Tag:Brewers
Posted on: October 14, 2011 1:37 am
Edited on: October 14, 2011 1:50 am
 

Hairston's perfect slide highlights Game 4

Jerry Hairston

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- The one thing Jerry Hairston Jr. knew as he rounded third base was that there was no way he was going to bowl over Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina -- and if he wasn't going to go through him, he had to go around him.

It's not easy when you're running full speed, trying to figure out when the ball is going to get to the plate and then trying to figure out a way around perhaps baseball's best defensive catcher. Not only did Hairston manage to do all three -- he did it in a huge situation, tying Game 4 of the National League Championship Series with his fourth-inning slide, as Milwaukee went on to beat St. Louis 4-2 to even the best-of-seven series at two games each.

NLCS Coverage

Hairston started on second base when Yuniesky Betancourt laced a single up the middle -- "I wish Yuni would have hit like a 35-hopper through any hole just so it would be a lot easier for me to score," Hairston said. "He hit a bullet right at Jon Jay, and I had kind of a late jump because you want to freeze on a line drive. And I took off and thought I might get held up, but I was still running hard and I just found out that Albert (Pujols) had cut the ball off."

Jay fielded the ball on the second hop and let his throw go just as Hairston's left foot hit third base. Pujols caught Jay's throw on the short hop before making the relay throw to Molina. All the while, Hairston is hustling home and looking for a place to get the plate.

"If you see a guy blocking the plate, sometimes you have to run over the guy, but Yadier does a really good job of blocking the plate and not giving the runner a chance -- it's textbook, he does a great job," Hairston said. "I saw him blocking the plate, so I knew I had to find a place to get in there. He had it (covered), I had to do some dancing. I can dance a little bit, do a little Michael Jackson."

But getting around the catcher is one part, the next is finding the plate and tagging it -- while not getting tagged, either.

"I could sense it, that he was about to get the ball, so I had to get in there," Hairston said. "I was able to get in there without getting tagged -- I had to bend my back and get in there."

Replays showed Hairston got his fingers on the edge of the plate, while Molina's tag missed his target.

"He never touched me," Hairston said. "You feel when you get tagged -- trust me. He never touched me."

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 11:30 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 12:32 am
 

Wolf gives Brewers a boost

Randy Wolf

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- There's still one more game in St. Louis, but the Brewers' 4-2 victory over the Cardinals on Thursday guaranteed the NLCS would return to Milwaukee this weekend.

Hero: Not much was expected of Randy Wolf -- so his allowing just two runs in seven innings, allowing the Brewers to hand the ball over to Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford to close the game out was huge -- and that may be an understatement. In a postseason where the Brewers starters not named Yovani Gallardo have struggled, Ron Roenicke has had to use his bullpen liberally -- and to not have to every make the trek to the mound in Game 4 could be a boost for the rest of Milwaukee's series.

Goat: Cardinals second baseman Ryan Theriot made a great play to start a double play ending the fifth inning, but in the next inning his error allowed he Brewers' fourth run to score. He also struck out with a runner on third and one out in the sixth inning.

Turning point: Jerry Hairston Jr.'s slide to score on Yuniesky Betancourt's fourth-inning was a thing of beauty -- and it tied the game. Hairston took off from second on Betancourt's grounder up the middle and was waved home as Jon Jay came up with the ball. Albert Pujols made a great relay after picking the ball up on the short hop and Yadier Molina had the plate blocked, but Hairston took a great angle to get around Molina and get one hand out to tag the plate just before the tag from Molina. 

It was over when … Yadier Molina swung over a curveball from Rodriguez to end the eighth inning. David Freese had singled with one out in the inning and advanced to second on Matt Holliday's groundout to second. Molina battled Rodriguez, fouling off four pitches, but couldn't get a piece of the seventh pitch of the at-bat, leaving the bottom of the Cardinals' order for Axford.

