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.

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Game of endurance goes in Brewers’ favor

September 8, 2012

POSTGAME

> Last night may have been the biggest win of the season for the Brewers up to this point. After a two and a half hour rain delay and a four and a half hour game, they came out on top against the Cardinals in 13 innings, 5-4.

Since Yovani Gallardo was getting the ball, I’m pretty sure all Brewer fans were bracing themselves for the worst. Yo is terrible against the Cards in his career, with a 1-9, 7.05 ERA mark against them going in. And he got off to a bad start, as the Cardinals jumped on him for two in the first inning on an RBI double from Matt Carpenter and a sacrifice fly from Allen Craig. After that, though, Gallardo held serve against the team he’s struggled so much against, going six innings while giving up just those two runs. He struck out six and walked none.

The first Brewers run didn’t come until the fourth inning on Taylor Green’s RBI groundout. Other than that, Kyle Lohse didn’t show many signs of breaking, until the seventh inning. He walked Martin Maldonado and gave up a single to Jeff Bianchi, which prompted Mike Matheny to remove Lohse in favor of Edward Mujica. Mujica gave up what looked like a routine line out from Travis Ishikawa, but right fielder Carlos Beltran misplayed it and let the ball get past him. Ishikawa was given an RBI double.

The Brewers then took the lead in the eighth. Carlos Gomez hit what would have been an infield single anyway, but shortstop Daniel Descalso threw the ball away, allowing Corey Hart to score from second base. After Gomez advanced to second on a stolen base, Maldonado came through with an RBI single to give the Brewers a 4-2 lead.

But this was far from over. Jim Henderson walked the lead-0ff man in the eighth, like he always seems to do. Then, after recording two outs, he gave up a game-tying home run to Yadier Molina.

The next run didn’t come until the 13th inning, when Braun dealt the Cards their finishing blow with a go-ahead solo shot off Lance Lynn. John Axford came on to nail down the save for a game that ended at 2:05 A.M. CT. Yes, you read that correctly.

[EM’s coverage]

THE NEWS

> Green got the start in place of Aramis Ramirez, who’s still out with an oblique strain/bad back.

But here’s Green’s side of the story. He drove from Nashville to his home in Vancouver (God knows why), only to get the call from the Brewers after he got there. Apparently he lives four hours from the airport, so he had to make that drive, then make the four and a half hour flight to St. Louis so he could be in the starting lineup. Tack on the rain delay and 13 inning game, and Green had himself quite a day.

> Ramirez hopes to return to the lineup for tonight’s game.

> MLB.com re-ranked their top 100 prospects and each team’s top 20 following the September call-ups. Here are the Brewers’ top 20:

1. Jean Segura, SS
2. Tyler Thornburg, SP

3. Taylor Jungmann, SP
4. Jed Bradley, SP
5. Wily Peralta, SP
6. Johnny Hellweg, SP
7. Scooter Gennett, 2B
8. Hunter Morris, 1B
9. Logan Schafer, OF
10. Jimmy Nelson, SP
11. Clint Coulter, C
12. Kentrail Davis, OF
13. Ariel Pena, SP
14. Drew Gagnon, SP
15. Victor Roache, OF
16. Caleb Gindl, OF
17. David Goforth, SP
18. Yadiel Rivera, SS
19. Khris Davis, OF
20. Jorge Lopez, SP/RP

THE NUMBERS

> Brandon Kintzler got his second big league win after pitching a scoreless 12th. His first win in the Majors also came in an extra inning game.

> Beltran’s average has fallen all the way to .261.

> Tonight’s match-up:

Mike Fiers (8-7, 3.11 ERA) vs. Jake Westbrook (13-10, 3.93 ERA)


Morgan, bullpen make sure Brewers get swept

August 6, 2012

> Getting swept by division opponents multiple times is no way to get back into a playoff race. But the Brewers appear to have yet to learn that, as they were shut out by the Cardinals today, 3-0. There are plenty of things we could criticize as to what went wrong today, but I’d just be explaining basically the same thing I’ve been saying all season.

Marco Estrada still couldn’t find his first win, despite putting up another quality start. He went six innings while giving up one run on seven hits. He walked one and struck out two. It was a very gutsy outing for Estrada, who, after giving up an RBI double Daniel Descalso in the second inning, was pretty much untouchable. He kept the Brewers in the game while he was in, but was foolishly removed (more on that later).

Anyway, the Cardinals added two more runs late, with Allen Craig hitting an RBI double in the seventh and a David Freese RBI single in the eighth.

(EM’s coverage)

***************************

> So here was what pretty much lost the game for the Brewers. The Cardinals removed starter Kyle Lohse after six scoreless innings, so you’d think the Brewers would be jumping for joy that he was out. And it looked like they were. Cody Ransom promptly led off the seventh with a single off Edward Mujica. Estrada’s spot in the batting order was next, so Ron Roenicke pinch-hit for him with Nyjer Morgan (who, as usual, was massively booed). Estrada is not a good hitting pitcher, so I can understand pinch-hitting for him in this situation. But, as I expected, Morgan was going to bunt anyway, which he did. And what did he do? He tried putting down the sacrifice, popped it up, and catcher Yadier Molina easily fielded it. Ransom, naturally running on the sacrifice attempt, was doubled off at first.

