Sooo the Brewers play their next 18 games within the NL Central.
Given that 9 of the first 12 are against Chicago and Houston, the divison’s losing-est teams, you’d think coming out of those 18 games with a winning record shouldn’t be a problem.
And the fact that Narv Dog is starting the first game against the Cubs tomorrow night shouldn’t hurt, either. He’s 5-0 in his last 11 appearances against Chicago but he’s facing Ryan Dempster, who’s been trouble for the Crew since, oh, just about forever.
Now, coming off a losing series in San Francisco, where little offense, multiple base running blunders and costly errors all weighed heavily on the outcomes of both losses, the Brewers are finally returning to the comforts of home for the first time since the All Star break.
On the plus side of this sad road trip, Ryan Braun seemed to have found his stroke after sitting out the last couple of series of the first half, homering in 4 of the last 5 games, putting him at 20 for the season. (3 of those homers were in his first at-bat.)
On the minus side? Meh. Take your pick.
Prince Fielder struggled throughout the entire roadie, almost as mightily as the swings he took at pitches outside the strikezone. In those 11 games, he went just 8 for 39, with 7 walks. The fact that only one walk was intentional and it came in the first game in Colorado tells the opponents exactly what it told me: Fielder currently isn’t a threat at the plate. Fix that, dude.
Also on the negative side was the injury to OF Carlos Gomez. Yes, he made a spectacular catch but he broke his collarbone in the process. The Brewers called up Brett Carroll from Nashville as a replacement and he made quite a defensive debut in SF yesterday, but went 0-3 at the plate, so I don’t know how beneficial he’ll be just yet.
So will Milwaukee’s recent bad play carry over to what should be one of the easier stretches of the second half? It’s hard to say.
Of course, with Gomez out, no lefties in the bullpen and the defensive woes in the left side of the infield, the Brewers have some holes to be filled and the trade deadline is looming. Of course, which hole is the biggest remains to be seen. The ‘pen hasn’t been working all too hard given the high amount of quality starts coming from the rotation, Carroll, Nyjer Morgan and Mark Kotsay are all capable outfielders, but none are everyday outfielders and Yuniesky Betancourt seemingly is getting sick of people saying he’s useless and went on an offensive tear, even going 3-5 with 2 homeruns in a single game in Arizona.
Relievers, infielders, outfielders–Dougie’s got some choices to make.
So, while they may currently share first place with St. Louis and Pittsburgh (Who knew?!), Milwaukee needs to seriously step it up. Like, now. They’re not gonna hit an easier string of opponents anytime soon and they need to take advantage and make do with what they’ve got until Melvin can find some new blood. I mean, if the Pirates can push and shove their way to the top with complete disregard for how crappy they are, then the Brewers should be able to knock everyone else down a peg or two.
I mean, really. It shouldn’t be that hard.
(PS, if you have Showtime, you really should be watching The Franchise. Even if you aren’t a Giants fan. Seriously. Great show. Wednesday nights.)
Lately, it seems that’s all a team needs to make fools out of the Brewers. Lucky for them, New York didn’t have any to send to the mound in this series. That, coupled with nearly all of their A-squad on the DL, and they pretty much handed the series win to the Crew.
Brewers 10, Mets 6
If it weren’t for Carlos Villanueva, I would say Monday night’s was one of the best games of the season so far. Instead, it was just a really good game with a bit of a blemish.
The Brewers finally rejoined the hit parade, nearly tying their season high of 20. That game was the 15-3 blowout in Cincinatti back in May. Aside from the high hit count, this game had something else in common with that one: the grandslam.
Casey McGehee had the honor in the bottom of the 6th–sweet redemption from the lazy pop-up that entered, then promptly left, his glove in the top of the frame.
But, being the diehard gamer that he is, McGehee didn’t seem to even acknowledge the grandslam. He was too busy mulling the error that eventually led to 2 Mets’ runs to even think about what he’d just done. Either way, he was beckoned back out by the thankful crowd and he reluctantly obliged the curtain call. It was nice to see his post-game interview, too because, one, I’ve never seen him smile or heard him speak and two, I wanted him to show some pride over what he’d accomplished. Way to go, Casey!
There were other things working for the Brewers that night, too. JJ Hardy went 4-4, including a solo HR. Jason Kendall went 3-4 with an RBI, and even when McGehee was taken out, Bill Hall was shockingly able to produce. Hall stepped up, going 2-2 with 2 RBIs.
Villanueva, as I mentioned, was the lone dark spot on an otherwise great game. After Todd Coffey and Mitch Stetter worked a combined scoreless 1+ inning, Villa gave up enough runs (including a Gary Sheffield 2-run shot. Boo.) to warrant a trip to the mound from Trevor Hoffman. Ordinarily, I’m not opposed to seeing Hoffman, but with a 7-run lead going into the 9th, I’d rather not have to. Instead, he comes out with 2 on and 1 out, and with one pitch, the game is over and the shirts are untucked.
