The blowpen strikes back

August 30, 2012

POSTGAME

> The bullpen was in mid-season form today, managing to blow what was once a 9-3 lead and turned it into an 12-11 loss to the Cubs. And it’s too bad, because there were a lot of great storylines for the offense.

Shaun Marcum wasn’t himself today, and it showed early, as the Cubs got RBI hits from Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, and David DeJesus in the first two innings. But the Brewers stormed back against Cubs starter Brooks Raley, posting a five-run third inning that included a grand slam from Jonathan Lucroy. Ryan Braun hit a two-run homer the next inning.

The Brewers tacked on two more on a Lucroy single in the sixth, but the bullpen had another episode, allowing six runs. There were extra-base hits, bases-loaded walks, and basically everything you don’t want to see.

Cody Ransom promptly gave the Brewers the lead on a solo shot in the seventh, however. Lucroy tacked on another RBI in the eighth for a seven-RBI day.

With John Axford for some reason unavailable after pitching the last two games, Francisco Rodriguez was put in for the save. After striking out Joe Mather to start the inning, K-Rod gave up a double to DeJesus, walked Luis Valbuena, gave up an RBI single to Castro, an RBI double to Rizzo, then a walk-off single to Alfonso Soriano. Yep, went from good to bad pretty quickly.

MY TAKE

> Why K-Rod was used in the closer’s role today is beyond me. He had been pitching great in the eighth inning recently, having not given up a hit in his last eight appearances. So, instead of keeping K-Rod where he had been producing, Ron Roenicke used Jim Henderson in the eighth, where he threw a scoreless inning.

But I don’t get why Henderson isn’t the back-up closer (or just the regular closer). K-Rod has proven he’s not going to get better this year, and he’s definitely not coming back next year. So why bother using him there?

> I’ve been a Manny Parra-backer for pretty much his entire career, but what a pile of junk he’s turned into. After being removed from the starting rotation in late 2010 following a 3-10 record and an ERA over 5.30, he was put into the bullpen, where he threw well until the end of the season. He didn’t pitch at all in 2011 due to a series of back and elbow injuries, but was going to be relied on heavily as the one lefty in the ‘pen this year.

And he’s been terrible. He has a 4.62 ERA, and hasn’t been able to touch the strike zone half the time. That showed again today, as he walked two in a third of an inning while allowing some of Livan Hernandez’s runs to score.

But what gets me is that Parra came out earlier this year and, following a bullpen explosion similar to this one, that he “was having a good year, no matter what anyone else said,” and that the breakdown was a fluke.

Nope, it happens every other outing. Parra better be sent packing along with K-Rod at season’s end.

THE NEWS

> Roenicke said he wasn’t bothered by the lack of complete games. I love how he just keeps brushing off this stat nonchalantly, continuing to say that our bullpen should be able to pick up one or two innings.

Well guess what, Ron? The Brewers have no complete games, and the worst bullpen in baseball. Those two things do NOT add up. This is what people who continue saying this season isn’t RRR’s fault are failing to understand.

> The Brewers will unveil the new Bob Uecker statue at Miller Park tomorrow.

THE NUMBERS

> Lucroy hit his second grand slam of the year. It was also his second seven-RBI game of the year.

> Rickie Weeks went a perfect 5-for-5.

> Ransom went 3-for-4. I was hoping I’d be able to write here that he didn’t strike out for once, but the one time he was retired- in the ninth inning- was via the strikeout.

> Hernandez and Parra gave up a combined six earned runs in that disaster sixth inning.

> The match-ups for the upcoming Pirates series:

Jeff Karstens (5-3, 3.47 ERA) vs. Mark Rogers (2-1, 4.28 ERA)

Marco Estrada (2-5, 4.02 ERA) vs. A.J. Burnett (15-5, 3.67 ERA)

James McDonald (12-6, 3.57 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (14-8, 3.52 ERA)

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Brewers killed by Kendrick

August 20, 2012

POSTGAME

> With the lineup Ron Roenicke tossed out there today, it’s no surprise the Brewers couldn’t do anything offensively. They were shut out by the Phillies, 8-0, even though their weakest starter was on the mound. Kyle Kendrick threw eight scoreless against the for-some-reason depleted Brewers lineup, and seemed to do it pretty effortlessly.

Randy Wolf had another rough day at the office, serving up five runs on 10 hits over five innings. He walked two and struck out four. His two bad innings were the second inning, when he gave up a two-run homer to Michael Martinez, and the third, which featured a bases-clearing double from Dominic Brown.

