The Brewers starter allowed one run over eight innings, replicating his eight inning-one run performance in St. Louis in August, to lead the Milwaukee Brewers to a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday.
Milwaukee won their fourth straight to move 10 1/2 games ahead of St. Louis in the NL Central, tying their largest lead of the season.
Wolf gave up four hits and struck out five to improve to 12-9, and 6-1 in his last eight starts. He contributed at the plate, as well, with two infield hits, one of which led to a two-out rally producing run in the second.
Ryan Braun and Nyjer Morgan both homered for the Crew, who won their fourth straight and extended their division lead to 10 1/2 games. Braun’s 27th blast went to center field and put the Brewers up 2-0, while Morgan’s career-high fourth homer, aided by shouts of “GET OUT!” from T.Plush, gave the Brewers a 4-1 lead.
Yuniesky Betancourt’s RBI single in the sixth gave Milwaukee a 3-1 lead.
John Axford closed the game for Milwaukee for his 41st save of the season, 38th consecutive with a three-up, three-down bottom of the ninth.
By Curt Hogg
The St. Louis Cardinals will come into Miller Park for a three-game set starting Tuesday, trailing the Brewers by 10 1/2 games for first place in the NL Central.
Probable starters: Tuesday: Edwin Jackson (3-2, 3.99) vs. Shaun Marcum (11-4, 3.38); Wednesday: Jake Westbrook (10-8, 4.75) vs. Randy Wolf (11-8, 3.37); Thursday: Brandon Dickson (0-0, 0.00) vs. Yovani Gallardo (15-8, 3.37)
Plug Out LaRussa
It seems that every time Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa is in a tough spot, he diverts the attention to the other team. Last time in Milwaukee, he accused the Brewers of stealing signs, changing the lighting in the stadium, and called Brewers fans “idiots”. This upset catcher Jonathan Lucroy, but he may have been the only one to publicly come out and criticize the Cardinals skipper.
Prince Fielder, the leader of the team, has said he is over the fighting and the Brewers are focused on beating the Cards and extending their division lead. I wouldn’t be too worried about LaRussa getting into the team’s heads in this series.
If you want to hear the FUNNIEST thing ever, listen to this.
Keep Albert Down
Of course everybody who has seen a handful of Cardinals games would say that keeping the bat of Albert Pujols is key to winning, but there is more to it this time.
Pujols only has one RBI in the team’s last seven games and is in a rare period of being unproductive. He had a few big hits in Pittsburgh over the weekend, including a triple, but has not homered since August 21 against Chicago. As Pujols goes, so do the Cards. In the last 12 games in which he has homered, St. Louis is 11-1, with the one loss coming in extra innings to Pittsburgh. Dating back to July17, in games in which Pujols has not gone deep, the Cardinals are 10-19.
Does that say enough?
Welcome the New Guy
Brandon Dickson, Thursday’s probable starter for St. Louis, will be making his first Major League start. The Brewers have never seen him before, and typically do well against these pitchers. The first time through the order may be rough for the Brewers bats, but experienced hitters like Hart, Braun, and Fielder will make adjustments.
Dickson throws a good curve to mix in with an above-average velocity fastball. His strikeout numbers in the Minor Leagues show that he could do damage to the Brewers. Statistically, Milwaukee does worst against “power pitchers” that strike out a lot of hitters.
The Brewers need to get to Dickson early on and not give the Cardinals a chance late in the game.
Desco, Yadi, and Schu
You say “what the hell does that mean, Curt”? I say “Look at who did the most damage last week at Miller Park for the Cards. Desco, Yadi, and Schu.” And don’t forget the pitcher.
Daniel Descalso, Yadier Molina, and Skip Schumaker are the X-Factors to the St. Louis Cardinals offense. Sure, we know what the top five in LaRussa’s batting order can do, but holding the bottom of the order down makes the job a lot easier for Brewers pitching. Furcal, Jay, Pujols, Holliday, and Berkman can put up crooked numbers on the scoreboard, and that’s only five-ninths of this lineup. Keep an eye on the bottom three in the Cards’ order, even though Molina will be sitting out Tuesday’s game due to his suspension.
A look at the Brewers offense would show you that this team could make the Playoffs and beyond on just their lineup and an average pitching staff.
The SWAT Team’s (Nyjer Morgan’s nickname for the offensive attack of the Brewers) sidekick holds the key to reaching the NLCS and the World Series, though let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
After an abysmal 2009 and 2010 season for starting pitching in Milwaukee, GM Doug Melvin took to the market and traded for former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke and Blue Jays ace Shaun Marcum. In addition, Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf returned as the only bright spots from the 2010 rotation. With many skeptical about lefty Chris Narveson, he proved those wrong with a 9-6 record and 4.31 era in 2011.
