Round ’em Up: Sunday

13 07 2008

UPDATE 07-13-08 1:05pm – Take a look at the brawl in the Huntsville Stars game last night!  Also, the error Cole Gillespie has in the highlights is downright embarrassing…(A tip of the cap to Mass Hass at Brewerfan.net for this one)

——————————————————————————-

(Insert your own witty opening right here.) Let’s jump right into this.

  • Ned Yost says that the defense is drastically improved from last season. He doesn’t want us to look at the number of errors though. That isn’t a realistic representation of the improvement. Yost likes the fact that the outfield has more range than last season. They can get to more balls.Sure, the defense has improved some from last season. It is by no means above-average, however. Bill Hall has a penchant for making the difficult play look easy and botching the routine plays. Ryan Braun may not have an error in left field, but he’s still trying to throw every man out at home and not hitting the cut off man. That allows runners on the basepaths to move up into scoring position after a mere single. Prince Fielder is certainly not above-average at first. The only real improvements are Mike Cameron in center field and Jason Kendall behind the dish. You like how I did that without looking at stats? Ned Yost would be proud.
  • The Brew Town Beat analyzes the trend of the platoon for the Milwaukee Brewers. There is the Bill Hall/Russell Branyan platoon. There is the proposed Dave Bush/Seth McClung platoon. Brew Town suggests a Craig Counsell/Joe Dillon platoon while Rickie Weeks gets sent down to Nashville to work some things out. My guess is Milwaukee is not going to go down that path unless there is a productive trading option – like a Ray Durham.
  • Jon Rauch is receiving a lot of attention on the Trade Market. I would suspect that Milwaukee will or has already kicked the tires. The problem is that Washington is known for trying to screw other teams in a deal. I suspect the asking price will be exorbitant.
  • Battlekow on Brew Crew Ball has a nice overview of the Future’s Game. It actually started about an hour ago, so go check it out on ESPN2. Mat Gamel and Matt LaPorta are playing. Check it out.
  • Vinny Rottino and Lindsay Gulin were named to the PCL All-Star team. Rottino has performed better than expected behind the plate. He may be the back-up in Milwaukee next season. Gulin has been one of the only consistent performers in the starting rotation in Nashville. He has been walking too many people lately, but his ERA is still extremely respectable.Luis Pena was a late addition to the All-Star team as well. As it says in The Sunday Harvest, Pena started out horrendously. He’s turned it on lately though. The right-hander will probably be called up to the big leagues in September, if not before.
  • The Hardball Times analyzes the Rich Harden trade. The article takes the position that the Oakland A’s probably got the better end of the deal because they got a surplus of talent that could become everyday players in the bigs.
  • Dugout Central asks who the most disappointing teams in the AL and the NL have been this season. In the AL, I would say the Cleveland Indians have been the most underachieving team. The San Diego Padres take the cake in the National League, in my opinion.
  • The Junkball Blues wonders why the amount of complete games have gone down so dramatically throughout the history of baseball. You can blame strict pitch counts and high salaries for that.
  • Seamheads looks at the Tampa Bay Rays and their attendance. Even though they are having the best season in their history, they just broke the one million mark for attendance. That’s rough for the management. Perhaps they will be moving sometime soon…




Reds series highlights Brewers shortcomings

12 07 2008

After another devastating loss tonight against the Cincinnati Reds, it’s time to take a look at what has gone wrong. How have the Brewers lost two straight games to a team they are much better than? At home, no less.

These last two games serve as a microcosm for Milwaukee’s struggles in 2008. It’s been the big three for the Brewers.

1) Struggles at the back end of the bullpen – mainly Guillermo Mota and Eric Gagne.

2) Below-average defense.

3) Poor plate discipline and too many strikeouts.

The Bullpen

In tonight’s game against the Reds, David Riske and Brian Shouse simply needed to keep the deficit at 3-2 in the eighth inning. They needed to give the Brewers a chance to put something together against the Cincinnati’s bullpen, as Edinson Volquez dominated through seven innings.