Next: Zack Greinke takes the mound for the Brewers against St. Louis left-hander Jaime Garcia at 8:05 p.m. ET in the last game of the series at Busch Stadium, but it won't be the last of the series as the Brewers' victory guaranteed the series would return to Milwaukee.

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 9:36 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 12:06 am
 

Holliday gets first extra-base hit of playoffs

Matt Holliday

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Matt Holliday has hit bigger blasts than the 342-footer in the second inning of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, but the solo homer had to be a relief for Holliday and the Cardinals.

The  opposite-field homer off of Brewers starter Randy Wolf was his first homer in 58 at-bats; the last one coming on Sept. 6 against Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo. Since then, he's had an issue with his hand that has sapped his power. Before the home run on Thursday, Holliday hadn't had an extra-base hit in the postseason and none since a double on Sept. 26 in Houston, the day before he left a game early when his hand began to hurt too badly to play.

Tony La Russa had moved Holliday from fifth in the lineup to fourth for Games 2 and 3 before moving him back to fifth for Game 4, batting behind David Freese. He filled a hole left by Lance Berkman, who wasn't in the starting lineup.

"He's caught between a rock and a hard place," La Russa said of Holliday. "He's missed some key at-bats. I think his hand is all right, but here he is trying to get his stroke and his timing in the most pressure you feel all season, and it's a little bit unfair. So I'm going to keep him out of that four spot, hit Freese there today. He does well against lefties, and then the rest of the time against the right, I'll hit Berkman, keep Matt fifth."

Holliday has started every game of the LCS so far and entered Thursday's game 3 for 10, but he was just having no success driving the ball. Not that he drove the ball too far in the second inning, as from the right field auxiliary press box I had a pretty good view and watched Brewers right fielder Mark Kotsay drift and drift until the ball went over the fence. But this isn't Rock 'N' Jock, so the distance is nothing more than bragging rights, what's matter is that it cleared the fence, not by how much.

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 6:50 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 6:54 pm
 

Berkman, Hart sit due to matchups

Lance Berkman

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Lance Berkman won the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award, but if he gets a chance to show why in Game 4 of the NLCS, it'll be in the late innings as a sub.

"Guys are kidding me, his reward for the award was a spot on the bench, so they were giving him a hard time," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. 

It's not just Berkman getting shown the seat for Game 4 -- the Brewers are also going with a different right fielder, sitting Corey Hart in favor of Mark Kotsay.

NLCS Coverage

Both Berkman and Hart have had trouble with the starting pitchers, Randy Wolf and Kyle Lohse, respectively. Berkman is just 3 for 32 lifetime against Wolf and Hart is 2 for 17 against Lohse.

While those aren't the largest sample sizes, Berkman said it's enough for him to understand the move by La Russa.

"I think off of an individual pitcher, once you get 15 at-bats, you probably have a decent idea about -- and even if the numbers are not -- don't tell the whole story, at least personally, you know how you feel when you go up there, like whether you feel like -- I can see the ball fine, and I've lined out eight times, and I haven't gotten any; or, if it's, man, I've got no chance and I've really struggled, this guy, he's just got my number or whatever," Berkman said. "You can tell that as a hitter pretty quickly; I would say as many as 10 at-bats, or as few as 10 at-bats I should say. Certainly I think when you compile 15 or 20 at-bats against a guy, you can have a decent idea. And again, none of this is hard and fast. I mean, heck, if I had started tonight, I might have gotten three hits. You just don't know. But, being a game of percentages and playing percentages, I think that -- I mean, I have 30 at-bats against Wolf, so I think that's plenty to figure out that I don't hit him very well at all."

Berkman is also slightly hobbled after getting hit by a pitch Wednesday night in the leg.

With Berkman out, La Russa moved David Freese up from seventh in the lineup to fourth and moved Matt Holliday back to fifth. Holliday has just two extra-base hits in his last 53 at-bats. In Berkman's spot in right field is Allen Craig, batting second. Craig's not exactly been a world-beater against Wolf either. Craig is 1 for 15 lifetime against Wolf and 0 for 12 this season.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told Hart after Wednesday night's game that he'd be sitting him for Game 4.

