Tag:Randy Wolf
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 12, 2011 7:20 pm
 

NLCS hopes to dodge the rain

Octavio Dotel

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Brewers starter Randy Wolf isn't starting tonight and he say he wasn't worried about getting Game 3 of the NLCS in ahead of rain here, but he did worry enough to check out the forecast. 

"According to my AccuWeather I have on my iPhone, we are not supposed to get any rain, so I think we are going to be OK," Wolf said. "It's usually pretty right, too."

The Weather Channel app on my iPhone said there was supposed to be rain all afternoon and possible through the night, but I haven't felt a drop yet, so maybe I should change apps -- even though the skies have been gray all day and it's looked like it could rain at any minute.

"Cautiously optimistic is kind of the way I would explain it," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said before the game. "They think -- the latest check was 3 p.m. They are going to check again at 5 p.m. They are optimistic that we can play. But they are also, by the way, they were very clear, the Commissioner does not want a lot of delays, interruptions and (the like.)"

Ron Roenicke said he'd talked to Joe Garagiola Jr. of the commissioner's office and they don't want anything to mess with the starters -- especially with the matchup of the team's two best pitchers.

"I think probably if we get to about the 6:30 mark is really an important time when -- if we are going to start this thing on time and what we are going to do. Because you get farther than that, and we run into a situation where we ran into this year, where both starters were warmed up and walking off the field and we had an hour-and-a-half delay," Roenicke said. "Something I'm sure the Yankee-Detroit game had something to do with that and what happened. So those are tough calls, because there's some times when -- right now it looks like it's drizzle, but something can happen later on where it builds up more."

With rain being the only thing to mar this postseason so far, it's obvious that baseball wouldn't want another game changed by the weather. Both the Detroit-New York ALDS and the ALCS have had delays and rainouts. The National League has been lucky so far -- helped by the fact both Milwaukee and Arizona have retractable domes. But of course, today's the first game the Brewers have had without a dome in the postseason, so there's rain in order.

Maybe it's just following Wolf.

"You know, my first years in Philadelphia, I was nicknamed the Rain Man, because it seemed like every time I pitched, it rained," Wolf said. "But I learned, you just get ready for the game and you don't worry about what the weather is, because that's another external thing you can't control. But I think (Yovani Gallardo), today, he's going to be ready to pitch; he always is. I don't think that will be much of a concern."

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Posted on: October 12, 2011 6:31 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 8:11 pm
 

Brewers add patch to honor former groundskeeper

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- You'll notice a new addition to the Brewers uniforms for the rest of the playoffs starting Wednesday, a patch with the initials GV to recognize the passing of Gary VandenBerg, the team's longtime groundskeeper.

VandenBerg, 59, had a long-term battle with cancer and died on Monday. He started with the Brewers in 1981.

"I think it's great we're (adding patches), he's a part of the Brewer family and has been for a while, and it's very sad," Brewers pitcher Randy Wolf said. "I talked to him quite a bit -- I'm always one to talk to the grounds crew about things I like or don't like about the mound, and I want to be involved. The one thing you learn throughout the years is that the grounds crew wants to get things right. … He was always great and was always very receptive about things. It's really sad, be we saw what happened over the course of a year you can have your life squeezed out of you. It's really sad to watch his deterioration."

The Cardinals will also honor VandenBerg with a moment of silence before Game 3.

"Gary was one of the most loved individuals in this organization, and this is a tremendous loss for everyone connected to the Milwaukee Brewers," Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said in a statement. "Gary was one of the most dedicated and positive persons that we will ever know. We were fortunate to have Gary as a member of the Brewers family, and we all feel a tremendous sense of sadness today. Our prayers are with the VandenBerg family and all of those who loved him."

On Tuesday, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa offered his condolences at the news conference.

"I really would like to express my sympathies on the passing of Gary," La Russa said. "A lot of us have known him for a long time. That's a real blow to the Milwaukee Brewers. We wish [his] family the best. He was a really good guy." 