THE FIRST BASE SITUATION: 2013 AND BEYOND

> Nobody can complain with the job Corey Hart has done at first base this year. After Mat Gamel went down for the season in a string of season-ending injuries, Hart came out of nowhere and became a near-elite first baseman, at least defensively. His bat in the lineup remains as inconsistent as ever, but he’s become one of the best defensive first baseman the Brewers have had in a long time.

Roenicke has found ways to ruin this at times, such as throwing Hart back in right field (where he’s become a sub-par defender) on occasion, or starting Travis Ishikawa at first, like he did today. If the Brewers were contending, I’m sure the media would be getting on Roenicke a lot more than it does for the matter, but we’re not, so Roenicke is safe on moves like that.

But, over the past week, I’ve been hearing that Hart might not be the permanent option at first base next year, or even after that. A while back, Roenicke said he wanted to keep Hart at first base next year, but now he’s backed off of that solution.

The one thorn in the Brewers’ side right now is actually Gamel. In my opinion, he’s run out of chances with the Crew, proving that he just can’t stay healthy. He’s a likeable guy, and I wish he still had opportunities with us, but, assuming the Brewers do the right thing, he probably won’t.

The “right thing” is keeping things the way they are now at first base and in the outfield. With Hart at first base, that gives the Brewers an everyday outfield of Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, and Norichika Aoki. Braun is obviously a lock, Gomez is showing signs that he might be turning into a consistent center fielder, and Aoki is far better defensively in right fielder than Hart.

But, I have a feeling the Brewers will opt to give Gamel another chance, which messes up everything I just explained. Gamel can supposedly play the corner outfield positions (although he never has in the Majors) and a little bit of third base, which at least gives him versatility. But, he’s blocked at all those positions, with Aramis Ramirez on a multi-year deal to play third. I would suggest Gamel go back to the Minors and try and become a second baseman or shortstop, but you can probably see the underlying problems with that: Jean Segura and Rickie Weeks are both locked up, and Gamel just doesn’t have the frame to be a middle infielder.

In other words, Gamel no longer has a place on a healthy Brewers team. If he agrees to become a bench/utility player, great. The Brewers will definitely need to revamp their bench for next season. But, Gamel will probably want a starting role. So, unless he decides to stay loyal to the team that brought him up and accept being a bench player, he could be facing an offseason trade, or even a release.

But, as I said, the Brewers will likely attempt to find a place for him, and that place is hopefully the bench.

Other than Gamel, Hart shouldn’t have any issues remaining at first base. Taylor Green could come back, but it would be as a back-up third baseman/utility guy. Brock Kjeldgaard was released from the organization a few weeks ago. Ishikawa is likely gone by next year. If the Brewers have any other first base prospects, they’re probably pretty far down in the system.

That leaves Hart as the starting first baseman for the long-term. People seem to forget that he’s already a free agent after 2013, but Hart himself has expressed interest in finishing his career with the Brewers, just as Braun did.

THE NEWS

> Aoki, Hart, and Ramirez were all out of the lineup on the same day. Some say Roenicke shouldn’t be blamed for our bad season. I still think otherwise, and today helps prove my point.

I don’t have an issue with giving a guy a day off every now and then, but why on earth would Roenicke take three of the biggest run producers out of the lineup on the same day? There’s no excuse for that. And yes, I know this is a “lost season,” but there’s no reason to throw away games, regardless of the situation.

> Edwin Maysonet, currently playing for Triple-A Nashville, went on the disabled list.

> Zack Greinke took another loss for the Angels today. His ERA since being traded to them now sits at an even 6.00.

> The Cubs agreed to a seven-year extension with Starlin Castro, although it may not become official for a week or so.

> The Astros replaced Brad Mills with Tony DeFrancesco as their interim manager.

THE NUMBERS

> Cody Ransom went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, making him 0-for-8 with six strikeouts in his two starts this series. But Roenicke needs to do everything he can to get the bat in the lineup somehow.

> Nyjer Morgan, Ishikawa, and Ransom went a combined 3-for-11.

> Probables for the Cubs series:

Justin Germano (2-2, 3.19 ERA) vs. Mark Rogers (0-1, 4.94 ERA)

Travis Wood (4-9, 4.83 ERA) vs. Marco Estrada (0-5, 4.52 ERA)

Jeff Samardzija (8-11, 4.17 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (12-8, 3.67 ERA)

Brooks Raley (1-2, 7.63 ERA) vs. Mike Fiers (6-6, 2.90 ERA)

 


Braun is officially back

August 18, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers took the series from the Phillies today, defeating them 6-2. The stars of the show tonight were Yovani Gallardo, who is showing he’s become quite the second-half pitcher, and Ryan Braun, officially out of his slump.

