Posted on: October 14, 2011 8:03 pm
ST. LOUIS -- The Brewers win Game 5 here tonight, they're up three games to two and in terrific shape.
They lose, they're down three games to two and in horrific shape.
Excuse the extremes, but with manager Ron Roenicke proclaiming that the Brewers are sticking with Shaun Marcum to start Game 6, there really doesn't seem to be much in between.
"Right now we are set on Game 6," Roenicke said. "I don't know what would come up to change my mind on that, but we talked about it quite a bit and we feel great with Marcum going."
What some folks thing could change Roenicke's mind, and what makes others feel not so great about Marcum starting, is the fact that he's surrendered 30 earned runs in his past 33 innings. Marcum has earned just two wins since Aug. 19.
The Brewers are insistent that Marcum has pitched well but simply run into bad luck.
Opposing hitters seem to be saying otherwise.
Roenicke, on the bad luck angle, said: "Some of it comes from not being quite as sharp. I don't think he's quite as sharp. But he is having bad luck. He'll give up a jam shot base hit, then the next guy will hit a ground ball between somebody and then he'll make a bad pitch and somebody will hit a homer off of him."
Early in the season, Roenicke said, Marcum's stuff was "a little crisper", and the manager insists that Marcum is still "throwing well." He called Marcum "our best pitcher" for the first two months of the season.
"And then I thought he was pretty steady from there on out," Roenicke said. "He still finished with a good year."
Said pitching coach Rick Kranitz: "The command part of his fastball needs to be better, and it needs to be down in the strike zone."
The issue isn't quite as urgent if Milwaukee beats St. Louis in Game 5, because then the Brewers have some wiggle room.
But if the Brewers lose and are facing elimination in Game 6 ... well, it will be interesting to see whether Roenicke sticks with Marcum, or whether his "Right now we are set on Game 6" comment meant right now as in Friday afternoon ... but not on Sunday afternoon.
Posted on: October 13, 2011 11:30 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Numbers game? Here's one: Eight starting pitchers into this NL Championship Series, one finally produced a quality start. It came in Game 4 from the most unlikeliest of places: Soft-throwing veteran Randy Wolf.
And it could not have come at a more opportune time for manager Ron Roenicke's crew.
Brewers 4, Cardinals 2, and this series is dead even.
Which means one very important thing to both clubs:
Following Game 5 Friday night, this series is guaranteed to return to Milwaukee, where the Brewers practically have run the table this season.
That does not necessarily mean they'll do it again. But it does mean that if St. Louis has ideas of advancing to its first World Series since 2006, the Cardinals are going to need more out of their starting pitchers.
I know, that sounds like heresy when Tony La Russa has eight relievers on his playoff roster and, just a night before, folks couldn't heap enough praise on his hard-throwing pen. But asking them to be perfect every night is a tall order.
When Ryan Braun greeted reliever Mitchell Boggs with an RBI single in the fifth inning to snap a 2-2 tie and lift the Brewers into a lead they would not relinquish, you bet it was attention-grabbing: To that point, Cardinals relievers had retired 18 consecutive Brewers batters over the past two games.
But they've been pitching a lot of innings in a series marked by (marred by?) the brevity of innings from starters. Only Milwaukee's Zack Greinke and Wolf have lasted six or more innings. And only Wolf has surrendered three or fewer runs while doing so.
You would have predicted Chris Carpenter? Or Yovani Gallardo?
Wolf, tossing a riveting array of pitches from a slow curve (67, 68 mph) to a pedestrian fastball (90), kept St. Louis off-balance all evening. He left having allowed just two runs and six hits in seven innings. He whiffed six and walked just one.
Not that the Brewers were desperate for a performance like that after Gallardo's Game 3 clunker, but Bernie Brewer was seen pulling his winter sweaters out of storage up in Miller Park after that.
Now, it's a whole new series.
First team to get some decent starting pitching wins.
Posted on: October 13, 2011 7:58 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 7:59 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Say this for Brewers manager Ron Roenicke: He's a man of his convictions.
One day after his Mark Kotsay decision became a flashpoint in Game 3, Kotsay was back in the lineup for the Brewers for Game 4, albeit starting in right field in place of Corey Hart instead of in center field.
Roenicke, meanwhile, steered part of his pre-game news conference back to his decision to play Kotsay in center field a night earlier.
