Brewers lose heartbreaker in 13 after Nelson’s stellar start

May 19, 2016

RECAP

> If this season turns out as bad as everyone thinks it’s going to, this game will be remembered as one of its defining moments.

The Brewers fell to the Cubs 2-1 in 13 innings on Wednesday night. They wasted another stellar start from Jimmy Nelson (4-3, 3.07 ERA), just as they did in his last start against the Padres. But what made this game most painful was all of the opportunities the Brewers had to end it in extra innings, and the way they served up the go-ahead run: Carlos Torres walked Travis Wood– a reliever— with the bases loaded.

The game started as a pitchers’ duel between Nelson and John Lackey (4-2, 3.31 ERA), who pretty much matched each other pitch for pitch. Lackey was the first to crack when Alex Presley drove in the first run of the game with a fielder’s choice in the fifth inning. It appeared that was all Nelson was going to need, as he weaved in and out of trouble all throughout his 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball. Nelson gave up five hits, walked four, and struck out five, but was lifted in the eighth after Jorge Soler singled and Dexter Fowler drew a walk, putting runners on first and third with one out. Tyler Thornburg put out the fire, however, inducing a Jason Heyward pop-up and striking out Kris Bryant with a curveball in the dirt.

Things looked good heading into the top of the ninth, as Jeremy Jeffress, 11-for-11 in save chances entering play Wednesday, came in to close it out. However, it was not Jeffress’s night, as he drilled Anthony Rizzo to start the inning and then gave up a single to Ben Zobrist. Tommy La Stella followed by grounding out to put runners on second and third with one out. Then, for whatever reason, Craig Counsell moved his infield back, eliminating any chance of an out at home on a ground ball. And sure enough, the next batter, Addison Russell, hit a grounder to second baseman Scooter Gennett that would have been a potential out at home had the infield been in, but instead tied the game at 1-1.

That sent the game spiraling into extra innings. The Brewers had their chances, but didn’t capitalize, so I guess the fate they received was deserved. In the top of the thirteenth, the Cubs had runners on first and second with one out against Torres. He rallied to strike out Russell, and then intentionally walked Miguel Montero to get to the pitcher Wood, as Chicago had no bench players left. After getting ahead 0-1, Torres threw four consecutive balls to Wood, walking in the go-ahead run. Milwaukee has had some embarrassing moments over the years, but this was a new level of bad.

> The Brewers had multiple opportunities to end this game, but failed every time. In the bottom of the tenth, they had runners on first and third with two outs, but pinch-hitter Ramon Flores struck out looking to end the threat.

The worst came in the bottom of the twelfth, when Milwaukee had Hector Rondon, usually the Cubs’ closer, on the ropes. Chris Carter reached on an error by the third baseman La Stella to start the inning, and then Rondon and Wood, who came on in relief, issued back-to-back walks to Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Domingo Santana. Wood induced a Hernan Perez fly out to center field that was deep enough to score Carter from third for the first out, and then got back-to-back pop-ups from Aaron Hill and Martin Maldonado to escape. After that mess, they did not deserve to win; you can’t give a team like the Cubs extra chances.

Milwaukee did get one more chance to come back in the bottom of the thirteenth, as Jonathan Villar led off the inning with a double. However, Joe Maddon used three different relievers– Wood, Neil Ramirez, and Clayton Richard– to record one out each and put the Brewers away.

NEWS

> Ryan Braun had the night off to rest a “stiff back.”

> Left-handed reliever Sean Nolin appears set to undergo Tommy John surgery. The Brewers had claimed Nolin off waivers from Oakland in February.

> The Brewers will look to take the series from the Cubs today in a day game. Junior Guerra (2-0, 4.00 ERA) will go for the Crew against Jason Hammel (5-0, 1.77 ERA).

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Yo does the job again

August 29, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers once again handled the Cubs with ease tonight, winning 4-1. Yovani Gallardo had another stellar start, going seven innings while giving up a run on three hits. He walked three and struck out nine.

The Brewers jumped on Travis Wood early, as Jeff Bianchi hit his first career home run- a three-run blast- in the second inning. The only Cubs run came on a home run from Wood, the pitcher. Other than that, the Cubs’ offense was rather lifeless.

The 2011 bullpen was successfully revisited tonight, as Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford got the hold and save, respectively. If only we could have had that a few months ago.

