Crew holds off D’Back rally

1 07 2008

It’s not often that a Brewers fan says this, but Ned Yost played his cards right today.

Milwaukee’s starting lineup did not include the likes of Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, or Mike Cameron.  Prince certainly needed a day off after his struggles this road trip.  Their replacements, however.  Did more than hold their own against Randy Johnson and the Diamondbacks.

Joe Dillon swung a good bat tonight, hitting a two-run bomb off Johnson in the second inning.  The veteran utility man hit the ball hard in every at-bat, but only had one hit to show for it.  It’s okay though, Joe.  We all know how well you handled the stick tonight.

In for Prince at first base, the seldom-used Mike Rivera played his heart out tonight.  The opposite-field, two-out double to score Corey Hart was definitely a highlight of the game.  That ball was at his eyes and off the outside part of the plate.  There is no good reason he should have gotten any wood on that ball.  No matter.  Mike Rivera continues to produce at the plate without many opportunities to get in a groove.

To round out the subs for the day, Gabe Kapler roamed center Monday night.  Gabe didn’t do anything overly impressive tonight, going 1-4.  He continues to play defense though, which makes him invaluable coming of the bench.  Let’s not forget he’s hitting over .300.  Not bad for someone who was managing a minor league team last season.

Speaking of days off, one player that sorely needs a day off is Ryan Braun.  The announcers keep saying he has an injured muscle in his right thumb, but he’s in the lineup day in and day out.  If he’s truly hurt, give him a day off.  Even if he’s not hurt, the young man looks awful at the plate.  Ryan is getting over-aggressive again, trying to pull everything.  We all know he doesn’t want to take a walk, either.  Take a day off tomorrow, Ryan.  Come back Thursday afternoon and start tearing the cover off the ball again.

There is one more player that seems completely lost at the plate.  Want to take a guess?  Bill Hall.  Bill Schroeder hit the nail right on the head (if you will excuse the cliche).  The Brewers third baseman is swinging at balls off the plate, and taking strikes.  He is so frustrated at the plate that I could hear him yelling obscenities after fouling a ball off at the plate this evening.  That’s never a good sign.  I’m almost inclined to say Billy could use a little time in Triple-A to get his feet back under him.  Too bad that’s not an option at this point.

As far as pitching goes, Jeff Suppan was very unimpressive against the D’Backs.  The veteran right-hander could not find the plate to save his life in the fourth and fifth innings, and when he did, it split the heart of the plate.  Soup does not have the stuff to consistently fall behind hitters and get away with it.  His performance was utterly underwhelming, as have most of his starts lately.  Milwaukee needs Jeff to pick it up and be the leader he came here to be.  It’s easier said than done, but now is the time.

I want to follow up on something I mentioned a couple games ago.  David Riske again pitched an entire inning without straying from his fastball.  It ranged from 88-90 mph according to MLB Gameday.  He pitched extremely effectively with it tonight, but I am a little concerned about Mr. Riske.  He’s not throwing his best pitch.  Milwaukee signed him over the off-season because he has two outstanding split-finger fastballs.  One acts much like a change-up and dips into the high-70s, but the other is a true split.  It comes in to hitters in the mid-80s and falls off the table when it reaches home plate.  Those two pitches are non-existent right now.  I truly hope his elbow is okay.

I realize I’m going a little more in-depth about individual players this evening, but I have a couple things to note about Guillermo Mota.  As the play-by-play announcers said tonight, Mota is catching far too much of the plate with his fastball.  That is obvious.  All four balls were smoked by the D’Backs tonight, and the Crew could have been in big trouble had Mike Rivera not made a fantastic diving play at first to double off Chris Young.  The control problem is obvious.

Another thing I noticed about Guillermo is the complete absence of his change-up.  The big guy threw exclusively fastball-slider the entire inning, until getting Miguel Montero on a change to end the inning.  The change-up is arguably Mota’s best pitch.  It complements his 95-96 mph fastball very well, and it dives away from lefties when it reaches the plate.  He has not been throwing the change with any regularity, and the result has been more hard hit balls and more runs scored.  If Guillermo uses that change-up more often, it won’t matter if his 96 mph fastball is right down the middle.  Hitters will be off-balance and unable to catch up.  Sometimes it can be that simple.  Put the third finger around the ball, choke the ball back in your grip, and let it fly, Guillermo.  It would benefit you and the Brewers greatly.