"I know you guys hammered me for Kotsay yesterday, but Kotsay is a good outfielder," Roenicke said. "I didn’t put somebody out there who was a bad outfielder. I just didn't have Carlos Gomez in there. Carlos is a fabulous outfielder."
Roenicke again explained he likes Kotsay's offense and that's what he wanted from Kotsay in Game 3. And Kotsay did deliver: Two walks and a home run against Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter.
Thing is, with Milwaukee ace Yovani Gallardo starting, there is an argument to be made that you want your best defense behind him. But Roenicke held fast to his reasoning, explaining that part of it, too, is that Gomez "hasn't started against a right-hander in, I don't know, four months?"
"Sometimes you want somebody in there that has a chance to get hot," Roenicke said. "Kotsay did what he was supposed to do yesterday. He got a home run and two walks in front of our big boys. That's what he was supposed to do.
"OK, he got caught off of second base. Kots, I know, wasn't happy about that play. But he did what he was supposed to do."
Likes: The Tigers have had such a good season, it would have been a shame to see them go down to Texas in five games in a heap of injuries. I'm glad to see that go at least six ... and I hope this NL Championship Series between the Cardinals and Brewers goes six or seven games, too. ... Make it seven, for both. ... If Reese Witherspoon truly is "showing her sexy side" in the flick This Means War due out in February, then sign me up. ... The beautiful weather continues in St. Louis. Great run Thursday morning through downtown and around the Jefferson Memorial National Monument, the park area where the Arch is located. ... New Tom Waits is always a good thing. ... The chicken parmesan at Charlie Gitto's Italian joint downtown.
Dislikes: Friendly's closing its doors for good via bankruptcy. I'll always remember those summer nights in 1982 with Jeannie, and other friends, when Friendly's was a post rec-league softball stop and the Reese's Pieces Sundaes were quite the treat. And the Fribbles. All gone now, sadly.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"I'm the hat on the bed
"I'm the coffee instead
"The fish or cut bait
"I'm the detective up late
"I'm the blood on the floor
"The thunder and the roar
"The boat that won't sink
"I just won't sleep a wink
"You're the same kind of bad as me"
-- Tom Waits, Bad as Me
Posted on: October 12, 2011 11:18 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Are the Brewers now in as large a hole as the Tigers? No, they are not.
It only seems like it.
Following Wednesday's 4-3 Game 3 loss to the Cardinals, Milwaukee, still very much in this series, trails St. Louis only two games to one. But given the way the rest of their rotation is bumbling around, the Brewers are wounded badly when Yovani Gallardo starts and they don't win.
Starting pitchers named neither "Yovani" nor "Gallardo" in this postseason have compiled a 11.52 ERA while going 1-3 in five postseason starts.
Being that Milwaukee's Game 4 starter contains the names "Randy" and "Wolf, the Brewers can only hope that trend changes.
Gallardo, now 1-8 career against the Cardinals, did not pitch like the ace Milwaukee thinks he is. He was lit up for four runs in the first inning before calming down.
Part of that wasn't completely his fault: Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke gambled and lost by starting veteran Mark Kotsay, 35, in center field. He liked Kotsay's numbers against Chris Carpenter (4 for 11, .364 batting average). But Kotsay could not get to a fly ball smacked into the left-center gap two batters into the bottom of the first, a play that Carlos Gomez certainly would have made. That helped fuel St. Louis' early rally.
But Kotsay had nothing to do with Gallardo's back-to-back walks of Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman later in the inning. Those were critical, too.
Bottom line is, this series still should have a very long way to go. Milwaukee is facing nothing like its Midwestern (across Lake Michigan) neighbor. Detroit is down three games to one and on the verge of extinction for 2011.
The Brewers are just one win from evening things up against St. Louis. But with Wolf, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum rolling up next in the rotation, it sure looks as if the Cardinals were licking their beaks, er, chops as they left Busch Stadium late Wednesday night.
Posted on: June 2, 2011 4:54 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2011 5:24 pm
Short hops, backhanded stops and quick pops:
-- The Brewers have climbed into second place in the NL Central thanks to ... their own beds? All that bratwurst? Milwaukee is 21-7 at Miller Park, the club's best home record EVER after 28 games. But at 9-19 on the road, the Brewers are the worst in the NL. Manager Ron Roenicke is not yet a believer in the trend, figuring "if we go three months into" the season and things don't change, then it's a problem. One reason the Brewers' road mark could be skewed: They opened with 21 of 34 games on the road, including an 11-game trip and a 10-game trip during a cold and wet spring. Assuming they stay in contention, look out for the Brewers in September: They finish with 14 of 25 games at home.