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Posted on: October 10, 2011 2:20 am
Edited on: October 10, 2011 4:47 pm
 

NLCS Game 2: Miller Time is good to Brewers



By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- It's been beat into the ground by this time in the playoffs, but it's only because it's held true -- every game at Miller Park is crucial to the Brewers, who held baseball's best home record and struggled on the road this season. So far, the Miller Park faithful has seen four postseason victories and no losses. The Brewers also lost both of their road games in Arizona in the first round, furthering the storyline.

Sunday, the Brewers came back from an early deficit to beat the Cardinals, giving Milwaukee the early lead in the series and keeping the momentum alive at home.

NLCS

"The atmosphere here is something that we really feed off of, I think it's one o fate big reasons we've been so successful here at home," Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun said. "Obviously the fans are very passionate. And they're excited. I think they're enjoying it as much as we are, playing meaningful baseball games on Oct. 10. And they're embracing the opportunity, just like we are, and trying to make the most of it."

For St. Louis, getting a win in Milwaukee would mean a chance at clinching a trip to the World Series at home. For a team that came back from 8 1/2 games in the wild card in the last three-and-half weeks of the season and lost the first game of the NL division series, St. Louis is used to performing under pressure.

"Just look at how we've played over the last six weeks -- we've lost some tough games and bounced back, we did it against Philly, we did it in the last two weeks of the season when we needed wins, we're too good of a ball club," St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols said. "This is too long of a series  and whoever wins four games is going to the World Series. Just because they won one game -- you can go to the (Brewers) side and ask them -- it's not over."

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Cardinals' Edwin Jackson: The right-hander's last outing came in Game 4 of the NLDS with the Cardinals facing elimination and he rebounded from giving up two first-inning runs, he allowed just three more base runners in his six innings as St. Louis forced a Game 5 with a victory over Roy Oswalt and the Cardinals. 

The start was Jackson's first postseason start of his career, but not his first appearance, having pitched in three games of the 2008 postseason with the Rays. The oft-traded Jackson has gone 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA in 12 starts and 13 games since coming to the Cardinals, and take out one start and his ERA's down to 2.92. But there's the rub -- that one start you'd need to take out was against the Brewers, at Mlller Park. In just his second start for the Cardinals, Jackson surrendered 10 runs (but just eight earned) in seven innings on 14 hits. The Brewers tagged him for four homers -- three by Casey McGehee and one from Corey Hart to lead off the first inning. 

On Sunday, Jackson was asked about that start -- "What start? It's that simple. I mean, I'm a competitor. I mean, I can take my beatings and I can handle that. It's not my first one and it probably won't be my last."

Jackson followed that start with another against the Brewers -- losing but in better fashion, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits in six innings on Aug. 9. In his next start in Milwaukee he allowed just one run in seven innings, earning the win.

Brewers' Shaun Marcum: The Brewer right-hander wasn't able to get through the fifth inning in his one start in the NLDS, going up seven runs in just 4 2/3 innings in Game 3. During the season, he flashed moments of brilliance, but also struggled -- evening out to a 13-7 record with a 3.54 ERA.

Marcum's Game 3 start will best be remembered for his flip of his glove after giving up a grand slam to Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt.

"I didn't really see the replay, and I didn't realize I did it until afterwards," Marcum said. "I was like, what the heck did I just do? It reminded me of Ted Lilly a couple of years ago in Arizona, but he slammed his glove down on the ground. It's just a reaction thing. Definitely I didn't realize I did it until afterwards."

Like just about every other pitcher in this series, he's seen plenty of his NLCS opponents -- facing the Cardinals three times in August, going 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA in those three starts and 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in four total starts against St. Louis.

"They know what I'm going to do; I know what approach they're going to take for me," Marcum said. "For me it's a matter of going out and locating, keeping the ball down. I do know what they're going to try to do. They know what they're going to try to do against me. We're going to go back and forth."

Starting pitching advantage for Game 2:

Both starters are so unpredictable that it's hard to give anyone an edge -- it depends on the night.