Instead of holding the score 3-2, Riske gave up a one-out double to Jerry Hairston – who has owned the Brewers. Ned Yost then called upon Brian Shouse to strand the runner at second. Thus far in 2008, Shouse could almost guarantee results. He has struggled in the past week, however.

Those struggles continued tonight. After striking out Jay Bruce on three pitches, he gave up an RBI single to Ken Griffey Jr. Shouse has had issues keeping the ball down the past week. The deception of his sidearm delivery can only do so much. He needs to keep the ball down and away from left-handers. That has not been happening, and the team is suffering.

The score is now 4-2 after the Crew couldn’t get anything going against the unimpressive David Weathers. There is still a slim glimmer of hope in the hearts of Brewers fans, however. Maybe the offense can score two off Francisco Cordero in the ninth. Perhaps the Crew can come back against their old teammate. Again, all the bullpen needs to do is keep the deficit the same.

Enter Eric Gagne – the newly-anointed set-up man. Milwaukee’s ten million dollar man has looked extremely solid in his couple outings since coming off the DL. Adam Dunn changed that. Dunn clobbered a 3-2 fastball out of the park to increase Cincinnati’s lead to 5-2. The lead only grew after Edwin Encarnacion went deep to make it back-to-back home runs. Before the inning could end, Gagne gave up four runs on four hits. The lead was now 8-2, and all the hopes of the Brewers winning the game left when Gagne left the game for Guillermo Mota. You know there are problems if you need Mota to get you out of an inning.

Defense

Doug Melvin and the Brewers went out and signed Mike Cameron to a one-year contract to sure-up center field. He has been very impressive patrolling center and has vastly improved Milwaukee’s defense from last year. Bill Hall was forced to learn on the job last season, and Cameron is an obvious improvement with his Gold Glove-caliber defense.

Friday night, however, that exceptional defense was not on display. Cameron got an excellent jump on a ball in the left-center gap (as usual), but he lost the ball in the lights. The ball almost hit the Brewer center fielder in the head, and it resulted in a triple for Jerry Hairston. Did I mention Hairston has owned the Brewers this series? It tied the game up in the seventh.

Then, with a tie game in the eighth inning, Bill Hall fields a routine ground ball at third base. The Brewers moved him to third during the winter to improve on the defense Ryan Braun gave the Crew last season. It hasn’t improved the defense as much as Doug Melvin and the team hoped. Hall rushed his throw and spiked it in the dirt. Prince Fielder was unable to handle the low throw, and the inning continued with two on and one-out, rather than one on and two-out. It turned out to cost the Brewers the game, as Hairston scored on a wild pitch by Salomon Torres.

The sloppy defense directly led to Milwaukee’s loss to the Reds Friday night. If Hall or Cameron could have come up with only one of those plays, the worst the score could have been was a tie game going into the bottom of the ninth. What ifs are pointless, but the sloppy defense does point to a chink in the armor of the Milwaukee Brewers. Doug Melvin certainly improved the defense this off-season, but it is certainly not perfect. The defense will need to improve to catch the Chicago Cubs.

Plate Discipline

Milwaukee has a powerful offense.  No one will dispute that fact.  The team does struggle to score runs when the long ball is not present.  Manufacturing runs does not come easy for a team that strikes out a lot and does not walk very often.  As a whole, the Brewers are too over-aggressive at the plate and make soft-tossing control pitchers like Josh Fogg and Glendon Rusch look like aces.

In Friday night’s game against Fogg, the Reds’ veteran right-hander cruised along the first five innings.  He kept the free-swinging Brewers off-balance by rarely throwing a first pitch fastball and inducing a lot of pop-ups.  You know a team has a strikeout problem when Josh Fogg strikes out six in five and a third.  Fogg threw everything but the kitchen sink up there, and the aggressive Brewers hitters obliged by swinging at difficult pitches.