Which brings me to my point: if Morgan was going to bunt anyway, why not let Estrada lay it down instead? Morgan has proven that he’s extremely inconsistent at bunting. And, Estrada’s pitch count was at a manageable 84 through six innings, so he could have given at least one- if not two- more innings and save our horrible bullpen.

But, as we learned even in the great 2011 season, Roenicke likes pinch-hitting for players so that the pinch-hitter can bunt, when the original hitter could have done it himself, and Roenicke hates the idea of pitchers going deep into games. Even though our bullpen is the worst in baseball this year.

I don’t even want to attempt to explain what probably goes on in our manager’s mind.

> For the third straight regular season start, Lohse inexplicably dominated the Brewers. Going into 2011, Lohse was 3-10 with a 5.10 ERA in his career against the Brewers, and didn’t have a win against them as a Cardinal. But, in his last three regular season starts against the Crew, he’s 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA. (That excludes the postseason, when the Brewers beat him in Game 4 of the NLCS.)

> Shaun Marcum is closing in on his return to the starting rotation, as he threw a simulated game at Busch Stadium today.

But, to be honest with you, I’m not looking forward to his return anymore. The Brewers (and Marcum himself) have made it clear that they aren’t going to make a run at re-signing the crafty right-hander, so I don’t want to see him pitch at the end of the season and watch what could have had (but won’t) the next few years.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers return to Miller Park tomorrow to start a three-game series against the Reds. The Reds are a division opponent, so there’s a good chance of the Brewers getting swept by them (again). But we can at least hope that the Brewers win one or two in this series, right?

Anyway, here are the probables:

Bronson Arroyo (7-6, 3.87 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (9-8, 3.92 ERA)

Johnny Cueto (14-5, 2.52 ERA) vs. Mike Fiers (5-4, 1.88 ERA)

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


Rogers settles down too late as Brewers fall

August 5, 2012

> The Brewers just couldn’t get anything going today against the Cardinals, losing 6-1. Mark Rogers, who had a solid start in his season debut against the Nationals, served up five runs between the second and third innings, and that would be the Brewers’ downfall, with the way their offense was all night.

Rogers went just five innings while giving up five runs on seven hits. He walked one and struck out five. This is rather cliche, but, other than the third inning in which Rogers gave up four runs, he didn’t pitch all that badly. All seven hits he gave up came between the second and third innings, including six in the third. Carlos Beltran led off the second with a home run that was originally ruled a double, but it was reviewed and overruled to a home run. But it was nothing to argue about; the ball was clearly over the wall. That tied the game at 1-1, but Rogers allowed back-to-back doubles to start the third against the Cards’ eight and nine hitters, Daniel Descalso and pitcher Adam Wainwright. Two batters later, Allen Craig started a string of three straight singles, the others from Matt Holliday and Beltran. After Rogers struck out David Freese, he gave up an RBI single to Yadier Molina. That would be the last run of the inning, but by the end of all of that, the score was 5-1.

The only Brewers run came in the first inning. Carlos Gomez led off the game with a double, Nyjer Morgan moved him over with a groundout, and Ryan Braun drove him in with a sacrifice fly. But that’s been the story of the season for Wainwright: you have to jump on him early, because he’s nearly untouchable after the first inning, especially against a Brewers team he’s had success against. Wainwright went on to throw a complete game gem, allowing just that one run on five hits, along with no walks and seven strikeouts.

> If you didn’t already know, the Cardinals have been celebrating their 1982 World Series championship- which came over the Brewers- this weekend, with the big on-field ceremony coming prior to today’s game. The Cardinals wore their throwback uniforms from around that time, as did the Brewers.

But, as much as I love the powder blue retro road uniforms that the Brewers donned today, I have to question them agreeing to take part in the Cards’ celebration of them winning the ’82 Series. Again, keep in mind the Brewers lost that series, and is to this day their only World Series appearance. It’s almost like the Brewers commemorating the fact that they lost in the World Series.

I guess you could look at it two ways. It’s the Brewers’ only Series appearance in their history, and the ’82 team was arguably the best team the Brewers have ever fielded, so it could be worth celebrating. But, at the same time, I find it somewhat embarrassing that the Brewers would take part in a celebration of a series in which they lost.

But that makes it even more fitting that they lost today.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will try and save themselves the embarrassment of being swept in St. Louis tomorrow at 7:05 PM CT. They’ll send Marco Estrada (0-4, 4.34 ERA) to the mound, who is still in search of his first win. He’ll be opposed by Kyle Lohse (11-2, 2.91 ERA), who doesn’t have a good track record against the Brewers, but has been solid in his last two starts against them.

Anyway, thanks for reading.