In any Playoff series, manager Ron Roenicke would send out Greinke, Marcum, Gallardo, and Wolf (not in that order, particularly) with Narveson in the bullpen. The Brewers are trying this move out even in August with Narveson not scheduled to start in over two weeks. With the successes of Wolf and Marcum on the road, even without much road run support for these two, Roenicke should have Greinke, then Gallardo pitch the first two home games.
Not only does the SWAT team match up with any offense in the National League, but the pitching is equal, if not better. While I’m not going to go in depth on why the pitching is better, but Alec Dopp of Bleacher Report did.
Currently atop the National League, the Phillies rotation would be Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt. Earlier in the season, Milwaukee beat Halladay and had Cliff Lee on the hook for the loss, showing they can beat the Phightin’s. A four-game series at Miller Park in September may be an NLCS preview.
They say “pitching wins in October”, and this is very true for Milwaukee. Even with Texas’ explosive hitting last year, their surprising pitching staff carried them to the World Series. This very much could be the case.
By Curt Hogg
Probables: Friday: Shaun Marcum (10-5, 3.50) vs. Mike Pelfrey (6-9, 4.53); Saturday: Randy Wolf (10-8, 3.30) vs. Chris Capuano (9-11, 4.58); Sunday: Yovani Gallardo (13-8, 3.55) vs. R.A. Dickey (5-11, 3.77 era)
-Mets SS Jose Reyes will miss the series while on the DL with a hamstring injury.
-Brewers 2B Rickie Weeks took light batting practice Thursday, but he won’t be back for at least 10 days.
The Brewers managed to take 3 of 4 games against the Dodgers with poor timely hitting. The only instances with RISP when a player came through were Mark Kotsay on Tuesday to win the game and Jerry Hairston on Wednesday to give Milwaukee the lead.
At Citi Field where few home runs are hit, the Brewers will need timely hitting and good base running to win the series. This doesn’t require too much analysis, obviously.
No Gopher Balls
When Zack Greinke gave up a solo homer to Tony Gwynn in the seventh inning on Wednesday, it was the first home run given up by a Brewers pitchers since August 11. The Mets as a team don’t hit many home runs. David Wright leads the team with 10 long balls. If Milwaukee pitchers suddenly start surrendering gopher balls to the Mets hitters, they will be in trouble. Greg Maddux always said he wanted to make offenses get three singles and never just one swing to score. This should be the team’s motto entering spacious Citi Field.
Fielder clearly struggled against Dodgers pitching. From Ted Lilly to Clayton Kershaw, it seemed that all Los Angeles pitchers had him off-balance.
We all know what a hot Prince Fielder does to this Brewers team. Get him to heat up in the Big Apple.
Every time Zack Greinke needed a big pitch he delivered on a night he felt less than stellar. His numbers looked brilliant at the end anyway.
Greinke won his fifth straight start and Jerry Hairston Jr. singled in two runs to lift the Brewers to a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night for their 19th victory in 21 games.
The NL Central-leading Brewers remained seven games ahead of St. Louis after the Cardinals topped Pittsburgh 7-2 and are on track for a second playoff berth in four years.
“It’s definitely not locked up or anything, but if we continue playing well, it should happen,” Greinke said. “It’s on us, mainly. We’ve just got to keep doing as good as we’re doing or close to that and make it as tough as possible on the other teams. It is ours to lose.”
The hottest team in baseball has gotten contributions on offense from unlikely candidates all season, including Hairston, the utilityman acquired at the non-waiver trade deadline when second baseman Rickie Weeks severely sprained his left ankle.
“The one thing I did hear about him is he’ll get you some big hits and he’ll come in with the game on the line like it was tonight,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “He battles, especially with two strikes and gets you that big one. You name a whole bunch of guys, everybody’s chipping in.”
Hairston’s two-out single in the sixth helped Greinke (12-4) become the first Brewers pitcher in franchise history to win his first nine home decisions with the club. Greinke’s only mistake came when Tony Gwynn Jr. homered in the seventh.
Milwaukee is 11-0 when Greinke starts at Miller Park and 47-15 at home this year, the best pace since the 1998 Yankees won 62 games.
“This is definitely the best team I’ve ever been a part of, it’s definitely fun,” said catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who joked that only a Little League team he was on had a better record at 25-0. “The talent level on this team has been unbelievable.”