After Friday night’s offensive struggles against Fogg, the Reds threw out the hard-throwing Edinson Volquez to the mound.  I am not suggesting a bad outing against Volquez is indicative of offensive struggles, as almost every team that has gone against Volquez has struggled immensely.  It is the way the Brewers scuffled that indicates potential offensive problems.

Volquez struck out ten Brewers in seven innings.  He kept hitters off-balance with his exceptional change-up, and the aggressive Brewers swung over it again and again.  J.J. Hardy – who has been one of the hottest hitters in the league the past month – whiffed three times against the NL All-Star.  Strikeouts do not move runners over on the basepaths.  Strikeouts do not even give Mike Cameron a chance to score the tying run from second in Friday night’s game in the ninth inning.  Strikeouts do not allow any sacrifice flies to get runners in from third base with no outs or one out.

Right now, the Milwaukee Brewers live and die by extra base hits.  When the team is going well, they will score in bunches.  The over-reliance on extra-base hits is a recipe for offensive slumps, however.  That is what the Brewers have been unable to overcome the past two games against the Cincinnati Reds.

If the Brewers are going to catch the Chicago Cubs and stay ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals, the defense will need to improve, the bullpen will need to improve, and the offense will need to draw more walks and play more small ball.





Glendon Rusch? Really?

10 07 2008

The Rockies have heard all about the Milwaukee Brewers the past three days, and they must be sick of it.  They decided to put together a little fireworks show of their own tonight.  8-3 Rockies.

This wasn’t supposed to happen tonight.  Glendon Rusch took the mound for the Rox, a slow-throwing left-hander.  The Brewers trotted out ace #2 tonight, Ben Sheets.  On paper, the Brewers should have run away with this game.

Sheets did his part, fanning a season-high 11 Rockies.  He looked to have his ‘A’-stuff tonight.  The first seven outs of the game for Sheets were via the strike out.  From early on, fans thought they were going to see something special tonight from Big Ben.  Ben did pitch fantastically, but the Rockies took advantage of every mistake he made – even if they were few and far between.

In the sixth inning, Ben walked Matt Holiday after a long at-bat.  The right-hander was visibly upset with himself, talking and muttering intently on the mound.  At this point in the contest, it was 1-1.  Benny looked to get out of the inning with a ground ball, but served up a home run to Garrett Atkins.  The pitch count reached 110 pitches after the inning ended – fittingly on a strike out – and the bullpen took over.

The bullpen imploded and gave away any chance for the Crew to get back in the game.  Mitch Stetter, after my singing his praises this afternoon, struggled with his command and gave up an RBI bloop single to Scott Podsednik.  Colorado led 4-1 going into the bottom of the seventh.

Offensively, the Brewers came alive against Manuel Corpas.  The suddenly red-hot Bill Hall continued his fine swinging against a right-handed pitcher with a one-out double to jump start the Crew.  Mike Cameron followed with an RBI single, who later scored on an infield single by Russell Branyan.  Yes, Russell had a base hit that was not a home run.

In a 4-3 game, who is the last person Ned Yost should have called on at this point?  Guillermo Mota.  The veteran right-hander has struggled mightily over the past month and a half, and the Crew needed someone to come in and preserve the one-run deficit.  Instead, Guillermo gave up four runs on four hits, and the Brewers were suddenly down 8-3.  The Crew never got any closer.

Guillermo will not be seeing any meaningful playing time in the near future.  At least, he should not see any meaningful playing time.  Ned Yost is notorious for having too long of a leash, but the Brewers manager has been much better about that this season (see Derrick Turnbow and Julian Tavarez).  Do you want to know the most maddening part of his outing?  All four base hits came with two outs.  You have got to put a team away with two outs in an inning.  You simply cannot give up four straight hits, two of them being home runs, with two outs.  That will give you a lot of time on the bench to think about it.