"Just Corey's scuffling lately, and he scuffled against Lohse," Roenicke said. "So I talked to him last night after the game, and it sounded like putting Kotsay out there was a good way to go about it."

Kotsay is just 1 for 13 against Lohse. But Kotsay did have a home run Wednesday night and walk twice, while Hart is 1 for 12 in the NLCS and 6 for 33 in the playoffs. But Roenicke did say he'll be ready to use Hart as a pinch hitter if needed.

"it's really nice for me knowing that Corey Hart is on the bench as a pinch hitter," Roenicke said. "He's dangerous. They can't bring in a right-hander to face him because they think it's going to bother Corey."

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 6:12 pm
 

Greinke doesn't regret Carpenter comments

Zack GreinkeBy C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- There was a mini controversy earlier this series when Brewers starter Zack Greinke said some of his teammates didn't like Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter and felt he was "phony."

Before Game 4 of the NLCS on Thursday, Greinke was asked if he regretted his comments. The quick answer? No.

Here's the longer answer: "I guess I didn't get a whole lot (of feedback), my wife likes to read stuff and she gets mad. She gets mad that I said it. It just happened and we don't need to talk about it any more."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he was "disappointed" in Greinke's comments, but other than that, not much has come of them -- other than to give people something to write for a day (or, two now). 

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 3:14 am
Edited on: October 13, 2011 4:11 pm
 

NLCS Game 4: Starters looking for better results



By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Brewers at Cardinals, 8:05 p.m. ET, Oct. 13, Busch Stadium. Cardinals lead series 2-1.

The fate of the Brewers is in the hands of Randy Wolf and a playoff-rattled Zack Greinke. That's not the most encouraging sign. Add to the fact the Cardinals need to win two more games to close the series out and the next two games are at Busch Stadium… let's just say if you're a Brewer, things are not looking good.

Milwaukee has yet to win a playoff road game, losing all  three postseason games away from Miller Park, including Wednesday's 4-3 loss to the Cardinals.

Game 3 will feature Wolf against St. Louis' Kyle Lohse.

WHO HAS THE EDGE?

 

It's not as clear cut as anyone who saw Wolf's National League division series start at Arizona would think. As bad as the left-hander was in Arizona (seven runs in three innings), he's been decent against the Cardinals, especially in St. Louis. This season he was 3-2 with a 5.34 ERA against the Cardinals and 2-1 with a 3.43 ERA in three starts at Busch Stadium, where he is 4-4 with a 3.50 ERA in his career.

NLCS Coverage

The Cardinals' big boppers don't exactly have the best track record against Wolf -- Lance Berkman is 3 for 32 lifetime (.094) against Wolf, striking out seven times and with no homers. Matt Holliday is hitting just .216 (8 for 37) with one homer off of Wolf and Albert Pujols is hitting a rather pedestrian (for Pujols) /286/.306/.571 against Wolf, but has driven in 13. Rafael Furcal, who has been so important to starting off the Cardinals' offense, has just a .241 on-base percentage in his career against Wolf. So there is some reason for a shred of optimism.

And then there's Lohse, who has battled inconsistency his entire career. Lohse had a career-best 3.39 ERA and led the team with a 14 victories in 2012, but he struggled in his only postseason start so far, allowing six runs (five earned) in 5 1/3 innings in Game 1 of the NLDS. There's a reason he hasn't pitched since then -- and that's because despite his numbers (and contract), he's still the team's fourth-best starter. 

Lohse made three starts against the Brewers and pitched well, but had a 1-2 record despite a 2.37 ERA. Four of the five runs he allowed to the Brewers this season came in a June 10 loss at Miller Park. In his two starts against the Brewers at Busch Stadium, he allowed just one run on 10 hits in 14 innings, splitting those decisions.

