Did that just happen? Bullpen implodes in Arizona heat

3 07 2008

So much for a winning road trip.

The Brewers seemed to be on cruise control going into the ninth inning against Arizona.  They led the game 5-0.  The bottom of the D’Backs order was coming up.  There was one problem though…

Ned Yost called on Guillermo Mota to finish out the game.  Mota has struggled quite a bit in the last month, and that trend didn’t end today.  After an infield single to Robbie Hammock, a walk to Chris Burke, and another infield single to Augie Ojeda, Yost pulled the right-hander in favor of Brian Shouse.

Mota threw almost exclusively fastballs again today.  His location was awful, as most of his pitches were up in the zone.  With that said, he didn’t deserve the fate he left with.  Two infield singles is not his fault.  He even threw a change-up this afternoon.  It was an awful, hanging change-up, but at least he threw it.

Enter Shouse.  Before the game, everyone sang his praises – and rightfully so.  Not tonight, however.  On the first pitch he threw, Chad Tracy shot a 3 RBI double to the right-center field gap.  3-5 Brewers.

Enter Salomon Torres.  I actually felt very comfortable with Salomon on the mound.  He has been perfect since taking over the closers role.  I guess I shouldn’t have felt so comfortable.  Torres gave up three straight base hits, and the Brewers lost the game.

Seven batters came to the plate and not one out was recorded.  The Brewers blew a 5-0 lead in the ninth inning.  That takes any momentum Milwaukee gained over the past week out of the sails.  Sometimes you can make yourself feel better by saying, “These things happen.”  Not today.  You should never blow a 5 run lead in the ninth inning.  Pathetic.

The horrendous ninth inning did overshadow some good things that happened today though.

  • J.J. Hardy now has a 15-game hitting streak.  He looks fantastic at the plate, driving the ball to all fields with power.  The Brewers shortstop went 4-5 today with 2 doubles, a broken-bat home run, and a single to right field.  What’s more impressive is that he’s upped his batting average 32 points this road trip.  That’s hard to do in July.
  • The home run Mike Cameron hit in the sixth inning truly was a home run.  When they originally showed the replay, I thought it the ball clearly went foul.  Then I found out the third base umpire said it hit the foul poll.  After looking at the replay again, you can see the ball switch directions in midair.  The ball could not have moved like it did without hitting something.  Home run.

    Cam also showcased his Gold Glove defense in center field today.  He made many difficult plays look routine in the field.  Manny Parra actually should dedicate his shutout outing to Cam, as Milwaukee’s center fielder saved him a couple runs.  To top it off, Cam has been looking much more comfortable at the plate.  When he’s right, that short stroke is a joy to watch.

  • Manny Parra may have gone six innings of shutout ball, but he did not have his best stuff.  On one hand, it shows how much Manny has grown as a pitcher in the past couple months.  He is learning to limit the damage and keep the team in the game.  On the other hand, I would caution anyone from getting too excited about today’s outing.  The southpaw’s control was not there, and he started off too many innings with runners on base.  That will eventually come back to bite him.
  • MLB Trade Rumors says the Brewers are willing to shop either J.J. Hardy or Rickie Weeks before the trade deadline.  It suggests that the Crew could go after A.J. Burnett, as Toronto is yearning for a talented shortstop.  J.J.’s trade value is incredibly high at this point in the season.  It also shows how strongly the team feels about Alcides Escobar down in Huntsville.  It wouldn’t even be an option for the team if Alcides was not major league ready.
  • This may be a knee-jerk reaction on my part, but today’s game highlights the team’s need for pitching in the bullpen.  A top-flight starter would be nice, but Milwaukee needs someone to pitch the eighth inning.  Guillermo Mota certainly isn’t the answer at this point.  Eric Gagne pitched a 1-2-3 inning, but his velocity was down and looked uncomfortable on the mound.  I’m not ready to hand the ball to him.  David Riske should be the option down the road, but he’s still getting comfortable on the mound.

    Milwaukee need a quality arm in the back-end of the ‘pen that they can control for the next couple years.  The latest rumor is that Milwaukee has a trade in the works with Arizona.  That could be for someone like Tony Pena or Juan Cruz.  Either would be upgrades for the ‘pen.

Records: Brewers (46-39); Diamondbacks (43-43)

Hero of the Game: J.J. Hardy

Wow.  J.J. is scorching hot at the plate.  He was an over-the-shoulder catch away from a 5-5 game with 3 doubles, a home run, and an opposite-field single.  Hardy is showing why Milwaukee’s coaches rave so much about him.  The defense is still stellar – did you see that diving play and flip to Weeks? – and the bat can still produce.  Milwaukee’s shortstop may be pushing for a bench role in the All-Star Game.  It is unlikely, but he’s playing like an All-Star right now.

Goat of the Game: The bottom of the ninth inning.

Read above.  I’m too upset to recap it again.

On Tap

The Milwaukee Brewers return home for a long homestand before the All-Star break.  Ben Sheets will face the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Tom Gorzelanny, who looked much better in his last outing.  The Brewers ace will try to help fans forget about what happened this afternoon.  It will be hard to accomplish, however.

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