I know I have harped on this for the past month now, but what is wrong with throwing a change-up?  Guillermo Mota threw it three times in the eighth inning.  He got Joe Koshansky – who later homered – to swing over the top of it, he got Matt Holiday to ground out weakly to the pitcher, and he got Omar Quintanilla to line out to Corey Hart.  That is three pitches and no hits.  Something tells me Mota should throw that a little more often.  What do I know though, right?

Overall, this is a devastating loss for the Brewers.  The Cardinals lost, but the Cubs won.  The Crew had a match-up that practically handed them a win.  Even after going six innings and giving up only one run, Rusch still has a 6.25 ERA.  He looked like an ace tonight.  Good grief.

Records: Brewers (50-41); Rockies (39-53)

Hero of the Game: Bill Hall

It’s nice to see Billy swinging a hot stick again.  It is even against righties and lefties this time around, which is huge for the Brewers third baseman.  In last night’s game, Billy hit a clutch two-run single against a right-hander, and he started off the mini-rally tonight in the seventh inning with a double off righty Manuel Corpas.  In the meantime, Hall is still raking against southpaws.  He provided the only offense against Glendon Rusch with his mammoth home run in the bottom of the second.

Goat of the Game: Guillermo Mota

Unfortunately, Mota’s $3.2M contract will be almost impossible to move before the trade deadline.  The big salary will almost certainly keep him on the roster.  Either Ned Yost will pitch Mota in some mop-up situations for right now and let him work out his issues, or Milwaukee will DFA the veteran right-hander and send him to the minors.  No one will pick-up Mota at this point, and he would likely accept a demotion to Nashville.  Even if he didn’t accept the move, he would forfeit his contract and become a free agent.  That sounds quite appealing, doesn’t it?

On Tap

RHP Dave Bush will look to help the Brewers split the series against LHP Jorge De la Rosa and the Colorado Rockies.  This is a huge game for the Crew, as they cannot afford to lose a 4-game series at home.  That would be devastating before the All-Star Break.  The game is not televised, but it will be on WTMJ at 1:05pm CT.





Sweep overshadowed by trade winds

6 07 2008

UPDATE 07-06-08 9:37pm – Tom Haudricourt has more information as to who is included in the deal.  Apparently, the deal included four prospects.

Matt LaPorta is still the centerpiece of the deal.  That is a big blow, but the minor league system is stacked full of guys that can hit but don’t have a position.  LaPorta is replaceable.

LHP Zach Jackson will be on his way to Cleveland.  My reaction?  You can have him Cleveland.  Perhaps a change of scenery is all he needs.  Jackson has been terrible since coming to Milwaukee in the Lyle Overbay trade.

RHP Rob Bryson is also included in the deal.  Rob is a bright young prospect who has struggled a bit this season with a 3-2 record and a 4.25 ERA in 22 outings.  Baseball America thinks that Bryson has the stuff to be a closer in a few years, but that is still years away.  This loss doesn’t hurt the system too much, especially with the tons of pitchers drafted this season.

The deal still includes a “player to be named later.”  Most believe this is still Taylor Green.  Haudricourt believes the Indians want to move him to second base and need more time to scout him.  If they deem Green unfit for second base, there will be another player involved in the deal.

Don’t worry, Brewers fans.  Doug Melvin didn’t give up too much to get last year’s AL Cy Young winner.  Mat Gamel, Alcides Escobar, Angel Salome, Michael Brantley, Brad Nelson, Zach Braddock, Chris Errecart, and Jeremy Jeffress are all safe.  It feels good to say that.

———————————————————————–

It was not the prettiest win of the season, but the Milwaukee Brewers swept the Pirates this afternoon with offensive fireworks.

Too bad the win got lost in the news that Doug Melvin and the Brewers just agreed in principle to a deal with the Cleveland Indians that will send C.C. Sabathia to Milwaukee for Matt LaPorta and two lower level prospects.

In case you forgot what happened, let me refresh your memory.

