Maldonado once again provides late-inning power

June 16, 2012

> When Jonathan Lucroy returns from the disabled list, the Brewers are going to find themselves with three catchers on their 25-man roster. While that is a nice luxury to have, it sacrifices a roster spot that a reliever would probably fill. So that means one of those catchers will probably sent down or traded, but the former is more likely. And George Kottaras may find himself the odd man out this time around.

> After a streak of very embarrassing losses (as if I didn’t emphasize that enough the last few days) in Kansas City, the Brewers finally got back in the win column, taking down the Twins, 5-3. Martin Maldonado once again came through in a big spot late in the game, and here’s an interesting stat: the last three games the Brewers have won (the first and third games of the Padres series, and today) have been because of a go-ahead home run by Maldonado in the fifth inning or later. Now that’s clutch. And it was exactly what the Brewers needed; a close win. John Axford recorded the save after being given a two-run cushion, so hopefully he’s getting back on track after a rough series in KC.

The Brewers got off to another dismal start. Struggling Twins starter Francisco Liriano didn’t give up a hit through the first five innings. Sound familiar? Yep, Luis Mendoza, who typically pitches out of the bullpen for the Royals, no-hit the Brewers through the first six innings on Tuesday. My first thoughts, and I’m sure many other people’s as well, were that it doesn’t matter who the Brewers are facing. They can’t hit anybody right now.

Yovani Gallardo managed to compete with Liriano through the first four innings, giving up just one hit up to that point. But the Twins broke through in the fifth on Trevor Plouffe’s solo shot. Then, after giving up back-to-back singles, Gallardo gave up another run on Alexi Casilla’s RBI single. A few batters later, Gallardo got out of the inning relatively unscathed on a Josh Willingham flyout that just missed being a grand slam (Josh Willingham grand slams and the Brewers don’t have a good history).

The way the Brewers have been hitting recently, I thought a 2-0 hole meant the game was over. But they proved me wrong. Liriano started the sixth by walking Edwin Maysonet, then, a batter later, also walked Carlos Gomez. This brought up Ryan Braun, who struck had struck out on three pitches his last time up. But this at-bat was a different story. After chasing a couple pitches to get down 0-2, Braun hammered a hanging slider over the center field wall (which is quite the feat at Target Field). Next thing you know, the Brewers have three runs, but only one hit.

Unfortunately, Gallardo gave up another home run to the hot-hitting Plouffe in the next inning to tie it up 3-3. That was his last inning, and it was a solid start. He finished with six innings while giving up three runs eight hits. He walked two and struck out seven. But Gallardo featured something we haven’t seen out of him in what feels like years- a change-up. It looked like a circle change; pretty much the same velocity as his slider, but breaking the opposite direction.

Anyway, the game remain tied until the ninth. I thought for sure we were in for another extra-inning game and/or embarrassing walk-off loss, but that wasn’t the case today. With Corey Hart on second and two outs in the ninth, Maldonado hit a go-ahead, two run blast off Matt Capps to give the Brewers their 5-3 lead, and eventual win.

> If you saw my post last night, I ranted about how I thought the Brewers’ season was over. I knew I would come to regret that eventually, since it isn’t true- yet. The Brewers record now stands at 29-35, which is fourth in the National League Central. They’re 7.5 games behind the first place Reds, who are red-hot right now, and 3.5 games behind the Pirates and Cardinals, tied for second. The Cards have quietly struggled lately, and they’re just one game over .500 now after their fast start. The Pirates, somehow, have found themselves in the thick of things at the same time they did last year, but I have a feeling they’ll fade off again.

That’s not to say the Brewers are going to magically pass these teams; they’ll need to work for it if they want to get back in this. My only conclusion is they’ll need to pull a long winning streak out of nowhere. The Brewers have struggled to string together wins this year, but have had no issues stringing together losses, hence their record. If they can somehow get back in contention with all the injuries they’ve been dealt, it’ll be some story. The starting pitching is there. The bullpen isn’t yet, but it may be on its way back. The offense isn’t even close, unless the middle of the lineup- rather, the whole lineup, other than Maldonado- gets it going quickly. This is the time the Brewers have to make a run, before it’s too late.