LOOKING INTO THE NL MVP RACE

> Recently I’ve been mulling over who I think should win the major baseball awards come the end of the season, and I’ve found there are a lot of interesting award races around the game. One I’m having a particularly tough time with is the National League MVP race.

Our own Ryan Braun took it home last year after posting a career high in batting average and leading the Brewers to the playoffs. But, while Braun is nearly duplicating the numbers he put up last year- and on pace for a career high in home runs- I can’t see him taking it home this year. The Brewers aren’t remotely close to contention, which we all know always affects the MVP race. And his eventful offseason is certain to take more than a few votes away.

Other than Braun, I see three candidates for the MVP (all on contending teams): Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, and Matt Holliday. Obviously there are other sleeper guys around the league, such as Adam LaRoche, Freddie Freeman, Carlos Beltran, and so on, but the three I listed prior seem to be the choices whom all the buzz is surrounding.

Everyone was pretty much handing McCutchen the award in July, which is clearly too early. He was hitting around .370 at the time, but has fallen into the .340’s. That still isn’t bad, but, as McCutchen has fallen, so have the Pirates. If that continues, my vote would not go to Cutch.

Posey and Holliday are my top two right now; both are valuable assets to their contending teams. Assuming the Giants and Cardinals stay where they are in the standings into the playoffs, my vote would go to Posey. The Giants have an otherwise weak offense without him, while the Cardinals still have a lineup of perennial All-Stars without Holliday.

That’s my opinion on the race right now. I would be thrilled if Braun somehow came out with the award again, but I have a feeling one of the guys I listed will to do Braun what Braun did to Matt Kemp last year.

MY TAKE

> Bianchi must have been listening when I called him Brooks Conrad 2.0 the other night, because he’s gone on a tear since I criticized him in Pittsburgh. After starting his career with an 0-for, Bianchi had five consecutive hits, ending with his first career homer in the second inning.

Needless to say I’m liking the Jean Segura-Bianchi shortstop tandem than I did the Cody Ransom-Cesar Izturis tandem.

THE NEWS

> Shaun Marcum was placed on waivers today. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him get nabbed by a contender.

> Randy Wolf didn’t go unemployed for very long, as it was reported that the Orioles signed him earlier today. They’ll likely use him as a relief since they’re primary lefty out of the ‘pen, Troy Patton, is taking a long time to recover from an injury. But Buck Showalter didn’t rule out using him as a spot starter in the ever-changing O’s rotation.

UPDATE: The Athletics also had “serious interest” in Wolf before he signed with the Orioles.

> Pitching coach Rick Kranitz said he doesn’t want Brewers pitchers trying too hard to get strikeouts in what could be a record-breaking season.

“I don’t want to see guys try to get strikeouts. They are a product of strike one and strike two. But when the situation dictates it, we’ve got guys who know how to strike guys out.”

“I’m just as happy with a shutout with no strikeouts and no walks. I don’t want to get caught up in all that [strikeout talk]. That’s why you have a defense out there.”

The Brewers are on pace to break the team strikeout record set by the 2003 Cubs, who featured elite arms such as Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.

> The Pirates released Erik Bedard. His final start with them was a loss at the hands of the Brewers just a few days ago, when he gave up seven earnies in 4 2/3 innings.

THE NUMBERS

> Gallardo made strides in quite a few stats tonight. He reached 14 wins for the third consecutive year. He won his sixth consecutive decision. He struck out nine for the third consecutive start. He threw his Major League-leading 22nd quality start. Yep, he’s the ace of the staff right now.

> Brewers pitchers struck out 10 for the eighth straight game.

> Holy crap, Justin Verlander gave up eight earned runs today.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Mike Fiers (7-6, 2.98 ERA) vs. Jeff Samardzija (8-11, 4.09 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.)


Brewers handily take series from Bucs

August 26, 2012

POSTGAME

> It doesn’t matter how good the Pirates are or how bad the Brewers are: history tells us it’s likely the Brewers will always beat the Pirates. That happened again today, as the Brewers KO’d the Pirates 7-0.

Erik Bedard held the Brewers hitless through the first three innings, but the Brewers jumped all over him in the middle innings. Carlos Gomez hit a three-run blast off him in the fourth inning, then Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run shot following a Rickie Weeks RBI single in the fifth. The Brewers’ last run was Norichika Aoki’s sacrifice fly in the sixth.