LINEUPS

Cardinals Brewers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Rafael Furcal SS 1 Corey Hart RF
2 Jon Jay CF 2 Nyjer Morgan CF
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 Ryan Braun LF
4 Matt Holliday LF 4 Prince Fielder 1B
5 Lance Berkman RF 5 Rickie Weeks 2B
6 Yadier Molina C 6 Jerry Hairston Jr. 3B
7 David Freese 3B 7 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
8 Nick Punto 2B 8 Jonathan Lucroy C
9 Edwin Jackson RHP 9 Shaun Marcum RHP

NOTES

  • With his 62nd postseason game in a Cardinals' uniform, Albert Pujols passed Jim Edmonds for most in franchise history. With his single in the first inning, Pujols has now hit safely in 21 of the 26 LCS games in his career, hitting .354 (34 for 96) in the LCS with eight homers and 18 RBI.
  • Based on history, the Brewers' victory in Game 1 puts them in the driver's seat -- in the last 19 NLCS, winner of Game 1 has gone on to win the series 16 times (84.2 percent).
  • Rafael Furcal hsas a hit in each of the nine games he's played at Miller Park this season, with eight of those coming as a Cardinal. He's hitting .323 (10 for 31) here this season and .295 (26 for 88) in his career.
  • Despite the Brewers' prodigious power, Sunday was just the second time in team history Milwaukee hit multiple homers in one playoff game. The only other time came exactly 30 years before, when Pal Molitor and Ted Simmons hit home runs against the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALDS on Oct. 9, 1981. It was the 37th time Braun and Fielder homered in the same game.
  • Marcum may not have the most success with the Cardinals this season, but he has had success against Pujols and Lance Berkman. Berkman is just 1 for 15 in his career against Marcum and Pujols is 1 for 9.
  • Likewise, Jackson's been good against Braun and Fielder. Braun is 2 for 12 against Jackson and Fielder is 2 for 13. McGehee's three homers are his only three hits against Jackson in his career.
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Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:15 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 8:27 pm
 

Gomez in, Morgan out for Game 1 of NLCS

Carlos Gomez

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Nyjer Morgan was the hero of the game that got the Brewers to the National League Championship Series, but he's not in the Game 1 lineup against Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia. Morgan and Gomez have platooned this season, with Gomez getting the start against left-handed pitchers.

However, Gomez was moved up in the batting order from his usual eighth to seventh in hopes of utilizing his speed more.

"I think it allows Gomey to do some more things when he's on base versus in the eighth spot," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Sometimes you can't run as much. It frees up Gomey a little bit."

The Cardinals are keeping their lineup more or less intact, although that could change at the leadoff spot when Milwaukee uses lefty Randy Wolf. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he may flip-flop Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday against Wolf -- but he may not.

"I don't think there's a big difference," La Russa said. "Berk's been in there every day. As long as you've got Yadi, you've got protection and he's one of the toughst hitters on our club."

Cardinals Brewers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Rafael Furcal SS 1 Corey Hart RF
2 Jon Jay CF 2 Jerry Hairston Jr. 3B
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 Ryan Braun LF
4 Lance Berkman RF 4 Prince Fielder 1B
5 Matt Holliday LF 5 Rickie Weeks 2B
6 Yadier Molina C 6 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
7 David Freese 3B 7 Carlos Gomez CF
8 Ryan Theriot 2B 8 Jonathan Lucroy C
9 Jaime Garcia LHP 9 Zack Greinke RHP

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Pictured: Carlos Gomez
Posted on: October 8, 2011 6:24 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 2:17 am
 

Cardinals vs. Brewers NLCS preview

NLCS

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- The National League Central is often overlooked or looked down upon -- but not this year, as the NL Central champs have to fight off their divisional rival with the winner headed to the World Series. What makes this matchup even more fun is that these two clubs don't like each other one bit.

There was a dust up late in the season between Milwaukee's Nyjer Morgan and the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter. There was also an accusation by the Cardinals that the Brewers were using different graphics on the Miller Park scoreboards to create an advantage while the Cardinals were batting. And even Saturday, Zack Greinke got the ball rolling by making comments about Carpenter, which got Cardinals manager Tony La Russa upset.

