Posted on: October 15, 2011 6:43 pm
MILWAUKEE -- This NL Championship Series simply cannot end on Sunday, in Game 6, without the Cardinals and Brewers extending it to Game 7, can it?
Until St. Louis blasted the Brewers in Game 5, the two teams for the year (including this series) were 11-11 against each other. Total runs were almost as close: Milwaukee was edging St. Louis 90-88.
Now, the Cardinals lead the series 12-11 and have outscored the Brewers 95-91.
The teams went 9-9 against each other during the regular season.
"We've both got good teams," Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina says. "The numbers don't lie.
"They have good hitters, and we have good hitters. They have good pitchers, and we have good pitchers."
The Cardinals, who will send Edwin Jackson to the mound for Game 7, have history with them: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, in a best-of-seven series that was tied at 2-2, the winner of Game 5 has gone on to win 36 of 52 series -- including 10 of 13 in the LCS.
The Brewers, who will start Shaun Marcum, have home-field advantage with them: Including the playoffs, they're 61-25 in Miller Park this year. Close the roof, as MLB says it will do for Game 6 because a chilly afternoon/night is expected, and the Brewers are 26-12.
St. Louis infielder Ryan Theriot says he "loves" the atmosphere in Milwaukee, and while acknowledging that these two teams probably deserve to go seven games ... you can guess which way he's leaning overall.
"I don't want to go to Game 7," Theriot says. "You want to get that win as soon as you can. Momentum is a big deal."
Likes: We've got a chance to have a Game 7 in an LCS for the first time since 2008 (Boston-Tampa Bay). ... Last time we had two Game 7s? Try 2003: Yankees-Red Sox and Cubs-Marlins. ... Chuck Berry in St. Louis participating in the national anthem the other day. ... Autumn colors now in Technicolor in Milwaukee and St. Louis both. ... Culver's frozen custard in Milwaukee. Did I mention this? I'm sure I have. But man, their concretes with ground up Twix bars are terrific.
Dislikes: A short flight of only about an hour ... delayed for two hours. Talk about feeling like you're going backwards. ... The very nice waitress at breakfast in the St. Louis airport Saturday morning who crossed over the line when joking that when she turned 51, she got a mustache for her birthday. ... Those hideous uniforms in Saturday's Michigan-Michigan State game. Man, between all this conference shifting and gawdawful uniforms, college football is starting to go to the hounds. ... Aw, they canceled Charlie's Angels so soon? I've been on the road so long I never even saw it.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Deadlines and commitments
"What to leave in, what to leave out"
-- Bob Seger, Against the Wind
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 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: October 11, 2011 6:19 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2011 6:20 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Yanked out of their comfy and productive home park, the Brewers at least have ace Yovani Gallardo starting Game 3 Wednesday as this National League Championship Series shifts scenes.
Lifesaver for them, right?
Um, maybe not.
Milwaukee's Misery Index in Missouri is uncomfortably high as the Brewers face the pivotal Game 3: Gallardo, lifetime against the Cardinals, is 1-7 with a 5.66 ERA in 11 starts. Extract a smaller sample size to just 2011, and it's 1-3 with a 5.70 ERA in four starts.
Amplifying the situation is this: Gallardo right now appears to be Milwaukee's best shot. He's 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two postseason starts for the Brewers, while those starters not named "Gallardo" -- Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf -- are 1-3 with an 11.52 ERA in five starts.
Milwaukee's first-year manager, Ron Roenicke, has only see Gallardo's 2011 starts against the Cardinals and has no explanation for the struggles.
"There's not a good reason why," Roenicke says. "You know they have a good offense. Sometimes an offense matches up better against a certain type of pitcher. If it's a power pitcher and you have an offense that really handles the fastball well, that could be a reason. And same on the other end. If an offense matches up really well against guys that have the off-speed, slower stuff. ...
"I don't know what the case is with this, but I know we expect him to pitch a good game."
Elementary as it sounds, it starts at the beginning for both Gallardo and the rest of the rotation. While St. Louis leadoff man Rafael Furcal is just 2 for 10 against Milwaukee in the first two games, No. 2 hitter Jon Jay has severely wounded them with a .500 on-base percentage in the two games (.444 batting average).
When these two reach base consistently, that means Albert Pujols -- and Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman behind him -- is even more dangerous. Jay has scored four runs in the first two games of this NLCS, three of which were included among Pujols' five RBI in Game 2.
"We're not too concerned with what we've done in the past," Jay said of the Cards' success against Gallardo. "We just try to have good at-bats. He's a great pitcher. You have to make him throw strikes. If we can have good at-bats and work the count, we'll be all right."
As for Pujols' Game 2 fireworks, it's hard to imagine the Brewers pitching to him any more than they have to from here on out. But when they do, Roenicke said, the key is simple.
"We have to make good pitches," the manager said. "Even Albert, as good a hitter as he is, if you put the pitch exactly where you want to, he's still, percentage-wise, going to have a tough time to continue to hurt us like he has."
Easier said than done. Especially given the current numbers of a rotation of which Roenicke said, "Our starters, that's why we are where we are today. Our starters have pitched great all year, and our relievers have been great, too. ... The playoffs, we have not pitched as well with our starters. But if we are going to win this thing, our starters need to pitch well.
"That's the four of them. We can't get by with just one or two pitchers."
Among other things, expecting a low-scoring pitcher's duel between Gallardo and Chris Carpenter on Wednesday night, Roenicke hinted that he my start Carlos Gomez over Nyjer Morgan in center field in a nod to Gomez's defense.
