Nearly astounding comeback falls short

September 10, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers had to have this game, and, after an amazing late comeback, it looked like they were going to get it. But, they couldn’t bring the momentum into extra innings, losing to the Cardinals 5-4 in 10 innings.

The Cards jumped on Shaun Marcum right away in the first inning, with home runs from Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran within a span of three batters. Matt Carpenter gave the Cards another in the second inning on an RBI double, and memories of the Brewers’ last NLCS game in 2011 were brought back. The only two Brewers runs came on a wild pitch that allowed a run to score in the second inning and a Jean Segura RBI single in the fourth.

Fast forward to the ninth inning. The Cardinals brought in their flamethrower, Jason Motte, whom the Brewers haven’t been able to touch since he was put into the Cards’ closer role. But today was a different story. Two batters after a Segura double, Norichika Aoki hit a game-tying homer on a 99 MPH fastball from Motte.

After that, I thought the Brewers were going to win for sure; everything’s been going our way lately. But not today- Kameron Loe gave up the walk-off single to Allen Craig in the 10th inning, and that was that.

MY TAKE

> Two out of three in St. Louis is usually good for the Brewers, but they desperately needed the sweep today. The Brewers don’t have any more head-to-head match-ups against the Cards for the rest of the year, and the schedules don’t exactly go in the Brewers’ favor either. The Cardinals get to play 12 of their last 22 games against the Padres, Pirates, and Astros, while the Brewers still have series against the Braves, Nationals, and Reds left.

So I’d love to see the Brewers do what the Cards did down the stretch last year, but I’m not going to get my hopes up.

THE NEWS

> Ryan Braun and Corey Hart each had to leave the game early today. Braun has a wrist problem that’s been lingering the entire season, and Hart had a mild sprained ankle. Neither are considered very serious.

Logan Schafer took over for Braun in left field, and Travis Ishikawa came in to play first base.

> The Brewers claimed Miguel De Los Santos off waivers from the Rangers. They had released him on Friday.

De Los Santos, a left-hander, put up a confusing 5.22 ERA for the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate this season. The reason I say confusing is because Baseball America thought De Los Santos had the best change-up in the Rangers’ organization prior to the season.

The Brewers now have two De Los Santos’ down on the farm, having acquired Fautino De Los Santos from the Athletics in exchange for George Kottaras back in early August.

> Mark Rogers said he isn’t ready to be shut down. Neither am I.

> Today is the 20th anniversary of Robin Yount’s 3000th career hit.

> Zack Greinke got the win for the Angels tonight, going seven strong against the Tigers.

THE NUMBERS

> Brandon Kintzler threw two scoreless innings. But I find it strange that he doesn’t have a strikeout in the Majors yet this year, especially with the kind of stuff he has.

> Segura went a perfect 3-for-3. He’ll need to put together a good stretch here if he wants to prove he can be the everyday shortstop next year.

> The probables for the upcoming series against the Braves:

Mike Minor (8-10, 4.58 ERA) vs. Wily Peralta (1-0, 5.14 ERA)

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

Paul Maholm (12-9, 3.67 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (14-8, 3.76 ERA)


Brewers tally 15 in blowout

August 28, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers absolutely annihilated the Cubs tonight, demolishing their rivals 15-4. It was actually a rather close game through eight innings, but the Brewers put up a very crooked number- a nine-spot- in the ninth inning.

Basically everybody had a good day at the plate. Aramis Ramirez went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and Ryan Braun went 4-for-6 with five RBIs, those just being the highlights. But the biggest blow was to start the ninth inning, when Braun, Ramirez, and Corey Hart hit three consecutive home runs off Alex Hinshaw. And Braun’s home run went out of Wrigley Field.

Yeah, it was that kind of night.

THE PROBABLE BATCH OF SEPTEMBER CALL-UPS

> With September just around the corner, most teams are probably starting- or already have- looking over prospects to recall and take a look at. Last year, the Brewers were contending at this time, so they only called up four players who they thought would help them to the postseason- Taylor Green, Logan Schafer, Martin Maldonado, and Mike Fiers. Maldonado and Fiers are both having success on the Brewers roster right now, and that month of experience at the big league level could have helped them.