Gallardo dominated a pretty depleted Philly lineup, going seven inning while giving up a run on four hits. He walked two and struck out nine. He won his fourth consecutive start, bring his season record to 12-8.

Down 1-0 in the fourth, the Brewers posted a two-out explosion against Vance Worley. After Corey Hart hit a single and Martin Maldonado walked, Nyjer Morgan hit a triple that bounced off of right fielder Dominic Brown’s glove. That gave the Brewers the lead. Worley then opted to walk Jean Segura so he could get to Gallardo’s spot in the lineup, but Yo made him pay with a two-run single.

In the sixth inning, Braun hit his third home run- a two-run shot- over the past two games. Looks like the off-day and early batting practice is still paying off.

The Phillies’ last run came on a Kevin Frandsen RBI single in the ninth.

THE NEWS

> Shaun Marcum will make one more start for the Class A Timber Rattlers. He’ll throw 75 pitches, then hopefully return to the Brewers’ rotation, assuming all goes well.

> The Nationals designated Cesar Izturis for assignment today. That’s the second former Brewer shortstop DFA’d this week.

> The Cubs are working on an extension with Starlin Castro.

> Prince Fielder belted two home runs to give the Tigers the win over the O’s today. Looks like he’s starting to figure out Comerica Park.

THE NUMBERS

> Gallardo is now 3-0 with a 1.74 ERA against the Phillies in his career. I have a strong hatred towards the Phillies, so I love that.

> Aramis Ramirez went a dismal 0-f0r-5 with three strikeouts in today’s game.

> It’s worth noting that tomorrow’s starter for the Phils, Cole Hamels, is coming off two consecutive shutouts. Hamels also threw a complete game against the Brewers last year.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Cole Hamels (13-6, 2.91 ERA) vs. Mike Fiers (2.63 ERA)

> Sorry about tonight’s short article. I started late and don’t have much time on my hands. Everything here at BWI is kind of scattered right now (you can probably tell by the current setup of the site), but I’m hoping to get everything organized within the next few weeks.


Without Braun, Hart, Luc, Brewers take series

April 12, 2012

> I didn’t get to see much of today’s game because it started while I was still in school (one reason I hate day games). But, I turned on the game just in time to see the Brewers take the lead, in a way that could make this game one of the pivotal Brewers moments early this season.

The Brewers took down the Cubs again today, 2-1, and have taken this four-game series, regardless of what happens tomorrow (but of course we want it to be a win). The pitching on both sides was great, as both teams had their aces going: Yovani Gallardo for the Brewers and Ryan Dempster for the Cubs. Going into today, both had been great against the opposing team.

But it was Gallardo who out-dueled Dempster. He went seven innings while giving one run on five hits. He struck out six and walked two. This was a much-needed start for Gallardo, who got murdered by the Cardinals on Opening Day, and showed today that it was a fluke.

The Cubbies got on the board in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Starlin Castro. After that, though, Gallardo locked down and returned to the from we’re used to seeing from him. Dempster had held the Brewers scoreless and looked like he usually did against them; until the seventh inning, that is. After he gave up a double to Mat Gamel, George Kottaras hit a go-ahead two-run blast that made the score 2-1, and that would hold until the end of the game. Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford combined for six strikeouts- both striking out the side in their respective innings- to finish off the game.

> One thing I didn’t realize until after the game (because I didn’t get to watch the game from start to finish) was that Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, and Jonathan Lucroy were all held out of the starting lineup. Those are some of the best hitters in the Brewers’ lineup, so it’s pretty remarkable that the Brewers could still manage to beat a pitcher like Dempster. Although Braun and Hart both have awful career numbers against Dempster.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will go for a sweep of the Cubs tomorrow at 12:05 PM CT (so I’m probably going to miss the whole game). Zack Greinke (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will go for the Brewers, and he’s coming off a stellar start against the Cardinals in which he went seven scoreless innings. He’s 2-1 in his career against the Cubs, with a 3.20 ERA (two gems and one disaster start).

The Cubs will counter with Matt Garza (0-0, 3.00 ERA), who is starting his second year with them. He’s 2-1 with a 4.35 ERA in his career against the Crew.

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


Bullpen makes things interesting in ninth vs. Cubs

April 10, 2012

> Going into the ninth inning of today’s game, it didn’t appear that the Brewers would have any issues closing out this game. But, a few bullpen moves by Ron Roenicke made for a tight finish on the north side.