Brewers' Randy Wolf: Wolf was hoping his 2011 wouldn't end on his disastrous Game 4 start in Arizona.

"I think the biggest thing that I felt when we won Game 5 against the Diamondbacks was relief, because if I would have left the season -- that would have been my last start and it would have been a hard offseason for me," Wolf said. "I wanted to give (Yovani Gallardo) a kiss, because just to have that opportunity to pitch again was a very big deal for me. Regardless of what happens, I just wanted that opportunity again."

In that outing, he said he couldn't control anything but his fastball, which meant he was either getting behind or leaving his offspeed pitches over the plate to get hammered.

"When you're 2-0, 3-1 on hitters that are swinging the bats well, you're basically fighting an uphill battle," Wolf said. "You  know, I learned that there's some way that I have to find my feel out there. I have to find a way to throw pitches for strikes and figure out early -- I was very stubborn with my curveball the last game. I kept on throwing it and it got me behind in a lot of counts. So I have to find out early what I'm going to throw for strikes, and after I do that, the first two or three innings, then you can figure out what other pitches you can go to."

Cardinals' Kyle Lohse: Lohse hasn't pitched the first day of the month when he lost to the Phillies in Game 1 of the NLDS, but said it's been nothing new to him.

"During the second half, I had a couple of layoffs like that where actually I think right before my last start against Milwaukee, I had about 11 or 12 days off," Lohse said. "This time was a little different. I didn't have time to do two sides or anything, because I was available in the bullpen during that Philadelphia series and never threw. But I've just tried to stay sharp, throwing flat grounds. I had my regular bullpen session the other day, felt good."

Lohse's memory is a little off -- he had seven days between his Aug. 28 start in St. Louis against the Phillies and his Sept. 6 against the Brewers at Busch Stadium. However, he did have success, that part he remembered correctly, allowing just four hits in six shutout innings.  He also had one stretch of 10 days of rest that straddled the All-Star break, and allowed four runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 against the Mets in a Cardinals loss on July 19.

LINEUPS

Brewers Cardinals
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Nyjer Morgan CF 1 Rafael Furcal SS
2 Mark Kotsay RF 2 Allen Craig RF
3 Ryan Braun LF 3 Albert Pujols 1B
4 Prince Fielder 1B 4 David Freese 3B
5 Rickie Weeks 2B 5 Matt Holliday LF
6 Jerry Hairston Jr. 3B 6 Yadier Molina C
7 Yuniesky Betancourt SS 7 Ryan Theriot 2B
8 George Kottaras C 8 Jon Jay CF
9 Randy Wolf LHP 9 Kyle Lohse RHP

NOTES

  • Although rain was expected in St. Louis on Thursday, it's supposed to be out of the area by game time. Rain fell during some of Game 3, but there were no delays. 
  • Watch out for the Cardinals in their first inning -- St. Louis has scored in the first inning in each of its last five games this postseason and six of the eight total games in the playoffs. Wolf has an ERA of 6.00 in the first inning this season and gave up five runs in the first inning in his NLDS Game 4 start. The Cardinals are the first team to score in the first inning of five straight postseason games since the 2004 Red Sox.
  • Cardinals third baseman David Freese didn't have a hit in the Cardinals' first game of the postseason, a loss to the Phillies. He's hit safely in each game since. He's hitting .407 with four doubles, three homers and 11 RBI over that streak.
  • The Brewers are 3-11 all-time in postseason road games, including 0-3 this season. 
  • Mark Kotsay's third-inning homer in Game 3 was his second postseason homer, but his first to go over the fence. He hit an inside-the-park home run for Oakland at MInnesota in the 2006 ALDS.
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Posted on: October 13, 2011 2:07 am
Edited on: October 13, 2011 2:10 am
 

Overheard: NLCS Game 3

Albert Pujols

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has repeatedly said he doesn't like to intentionally walk batters -- but he ordered three free passes in Wednesday's 4-3 Game 3 loss to the Cardinals, two to Albert Pujols. All three worked.