This year, the Brewers aren’t close to contending, and will probably call up a larger crop of players to let them audition for roster spots next year. Here are some players who we could see come up and get playing time in September:

Green, 3B: Green has already spent time with the club this year, but was optioned back to Triple-A in July after most of his playing time diminished. His .198 batting average at the big league level probably didn’t help much either. Green is hitting a sub-par .269 at Triple-A this year, but is hot over his past 10 games, with a .300 average and three home runs.

Green is blocked at basically every position he plays- third base (primary), second base, and first base- at least for the near future. If he were to win a shot at the Brewers’ roster in 2013, it would be a similar role that he played earlier this year (utility/bench player). But he’d have to prove he can still swing the bat even without full playing time.

Schafer, OF: The speedy outfielder is hitting .270 with nine home runs and nine triples for the Sounds this season. He had a decent Spring Training, but didn’t really have a chance at making the team because the Brewers had (and still have) five big league caliber outfielders. With Nyjer Morgan likely leaving for the free agent market next year, Schafer could make the team as the fifth outfielder, but that still might be a long shot.

Schafer got the call last year, and got one hit in three at-bats for the Brewers.

Caleb Gindl, OF: Gindl typically hits for average, but is having a bit of a down year this year with just a .263 average. He’s very likely to get called up, though, having won the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week last week after posting a monster .533 average. Gindl hasn’t seen any Major League time yet.

Brandon Kintzler, RP: I’m almost certain Kintzler will be a September call-up, and that would complete his journey back. Kintzler was a September call-up in 2010 and was rather ineffective then, but made the roster out of ST in 2011. He posted a 3.68 ERA in nine games in ’11 before going down for the year, and he’s been out ever since with a series of elbow and shoulder problems. Kintzler currently has a 3.23 ERA between Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A.

Personally, I see a bright future for Kintzler. His stuff tells me he could be a future setup man, which is exactly what the Brewers need right now.

Rob Wooten, RP: Wooten is probably a long shot, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him come up. He posted a stellar 1.74 ERA with eight saves in 17 games for the Stars, and is now playing for the Sounds, where he has a 3.88 ERA. I considered Jim Henderson (before his call-up) and Wooten the two best relievers in the Brewers organization this year.

Fautino De Los Santos, RP: The Brewers quietly acquired De Los Santos in the deal with the Athletics for George Kottaras, and he could be a talented arm. He posted a 4.32 ERA in 34 games for the A’s in 2011 and is an extreme strikeout pitcher. He also walks his fair share of batters, which draws him an alarming comparison to Jose Veras, but we just have to hope no one else can be that bad.

Tyler Thornburg, SP: Thornburg was up for awhile with the Brewers earlier this year, making two starts in July. He struggled with long ball, allowing seven homers at the big league level, more than he had allowed during the entire season in the Minors. But, if the Brewers do indeed shut down Mark Rogers and/or Fiers, Thorn could see a few starts in September, or at least work out of the bullpen.

Wily Peralta, SP: Already a leading candidate for the rotation next year, the Brewers have said that Peralta will more than likely make some September starts (more likely than Thornburg). Peralta has just one inning of big league experience, which came earlier this year against the Rockies.

My only concern about Peralta is that he can let his nerves get to him at times- at least in the past. In ST of 2011, the Brewers gave him a few starts, and he got rocked- and I mean rocked– each time. That’s probably behind him by now, but it’s something worth watching out for if he’s in the bigs this September.

If that is in fact behind him, though, watch out- he has some of the best stuff I’ve seen out of a Brewers prospect in quite some time (probably since Yovani Gallardo). His two best pitches are a high-90’s running fastball and a slider, which, not surprisingly, were the only two pitches he used in his debut (which was in relief). But he’ll be forced to at least bring out the change-up or curve if he’s starting.

Eric Farris, 2B: He has just one big league at-bat under his belt, but this kid has a ton of speed. Farris isn’t a power hitter, but does have a career .287 average, which tells me he’ll eventually become a good lead-off hitter/table setter.

Farris is blocked for the next few years by Rickie Weeks, whom the Brewers just have too much money invested into to give someone else a chance.

Scooter Gennett, 2B: Despite his small stature, Gennett has a ton of potential, probably more so than Farris. Like Farris, he has speed and hits for average, with a career .302 Minor League BA. He’ll probably eventually be the Brewers’ starting second baseman if Weeks continues to flail himself out of the job. But, like Farris, Gennett is at least blocked until Weeks’ four-year contract ends.