First off, though, the Brewers did defeat the Cubs, 7-5. Shaun Marcum picked up the win in his first start of the season, as he managed to make those dismal postseason starts in 2011 an afterthought. The offense wasn’t bad either, but again, the bullpen- at least in the ninth inning- nearly rose a few questions.

Marcum’s start was solid, as he went six innings while giving up three runs on five hits. He struck out six and walked none. Although he gave up two home runs in the first two innings, he did a good job of missing bats, something he was struggling with towards the end of 2011.

The Brewers scored right away in the first inning on an Aramis Ramirez sacrifice fly. Ramirez was making his first start in Chicago since leaving the Cubs, and it probably made Cubs fans miss him. Anyway, the Cubs answered back right away in the bottom of the inning on Darwin Barney’s solo home run. The Cubs then took a 2-1 lead in the second on a solo shot by Bryan LaHair. But, the Brewers tied it back up in the third on Rickie Weeks’ second home run of the year- yet another solo shot.

In the fourth inning, the Brewers made the first of two successful squeeze plays, this one by Marcum. But the Cubs evened the score in the fifth on a Blake DeWitt sacrifice fly. That followed a “triple” by Geovany Soto, but he only reached third because center fielder Nyjer Morgan lost the ball in the light and wind on what would have been a routine fly ball.

The Brewers then took a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish in the sixth on a Mat Gamel RBI triple. Jonathan Lucroy followed that up with a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-3. Ramirez then hit an RBI double in the seventh. Carlos Gomez tacked on one more run in the eighth on the second squeeze of the game by the Brewers.

Then came the ninth, where things got interesting. The Brewers held a 7-3 lead up until that point. Jose Veras and Francisco Rodriguez had handled the seventh and eighth innings respectively, so you’d think John Axford would come in for the ninth (despite the fact it wasn’t a save situation). But, like many managers do nowadays, Roenicke took the four-run lead for granted and put in Manny Parra instead. As we all know, he’s just returning after missing all of 2010, so he hasn’t had much work lately.

So, sure enough, Parra gave up a leadoff double to Ian Stewart. He then induced a groundout from LaHair, but Steward advanced to third on the play. Although it was already a save situation, Roenicke had Axford warming up along with Tim Dillard. So he decided to put in Dillard for some reason, I’m still not quite sure why. Dillard came in and walked Soto, and that was all he did. Roenicke then brought in Axford at last, but things were still starting to go downhill. On what could have been a game-ending double play, the third baseman Ramirez booted an easy grounder, which allowed Stewart to score, and left guys on first and second. Steve Clevenger followed that up with an RBI single, but the center fielder Gomez committed a missed catch error, allowing runners to reach second and third.

But Axford managed to strike out David DeJesus for the second out of the inning. He then walked Barney to load the bases. But, Axford finished the game by striking out Starlin Castro on three pitches.

> The back-end of the bullpen isn’twhat worries me at the moment, but more so the middle relievers. Dillard, Parra, and Kameron Loe haven’t looked particularly sharp so far. I know we’re only four games into the season, but hopefully this gets fixed soon.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will play the second game of this four-game series tomorrow at 6:05 PM CT. Chris Narveson will go for the Brewers, making his first start of the season. He’s dominated the Cubs in his career, going 6-1 with a 3.51 ERA against them.

The Cubs will counter with free agent acquisition Paul Maholm, who has seen a lot of the Brewers with the Pirates over the past few seasons. He’s 3-8 with a 4.45 ERA in his career against the Crew.

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


Marcum dominates Cubs as Brewers lower number to 3

September 21, 2011

The difference between Shaun Marcum’s home and road performances are starting to scare me a bit. But I guess we need that one guy who’s the exact opposite of the rest of the pitchers on the team.

The Brewers defeated the Cubs today, 5-1, and evened up this series at 1-1. The Brewers also whittled their magic number down to three, and it’ll stay that way for the night, as the Cardinals just out-slugged the Mets, 11-6. But, if you think about it, that may be a good thing, since the Brewers are now forced to clinch the Central at home (tomorrow is the last road game of the season).

Marcum continued his road dominance today, going eight innings (tying a season-high) while giving up just one run on five hits. He struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter. Marcum’s road ERA coming into today was 2.31, so I’m guessing it either fell to the low-2.00’s or into the 1.00’s. Anyway, the scary thing is Marcum’s road ERA is more than two runs lower than his home ERA. But, that could be very beneficial for the Brewers in the postseason, and gives them multiple ways to align their rotation, whether or not they start at home or on the road.