"I think when it really makes sense, we'll do it. I don't want to just put him on to put him on. You saw we put him on with a guy on third base. Next thing you know, it's second and third instead of first and third. They get a base hit there, they are scoring two runs instead of just one," Roenicke said. "We are going to pick our spots where we think we need to do it. If it comes up, you know, where it makes sense, then we'll try to put him on. But you know, he's scary when he's hitting everything, and we make good pitches and he's still hitting them. He's done a lot of damage to us."

Pujols had hits in both at-bats in which the Brewers threw to him.

Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman was asked if he would pitch to Pujols right now: "Maybe. It would just depend on match ups. I don't think anybody thinks as highly as I do in terms of where he ranks in the history of the game, I think he's probably the greatest hitter ever -- doing it in this ballpark and in this era. It's a worldwide game, you have players from all over everywhere," he said. "That being said, I'm having a hard time walking anybody to get to Matt Holliday. This guy's won a batting title, he's been an LCS MVP. So, you might get him a couple of times, but you better be careful, because if you keep doing it, he's going to make you pay."

Holliday was 0 for 3, so he didn't. He has three hits in the series, but all three have been singles. 

Other things overheard after Game 3:

• Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter on Albert Pujols: "I was very fortunate to watch this guy play of rate last nine years. And when you are that type of player at that level, the expectations from you, me, I'm sure his family, his kids' friends, I mean, anybody that's out there, the expectation levee for what he's supposed to do is unbelievable. That being said, he continues to amaze me every single year. Every year, you can't believe the things that he does, the games that he has, the pressures that he deal with, distractions that he deals with.

"Coming int this season, free agent, how much money he is going to get, best player in baseball, is he going be here? Is he not going to be here? And he comes in, just like the same old Albert, and works hard in spring training, starts off a little slow, everybody is questioning whether or not it's because of his contract situation. No, he continues to grind, he continues to play and continues to do the things that amazes every single one of us every single day. So what he's doing now, does that -- it's him. That's who he is. He's an exceptional player, exceptional hitter. He's got the mind of stone. Nothing bothers him no matter what the situation he's in -- and that's what makes him great."

• Brewers infielder Craig Counsell on the Cardinals bullpen: "They've struggled with their bullpen, but they've got guys in the roles they want them in now. They've turned the corner."

• Mark Kotsay on Chris Carpenter: "He didn't have a feel for his curveball. He left some pitches on the plate that we took advantage of. But he made his pitches when he had to, got out of a couple of jams ... it was interesting that Tony took him out there with the pitcher's spot coming up in the fifth, but Tony (La Russa) obviously knows Carp, he knows his bullpen and he did a great job."

• Cardinals third baseman, and Missouri native, David Freese on Stan Musial's pre game appearance: "It's unreal. Every time Stan Musial comes around the clubhouse, we take time to go say hi to him. And when he gets on the field, whether it's tonight or opening day, all of the guys that are in the Hall come out and join him. It's just special to be a part of."

• Carpenter on Octavio Dotel and Arhtur Rhodes: "I think Doti and Arthur have brought a lot of confidence to some of these younger guys to not care; to go out, not be concerned about what's going to happen. Let's go out and give it our best and see what happens. If it works, it works; if it doesn't, it doesn't, and we'll go get 'em the next day."

• Tony La Russa on Yovani Gallardo: "He's got all of the pitches. We got him before he got sharp, but he's the real deal and he showed it. We had a couple of great chances to add, which normally come back to haunt you, but our pitching staff prevented that. But let me tell you, he's a handful, and he's every bit as good as a No. 1 starter is supposed to be."

• Gallardo on his start: "I think I was off the whole game, to be honest with you, even after the first. The four innings after that, I was struggling putting the ball where I wanted to."