Obviously not all of these guys are going to be called up; the clubhouse would turn into a mad house. But I’d say the most likely to be called up of the players I listed are Green, Kintzler, and Peralta.

THE NEWS

> Ron Roenicke said it has yet to be decided on whether or not Carlos Gomez will be the starting center fielder next year.

“The at-bats, he’ll have a real good game, and then all of a sudden, the next day it will be just so-so. We’re wanting him to string together a lot of them.”

“Defensively, I know he dropped the one ball [in Tuesday’s loss to the Pirates], but we know he’s going to play good all the time. Baserunning, he’s really good stealing bases. But the offensive part is the part we’ve always wanted him to be more consistent, and that’s what we would still like to see, a little more consistency.”

“If you’re going to swing at that first pitch, you need to square it up a lot. Gomey can do those things, which is what excites you about what he could do if he gets consistent.”

“You can learn a lot after 26 years old. I don’t know what’s going to happen with him. We all like him. Regardless of whether he’s starting for us or platooning, we like him a lot.”

> Tim Dillard was optioned to Double-A. I hadn’t picked up on this, but Dillard had a 9.42 ERA since being sent back to Triple-A a few months ago. Sort of why he wasn’t on the prospect list.

THE NUMBERS

> 15 runs. 21 hits.

> Every Brewers starter- including Marco Estrada- had a hit tonight.

> The ninth inning lasted almost exactly 35 minutes. It took the Cubs 25 minutes to record an out.

> Every Cubs pitcher, except Alberto Cabrera, gave up a run tonight. Justin Germano, Michael Bowden, Manny Corpas, Hinshaw, and Lendy Castillo all got their heads blown off.

> Brewers pitchers have quite a streak going- seven consecutive games with 10 or more strikeouts. That’s the longest streak of its kind since 1900.

> Estrada notched his second win of the season tonight. Both have come against the Cubs.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Yovani Gallardo (13-8, 3.62 ERA) vs. Travis Wood (4-10, 4.76 ERA)

I sort of wasted most of this article on the September call-up piece, but I wanted to get that up at some point before the month ended. I would have saved it for another day had I known this game was going to happen, however.

THE EXTRAS

> The Cubs needed Joe Mather, an outfielder, to finish the ninth inning for them.

> Here’s a clip of Hinshaw’s reaction after he gave up the third consecutive home run. Possibly one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. (Special thanks to Jaymes Langrehr from Disciples of Uecker for creating it.)


Late-inning heroics from Gomez, Braun give Crew sweep

August 8, 2012

Postgame

> I don’t think any Brewers fan was expecting a sweep coming into this series, but that’s exactly what we got. The Brewers took down the Reds today, 3-2, in yet another low-scoring affair that was interesting until the final out.

I was glad the Brewers won the first two games, because Randy Wolf was going today, and my confidence in him has waned over his past few starts. But, I forgot he was 11-4 in his career against the Reds, and that sort of showed today. Wolf threw six solid innings while giving up two runs on six hits. He walked two and struck out seven.

But, he was being opposed by the red-hot Mat Latos today, who has been on fire ever since his 13-strikeout complete game against the Brewers back in June. After Dioner Navarro’s two-run shot in the third inning, it appeared that was all the support Latos was going to need. He went seven innings while giving up a run on just three hits. He walked one and struck out eight. The one run he gave up was a home run to another guy who has been on fire recently, Carlos Gomez. His homer cut the Reds’ lead in half in the sixth inning.

Going into the eighth inning, the Reds still held that 2-1 lead. Latos was at just 97 pitches and could have probably gone at least one more inning, but Dusty Baker went all Ron Roenicke on him and removed him in favor of the bullpen. (The only difference there is the Reds actually have a good bullpen.) Anyway, Baker opted to go to setup man Jonathan Broxton, who was acquired by the Reds at the deadline and has been dominant since. But, with the Brewers having faced the Royals in Interleague this year, they had already seen Broxton, which may have given them the advantage today.