Greinke, the 2009 AL Cy Young winner, scattered five hits and struck out eight over seven innings to lower his ERA to 1.57 over this five-game winning streak.
“It wasn’t a great outing, but I made big pitches when they needed to be made,” Greinke said.
The Brewers have only scored 11 times in the past five games, all victories, because of their dominant pitching staff and just enough clutch hits.
“Since the second half, everyone’s been playing well,” Greinke said. “Not just that, the defense has been better, the bullpen’s been really good and starters have done better. Pretty much one of those things everybody on the team is doing their job right now. That’s why we’re winning the games we are.”
In the sixth, Milwaukee got to Dodgers rookie Nathan Eovaldi (1-1) after the 21-year-old right-hander loaded the bases with one out. Eovaldi forcedYuniesky Betancourt to pop up for the second out, but Hairston’s bouncer up the middle was just out of the reach of rookie shortstop Justin Sellers to give the Brewers a 2-0 lead.
Hairston’s big hit came a night after Mark Kotsay‘s tiebreaking single in the ninth.
Gwynn homered for the first time this season in the seventh against Greinke, but the Brewers answered when Dodgers reliever Josh Lindblom allowed a single to Lucroy then threw two wild pitches that allowed him to score.
Los Angeles remains in an ugly rut on offense, something that’s been a problem all season.
We realistically (are) not mathematically eliminated, but realistically we haven’t shown that we are the kind of club that can go rattle off 10 in a row,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
The Dodgers, who have two runs in three games here, loaded the bases with an out in the fourth and had two on and two out against Greinke in the sixth, but both times failed to score with each inning ending on a groundout byDioner Navarro.
Sellers made two terrific plays to keep the Brewers off the board early, including a diving catch of Ryan Braun‘s liner with the bases loaded and one out in the third that turned into an easy double play. But Sellers couldn’t quite reach Hairston’s roller in the sixth, and the Dodgers failed to score at least two runs for the 37th time this season.
“Our lack of offense has been fairly standard, but we know these guys can pitch a little bit,” Mattingly said. “They’ve been doing it not only against us, but they’ve been doing it against a lot of teams.”
“He should’ve taken a pitch!”
Those were the words of some disgruntled fan calling in on the post-game radio show following the Brewers 2-1 victory over the Dodgers. He was referring to Mark Kotsay’s pinch-hit walk-off single in the ninth after reliever Mike MacDougal walked Yuniesky Betancourt on four pitches.
For some, winning 18 out of 20 and growing their division lead to seven games isn’t enough to be happy after a win.
The Brewers, however, aren’t satisfied with the NL Central lead.
“You’ve got to take each day as it comes and try to catch Philly. That’s our goal,” Nyjer Morgan said. “Since we have nobody to really chase in our division, let’s go chase Philly.” Milwaukee trails the Phillies by 7 1/2 games for the best record in the National League.
After Yovani Gallardo and Chad Billingsley kept the game tied at 1-1 for eight innings, Takashi Saito retired the side for Milwaukee in the top of the ninth. Hong-Chih Kuo came in to face Prince Fielder and walked him on a 3-2 fastball. MacDougal then came in and gave up a single to McGehee before walking Betancourt. Jerry Hairston Jr. was then lifted for the left handed bat of Kotsay. Even with a beyond-shallow outfield, Kotsay laced a first-pitch fastball up the middle that fell in front of center fielder Matt Kemp for the win.
“We’ve found our identity,” Kotsay said. “Our pitching staff’s leading us and we’re scoring enough runs to win games.”
That was just the case Tuesday night at Miller Park. Gallardo had one of his best outings of the season, going eight one-run innings, striking out nine. After a fourth-inning hit by Juan Rivera, Gallardo retired 12 straight before giving up a hit in the eighth to Trent Oeltjen. Following the Oeltjen hit, Tony Gwynn Jr. singled to right to put runners on the corners. With Los Angeles threatening, Gallardo struck Casey Blake out to punctuate the night.
“I tried to find that good rhythm, and I was able to do that after the second inning,” Gallardo said.
Billingsley was sharp for the Dodgers, giving up just one run on a Corey Hart RBI groundout in seven innings.
The only extra-base hit in the game was notched by Fielder, who doubled to lead off the sixth inning before being hung out to dry on a botched squeeze attempt.
It was the fifth consecutive win for the Brewers as St. Louis fell in 11 innings to Pittsburgh, their third loss in four games.