After his 16-game hit streak ended last night on a sacrifice bunt, J.J. Hardy started a new streak in a big way this afternoon. In the bottom of the first, the Brewers shortstop snuck one just inside the right field foul poll to start off the scoring. Rickie Weeks started the game off with a walk, so Milwaukee got out to a 2-0 lead quickly.

The lead grew 4-0 after the first once Ryan Braun hit a solo shot, and Bill Hall continued his fine hitting against southpaws with an RBI single that plated Corey Hart.

All looked good for the Crew. That changed in the top of the second when Jeff Suppan gave all four of the runs right back. Soup did not look sharp tonight. The umpire was squeezing him a bit at the bottom of the zone, but that is no excuse for giving up six runs in three innings of work. When your offense spots you four runs in the first inning, you have to maintain that lead and momentum. It appeared to be a long day in the making after the third inning ended.

The bullpen has been taking a lot of heat lately, but the collective group banded together and shut the door on the Pirates for the rest of the game. Ned Yost pulled Soup after three innings and handed the ball to Mitch Stetter, who pitched two scoreless innings and got the win. The ‘pen came through in a big way today, picking up the team after Soup struggled to keep the Pirates off the scoreboard.

Guillermo Mota even looked pretty good. He mixed up his pitches well. The pitch count was quite high for only an inning on the mound, but a scoreless inning should do wonders to help his confidence.

In other news, Ryan Braun is going to be a starter for the NL in the All-Star Game. Congrats, Ryan. You certainly deserve it. You all can also vote for Corey Hart to get the last spot on the squad. Vote, vote, vote!!!

Finally, on to C.C. Sabathia, the newest member of the Milwaukee Brewers. Man, it feels good to say that.

After thinking it over and reading online threads and whatnot, I could not be more excited about this trade for the Brewers. How often can a team get a bona fide Cy Young-caliber pitcher at the trade deadline and not sacrifice anyone completely integral to the team’s future?

Yes, I understand Matt LaPorta is a rare player, but he is blocked in Milwaukee’s system right now. Not to mention, a prospect is a prospect is a prospect. The young man has not proven a thing yet against major league pitching. He may very well be a star in the big leagues, but there are no guarantees. Best take a proven player when given the chance. That is what C.C. brings to the club. He is a proven winner.

It is unclear who the last two prospects are, but one can assume Taylor Green is one of them. The other may be someone like a John Axford or Alexandre Periard. Either way, I firmly believe Doug Melvin gave away more last season to get Scott Linebrink than he is giving away in the C.C. deal, and Milwaukee is receiving much more in return. The 1-2 punch of Ben Sheets and Sabathia is only rivaled by Dan Haren-Brandon Webb in Arizona. That is a legitimate playoff top of the rotation right there.

Finally, it is almost a foregone conclusion that Milwaukee will not be able to resign Sheets or Sabathia after the season. That could secure 5 draft picks through the first supplemental round. That is a draft where the team can restock the minor leagues. Even if Milwaukee doesn’t make the playoffs this season-which would classify the trade as a failure in my eyes-the team still will benefit from the gluttony of draft picks in the 2009 draft.

If nothing else, this trade has thrust Milwaukee into the national spotlight. It will generate massive revenue at the ticket office. I, for one, have already bought my tickets for Tuesday night’s game against the Colorado Rockies. I did not want to miss Sabathia’s debut as a Brewer. There will be more ticket sales, which will result in more money for the team. More money for the team means more money to spend on free agents or on our own players. If the team makes the playoffs, it will only augment the revenue gain.

The deal is looking better and better for the Brewers, and I am seeing the excitement everywhere I look from Brewers fans. Nice job getting the deal done, Doug Melvin. I, of course, will keep you all up-to-date on who Milwaukee is sending to Cleveland when the information becomes available.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Brewers are tied with the Cardinals for the Wild Card lead. Big day for the Crew all around.