It's a contrast in style -- if only in the surface style. The Brewers are young, brash and loud. The Cardinals sit on their porch and tell them to get off their lawn.

On the field, both teams have some impressive individual pitchers, but got to the playoffs on the strength of their bats. While the Brewers won the National League Central, the two teams split their 18-game series during the regular season. While it won't bring in the ratings like some bigger markets might, it should appeal to true baseball fans.

TEAM INFORMATION

St. Louis Cardinals (host games 3, 4, 5*)
90-72, NL wild card winner
ALDS
: Defeated Phillies in 5 games -- View coverage of NLDS Phillies-Cardinals
Manager
: Tony La Russa
Regular-season batting statistics: .273 batting average (1st in NL), .341 on-base percentage (1st), .425 slugging percentage (1st)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 3.78 ERA (8th), 1.31 WHIP (10th), 2.45 K/BB (5th)
Star player: 1B Albert Pujols -- .299/.366/.541, 651 plate appearances, 37 HR 99 RBI

Miwaukee Brewers (host games 1, 2, 6*, 7*)
96-66, NL Central champions
ALDS
: Defeated Diamondbacks in 5 games -- View coverage of NLDS Brewers-Diamondbacks
Manager: Ron Roenicke
Regular-season batting statistics: .261 batting average (3rd), .325 on-base percentage (5th), .425 slugging percentage (1st)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 3.63 ERA (7th), 1.24 WHIP (3rd), 2.86 K/BB (2nd)
Star player: LF Ryan Braun -- .332/.397/.597, 629 plate appearances, 33 HR, 111 RBI

*if necessary

WHO HAS THE EDGE?

Let's break each position down and see which team has the edge…

Catcher: Yadier Molina vs. Jonathan Lucroy
 
Perhaps the best defensive catcher in the game also hit .305/.349/.465 this season … that's Molina if you weren't sure, or weren't watching Game 5 of the NLDS when he threw out Chase Utley at second. Molina seemingly does it all. Lucroy may be best known as the "guy who can't really hit," even if he hit a pretty respectable .265/.313/.391 with 12 homers.

First base: Albert Pujols vs. Prince Fielder
 

You want to talk about a heavyweight battle? You have perhaps baseball's best player versus a guy who had an MVP-worthy season. You also have two of the offseason's premier free agents. Fielder's 27, so who knows exactly who is going to get the bigger contract between him and the 31-year-old Pujols, but there's no question as to who is the better all-around player. Pujols is not only the most feared hitter in the league, he's also a guy who can beat you with his glove and his base running in addition to his bat.

Second base: Ryan Theriot vs. Rickie Weeks
 

Theriot's a much better second baseman than he his shortstop, so the good news is that he's at second base, although he's still not exactly a Gold Glover -- of course, neither is Weeks. Both garner their value with their bats, not their gloves. When healthy, Weeks is probably the better player. But he hasn't looked healthy and he was just 1 for 18 in the NLDS against the Cardinals. At the beginning of the year, this was an easy choice. Today it is, too, but it's the other way.

Shortstop: Rafael Furcal vs. Yuniesky Betancourt
 

Once the Cardinals got Furcal from the Dodgers and he returned healthy, the Cardinals were a much better team. St. Louis has gone 30-20 in games which Furcal has played. Even though his stats are a less-than-impressive .255/.316/.418 with the Cardinals, the threat he brings at the top of the lineup coupled with how much he improves the team's defense, St. Louis is better because of him. The Brewers have Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop.

Third base: David Freese vs. Jerry Hairston Jr.
 

Freese may be one of the more underrated players the Cardinals have. While we all know about Pujols and Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman and even the likes of Molina and Theriot, Freese is a guy you have to watch in that lineup. He hit .297/.350/.441 this season, but injuries have been a problem in his career. When healthy, he's a vital part of the the team's offense after the big boppers. Hairston is a journeyman utility player -- and those are great to have. He's a fantastic role player that has been in some winning situations the last few years, but there's a reason he's moved around both on the field and to different clubhouses. He's always in demand, but he's no longer an everyday player.