BUCCOS RUNNING OUT OF TIME

> This is starting to become a common theme for the Pirates. Last year, they were in first place at the All-Star break for the first time since 1992. The quick assumption was that they’d finally reach the playoffs (or at least finish over .500) for the first time since that year as well.

But there was no such luck. The Pirates couldn’t even win 20 games down the stretch, and faded out of contention to a 72-90 record.

This year, the Pirates seemed to have stepped it up a notch, and have been contending for most of the year. But now they may be fading away yet again. They’ve lost 12 of their last 17 games, and have been struggling against the teams that most contending teams would beat (i.e. the Brewers, and they were swept in four games by the Padres prior to this series).

The reason for this happening two years in a row is probably because the young players are putting too much pressure on themselves. A perfect example of that is James McDonald, who had an ERA hovering around 2.20 before the All-Star break. Since the break, his ERA is over 8.00. That’s a sign he’s probably trying to do too much, and the same can be said for other young players on his team.

But the front office isn’t really helping them, either. They traded ex-Brewer Casey McGehee to the Yankees during a stretch in which he was really helping the Pirates win games, then attempted to replace him by acquiring Gaby Sanchez from the Marlins. I didn’t understand that all, considering Sanchez, a former All-Star, was hitting below .200 and had been in the Minors for most of the year with the Marlins. And all the Pirates got in return for McGehee was struggling reliever Chad Qualls. So that was clearly a bad series of moves. The Wandy Rodriguez trade looked good on paper, but Rodriguez has an ERA above 5.00 since joining the Pirates.

And while the Pirates continue to struggle, other teams are pulling away and are simply making themselves better than the Pirates. I want to say the Braves have a Wild Card spot locked up, but I can’t after last year. The Cardinals have pulled ahead of the Pirates in the WC chase as well. And there’s almost no chance the Bucs can compete with the juiced Dodgers.

While I wanted to see the Pirates contend for once this year, I can’t see it happening now. There are just too many teams that are better than them, and their struggles are holding them back.

MY TAKE

> Mark Rogers had a strange start today. He shut down the Pirates, but did so in a rather inefficient way, needing 101 pitches to get through just five innings. His three walks may have contributed to that.

When Rogers was first drafted, some considered him a future ace. At the time, that may have bode true, but after all these injuries he’s gone through, I don’t know if he’ll ever reach that point. That’s not to say he can’t be a solid two or three starter, because his stuff is definitely still there. But now I’m doubting he’ll ever be that true No. 1.

> Gomez is getting far more playing time than Nyjer Morgan nowadays, which I love to see. He’s hitting just .247, but is starting to show that power stroke everyone has been waiting for. With Morgan likely gone next year, I’m excited to see what kind of numbers Gomez will put up as a full-time center fielder.

THE NEWS

> The Brewers might not shut down Mike Fiers. They’ve been going back and forth on the decision regarding shutting him down, and have gone back to the good side.

If the Brewers do decide to shut down Fiers, it likely wouldn’t be until late September. But even Fiers himself has said he “feels fine” and would like to pitch the rest of the year.

> Ron Roenicke is going to stick with Weeks in the two-hole in the lineup. Weeks is just 8 for his last 50, but did get an RBI today.

> Vin Scully, the best sportscaster in history, is coming back to announce Dodgers games in 2013.

> The Orioles acquired Joe Saunders from the Diamondbacks. Not exactly the ace arm they were looking for, but we’ll see if he can help them with a playoff run.

> Roger Clemens went 3 1/3 innings in his first start with the Sugar Land Skeeters yesterday. He needed just 37 pitches and gave up no runs.

THE NUMBERS

> Rogers got his second consecutive win after the bullpen seemingly wouldn’t let him find one for a few starts.

> Jonathan Lucroy went a perfect 3-for-3, raising his average to .333.

> The Brewers have made five errors in their last two games. Whoever was saying defense has been a high point this year apparently jinxed it.

> Here are the probables for the upcoming Cubs series:

Marco Estrada (1-5, 4.23 ERA) vs. Justin Germano (2-3, 4.54 ERA)

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

Mike Fiers (7-6, 2.98 ERA) vs. Jeff Samardzija (8-11, 4.09 ERA)

THE EXTRAS

> Yes. Yes we were.

But, according to this magazine, ESPN has the Packers going 16-0 and winning the Super Bowl. I’d take that.

> Wouldn’t you hate to play for a team called the “Sugar Land Skeeters?”