Records: Brewers (49-39); Pirates (40-47)

Hero of the Game: J.J. Hardy

For now, I will assume J.J. is the hero until proven otherwise. There is no human being on earth that is hotter than J.J. right now. Maybe I should get plunked in the helmet like he did in Arizona. It seems to have helped him…

Goat of the Game: Jeff Suppan

You simply cannot, cannot give back runs after your team spots you four runs in the first inning. A veteran pitcher should know that he had the opportunity to take all the wind out of Pittsburgh’s sails right there, but nope. He wanted to leave after three innings instead. If he didn’t have a big contract in his pocket, Soup may be heading to the ‘pen now that Sabathia is on the team.

On Tap

RHP Seth McClung will take on LHP Ubaldo Jimenez at 7:05pm CT at Miller Park tomorrow. The Crew will look to stretch the winning streak to four games, and Seth will try to prove he belongs in the starting rotation. It could be a mini-audition for the big man now that Sabathia is in the rotation.





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.





Complete Game Sheets Saves the Day Again

24 06 2008

I’m stunned, absolutely stunned. If you told me in April that Ben Sheets would be as dominate as he has been this season I would have laughed you out of the refrigerator box I live in. Sheets has great stuff (which is an understatement) and has proven to be durable when he’s healthy. But that’s the key phrase: “healthy.”

We’ve all come to getting used to Big Ben getting hurt. Even the local NBC affiliate began this season updating us with a new Brewers stat, DOR, or “days on roster” for Sheets. The feeling was that is was nice to have Sheets around, but an injury was inevitable.

I can’t say for certain that something won’t happen to Sheets, but so far this season he is pitching like a mid-season CY Young candidate. There have been games where he has struggled with his command at times or his single terrible outing against the Dodgers, but when its all said and done Sheets has been unbelievable.

Last night was no different. Sheets went nine innings, allowing only four hits, one run, while striking out seven. The two most impressive parts of his performance were that: 1) he didn’t register a K until the last out of the fourth inning, so all seven took place in less than five innings ; and 2) he is also a workhorse. Going into the pre-bottom of the ninth inning commercial break the Crew was in a save situation. Was Salomon Torres going to have to come out again? Nope, Sheets to the rescue. He had retired the last 13 batters in order, so wasting the last three in order was nothing new to the staff ace.

Mike Cameron was great in his return from a toe injury, putting the Brewers on the board in the second with a two run home run to left. The first runs against Jo-Jo Reyes spelled trouble for the young pitcher. By the third inning, Reyes was pulled by Braves manager Bobby Cox, after giving up two more runs and loading the bases. Unfortunately, the Braves wiggled off that hook and held Milwaukee scoreless for the rest of the game. Buddy Carlyle three 4 1/3 innings of scoreless ball allowing only two hits and stranding Brewer runners at third in three separate innings.

But, the Brewers had Sheets on the mound and as the Braves tightened their part of the game, he only got better.

Records: Brewers (42-34), Braves (38-40)

Hero of the Game: Ben Sheets

If I didn’t give the “hero” award to Sheets he’d be as mad as if Ned Yost didn’t let him finish last nights game (remember when Yost took him out with one out left a few weeks ago?). Everything about how Sheets went through last night’s game was a testament to what a great pitcher he is. All his strikeouts came in the fourth inning or later. He faced only one, ONE, three ball count during the whole game. SIXTEEN batters in a row. Seventh consecutive win. 6-0 on the road. 9-1 record. The achievements are astounding. Punch his ticket to Yankee Stadium this All-Star break.

Goat of the Game: Bill Hall

Poor guy can never catch a break. A rare start and he goes 0-for-4, with a strikeout, and leaves three on base. Everyone of his at-bats he put hard hit balls into play. If Russell Branyan wasn’t so dominate right now I’d really be feeling for this guy.

On Tap:

The Braves march Charlie Morton (1-0, 4.91 ERA) to the mound to stop the bleeding. Dave Bush (3-7, 5.26), coming off his best start of the season, will try to secure the road series win for the Crew. Game time 6:05 CT on FSN.

