Axford blows the season

September 27, 2012

POSTGAME

> Just when we thought John Axford was attempting to earn our trust back, he goes out and does this.

He turned a very pivotal game for the Brewers into a 2-1 loss to the Reds. With a 1-0 lead going into the ninth, Axford seemed to be cruising through the ninth after striking Zack Cozart and Joey Votto. But then the wheels abruptly fell off- Todd Frazier game-tying homer, Jay Bruce single, Dioner Navarro walk-off triple. Game over.

Season over.

MY TAKE

> Yes, you could argue that the Brewers should have scored more runs. But, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting more than one or two runs against Mat Latos. He’s quietly been one of the best pitchers in baseball during the second half; not to mention he’s dominated the Brewers this season.

THE NEWS

> Since I missed the whole game today, I was confused while looking through the box score as to why Wily Peralta only went 5 1/3 innings, despite having just 71 pitches. Turns out he left with tight biceps, and it was Aramis Ramirez who signaled to the dugout that something was wrong.

But Peralta was twirling a gem. He’d given up just two hits up until his departure, and also had a career-high six strikeouts.

>The Cardinals have an off-day today, so it’s already official that the Brewers are four games back.

> The Astros named Bo Porter their new manager. The first team he’ll face as their manager is the Brewers.

THE NUMBERS

> Norichika Aoki has more extra base-hits (18) in September than Miguel Cabrera (15).

> Ryan Braun went 2-for-4, raising his average to .319. But it’s doubtful he’ll catch Buster Posey (.333). That batting average could be the decisive factor on who takes home the NL MVP this year, even though most of the rest of Braun’s stats are relatively better than Posey’s.

> Axford extended his Major League-leading blown save total to nine.

> The probables for the upcoming series against the Astros (and the start of where the schedule flips over):

Edgar Gonzalez (2-1, 3.94 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (16-8. 3.59 ERA)

Dallas Keuchel (3-7, 3.66 ERA) vs. Marco Estrada (4-7, 3.87 ERA)

Jordan Lyles (4-12, 5.44 ERA) vs. Mike Fiers (9-9, 3.55 ERA)

THE EXTRAS

> The Marlins are giving Adam Greenberg another chance at a big league at-bat. If you don’t know Greenberg’s story, click here. Pretty cool, if you ask me.

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Brewers lay down the hammer

September 27, 2012

POSTGAME

> I’ll honestly say I wasn’t expecting this. After the way the Brewers played last night, I thought they were going to get owned by Bronson Arroyo, who usually has his way with us. But it was the complete opposite: the Brewers blew out the Reds, 8-1.

After Joey Votto put the Brewers in an early hole with an RBI double, the Brewers put up a huge two-out rally against Arroyo in the third, starting with a Norichika Aoki homer. Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart also had RBI singles that inning. The Brewers scattered a few more runs through the rest of the game, including homers from Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy.

MY TAKE

> I’m starting to notice a trend here. Adam McCalvy wrote today that the Brewers’ offense has been better without Prince Fielder. Doesn’t make any sense, right?

But it’s actually become a theme now. The Brewers have played much, much better since trading away Zack Greinke. The Brewers played worse in 2008 after acquiring CC Sabathia (but you can’t argue with his numbers; obviously not his fault). As tough as it is to part with these star players, it’s hard to argue with the results following their departures.

THE NEWS

> Mike Fiers and Wily Peralta were scheduled for one and two more starts respectively, but Ron Roenicke said those plans are subject to change.

THE NUMBERS

> Shaun Marcum had his best start since coming off the disabled list, going six innings while giving up a run and striking out seven.

> Aoki has the most extra-base hits (18) in baseball so far in September.

> Aoki’s 36 doubles are the most ever by a Brewers rookie.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Wily Peralta (2-1, 3.04 ERA) vs. Mat Latos (13-4, 3.60 ERA)

> By the way, sorry for the brief articles lately. Schoolwork has really piled on much earlier than I expected, so that’s obviously my priority.


Zimmerman(n) kills the Brewers

September 25, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers did split this series, which is better than nothing against a team like the Nationals. But, considering the circumstances, they needed to do better; and it doesn’t help that both games they lost were complete blowouts. They were crushed today, 12-2. Marco Estrada proved he, for some reason, can’t pitch during noon games, and hammered for seven runs (six earned) in four innings against his former team.

They Nats used both of their Z’s to kill the Brewers, with Jordan Zimmermann tossing 6 2/3 strong innings and Ryan Zimmerman hitting a three-run blast off Estrada.

The Brewers only managed two runs, one coming on a Corey Hart homer.

MY TAKE

> Estrada had been able to avoid the big inning his last few starts, thus being able to go 4-1 with a 1.23 ERA in his six starts prior to this. But it came back to haunt him today. After getting two outs in the fourth, he allowed five consecutive baserunners, and that doomed the Brewers for the rest of the day.

THE NEWS

> The Cardinals took down the Astros, 6-1. The Brewers are now 3.5 games back with nine to go. It’s going to take a miracle- and probably a Cardinals collapse- to make it at this point.

THE NUMBERS

> Aramis Ramirez hit his 50th double of the season.

> Norichika Aoki has no hits in his last nine at-bats.

> The probables for the upcoming Reds series:

Mike Fiers (9-8, 3.38 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (18-9, 2.84 ERA)

Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.86 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (12-8, 3.63 ERA)

Wily Peralta (2-1, 3.04 ERA) vs. Mat Latos (13-4, 3.60 ERA)


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. ???


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)

 


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)


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. ???