Left field: Matt Holliday vs. Ryan Braun
 

If the first base matchup weren't so good, this one would be getting the headlines. Braun would be my choice for the MVP in the National League, and Holliday is one of the more underrated players in the game. Cardinals fans love to hate the guy because of what he hasn't done, while ignoring the production he has put up in a Cardinals uniform. The guy is an absolute monster. However, he's hurt right now -- and like the Theriot vs. Weeks argument, that looms large in this matchup.

Center field: John Jay vs. Nyjer Morgan/Chris Gomez
 

Morgan's the hot name right now for his outrageous and engaging personality. His Game 5 heroics even overshadowed the fact that he hit .188 in the NLDS. As bad as that is, it was better than Jay's .162. Morgan brings enough to the team to give Milwaukee the slight edge. 

Right field: Lance Berkman vs. Corey Hart
 

Hart's another one of those players who gets lost among all the other good players in this series. He hit .285/.356/.510 with 26 homers this season, much of it out of the leadoff spot. But as good of a season as he's had, it pales in comparison to the season Berkman put together. A year after it seemed like he had nothing left in the tank, he was refueled with premium, hitting .301/.412/.547 with 31 homers.

Starting pitching: Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse vs. Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf
 

Both teams needed to use their best playoff pitchers on Friday, meaning the Game 3 matchup in St. Louis of Carpenter-Gallardo should be a good one. Garcia's been a different pitcher on the road (the 3.33 ERA vs. 2.92 isn't so bad, but batters are hitting a robust .313 against him away from Busch Stadium and .230 in the shadow of the arch). Lohse and Wolf are wild cards, while Greinke should pitch better than he did against the Diamondbacks. Both have their solid points and their question marks. In the end, it may be too close to call.

Relief pitching: Jason Motte and co. vs. John Axford and co.
 

Give credit to Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak for going out and improving the team's bullpen at the break. For much of the season, the bullpen was a weak point, but Mozeliak strengthened it during the season and the bullpen has become a strength. Milwaukee also went out and made a bold move for a setup man, picking up Francisco Rodriguez. Both teams have to feel good when their manager goes out to the mound to make a change.

Defense
 

Neither team is going to put on a clinic, but the addition of Furcal has improved St. Louis' defense to the acceptable level. Almost. With Pujols and Furcal they have players who can field the ball, so there's that. The Brewers have Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop

PREDICTION

While these may not be the two best teams in the National Leauge, they certainly make for an intriguing matchup. No matter how many times each team says its letting bygones be bygones, they don't really like each other -- and the national spotlight could turn up the heat. The two teams split their 18-game season series, with each team going 5-4 on their home field. The way the Brewers play at home, they could be tough to beat here. In the end, I see it going the distance and the fact that four of the games are at Miller Park being the biggest difference. Brewers in 7.


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Posted on: October 8, 2011 1:38 am
Edited on: October 8, 2011 2:02 am
 

Grading the Brewers-Diamondbacks NLDS

Yovani Gallardo

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Yovani Gallardo. The Brewers starter didn't get the win on Friday, but he was a line for the victory before John Axford's blown save. Gallardo won Game 1 and overall he went 14 innings, allowed 10 hits, two runs, walked three and struck out 14. The only two runs he allowed were on solo homers. The right-hander was the team's opening day starter by default as Zack Greinke was injured in spring training, but Gallardo came through this season to prove his worth as a top of the rotation starter.

Chris Young. There were a lot of bigger names in this series, but few performed like Young. Perhaps the only thing he didn't do was celebrate after Game 5. He hit .389/.421/.944 with three homers in the series and made one of the greatest catches I've seen in a postseason game -- going deep to take away Jerry Hairston Jr.'s liner in the Brewers' sixth inning. If he doesn't make that catch, Milwaukee scores at least two in that inning and there may be no extra innings. Had Yuniesky Betancourt not followed with a bloop single, who knows what happens in Game 5? So why a B? Every player feels they could do just a little more to win a series, even one who had as dominant a series as Young. Consider this a B-plus held down by the curve of his team.

