrada was stellar tonight, going six innings while striking out nine.

> Kameron Loe looked flat-out nasty tonight, tossing a scoreless inning with two K’s. He’s on one of the rolls where his sinker is just untouchable.

> Rusin had a strange debut. He retired the Brewers nine-up, nine-down in his first run-through of the lineup. He wound up giving up just one hit in five innings, but still took the loss because walks and hit-by-pitches came around to score.

> Speaking of HBPs, the Brewers were hit three more times tonight, including Norichika Aoki getting hit twice. As always, they lead the Majors in HBPs by a landslide. But, they’re last in the league in hitting batters. Shows what kind of manager we have.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Travis Wood (4-9, 4.83 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (12-8, 3.67 ERA)

Wood dominated the Brewers during his Reds tenure, but has been a different pitcher since. In Gallardo’s last start against the Cubs, he went six innings while striking out 10, but also gave up five earnies.

THE EXTRAS

> You’ll be seeing this Segura play all night.

> Reds prospect Billy Hamilton stole his 147th bag of the year. I’m still confused too.

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Brewers ride big fifth to sail past Cubs

August 21, 2012

POSTGAME

> The bats were alive and well in the Brewers’ 9-5 win over the Cubs. The night was highlighted by Jonathan Lucroy’s two bombs and Mark Rogers finally picking up his first career win.

Rogers was shaky early, giving up runs in each of the first two innings. He left the game after the fifth (at 90 pitches) losing 3-1, but his squad backed him up with an eight-run rally to give him his first win easily. The second of Lucroy’s home runs came during that rally, as did a Carlos Gomez homer.

INNINGS LIMITS STARTING TO TAKE EFFECT

> Rumors were circling prior to the game that this could be Rogers’ final start of the season before being shut down due to an innings limit. It was revealed this past week that the Brewers had put innings limits on a few pitchers, the rookies Rogers and Mike Fiers being the most notable ones.

For a while it sounded like the Brewers were just going to switch to a six-man rotation when Shaun Marcum returned, which would, in the long run, hold down every starter’s innings. But both Ron Roenicke and Doug Melvin sounded pretty confident that this would be one of Rogers’ final starts, and he’d only get one or two more on the year.

It also sounds like they’re going to shut Rogers down completely, when it would be easier to keep his arm loose- yet still control his innings- by moving him to middle relief. I’ve never understood shutting down pitchers for the year and not letting them throw another pitch until Spring Training of the next year. (Yes, I know Jordan Zimmermann, shut down by the Nationals at the end of last year, is currently leading the Majors in ERA. But that doesn’t change my stance on this.)

While I’m not in favor of pitch counts or innings limits, however, the Brewers have said that they may give other pitchers opportunities to start in September when rosters expand. Names thrown out there to start in September were prospects Tyler Thornburg and Wily Peralta, who could take the two rotation spots of Rogers and Fiers, if they’re both shut down. Since Thornburg and Peralta could also be vying for rotation spots in ST of next year, that might not be a bad idea.

THE NEWS

> Zack Greinke has been struggling with the Angels since the blockbuster Trade Deadline deal that sent him there, as he’s 1-2 with a 6.19 ERA in five starts with them (just one of them is a quality start). But, today, Roenicke weighed in.

“You take a guy like him, and he’s real structured in everything he does. He got real comfortable here with how things were going, and now you put him with a whole new coaching staff, a whole new team and that’s not easy to do. It’s not easy to just be yourself and go through the same routine you usually do when your surroundings are so different. I still think he’s going to have some good starts for them. I think that last month, he’s going to do well.”

If you haven’t been paying attention, the Angels have fallen to just two games over .500, and have the second-worst record in the Majors since the deadline.

> Roger Clemens could be making a comeback, after working out for a team in an independent league. The Astros, one of his former teams, reportedly had a scout there.

I know Clemens could be a roider (despite the fact he won all his court cases), but there’s always been something about him that’s made me respect him. It’d be cool to see him come all the way back.

THE NUMBERS

> Norichika Aoki went 3-for-4. He’s quietly becoming a very streaky hitter.

> Rogers’ first win comes after the bullpen blew three games he had a chance to win.

> This was Lucroy’s second multi-homer game of the year.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Chris Rusin vs. Marco Estrada (0-5, 4.52 ERA)

Estrada is still looking for his first win of the season. Rusin, meanwhile, is making his big league debut.

THE EXTRAS

> The baseball reality show “The Franchise” decided to cancel the show early this year. It debuted last year and followed the 2010 World Champions, the Giants. This year they decided to follow the Marlins, but they’re sulking in last place of the National League East, hence the reason the show has been cut short.