He was then asked if it was any pitch in particular: "A little bit with every pitch. I'd hit my spot, and then the next one would be up in the zone, or not even close."

Corey Hart on the Freese double in the first inning: "It just kind of carried off, but I still had to go after it. I knew I was close to the track. It was like his home run [in Game 2] the other day, it just kept going. He's a strong kid."

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 1:25 am
Edited on: October 13, 2011 2:15 am
 

Cardinals bullpen retires 12 Brewers in a row

Jason Motte

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Only the Nationals had more blown saves than the Cardinals this season, as 26 times the Cardinals had a save situation and then lost a lead. But Wednesday, Chris Carpenter left the game after just five innings in Game 3 of the NLCS and said he wasn't worried about the outcome.

"Typically, as a starting pitcher, you're concerned about that -- you don't want to leave 12 outs for your bullpen," Carpenter said. "I was OK with it. I worked as hard as I could. I had confidence in my guys down there. I had confidence in what they were going to do. And they did it again."

NLCS Coverage

Not only did the Cardinals relievers -- four in all -- get the 12 outs needed, they only needed to face 12 batters to do it. No Brewer reached base after Carpenter intentionally walked Prince Fielder with two outs in the fifth. Fernando Salas got three fly balls to get through the sixth, then Lance Lynn had three fly outs in the sixth and stayed in the seventh to get Ryan Braun to ground out for the first out before lefty Marc Rzepczynski came in to face Prince Fielder. Rzepczynski got Fielder to strike out on four pitches before giving way to Jason Motte -- the team's not-closer -- to strike out Rickie Weeks and then stay in for the ninth and get two strikeouts and a ground out, ending the game.

"Get 12 outs against that offense -- it's not going to work very often that you can put four zeroes against their offense," manager Tony La Russa said. "But each guy came in and really stepped up. I thought they were really aggressive, they threw good strikes and didn't fall behind."

There's been an on-going joke that La Russa still refuses to call Motte his closer -- but since recording his first save on Aug. 28, he's had one blown save a 2.91 ERA. In the playoffs, he's yet to surrender a run, recorded three saves and appeared in five games, all while allowing just one hit.

"Now we've got a guy that's throwing 100 mph, has a nasty slider, it's a presence out there, a force, and you just tip your hat to him because he's turned himself into a closer pretty quick," Berkman said, before he was reminded Motte's not been designated the "closer" by La Russa. "Well, he ends the games for us, whatever you want to call it."

There's talk that La Russa would like to get a big-name, veteran closer during the offseason, so if Motte's not the closer, he doesn't have to demote him. For this season, though, the Cardinals turned around their bullpen late in the season when they traded for right-hander Octavio Dotel, left-hander Marc Rzepczynski and starter Edwin Jackson. Jackson allowed the team to move Kyle McClellan back to the bullpen to fortify the back end. 

Salas, Lynn, Dotel and Mitchell Boggs all recorded saves in the second half of the season, but Motte's seem to hold it down lately.

There's also the fact that the guy who more or less invented the modern bullpen usage is pulling the strings -- and for this series he has eight relievers to chose between.

"Tony is the most prepared person I've ever been around. He lives and dies by numbers, by match ups, by lineups," Carpenter said. "I mean, everyone questions at times why he throws different lineups up there. It's because there's reasons behind that. He's put his work into knowing why he's doing that.

"Why does he push the right buttons at the right times? Because he puts in work, he puts his time into knowing when to push the right buttons. There's a reason why he's won so many games he's won. There's a reason why his teams continue to win. There's a reason why he's a Hall of Fame manager and that's because he puts his work in, he's prepared more than any person I"ve ever see, and when he does push those buttons, he has no fear whatsoever, whether it's wrong or right, and he will answer to it if it's wrong and he will answer to it if it's right. And he's not scared about it, and that's what makes him great."

He also has little reason to be scared of his bullpen anymore. Now that fear should be in the opponent.

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