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)

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(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.





Bush fantasti-K against the Rox

10 07 2008

Obviously, the game was not on TV today, so I was not able to watch it.  I did listen to it and see the highlights, however.  Here is the extended boxscore, if you are curious.

With all the attention on CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets (and rightly so), Dave Bush went out and gave a performance to remember.  It’s too bad that the game was not televised for anyone to see it.  The right-hander went 8 innings strong and struck out 13 batters.  And you thought Big Ben was impressive yesterday.

I was surprised Yost let Bush go 120+ pitches, but with the All-Star Break coming up, it should not be a problem.  Bushie had fantastic control this afternoon.  For the second start in a row, he did not walk a batter.  That is absolutely key for someone like Bush.  The strikeouts are just an added plus.  He has made an extremely strong push for the final spot in the rotation once Jeff Suppan comes back from the DL.  In his last two outings combined, Bush has gone 16 innings and only given up one earned run.

Dave Bush is notoriously a slow starter.  In his career, he has had an ERA above 5.00 in April and May.  When the weather heats up, however, so does Bush.  That is what we have seen this season as well.  He had a 3.65 ERA last month, and those numbers have only improved in July.  It looks as if the best option for Milwaukee is to move Seth McClung to the bullpen and give the ball to Bush every fifth day.  The ‘pen sure could use some help, considering how well Guillermo Mota has been pitching.

Speaking of Mota, Ned Yost says his mechanics are off.  He is “collapsing his back side,” which is causing his pitches to have little or no movement.  Mota and Mike Maddux are working extremely hard on correcting this fault.  Apparently, they corrected this before the season started, and Mota simply reverted back to his old ways.  I may simply be hard-headed, but I believe a part of it has to do with his reluctance to throw his change-up.  I will not beat that comment to death again though.  Hopefully, Maddux and Yost can get that situation worked out quickly because Mota has been absolutely brutal in the past two months.  The only question I have is: Why did it take 2 months for Maddux and Yost to notice this if they corrected it before?

Back to the game.  The offense came out to play today after getting embarrassed last night by Glendon Rusch.  Perhaps they all read everything being said about them last night, as the Crew walked four times today.  Not great, but certainly not bad.  J.J. Hardy and Corey Hart both hit home runs this afternoon.  Hart made the All-Star Game, by the way.  If you all have not seen the team mob him during the press conference, you should check it out.  Hart’s daughter got a good part of it too.  Congratulations, Corey.  You definitely deserve it!

Someone that deserves some ink is Gabe Kapler.  He produced again this afternoon, going 3-4 with three doubles and two RBI.  The comeback story is never-ending it seems.  I would love for Ned Yost to give Kapler more at-bats, but those at-bats are difficult to find.  Mike Cameron has been swinging the bat better as of late, and his defense is top-notch.  Did you see a couple of the plays he made last night?  He rarely makes a false step in center field and almost always takes a direct path to the ball.  It is an joy to watch him in the field.  Gabe provides the team with a more than capable fourth outfielder though, and that is extremely valuable.

Records: Brewers (51-41); Rockies (39-54)

Hero of the Game: Dave Bush

How can you go eight innings, give up only three hits, surrender zero earned runs, strike out 13, not walk a batter, and not get the Hero of the Game?  The only thing I would like to see is Dave have one of these performances on the road.  He always has been lights out at home, but has consistently struggled on the road.  He will need to deliver in his first road start after the All-Star Break to cement his status as Milwaukee’s #5 starter.

Goat of the Game: FSN North

Why was this game not on TV?  I understand the team does not have a contract to televise every game, but a game like this should never be only shown on tape delay.  Mark Attanasio should get a deal to televise all 162 games in the works.

On Tap

LHP Manny Parra will look to get the Brewers on a winning streak before the All-Star Break.  The Brewers will go up against RHP Josh Fogg, which is slightly concerning.  Yes, Josh Fogg is terrible, but he also went five innings and only gave up one earned run earlier in 2008 against the Brewers.  As Aaron said, the Crew has a way of making soft-tossing control pitchers look like aces.  Let’s hope the Brewers are patient at the plate and take their walks.  The game will start at 7:05pm CT.





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.





Brewers come from behind to bite the D’Backs

2 07 2008

Milwaukee has secured at least a split in the road series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The way almost all of the major leagues has played on the road this season, that is a victory in itself.  When you consider Brandon Webb will be on the hill tomorrow afternoon, the magnitude of this win is augmented greatly.