Posted on: October 10, 2011 11:42 pm
MILWAUKEE -- Sledgehammer? Yeah, St. Louis can do sledgehammer. Very well, in fact. One Albert Pujols was more than equal to Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder for the Cardinals in Game 2.
Swinging like a man possessed, Pujols was a one-man wrecking (the Brew) crew. It was as impressive a postseason performance as you'll see as the Cardinals routed Milwaukee 12-3.
He clubbed a two-run homer in the first. Bashed a two-run double in the third. Drilled another RBI double in the fifth. Doubled and scored in the seventh.
He became only the fourth hitter ever with four extra-base hits in a postseason game, following the Yankees' Hideki Matsui (2004 ALCS), the Pirates' Bob Robertson (1971 NLCS) and the White Sox's Frank Isbell (1906 World Series).
That's one way to quiet the Brewers: Send them scurrying to the history books to look up Frank Freakin' Isbell.
However this plays out for the Cardinals, they're down to the final few games of 2011 -- and what might be the final few games for Pujols in a Redbirds uniform. If he does head elsewhere, he's leaving one whale of a parting gift.
From third base in the fifth, he raced home on a Marco Estrada wild pitch that really didn't scoot that far behind catcher Jonathan Lucroy. No matter. The zeal and determination with which Pujols played Game 2 was breathtaking.
One of the rarest things in all of sports is to see one man completely take over a baseball game. Pujols didn't just take this one over, he devoured it whole.
Now the NLCS heads back to St. Louis tied at 1-1 with Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter in the blocks to start Game 3. Momentum swings dramatically with each postseason win or loss, and right now it's all St. Louis.
The Cardinals are no longer facing the Phillies' pitching staff. Milwaukee starter Shaun Marcum, again, was dreadful. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is going to have a dilemma if the Brewers find themselves in a must-win situation in Game 6.
Marcum now has served up 30 earned runs and 46 hits in 33 innings pitched over his past six starts. Once the calculater stops smoking, it reveals an 8.18 ERA. His location is not sharp, his fastball is dull, his command isn't there.
The Brewers lost only 24 games in Miller Park all season. Marcum started 11 of them. And by the time St. Louis finished batting in the first, it was clear the trend was going to continue.
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
Posted on: March 8, 2011 6:55 pm
Something has been wrong with Zack Greinke this spring, and now we know what.
He's made two Cactus League starts and left people wondering whether he was fully engaged.
"I saw Greinke the other day," a befuddled veteran scout was just telling me on Monday. "His fastball was 86, 87. Something's going on. He doesn't look right."
Bingo. Now we know. Pitching with one rib fractured and another bruised is a recipe for disaster, even for a guy who won a Cy Young award as recently as 2009.
Now the question becomes, how big of a disaster will this be for the Milwaukee Brewers?
Suddenly, the only team in the majors employing three pitchers who started on opening day in 2010 is down the ace who should have started opening day in 2011.
Greinke has a hairline fracture of the seventh rib on the left side (and a bruised eighth rib), an injury that normally carries a four-to-six week recovery time. The thinking is that he suffered the injury a couple of weeks ago, so perhaps his recovery, from here, will be on the shorter side.
Maybe. Rib injuries are tricky, and the torque with which power pitchers punish their upper bodies is not for the weak. If Greinke only misses two or three starts, as the Brewers are hoping right now, you can mark it down as a large victory for both him and them.
Right now, that looks wildly optimistic. Because simple math adds up to more than a couple of missed starts. Because he will not be pitching while his ribs heal, he will need time on the mound to build his arm back up when they're healed. That will tack on extra time. Realistically, he'll probably miss at least the first month of the season.
This is highly problematical. This is a team with a finite window of opportunity that made the gutsy decision to swing for the fences in 2011. Prince Fielder is a free agent at the end of the year, and with Scott Boras as his agent, he's all but gone.
Armchair general managers were sure the Brewers should have traded Fielder over the winter to ensure that they got something in return.
Instead, they went out and acquired Greinke from Kansas City ... after they acquired starter Shaun Marcum from Toronto.
With those two, Yovani Gallardo and others backed by an offense that ranked fourth in the NL in runs scored per game last season, the Brewers are set to enter the season as strong contenders in the NL Central.
But now, the Brewers grip on 2011 is far more fragile.
Sometimes with off days in the early-season schedule, clubs can get by with a four-man rotation for much of April. But the Brewers, given their schedule, need their fifth starter to make at least three starts in the season's first three weeks.
The only silver lining in this is that by missing some starts early, Greinke theoretically could be a bit stronger in September (and, the Brewers hope, in October) than he would have been otherwise.
But make no mistake. This is a serious blow to the Brewers.
No wonder Greinke had surrendered six hits and three walks -- against only three strikeouts -- in 3 1/3 innings this spring.
Posted on: April 5, 2010 2:38 pm
Four key players are or will be on the field today who did not even make it for one game in 2009:
Jake Westbrook is Cleveland's opening day starter against the White Sox.
Shaun Marcum is Toronto's opening day starter against Texas.
Ben Sheets is Oakland's opening day starter tonight against Seattle.
And outfielder Jim Edmonds is in Milwaukee's opening day lineup today in place of right fielder Corey Hart. Edmonds just whiffed with Brewers on first and third in the first inning. But the Brewers have high hopes for him, think he looked great this spring and manager Ken Macha thinks he will get Edmonds at least 250 at-bats this year.
In Chicago, meanwhile, Westbrook surrendered two early runs (a two-run Paul Konerko homer) and is trailing 2-0 in the third.