Ax saves back-to-back games; Wolf cut loose

August 22, 2012

POSTGAME

> Today was the ideal Brewers win: the starter goes seven strong, and the setup man and closer each throw scoreless innings to seal the win.

That’s been very uncommon this year thanks the bullpen, but it happened today in the Brewers’ 3-2 win over the Cubs, as the brooms were brought out. Yovani Gallardo won his fifth straight decision, going seven solid innings while giving up two runs on four hits. He walked two and struck out nine.

Yo gave up a lead-off home run to David DeJesus, but buckled down until giving up another solo homer to Bryan LaHair in the seventh. After the Cubs took the early 1-0 lead, the Brewers responded in the bottom of the first with three straight doubles off Travis Wood from Norichika Aoki, Ryan Braun, and Corey Hart. The Brewers added on another run on Braun’s solo home run in the sixth.

Jim Henderson pitched the eighth and struggled a bit with his command, but put up the zero. John Axford struck out the side in the ninth to record his 20th save, so maybe he’s on his way back to being a dominant closer.

THE NEWS

> In a somewhat shocking move, Randy Wolf was released prior to today’s game. With the numbers Wolf was putting up this year, it was extremely unlikely the Brewers were going to pick up his $10 million option for 2013 anyway, but he wasn’t expected to go this early.

Wolf was victim to nine blown saves behind him, but the 5.69 ERA speaks for itself. He was just flat-out ineffective this year and couldn’t duplicate the 2011 season in which he went 13-10 with a 3.69 ERA, while also getting a clutch win in the NLCS against the Cardinals.

He went 13-12 with a 4.17 ERA in 2010, including a 2.67 ERA in the second half, which was his first year with the Brewers. Wolf finishes with a career 29-32 record as a Brewer with a 4.37 ERA.

I hope Wolf gets picked up by someone (maybe a contender) down the stretch. He was a real class act, but just wasn’t getting it done for the Brewers this go around.

> In a corresponding move, the Brewers once again recalled Jeff Bianchi.

> Jean Segura was out of today’s lineup, and was witnessed limping in the clubhouse. Last night, Carlos Marmol covered first base the wrong way while fielding a Segura groundout, and Segura stepped on his foot. Segura did stay in the rest of the game.

Cody Ransom got the start at shortstop today, and the Brewers called up Bianchi just in case.

> Axford reportedly asked Ron Roenicke to return to the closer’s role. That’s a very good sign, because it means Ax’s confidence is starting to come back.

> Bartolo Colon, currently pitching for the contending Athletics, was hit with a 50-game ban today. It’s crazy how many players have been suspended this year. It was the second Bay Area player to get knocked out, with Melky Cabrera receiving a suspension last week.

THE NUMBERS

> Braun has been hot since snapping his slump, and continued that with a 3-for-4 day. His average now sits at .308.

> Ransom actually got a hit in his start, going 1-for-2. But, he naturally struck out the one time he was retired.

> Since his record evened at 8-8 following a rough start against the Nationals, Gallardo has won five consecutive decisions, only giving up more than two earned runs in one of those starts.

> Brewers pitchers struck out a cumulative 37 Cubs batters this series (12 in the first two games, 13 today).

> Wolf was released on his 36th birthday. Ouch.

> After an off-day tomorrow, the Brewers start a three-game set against the still-contending Pirates. Here are the probables:

Mike Fiers (6-6, 2.90 ERA) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (8-12, 4.00 ERA)

Shaun Marcum (5-3, 3.39 ERA) vs. Jeff Karstens (4-3, 3.79 ERA)

Mark Rogers (1-1, 5.02 ERA) vs. Erik Bedard (7-13, 4.76 ERA)

 


Estrada picks up first win of ’12

August 22, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers once again handled the Cubs today, taking them down 5-2. Marco Estrada finally got his first win of the season that he probably should have had a few months ago, but it took this long for the bullpen to hold serve for him.

The Brewers’ first run came in the fourth on a bases-loaded infield single from Corey Hart. It was the first hit of the night given up by Cubs starter Chris Rusin, who was making his big league debut.

That was all the Brewers got that inning, but they received a gift run in the sixth on a bases-loaded wild pitch by Alberto Cabrera. The pitch after that, Jonathan Lucroy smacked a two-RBI double to extend the Brewers lead. The Brewers also got a run in the eighth on Carlos Gomez’s RBI single.