In one of the brightest stories of the 2008 season thus far for the Milwaukee Brewers, Seth McClung continued to impress on the mound as a starter.  I will be the first to admit that he did not have his A-stuff tonight.  The big guy may not have even had his B-stuff, but he battled and scraped together 5.1 innings while only giving up two runs.  The main thing: He gave the Crew a chance to win the game.  That’s what a starting pitcher must do.

Finishing with six strikeouts and only one walk, Seth excited the game in the sixth inning.  He scattered 8 hits and limited the damage.  Five of those hits, however, came in the first two innings.  His fastball had lots of life this evening, and McClung was dialing it up on the radar gun.  The big right-hander kept the team in the game and gave them a chance for a comeback.

And come back they did.

After Mike Cameron laced a two-out double in the seventh inning, Ned Yost called on Rickie Weeks to pinch hit.  Rickie has been out with a stomach virus the past two games, so it was a risky call on the part of the skipper.  Beware of the weary, however.  Weeks absolutely crushed an 0-2 pitch out of the park to left field.  3-2 Brewers.

The lead was short-lived though.  David Riske – who did throw more than fastballs today, by the way – gave up a first pitch bomb to Justin Upton.  It was almost a carbon copy of the Weeks home run.  3-3 Brewers.

For all the flak Mike Cameron has been getting from Brewers fans the past couple weeks, he came through in a big way tonight.  After Russell Branyan led off the inning with a single that ricocheted off Arizona first-baseman Mike Reynolds, Cam fought off a couple tough pitches before depositing the eventual game-winning single to left-center field.  That’s clutch hitting from the veteran center fielder.  That is why Doug Melvin signed him in the off-season.

Salomon Torres converted his 14th save after Branyan tagged third and threw a bullet to first base to end the game on a double play.  It was a big play by Russell, as Salomon worked himself in a spot of trouble after Orlando Hudson led off with a single and got to second after a deep fly ball to left.  All was for naught, however, as the Crew pulled out another one-run victory.

A couple other things to note after tonight’s game.  Did anyone else think that Stephen Drew’s cleat shot to Jason Kendall in the eighth was a cheap shot?  I understand he was trying to knock the ball loose from Kendall’s glove, but he risked seriously injuring Milwaukee’s catcher by spiking him in the gut.  I thought Kendall showed his true veteran mentality when he simply walked away from the situation.  Whether or not the Brewers catcher pursued the matter, I’m a little surprised a fine player like Stephen Drew would do that.  It was in the heat of the moment, but those metal spikes are no joke.

Joe Dillon pinch hit this evening and continued his fine approach at the plate.  He hit an absolute rocket out into deep left-center.  It looked to have a chance to get out of the park.  It certainly was going to give Milwaukee some insurance on the scoreboard.  That is, until Chris Young came out of nowhere to make a spectacular play, jumping into the wall and hanging on to the ball.  Fine play, Mr. Young.

Big Prince Fielder is still struggling at the plate.  He is going to very much welcome a little home cooking starting this weekend.  I’m not so sure Miller Park is going to help much unless he changes his approach at the plate, however.  He has a natural upper cut on his swing, which is why he hits so many home runs.  The upper cut is so pronounced right now though, that it is getting to Jim Edmonds territory right now.  Flatten out the swing, big boy.  That and don’t try to hit every ball out of the park.  That may help too.

This may be jinxing him, but J.J. Hardy continued his hit streak.  It is now at 14 games after a 2-4 performance with a clutch RBI in the sixth inning to start off the scoring for the Crew.  His bat is staying through the hitting area much longer right now, and he’s naturally getting better wood on the ball as a result.  That two-spot fits J.J. well, I think.

I have been unable to confirm this, but Arizona commentator Darron Sutton apparently said there is a deal going on between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Milwaukee Brewers.  I did find it a little strange that Doug Melvin and Gord Ash have been attending this series, but there has been no confirmation.  The words were that the deal was going to come through “very, very soon.”

The only thing I can think of is a little help in the bullpen.  Arizona has some expendable arms with the likes of Tony Pena, Juan Cruz, and Chad Qualls.  They would almost certainly be looking for a bat in return.  Could Mike Cameron find himself on a plane to Arizona soon?  It could make some sense, as Gabe Kapler has been terrific.  Perhaps Gabe is the one in question.  Or perhaps this is completely unsubstantiated and nothing will happen.  Only time will tell.