By: Dan Wiersema





Prince’s Power Hour Propels

22 06 2008

The big boys came out to play in the Milwaukee Brewers’ final game against American League opposition, the Baltimore Orioles. Home runs from Corey Hart, Bill Hall, and a pair from Prince Fielder bailed out an out-of-sorts Manny Parra. Sprinkle in some nice defensive plays and a season-tying high for double plays and the result was good 7-3 victory finishing off a 6-3 homestand for the Crew.

From the get-go it looked like Parra might set up Milwaukee for a long afternoon. His pitch locations were off and a tight zone from the home plate umpire wasn’t helping his cause. Parra walked six guys including four in the first three innings. Two of Baltimore’s three runs were walks that came around to score.

Rickie Weeks was back in the lineup today (and in the lead off spot in the order) and looked shaky early on. Jason Kendall caught Jay Payton off of first, but Weeks, attempting to get Payton out, dropped Kendall’s throw.

Fielder has also looked shoddy on defense recently (something that he had looked to improve this season. He misplayed a bunt single in the second inning failing to pick up the ball and get it to Parra at first base. Earlier in the season is looked as though Fielder was making big strides in his defensive play, but in the last few series he has made several mistakes on plays that should be outs.

If the defense has fallen, the offensive game of Fielder has shown brightly. Prince belted a double and two home runs today. Fielder was 3-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored. His monster, two run blast in the seventh gave the Crew some breathing room heading into the closing frames.

The secondary storyline of the game is the positive defensive plays that the Brewers made to back up the struggling Parra. Ryan Braun made two outstanding sliding catches (the one in the sixth was ESPN’s #5 “Web Gem” today) to rob Baltimore of base hits. The infield also turned five double plays on an Oriole team that has the grounded into the least amount of double plays in the American League (45). Weeks was strong on his DP turns (something that has been troubling… low throws to first) and made a fantastic play to end the seventh inning.

Guillermo Mota and David Riske both continue to struggle in relief appearances this afternoon issuing two walks apiece. A strikeout for Riske and two nice defensive plays by JJ Hardy and the already mentioned Weeks grab bailed out David. It took an appearance by Salomon Torres and a double play to get Mota off the hook in the ninth. Mark DiFelice had a good outing, going 1-2-3 in the sixth, but otherwise this bullpen is starting to worry. There are a bunch of bright spots (DiFelice, Torres, Shouse), but they can’t pitch everyday and allow the inconsistent guys to shake down games.

Records: Brewers (41-34), Orioles (38-36)

Hero of the Game: Prince Fielder

The Prince has been going on a power binge of late. He’s got five home runs in the last six games. For June all of his vitals are skyrocketing. Take a look at his May/June comparisons:

Stat May June

On Base Percentage .358 .432

Average .294 .343

Slugging: .450 .757

Promising stuff from the kid.

Goat of the Game: Davillermo RiskMota

What’s up with these guys? I know the zone was tight, Parra struggle with his stuff all night, but Riske and Mota’s inability to find a strike lately is looking Gagnesqe. I guess I’m particularly worried about Riske because I never was that high up on him since the beginning of the season. For the money we paid for him I feel like the Brewers haven’t gotten a lot of relief security.

A few good outings early in the season was marred by several rough outings before going on the DL. Since being activated from the DL two days ago, Riske has participated in the almost-loss on Thursday against Toronto and stunk it up today. These sorts of trouble should be worked out with a player before he comes back from his rehab stint in the minors. I know he blew threw the opposition in his one inning of work in Nashville, but there’s nothing wrong with playing it safe and seeing he’s all there.

On Tap:

The Crew hits the road to take on the Atlanta Braves. Jo-Jo Reyes (3-4, 4.05 ERA) is on the mound versus Ben Sheets (8-1, 2.74 ERA). Game time: 6:05 CT.

By: Dan Wiersema