I also must admit that Salomon Torres pitched very well to get the save tonight.  He had not pitched in a week, but he mowed down Arizona hitters after hitting Augie Ojeda to start the inning.  A tip of the hat to you, Senor Torres.  You have been a hero for the Crew the entire year.

Records: Brewers (45-38 ); Diamondbacks (42-42)

Hero of the Game: J.J. Hardy and Mike Rivera

I’m not one to give out multiple Heroes of the Game, but tonight is an exception.  J.J. Hardy looks like a completely different hitter at the plate over the past couple weeks.  He has been more patient and is driving the ball all over the field.  The hitting streak is now at 13 games after he hit two home runs this evening.  Perhaps he’s going to get on a two month streak like he did to start last season.  That would be dangerous for opposing teams.

Mike Rivera has quickly become one of my favorites on the team.  He plays maybe once a week.  He never complains about a lack of playing time, yet produces more than some of the regulars – I’m talking about you, Bill Hall.  That ridiculous two-out double that was at his eyes and off the outside part of the plate not withstanding, the back-up catcher flashed some fancy glovework at first base.  He made a couple nice flips to the pitcher, fielded the bunt rather nicely, and made an absolutely sick diving stab that turned into an unassisted double play.  That may have saved the game for Milwaukee.  I cannot say enough about Mike Rivera tonight.  Well done, sir.

Goat of the Game: Ryan Braun

Ryan and Prince Fielder have both fallen into a funk at the same time.  Braun, however, is still in the lineup while Prince gets the day off.  All signs point to Braun’s injury being worse than the team is saying.  Give him a day off to clear his head and heal his thumb.  Seeing such a talented player struggle at the plate as much as he has the past week or so is difficult to watch.  He’s in an 0-18 streak now.  A day off is sorely needed.

On Tap

Seth McClung will look to bounce back after a rough outing last week against Micah Owings and the D’Backs in Game 3 of the series.  The game starts at 8:40pm CT at Chase Field.  The Crew needs a win tomorrow night, as Brandon Webb is slated to pitch the finale.  Enough said.

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6 responses

2 07 2008
Aaron

I say give Braun the next two days off and let Kapler do his thing. This will not only teach Braun a lesson, but get him healthy for a really really important homestand. At this point, he’s actually hurting his team instead of helping them by showing he’ll play through pain.

What was the deal with Jeff Cirillo telling the team to start using tees more often to work on going opposite field? Screw the booth Jeff, take Skaalen’s job. I bet you this team would respect a guy who was a career .300 hitter.

2 07 2008
Aaron

Mike Rivera is the perfect back up catcher. He makes the league minimum, speaks Spanish so he can can banter with all of the Dominicans on the team, he produces at the plate and he can play first in a pinch. Props to the guy. And don’t yell at me for not praising JJ Hardy. I’m not saying a word until he falls off the hitting streak wagon. The more I rag on him, and say he’s straight average, the better he does.

2 07 2008
orville reddenbrewer

As much as I don’t like Ned, I have to say he hasn’t been as aggravating as he had been. He seems to be handling the bullpen a bit better and when he does make lineup changes they seem to be smart. Now if he would just stop saying things like there are no such things as missed opportunities, strike outs aren’t a big deal and that prince isn’t in a slump, my blood pressure would return all the way back down to normal.

2 07 2008
gobrewers

Don’t apologize for going in-depth on individual players. I liked this game wrap a lot. Keep it up!

2 07 2008
orville reddenbrewer

what about rivera at left field? it seems like giving cameron, hall and braun a few days off would be good for everyone at this point. rivera had never played first before and he did well, could the stocky little lovable guy play LF? kapler in CF and dillon at 2B?

2 07 2008
Jim Breen

he’s played first plenty in Spring Training and whatnot. i don’t think he’s fast enough to play left, but it’s an interesting idea!

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