Prince reigns over Pittsburgh

5 07 2008

Prince Fielder may be struggling at the plate, but sure saved the Brewers tonight with timely hitting in the bottom of the ninth inning.

In a 1-1 game in the bottom of the ninth, Rickie Weeks battled back from a 0-2 count to draw a huge walk to start the frame. That turned out to be a huge boost for the team.

J.J. Hardy then sacrificed his 16-game hitting streak by laying down a sac bunt to move Rickie to second base. Pittsburgh reliever Tyler Yates chose to next intentionally walk Ryan Braun to get to a struggling Prince Fielder and to set up the double play.

Brewers fans rose to their feet in support of their Prince. Yates started him off with a couple fastballs on the outside part of the plate to head in the count 0-2. The right-hander then tried to make Prince chase a ball at his eyes. Prince appeared to be too eager at the plate and almost obliged. Now down 1-2, I thought Yates was going to bury a ball in the dirt, as Prince showed he wanted to swing at everything. Instead, he tried to sneak an outside fastball by the big lefty. It didn’t work. Prince served a line drive to left-center field that scored Rickie from second. 2-1 Brewers. Ball game.

Milwaukee got an absolute gem of a start from right-hander Dave Bush. He changed speeds beautifully all day, and his curveball stayed down in the zone all day. Bushie had fantastic control this evening, especially on the outside corner. I’m not sure how often it has happened all season, but he did not walk an opposing batter all game, while striking out six.

It turned out that Dave Bush needed to pitch well tonight, as Paul Maholm also spun a gem on the mound. Besides a nice opposite field home run from Mike Cameron, Pittsburgh’s left-hander went eight innings without surrendering another run. His curveball and change-up fooled Milwaukee hitters all evening. Tonight’s game was the epitome of a pitcher’s duel.

Even Eric Gagne threw the ball well, pitching the top of the ninth without giving up a run. He gave up a hit and struck out one. While his velocity has gone way down since injuring his shoulder, the command has been a thousand times better. His change-up has been absolutely nasty for him, falling right through the zone and fooling opposing batters. The command on his fastball has been much better. He has been able to work the corners much more effectively than before his stint on the DL.

The lack of velocity will be a hindrance of Gagne, but the better control may land the former closer 8th inning duties. If he is able to keep up the fine performances, I wouldn’t mind that at all. Don’t worry, that’s not a self-fulfilling prophecy at all.

There is some news on the C.C. Sabathia trade front.

Tom Haudricourt reports that Doug Melvin is waiting for a response from the Indians on their trade proposal. All signs point to the package being Matt LaPorta/Taylor Green/Lorenzo Cain. The Indians will probably wait until Monday or Tuesday before deciding on anything. They could perhaps ask for more in return, but nothing new seems likely to occur before Monday.

ESPN.com’s Buster Olney says that the Indians are fielding other offers from the Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Tampa seems more focused on a right-handed outfielder and probably lacks the motivation to make a strong offer for Sabathia. If they do decide to make a play, however, Milwaukee may be on the outside looking in. Tampa has an incredible farm system and can outplay the Brewers. They will test the waters, but most likely will look elsewhere.

The Dodgers need a shortstop, but could change gears and hone in on the left-hander. They should have enough to get the deal done. It all depends on the motivation and the transparency of their proposal. Olney says Los Angeles has a tendency to balk at proposals. They will say one player is available, then back off and say he’s not.

Most likely, the Philadelphia Phillies will be the toughest opponent if they choose to be aggressive. Their farm system does not have as many offensive five-star prospects, but they could offer more players to get the deal done. I have heard that Philadelphia prefers Erik Bedard though.

Records: Brewers (48-39); Pirates (40-46)

Hero of the Game: Prince Fielder

The award could easily go to Dave Bush for his gem of a performance, but I came away from the game very impressed with Fielder’s resilience in the ninth inning. He has fought his swing the past couple weeks, but the big guy came up big to win the game. After trying a little too hard on the first three pitches, the fourth pitch from Tyler Yates turned out to be the charm. He didn’t overswing and took the ball where it was pitched. A great win for the Brewers.

Goat of the Game: Jason Kendall

Jason just didn’t look comfortable at the plate tonight. He did call a superb game for Dave Bush this evening, but he went 0-3 at the plate. The catcher doesn’t really deserve the Goat. Sorry, Jason.

On Tap

RHP Jeff Suppan will battle LHP Zach Duke in the series finale at Miller Park. The Crew looks to sweep the Pirates and continue their fine play. The game starts at 1:05pm CT on FSN North.

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