Broxton started the inning fine, inducing fly-outs from Jean Segura and Jonathan Lucroy. But, Norichika Aoki got an infield single with two outs, and he was helped a bit by Broxton, who slowed it down and didn’t give third baseman Todd Frazier much of a chance at a play. After that, things just went downhill for the Reds. Aoki attempted to steal second base with Gomez batting, but the catcher Navarro fired it into center field, allowing Aoki to reach third. Gomez took advantage and hit a jam-shot RBI single to tie the game. After Gomez stole second, Ryan Braun hit a soft line drive into the left field gap, but Chris Heisey couldn’t make what would have been a highlight reel play, and it turned into a go-ahead double for Braun.

Jim Henderson came on for the ninth and recorded the save. Hopefully he has that job locked down at least for the time being.

Anyway, even though it may not look like much at the moment, I’m pumped that the Brewers swept the Reds. I’m particularly happy they jammed it down that obnoxious Reds fanbase’s throat. You can bet their excuse for losing this game was Braun being on steroids, even though it was a soft line drive. Those are the sort of fans I’ve ran into on Twitter lately, at least.

The News

> Manny Parra threw to live hitters for the first time since his injury. Parra never officially went on the disabled list, but has been sidelined for a few days with a shoulder impingement.

> George Kottaras hit a home run off Zack Greinke today. Wait, what?

> In the same inning Greinke gave up the home run to Kottaras, he walked five batters. All in one inning. That is not the Greinke we saw in Milwaukee through his year-and-a-half tenure, even when he struggled in the first half of 2011. Greinke’s overall ERA escalated to 3.74 today against the Athletics.

> I haven’t mentioned anything about Ben Sheets yet, but he’s having a heck of a comeback with the Braves. He’s 4-1 with a 1.41 ERA in five starts with them. The Brewers could certainly use that right now.

If he can stay healthy for once in his life, he could help the Braves go deep into the postseason.

> Here’s my latest article at Reviewing the Brew. It’s basically me talking about Henderson, his story, his stats, and so on. I also mention the always-popular Brewers closer curse.

The Numbers Game

> Henderson notched his second save in a row today, which is also the second save in his Major League career. He also lowered his ERA to 1.29.

> The two other relievers who threw today, Jose Veras and John Axford, didn’t do bad either. Both had scoreless innings. But do I trust either of them yet? No way.

> Segura notched his first Major League hit today, a fifth-inning single off Latos. With that out of the way, let’s see if he can become a productive force in the Brewers’ lineup.

> The Brewers’ comeback win today was just the second time in 2012 that, after trailing going into the seventh inning, they came back and took the lead. That makes them 2-43 in those games. I suppose that stat explains what’s happened this season.

> Braun’s double in the eighth snapped an 0-for-18 slump prior to that. His last hit had come on August 1st against the Astros. That slump dropped his season average to .304. Keep in mind Braun has only hit below .300 only once in his career.

> Speaking of the Astros, that’s who the Brewers play next after an off-day tomorrow. The Brewers then play the Rockies after that. So don’t look now, but they could start a long winning streak.

Anyway, I leave you with the probables for the Astros series in Houston. Apparently it’s become so bad for them that they don’t even know who’s starting until the day of.

Mark Rogers (0-1, 5.91 ERA) vs. ???

Marco Estrada (0-5, 4.13 ERA) vs. ???

Yovani Gallardo (10-8, 3.79 ERA) vs. ???


Nothing doing against Zimmermann as Brewers fall

July 29, 2012

> Well, nothing new here. The Brewers lost to the Nationals today, 4-1, a game in which offense was once again hard to come by for the Crew. They might have had an excuse today, but this is still annoying to watch day after day.

Randy Wolf didn’t pitch particularly bad, but it was the long ball that did him in. He went seven innings while giving up four runs on nine hits. He walked one and struck out six. But, all of the runs Wolf gave up came on home runs, something we’ve become accustomed to seeing.

Jordan Zimmermann, on the other hand, was dominant, as he’s been all season, so there’s nothing new there either. He went six innings while giving up a run on five hits. He walked one and struck out six, lowering his ERA to 2.28. I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of Zimmermann- he seems to be forgotten in D.C., probably due to Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, despite his great numbers. He’s the most consistent pitcher on that staff, and there’s no argument about it.