When all is said and done, Milwaukee leads the NL Central by 1. Awesome.
Brewers 6, Mets 3
Mike Burns vs. Johan Santana. Hmmmm….
This game did not go as many wouldn’ve expected it to. Although, it started that way.
Burns gave up a 2-run homer early in the first to David Wright. His remaining 6+ innings were basically flawless.
Santana, on the other hand, wasn’t as lucky. A series of hits in the 3rd ended up scoring the first Brewers run on a Ryan Braun RBI. One inning later, I found myself hoping for another grandslam. Santana walked Burns on 4 straight pitches then Corey Hart doubled on the most hilarious outfield slip I’ve seen in a long time. (I kid you not. The fall that Fernando Martinez took was classic. My stomach hurt from laughing so hard.) JJ Hardy followed with a walk to load the bases for Braun.
What happened next may as well have been a grandslam, as far as I’m concerned. But I’ll take what I can get.
Braun doubled on an 0-2 count to Gary Sheffield. Burns and Hart scored easily, but a throw to the plate to catch Hardy was deflected past Omir Santos to Santana, allowing the third run. Santana then overthrew third on an attempt to tag Braun out and, despite not technically being a grandslam, that 4th run scored anyway. My neighbors probably think I’m crazy after that play, for I was home alone, screaming like an absolute maniac. (Can you blame me?)
Three innings go by with nary a run scored. Somehow Burns is out of the game in the 7th with a mid-90’s pitch count, while Johan remains in the game, over 100 pitches, and proceeds to give up a solo bomb to Prince Fielder. Just a little insurance, I guess. Looks like Jerry Manuel wasn’t thinking too clearly by leaving Santana in to start the bottom of the 7th. He finally exits the game after that.
A myriad of pitchers come out for both teams and the Brewers narrowly avoided an 8th innings Mets’ threat. And because Hoffman worked a grueling 1-pitch game the night before, it was Coffey on the mound to finish it off. A nice double-play ball put the first 2 outs on the board, but I guess Martinez wanted to make up for his embarassment back in the 4th and hit a homer to the Tundra Territory. Ah well. Too little, too late.
The game ended one batter later, preserving Burns’ first Major League win.
The Brewers now lead the Central by 2 games. Awesome.
Brewers 0, Mets 1
Apparently Yovani Gallardo can’t catch a break against the Mets. The poor guy pitches another great game, yet loses again in a 1-0 shutout.
Newly appointed Top 10 Hottie Ryan Church was responsible for the single RBI of the game, and Gallardo was tabbed for the loss.
Despite outhitting the Mets 7-5, the Brewers were unable to capitalize and give Yo what would’ve been a well-deserved win.
Gallardo struck out a career-high 12 batters in 7 innings pitched. That’s twice as many as Mets’ starter Mike Pelfrey.
And Fielder was caught stealing. Shocker.
The Brewers currently lead the Central by a game and a half. Still awesome. Hopefully the Cardinals will get swept.
The Brewers final roadtrip of the first half is a 4-game series this weekend in Chicago. The Cubs have been faltering lately, so I’m not too worried the Crew will come home with their lead in tact. But before the All-Star break, the Cards and Dodgers come to Miller Park. That leaves a bit up in the air. But, as I said in my last post, the second half is relatively easy for Milwaukee. Hopefully the lead will still be theirs come October.
Tomorrow’s match-up: Seth McClung (3-1, 3.55 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (4-5, 4.09 ERA) in a rare Thursday night game at Wrigley.
Sorry for the hiatus. I promised a Monday post and, as it’s now Wednesday, this one is going to be a bit longer than I had anticipated. (Good thing I was taking notes all weekend!)
Friday. Brewers 3, Cubs 2
Danny Gokey Day here in Milwaukee proved to be eventful. The poor guy looked crazy tired, but he managed to belt out a pretty amazing National Anthem.
The first pitch? That didn’t go as well. A bit high, but at least it crossed the plate.
Gah, how annoying to have that American Idol camera that close to your face since 5am!
On to the game. Dave Bush, my favorite high-socks wearing pitcher, gave up a couple of runs early on, but then settled into a nice (eh) pitcher’s duel with Randy Wells (?). We all know I’d rather see some action. I guess I did when Aramis Ramirez separated his shoulder diving to stop a Ryan Braun liner to third. And, sorry that he got hurt and all, but the ball was still in play. Run to second, RB. Granted, there wasn’t really any more offense that inning, but still. JJ Hardy smacked a homerun in the sixth for the first Brewers run and Braun blasted one after a wild pitch advanced Corey Hart in the bottom of the eighth to take the lead and prompt a nice 1-2-3 visit to the mound by Trevor Hoffman.