> Minor League starting prospect Cody Scarpetta had Tommy John surgery last month (it was just announced today). He hadn’t gotten to pitch much this year before going down, but the Brewers are still high on him as a future starter in the Majors.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will play the second game of this series tomorrow at 1:10 PM CT, sending Michael Fiers (1-2, 4.50 ERA) to the mound. I would say this is Fiers’ last chance to prove he belongs in the Majors, but it sounds like Ron Roenicke is confident that Marco Estrada will move back into the rotation.

The Twins will counter with Liam Hendriks (0-2, 9.00 ERA), who was just recalled from Triple-A for this start.

> Anyway, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.

> Box Score

(Coming later)


Season ends in KC

June 15, 2012

> Last night, the title of my article was “Taking ‘Embarrassment’ to a whole new level.” My apologies for not seeing this coming, because THIS is embarrassment. Our season might as well be over.

> And it sure feels like it. The Brewers’ season may have very well have ended tonight in their 4-3 loss to the Royals. They blew it in the ninth for the second consecutive night, but I’m having a tough time blaming it all on John Axford tonight.The defense did plenty of things behind him to make sure that he, once again, couldn’t get it done.

Just like last night, the Brewers played eight great innings. Shaun Marcum turned in a stellar start, going 7 2/3 innings while giving up two runs on four hits. He walked two and struck out five. Francisco Rodriguez got the last out of the eighth to preserve his lead.

Once again, though, everything fell apart in the ninth inning. Axford struck out the first guy he faced, Mitch Maier, but Martin Maldonado couldn’t block it, and Maier reached first base. That, of course, wasn’t Axford’s fault, and neither was the next play. He induced a Mike Moustakas groundout, but first baseman Cody Ransom (why he was playing there is beyond me) bobbled the ball and could only get the out at first instead of getting the lead runner. Axford then came back to strike out Alcides Escobar, the man who got him last night, on the nastiest slider I’ve ever seen him throw. But, he followed that up with a walk to the light-hitting Jarrod Dyson, which was a no-no. Axford then gave up what should have just been a game-tying hit to Brayan Pena, but the Brewers’ great defense made sure that wasn’t the case. Left fielder Norichika Aoki fielded the ball fine, and threw it back second baseman Rickie Weeks just fine. But Weeks dropped the ball, and by this point Dyson was at third. He decided to test Weeks and try for home, which was a great choice, since we all know Weeks can’t throw home. So, what does he do?

Throws it past Maldonado, and Dyson scores.

Good game, guys.

> I’m really starting to regret the Brewers signing Weeks to a long-term deal. Our four-year, $56 million man is hitting .164, and is a liability half the time defensively (especially on throws to home). Obviously, this season isn’t Weeks’ fault, but he’s part of the struggling cast.

> But this season keeps getting worse and worse and worse. Just when I think the Brewers have hit their low point, they do something that makes them look even worse. Which makes me wonder what they’re going to do tomorrow in Minnesota.

> I could go on and on about how terrible things are going, but the bottom line is everyone (except the starting pitchers) is to blame. I’m not going to blame injuries anymore. I’m done finding excuses for this team; they’ve dug themselves their own whole, and now it doesn’t appear they’ll be able to resurface.

That’s baseball sometimes though, unfortunately. We helpless fans can’t do anything about it.

> The Brewers start a three-game series against the Twins in Minnesota tomorrow. I predicted that the Brewers would sweep the Royals (which they could have done easily if not for all the late-inning bloops), but look where that got me. So I might as well say the Twins are going to sweep the Brewers. Anyway, here are the pitching match-ups for the series:

Yovani Gallardo (5-5, 4.21 ERA) vs. Francisco Liriano (1-7, 6.45 ERA)

Michael Fiers (1-2, 4.50 ERA) vs. ???

Zack Greinke (7-2, 2.96 ERA) vs. Nick Blackburn (3-4, 7.68 ERA)