-- Milwaukee right-hander Shaun Marcum, though stuck with a no-decision in Cincinnati on Wednesday night (and though teammate Zack Greinke has received more pub for fewer starts), has pitched like an All-Star. He's allowed one run or fewer in six of his 12 starts. "He wasn't under my radar," Roenicke says. "He's the same guy I've seen pitch in Toronto. He was in the toughest division in baseball, for me. That league can flat-out hit. If you can pitch in that division, you can pitch anywhere."
-- Maybe if a team can get through the early part of a game without genuflecting to the big, bad, Yankees, it'll have a chance: New York has pummeled opponents 83-44 over the first two innings of games this year, according to STATS LLC. The Yankees are outscoring their opposition 43-16 in the first innings.
-- Clint Hurdle for manager of the year? Pittsburgh winning its 17th road game on Wednesday night ... matching the Pirates' total for all of 2010 (17-64). They're 17-14 away from PNC Park so far in 2011.
-- Kirk Gibson for manager of the year? When Arizona moved into first place in the NL West after being 6 1/2 games back through April 30, the Diamondbacks became the first team in major league history to take sole possession of first place in their league (before 1969) or in their division (since 1969) during May after starting the month at least 6 1/2 back.
-- What's up with St. Louis' Chris Carpenter, an annual Cy Young candidate who is 1-5 with a 4.52 ERA over 12 starts? "I've been up and down all year," he says, pointing to one basic element for a pitcher that he's still battling: Fastball command.
-- Lance Berkman on his experience with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa this year: "Love him. He's great. He's such a players' guy. When you think of Tony La Russa, being a players' manager is not the first thing that jumps through your head. At least, not from watching him from the other side. But he's got a bunch of guys here who will run through a wall for him."
-- One significant difference between this year's Cardinals and last year's: The clubhouse atmosphere is far better in 2011. The stuff with Colby Rasmus has blown over. The presence of Berkman, in addition to that of Matt Holliday, has really helped. "He's unbelievable," Cards GM John Mozeliak says of Berkman. "He's a gentleman and a class act. I've really enjoyed getting to know him."
-- That the Yankees' Russell Martin currently is the AL All-Star leader at catcher is attention-grabbing. But the fact that Martin actually is deserving of consideration speaks more toward the dearth of quality catching than it
-- Most productive designated hitters: Red Sox (.315 combined average, 34 runs scored, .565 slugging percentage), Royals (.302, 31, .394 on-base percentage) and Indians (.299, 27 runs, .510 slugging). Least productive? Yankees (.185, 21 runs, .350 slugging), White Sox (.234, 21, .383 slugging) and Mariners (.242, 15, .328 slugging).
-- At 17-37, the Twins are 20 games below .500 for the first time since the end of the 2000 season (69-93).
-- So what is retired Braves manager Bobby Cox doing? He spent a nice summer's evening last week at the Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band's Atlanta show on the Welcome to Finland tour.
Likes: Former big leaguer Darin Erstad taking the job as head baseball coach at his beloved alma mater, Nebraska. ... Ian O'Connor's new book, The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter. ... Also, for you Giants fans, Worth The Wait, written by Brian Murphy and largely photographed by Brad Mangin, is beautifully done. ... The story on how Roger Ailes built the Fox news fear factory in the current issue of Rolling Stone. ... Professor Longhair's Rock and Roll Gumbo.
Dislikes: If it's anything like this, Michigan's "throwback" jersey for the night game against Notre Dame this Sept. 10 might make the game unwatchable.
"Good luck had just stung me
-- The Band, Up On Cripple Creek
Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Bobby Cox, Brian Murphy, Chris Carpenter, Clint Hurdle, Derek Jeter, Ian O'Connor, Kirk Gibson, Lance Berkman, Milwaukee Brewers, Nate McLouth, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Professor Longhair, Ron Roenicke, Russell Martin, Shaun Marcum, St. Louis Cardinals, The Band, Tony La Russa, Zack Greinke