Managerial moves: There were some winners and losers on both sides. In the end, the managers weren't the reason the Diamondbacks are going home and the Brewers are ready for the NLCS -- the players were. The players put on an amazing display of baseball through five games and especially in the last game. Gibson was overaggressive in the first game, getting punished by pitching to Prince Fielder, but then used his bullpen masterfully in the fourth game. Roenicke was slow to his bullpen in the fourth game, but played the right notes in his lineup, especially using Hairston as his third baseman, with Hairston coming up with some big hits and big plays in the field.

The rest of the Brewers starters. Gallardo was fantastic -- the same can't be said for Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf. But that's the beauty of the five-game series. With one good starter and a competent bullpen, you can win the series. Greinke whined his way out of Kansas City, saying he wanted to pitch in the postseason, and when he got there, he was mediocre, allowing eight hits and four runs in five innings of a Game 2 no-decision. That said, he was better than either Marcum or Wolf. Marcum didn't make it out of the fifth inning in Game 3, giving up a grand slam to Paul Goldschmidt and seven runs overall. And then there's Wolf, who went just three innings and was probably in too long, allowing seven runs in those three innings -- including Ryan Roberts' grand slam. 

Road team woes. The home team won every game of this series, while the road teams struggled to score runs. Give credit to the pitching staffs for both teams, especially Gallardo and Josh Collmenter, but the team batting first struggled throughout the series. Milwaukee hit just .215/.278/.369 at Chase Field and Arizona hit just .229/.296/.400 at Miller Park.

Video: Arizona manager Kirk Gibson still believes it was a great season.

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Posted on: October 6, 2011 2:32 am
Edited on: October 6, 2011 3:05 am
 

Gibson's move, Roenicke's non-move prove big



By C. Trent Rosecrans

Kirk Gibson had a quick hook -- and Ron Roenicke's was too slow. Because of that, the Diamondbacks and Brewers are headed back to Milwaukee for a Game 5 on Friday.

Both managers had pivotal decisions to make in the third inning in Wednesday's Game 4 of the National League division series -- usually much too early for managerial tinkering but with the season on the line, it's never too early to make a bold decision. And that's exactly what Gibson did.

MIL-ARI NLDS Game 4

Even with a 5-3 lead, Gibson gambled that the Brewers high-powered offense could score more runs and every run the Diamondbacks added would be vital to victory. So, with two outs and runners on second and third, Gibson sent pinch hitter Collin Cowgil to hit for starter Joe Saunders.

Meanwhile, Roenicke kept his struggling starter, Randy Wolf, in the game.

"There's been a lot of outings this year he's first inning scuffled and then turned it around and really got us to the sixth seventh inning," Roenicke said in the postgame news conference. "That's what we were hoping to do."

Saunders gave up runs in each of the first three innings, but actually got out of a deep hole in the top of the third, getting out of a two-on, no-out jam with just one run surrendered. After walking Ryan Braun, Saunders got Prince Fielder to fly out to center, Rickie Weeks to fly out to right and Yuniesky Betancourt to pop up to second. It seemed he'd found himself and was starting to find the strike zone. Saunders had a 5.18 ERA in the first inning this season and a 2.99 ERA in innings 4-6.

However, with a chance to put more runs on the board, Gibson gambled by going with the pinch-hitter and leaving the final six innings up to his bullpen.

Cowgill, a .239 hitter in his rookie season, came through with a single to score two runs and increase the Arizona lead. Wolf got Willie Bloomquist to fly out to end the inning, but that would be the end of his night -- a batter too early.

Wolf was the third batter scheduled to bat in the top of the fourth, so perhaps Roenicke didn't want to burn two relievers and a pinch-hitter in one move, but that would have been a small price to pay to avoid a four-run deficit.

After Micah Owings gave the Diamondbacks two scoreless innings, rookie Jarrod Parker -- in just his second big-league appearance -- struggled, loading the bases, but once again Gibson knew when to head to the mound in time to limit damage, as Bryan Shaw came in to save the day, surrendering just one run and keeping the Diamondbacks on top. 

Gibson was roundly criticized early in this series, but Wednesday he made all the right moves and there's a Game 5 on Friday because of them.

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