Records: Brewers (46-38); Diamondbacks (42-43)

Hero of the Game: Mike Cameron

Mike came through today in a big way at the plate.  He almost hit one out of the park in the second inning, but it hit a little too far down on the trademark.  That at-bat was a sign of things to come for Mike, as he finished the game going 2-4 with two huge RBI.  His single in the ninth inning proved to be the difference in the game.  This is the type of player Mike Cameron can be on a daily basis.  Hopefully he can get on a hot streak sometime soon.

Goat of the Game: Prince Fielder

I understand Prince is an incredibly streaky hitter, but that swing needs to get a little flatter.  The plate discipline needs to improve.  He’s far too talented to fall into huge funks like he has this season.  Prince sorely needs to see Miller Park again.

On Tap

Manny Parra will take on Brandon Webb tomorrow afternoon in the series finale.  Parra has looked much better on the mound lately, and he’ll have to pitch effectively for Milwaukee to stand a chance against the fantastic Brandon Webb.





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





Small Ball, Sheets Win the Night

19 06 2008

The polar opposite of the night before where all seven of the Brewers’ runs came courtesy of the home run ball, the Brewers put their faith in timely hitting, smart base running, and another solid, albeit short, outing from Ben Sheets. The victory last night, 5-4, guaranteed another series win for the Crew and the win over the Blue Jays meant the Brewers are sitting on a three game win streak.

Sheets, who threw six innings, was relieved by Carlos Villanueva, who quickly gave up two hits and a run in 2/3 of an inning of work. The relief pitching was more troubling when Guillermo Mota came in to work the eight. Showing a troubling pattern of alternating strong appearances with downright scary appearances, Mota brought out his Halloween game allowing three hits, a walk, and a run in only 23 pitches.

Salomon Torres to the rescue. Torres showed up in the eight inning with two outs, escaped unscathed and proceeded to record his ninth save of the season the next inning.

Besides a little solo home run love from Russell Branyan in the second and Mike Cameron in the sixth it was the small ball that propelled the Crew to the win. The key inning was the bottom of the fourth, with the game tied at ones, when Corey Hart lead of with a ground rule double. Hart would then be put over to third by Branyan’s sac fly. On the ensuing play Cameron rolled what amounted to a swing bunt back to the Jay’s pitcher Shaun Marcum. Hart, on a dead sprint from third, beat the fielder’s choice throw at home and Cam was safe at first (he should have made it to second as the catcher spiked the ball after Hart was safe).

Cam stole second, advanced to third on Jason Kendall‘s single, and scored on a squeeze play. Squeeze plays have been notoriously bad for the Brewers this year with either the batter or runner missing the calls on multiple occasions leaving runners for dead, but this one played out perfectly, if not a bit unmethodically (if that’s a word). Sheets put down a great bunt, catcher Gregg Zaun looked Cameron back to third and threw Sheets out at first. That was when Cam broke for home scoring without even having to slide.

Sheets working from the mound look good in the opening frame striking out two, but unraveled a bit as the game went on. Sheets walked for batters, tossed two wild pitches, and gave up several hard hits. Yost lifted Sheets for a pinch hitter in the sixth, a call that I second guess.

Records: Brewers (38-33), Blue Jays (35-38 )

Hero of the Game: Mike Cameron

I’ve been harping on Cameron a bit lately, but last night he epitomized an all around solid baseball player. He mixed small ball with the powerball scoring Hart on his (very) small ball and scoring himself with a solo homer later in the game. But it was his smart base running to sneak a run in from third in the fourth that gets the big kudos. The box score 1-for-4 doesn’t show how intelligent one is on the base paths to try to take home plate on a bunt, hold, then break for the base, and beat the tag with some great speed. Good work, Cam.

Goat(s) of the Game: Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder

Both the big men in the line up had “oh fer” nights. RB and PF came to the plate and left empty all four times and racked up two Ks each. The plate discipline is looking a bit shaky guys… work it out.

On Tap:

David Bush (2-7, 5.37) takes on AJ Burnett (6-6, 4.90) in the matinée wrap up of this Interleague series. Which Bush will show up? Game time 1:05 CT on FSN.

By: Dan Wiersema