The Brewers carried a 5-0 lead into the ninth inning, but, naturally, the game had to end on a shaky note. Manny Parra could only record one out and allowed two baserunners, so Ron Roenicke went to Jim Henderson. He recorded the second out, but Roenicke decided to give the easy save opportunity to John Axford, who came in and converted the one-out opportunity.

WHAT’S UP WITH Z?

> Everyone remembers when the Angels made a splash at the Trade Deadline, acquiring Zack Greinke from the Brewers in the first blockbuster deal of this year’s deadline. The Brewers got Jean Segura in return, who would be part of their future plans, but the centerpiece was obviously Greinke, who everyone thought would make the Angels have the scariest rotation in baseball.

Not so much. Greinke has struggled mightily in his first five starts for the Angels, posting a 1-2 record with an ugly 6.19 ERA. When Greinke went to the Angels, his ERA on the season was 3.44, but, after allowing six runs in six innings to the Rays yesterday, his ERA has ballooned to 4.01.

Writers are tossing around many different reasons for Greinke’s struggles early in his Angels tenure, but I think there are two logical explanations.

The first is Greinke’s social anxiety disorder. He was spoiled that the first two teams he was with- the Brewers and Royals- were located in two of the smallest media market cities in baseball. But Los Angeles is a different story. At first glance, it might not look like it’s a pressure-packed place to play, given the struggles of the Angels and Dodgers in recent years. But, LA is considered the second-largest media market in baseball after New York, so you can bet the media hounds the players and managers there. Greinke could very well be succumbing to the pressure he’s never felt before. That makes you wonder why he didn’t stay and try to agree to an extension in Milwaukee, or even Kansas City. Greinke made it clear that he wanted to win, but probably not at the price of his anxiety acting up.

My second, and more likely, theory is that Greinke is off to another slow start with a new organization. Keep in mind Greinke was horrible during the first half of 2011 (his first year in Milwaukee), posting a 5.66 ERA prior to the All-Star break, but was one of the best pitchers in baseball during the second half. This could be happening to him again, but he doesn’t have an entire half to get adjusted this time.

I have a feeling that Greinke’s struggles are due to a little bit of both of these theories- for instance, the disorder could be what causes his slow start with new organizations.

But it’s definitely not all on Greinke; the Angels’ pitching staff as a whole has been atrocious in August. Coming into play tonight, they had a 6.76 ERA in August, by far their worst ERA of any month this years. And it’s mostly because of the starters. Along with Greinke’s struggles, C.J. Wilson hasn’t won since the All-Star break. After a great comeback year last year, Dan Haren is struggling with injuries and consistency again this year. Ervin Santana is having the worst year of his career. Heck, even Jered Weaver gave up nine earned runs the other day- to the Mariners. So something’s definitely wrong down in LA.

THE NEWS

> Shaun Marcum threw six innings and gave up one earned run in his final rehab start last night, so he should be set to make his first start since early June in the upcoming Pittsburgh series.

> Mike Fiers and Mark Rogers, the current targets of the Brewers’ innings-limit philosophy, will still make multiple starts before their limits come into play, according to Roenicke. But the Brewers will probably make up for that by limiting their pitch counts.

> MLB Trade Rumors confirmed that Hart has said he’d like to stay with the Brewers after his current contract runs out.

THE NUMBERS

> Estrada and Rogers each received their first win of the season on back-to-back nights. Estrada was stellar tonight, going six innings while striking out nine.

> Kameron Loe looked flat-out nasty tonight, tossing a scoreless inning with two K’s. He’s on one of the rolls where his sinker is just untouchable.

> Rusin had a strange debut. He retired the Brewers nine-up, nine-down in his first run-through of the lineup. He wound up giving up just one hit in five innings, but still took the loss because walks and hit-by-pitches came around to score.

> Speaking of HBPs, the Brewers were hit three more times tonight, including Norichika Aoki getting hit twice. As always, they lead the Majors in HBPs by a landslide. But, they’re last in the league in hitting batters. Shows what kind of manager we have.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Travis Wood (4-9, 4.83 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (12-8, 3.67 ERA)

Wood dominated the Brewers during his Reds tenure, but has been a different pitcher since. In Gallardo’s last start against the Cubs, he went six innings while striking out 10, but also gave up five earnies.

THE EXTRAS

> You’ll be seeing this Segura play all night.

> Reds prospect Billy Hamilton stole his 147th bag of the year. I’m still confused too.


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)