After Wolf went through the Nats’ lineup without giving up a hit the first time through, the Nationals struck quickly. Corey Brown got his first career hit in the fourth inning, an opposite field solo shot. Later in the inning, Tyler Moore hit a two-run homer to extend the lead to 3-0. The Brewers did answer in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Rickie Weeks, and it looked like they were in for a big inning. But, the .205-hitting Cody Ransom got them out of the inning with a double play. The Nats tacked on one more in the fifth on Ryan Zimmerman’s solo home run.

> If there was one good thing about today’s game, it was that the bullpen didn’t implode like it’s prone to doing. Jim Henderson threw a scoreless inning with two strikeouts, and his high-90’s fastball/dirty slider combo makes him look very promising. Kameron Loe threw a scoreless ninth.

> The Brewers made another trade today, sending George Kottaras to the Athletics. The trade is still pending, but appears likely to happen. Kottaras was designated for assignment two days ago with the return of Jonathan Lucroy. You can read my more detailed story on this at Reviewing the Brew here.

> On another catching note, the Brewers signed former Astro Humberto Quintero to a Minor League deal today. Quintero was traded from the Astros to the Royals this past offseason, but was released before the All-Star break after hitting .232 in 43 games with them. He’ll go to Triple-A Nashville and give the Brewers some catching depth in the system with Kottaras likely gone.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will go for a series split tomorrow, sending Mark Rogers to the mound. He’s making his season debut, and his first Major League appearance since late 2010. He made four appearances (three starts, one relief appearance) that season: a relief appearance against the Cubs, a start against the Marlins, and two starts against the Reds. And I have to admit he didn’t look too bad then. Rogers is just 6-6 with a 4.74 ERA at Triple-A this year, but is pitching better lately.

The Nats will counter with Gio Gonzalez (13-5, 3.13 ERA), another starter who has had success with them this year. But, since the start of June, he has an ERA over 4.00.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

 


Quick hits: Brewers roster moves and rumors

July 26, 2012

> Sorry for not getting anything up during the Phillies series. But honestly, I would have been writing the same thing every day: our bullpen is a pile of garbage that needs to be disposed of. The Brewers should have had a series sweep over the Phillies, but instead the bullpen turned it into a sweep in favor of the Phillies.

Needless to say, putting in a reliever at this point means an automatic loss (in what is already a lost season).

> Anyway, there have been rumors flowing everywhere last night and this morning, which I’ll get to in a minute. But before that, here are some significant roster moves the Brewers made:

Jim Henderson has finally been recalled from Triple-A, where he was having a career year. He was 4-1 with a 2.64 ERA out of the Sounds’ bullpen, and went his first 20 or so appearances of the year without giving up an earned run.

You would have thought with those numbers that Henderson would already be with the team, but apparently the Brewers were hesitant to call him up because of his inconsistent Minor League career. Henderson, 29, has been in the Minors for since 2003, the beginning of his professional career, and seemed to have one good year, one bad year, one good year, and so on throughout his career.

The corresponding move to make room for Henderson on the roster was Jeff Bianchi getting optioned back to Triple-A. He was hitting .300 in the Minors before his call-up over the All-Star break, but didn’t reach base in 12 at-bats for the Brewers.

And here’s the best move of them all: Jonathan Lucroy was reinstated from the disabled list today. He’s been gone since late May because of a freak injury (I really don’t want to explain what I think happened again), but was hitting .345 prior to it. Too bad he couldn’t have come back earlier while the Brewers were still on the verge of contention, but I guess it’s better late than never.

In a corresponding move, George Kottaras was designated for assignment. He got off to a hot start in April, but literally hasn’t done anything since.

Sorry, Randy.

> And now for the rumors. Doug Melvin has said that Zack Greinke will likely be gone before Tuesday. He had a stellar started in Philly the night before last, and there were an estimated 20 scouts watching him. You can bet they liked what they saw.

The most likely suitors for Greinke right now are the Angels, Rangers, and possibly White Sox. The Rangers seem most likely, since, according to the Brewer Nation (@BrewerNation), the Brewers were looking at shortstop Elvis Andrus’ contract this morning.

The Rangers also have the strongest farm system of those three. The only standout for the Angels is starter Garrett Richards, who already has Major League time, and the White Sox’s system is pretty depleted.

> That’s about it. We’ll see where the rumors go from here.

So if you haven’t already, say your farewells to the short-lived Brewers tenure of Zack Greinke.


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. ???


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)