Ah, Hell’s Bells. Can’t get enough! (Love the leg kick!)
Saturday. Brewers 12, Cubs 6
As we were unable to skydive due to low cloud cover (boo!), we all pretty much just sat around and drank until it was time for the game. Then we watched and drank some more. Since it was the longest baseball game known to man (not including a 20-ish minute delay due to the lights going out at Miller Park), you can imagine how much that might have been.
This is the kind of game I love. I’m not much for favoring pitchers and defense in a game. Give me the bats and the long ball. That’s what I live for. The Brewers got an early lead, and held on to it. Yovani Gallardo may have only pitched 5 innings, but he managed to hold the Cubs to 2 runs. The score stood at 3-2 in favor of the Crew until the bottom of the seventh, when Milwaukee batted around and then some, scoring 6 runs along the way, including back-to-back homers by Craig Counsell (haha!) and Ryan Braun. Braun’s came after a pitch by Ryan Dempster in the fifth grazed the top of his helmet. Maybe. Either way, he stared Dempster down before trotting off to first.
The top of the eighth wasn’t so lucky for the Brewers. Jorge Julio and Todd Coffey combined for 4 runs, bringing the Cubs within 3 and prompting Hoffman to warm-up in the bullpen. He could relax, though, as another outbust by Milwaukee bats let him sit back down and watch the rest of the game.
Sunday. Brewers 2, Cubs 4
Ugh. Happy Mother’s Day. Right.
The pink bats usually help, but I guess they only helped the Cubs this year. An early 2-0 lead for the Brewers was quickly erased by a 2-run homer from Alfonso Soriano off of starter Jeff Suppan. They scored 2 more and Milwaukee’s bats were silent the rest of the game. I did have a good time with my mom though, so that’s good. And it was nice to not have any Cubs fans rubbing a win in our faces afterwards. Afterall, the Cubs lost the series and Sunday’s win was nothing to gloat about.
As Monday was an off-day, I anticipated seeing some players at work. Although, of all the guys that have been spotted, I’ve managed to miss them all so far. Lo and behold, I get a text from Mol about 20 minutes too late. Yovani Gallardo was shopping in men’s dress shirts. I was already on my way out the door. Damn!
But I swear I saw Mark DiFelice. No one else did, so it probably wasn’t him. And he wasn’t as tall as I remembered. Maybe I’ll still tell people I saw him to sound a teeny bit cooler.
And last night was definitely my kind of game! While I was at my dad’s softball game and checking the Brewers game on my phone, the score never changed from a 3-2 Marlins lead.
As I walked in to Leff’s afterwards, the whole place erupted. A Rickie Weeks homerun tied it up. This was quickly followed by Prince Fielder’s second HR of the night. (His first was responsible for the Crew’s first 2 runs.) Mike Cameron tacked on a bit of insurance in the 8th with a solo shot of his own and then, Hell’s Bells yet again! It was impressive, of course, but I think that Leff’s needs to blast the AC/DC just as loud as Miller Park does. I just like pretending to have that experience.
In other, non-game news, Milwaukee signed veteran outfielder Frank Catalanotto to a minor league contract. I’m gonna go ahead and say he won’t be in the minors for long. As a left-handed bat, he could be a good replacement for the large-headed Brad Nelson, who, by the way, struck out AGAIN in a pinch-hit situation. Poor Manny Parra kicked *** last night and then that big, dumb, oaf of a guy comes in to bat for him and sucks like always. Smooth move, Ken Macha. Don’t you know this guy is worthless?
And my favorite bit of baseball from the past week was this little quote by Macha, referring to the ball that supposedly hit Ryan Braun in the helmet Saturday night:
“The league frowns upon people throwing at people’s heads.”
Including the commute, my workday was somewhere around 14 1/2 hours today. I ran on one cup of coffee and a very small slice of pizza. I immediately came home to watch fellow Milwaukeean Danny Gokey on American Idol and now it’s pretty much bedtime. (Since I got the new mattress, the sleep is sooooo darn good!)
There are 31 days until the Brewers Home Opener against the Cubs. And in the spirit of fellow blogger Jesse (http://gocubbiesjess.mlblogs.com/), todays’ pics are representative of the I-94 rivalry.
Evidence of Emma’s rally cap not working. That was game 4 of the 4 game sweep by the Cubs last July.
My $3 little boys tshirt that I made special for the Parra-Dempster match-up. Dempster proved me wrong. Boo!
It’s kind of hard to tell, but that’s a called strike on Kosuke Fukudome by one of my favorite umpires. I don’t know his name, but I love the way he calls strikes. (Sorry, Crew fans. It was the only pic I had that showed some negativity of the Cubs.)