Most of the offense for the Brewers came in the third inning, and it all started with Randy Wells giving up a double to Marcum. Corey Hart followed with a RBI double. Then, Nyjer Morgan and Ryan Braun both hit RBI singles to give the Brewers  a 3-0 lead. Rickie Weeks also added a RBI single in that inning. Weeks would later ground into a force out in the fifth inning to give the Brewers their fifth and final run. The only run the Cubs would score was on a Starlin Castro homer in the sixth inning.

Anyway, we all know that Francisco Rodriguez hates pitching in non-save situations. So Ron Roenicke put him into the ninth inning today, but in another non-save situation (which I find kind of funny). But, K-Rod ended up striking out the side in the ninth, so he must not hate it that much.

The Brewers will go for a series win tomorrow at 1:20 PM CT, and will send Randy Wolf (13-9, 3.45 ERA) to the mound. Wolf is coming off a good start against the Reds, in which he went 7+ innings while giving up three runs and picked up the win. He hasn’t had great success against the Cubs in his career- he’s 6-10 with a 4.01 ERA against them- but is doing slightly better this year, as he has an ERA around 2.00.

The Cubs will counter with Matt Garza (8-10, 3.51 ERA). He went nine innings in his last start against the Astros, but still took a no-decision. Garza is 1-1 with a 7.71 ERA in two career starts against the Brewers.

By the way, sorry for a post shorter than usual tonight. It’s been kind of a stressful week thus far, but I’m still trying to find time to get posts up.


Braun, Wolf push Brewers past Cubs

August 27, 2011

When the Cardinals win, the Brewers win. When the Cardinals lose, the Brewers win. That’s just the way things seem to work nowadays. And it’s led to a 9.5 game lead in the NL Central for the Brewers.

Cubs-Brewers Wrap-Up

The Brewers beat the Cubs today, 5-2. The Brewers’ seemingly dormant offense finally broke through in the fourth inning after having been shut out for 12 consecutive innings (going back to them being shut out by the Pirates the day before yesterday). The Cardinals also defeated the Pirates today, so the distance between them and the Brewers remains 9.5 games.

Randy Wolf had a decent start and won his 11th game of the year. He went 6 2/3 innings while giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits. He struck out three and walked two. Wolf also lowered his ERA to 3.37, which is now the lowest out of the five starters in the Brewers’ rotation.

George Kottaras got the Brewers on the board in the fourth inning with a solo shot off Cubs starter Rodrigo Lopez. That cut the Cubs’ lead in half, who had gotten two runs off Wolf courtesy of a lead-off solo homer by Starlin Castro and a RBI double by Jeff Baker.

Ryan Braun and the Brewers broke the game open and took the lead in the fifth inning on a RBI double. Two more runs scored after that thanks to an embarrassing throwing error by second baseman Darwin Barney. The Brewers also tacked on one more run in the seventh inning on a Prince Fielder RBI single.

Anyway, here’s a pretty big roster move for the Brewers: they’ve sent reliever Tim Dillard down to Triple-A, and brought up third baseman Taylor Green. This was somewhat of a surprise move, since Green was expected to join the team when rosters expand on September 1st. But I guess the Brewers wanted him up right now.

Green was putting up monster numbers in the Minors this year- he was batting .334 with 21 home runs and 85 RBIs, so I guess he was due for callup at some point. But, I don’t know what kind of role he’s going to play for the Brewers right now. He could occasionally (or more than that) fill in for struggling third baseman Casey McGehee, who’s just been having a downright awful season from the start. Maybe that was the strategy behind this move, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I’m excited to see Green in action in the Majors, nonetheless.

As far as the DL for the Brewers goes, center fielder Carlos Gomez and second baseman are both making progress. Gomez said today that he’s ready for a rehab assignment, and that assignment would probably be for Class A Timber Rattlers. Weeks isn’t quite ready for a rehab assignment yet, and is pretty much just working on defense at this point, but he shouldn’t be far behind Gomez.

The Brewers will be going for a series win against the Cubs tomorrow in another night game. Yovani Gallardo (14-8, 3.51 ERA) will go for the Brewers, and he’s coming off a decent start against the Mets in which he gave up two runs in seven innings. Gallardo has dominated the Cubs in his career, going 3-1 with a 3.31 ERA against them.

The Cubs will counter with Ryan Dempster (10-9, 4.60 ERA), unfortunately. The reason I say unfortunately is because this guy is the definition of a Brewers-killer. He’s 15-4 with a 2.56 ERA against the Brewers in his career.