By Curt Hogg
Randy Wolf didn’t nearly have his best stuff of the season, but the defense behind him sure did.
Milwaukee turned four double plays and a triple play, all within the first five innings of the game as Wolf went eight scoreless innings.
With runners on first and second in the second, James Loney hit a tapper that turned into a 6-4-3 double play, but Matt Kemp tried scoring from second. Prince Fielder rifled the ball home to catcher George Kottaras in time for the triple play as Miller Park erupted. The defense wasn’t done there.
In the third, rookie Justin Sellers singled up the middle and catcher Dionner Navarro was waved home. Jerry Hairston Jr. threw a laser to the plate in plenty of time to nab Navarro. Next inning, Hairston bested his previous play by laying out to rob Kemp of a base hit and sprawling to his feet to double off Andre Ethier at first.
The Brewers scored their runs on three solo home runs by Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy, and Corey Hart. Braun’s blast in the fourth was Milwaukee’s first baserunner. Lucroy’s pinch hit home run to left and Hart’s no-doubter to right both came in the eighth inning off Scott Elbert and Mike MacDougal, respectively.
Wolf (10-8) walked five, including the leadoff man four times, but pitched out of trouble each inning. His defense got him through the first five innings before Wolf began striking out batters with runners on. The Brewers starter pitched with runners on in every inning but the eighth.
Dodgers starter Ted Lilly (7-13) appeared to be the better pitcher in person Monday. He only surrendered two hits, both to Braun, and made one crucial mistake that cost him a loss. The lone run given up came on an 0-2 hanging breaking ball.
- Hart (RF)
- Morgan (CF)
- Braun (LF)
- Fielder (1B)
- McGehee (3B)
- Betancourt (SS)
- Hairston (2B)
- Lucroy (C)
- Estrada (P)
Update: K-Rod is okay to pitch today
He’s been the victim of five road shutouts and all year long has been the recipient of poor run support. But when you can throw eight one-run innings, you’re in pretty good shape to get the win.
That was the case Wednesday night in St. Louis. Wolf (9-8) only gave up one first-inning run to the Cardinals as the offense supported him with five runs–much more than he would need. The Brewers’ starter’s command was impeccable throughout the night, walking none despite only striking out one batter.
Prince Fielder put the Brewers on the board with a sacrifice fly in the top of the first before his counterpart Albert Pujols tied the game in the same manner. Fielder then added an RBI double to give the Brewers a cushion that Wolf would not relinquish. With the game still in reach for the Cardinals, Corey Hart added a two-run single in the 9th off Mitchell Boggs to open it up.
As for the Brewers road woes? They are now one win away from a perfect 6-0 road trip to Houston and St. Louis, both places where the team has historically struggled.
“I think we carried over what we were doing at home and I’m hoping that this is the point where it doesn’t really matter to them whether we’re at home or road, they know we can win at both places,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “That’s important for them to feel that way.”
In Wolf’s 13 road starts in 2011, he has 3.43 era and a 1.25 WHIP yet a losing record at 4-6, obvious indicators that the offense has struggled in his starts. This was not the case Wednesday night, as the Brewers southpaw relied on his defense to get him through eight innings easily on only 92 pitches.
The Cardinals were without Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday. Berkman sat out the night due to lifetime 3-30 hitting versus Wolf, and Holliday was out after injuring his back while lifting weights.
By the end of the night, St. Louis was without their manager Tony LaRussa, who was ejected in the top of the ninth inning after pinch-hitter Josh Wilson was called safe on a bunt at first. First base umpire Greg Gibson believed Pujols never touched first, despite replays showing that his toe may have scraped the bag.
In LaRussa-esque fashion, he called it a “very undeserved ejection”. Tony’s never wrong, I guess.
With the win, Milwaukee clinched the road series victory, and extended its division lead to five games. By the end of the series, it will either be four or six games, depending on Thursday’s outcome.
Casey McGehee probably wishes he could always play the St. Louis Cardinals.
Six days removed of a three-homer game, the first of his career, the Brewers third baseman took one mighty hack and dealt the second-place Cardinals a mighty blow. After Nyjer Morgan and Prince Fielder singled to open up the tenth inning in St. Louis, McGehee drove an Octavio Dotel fastball left up in the zone over Lance Berkman’s head in right field for an RBI double, scoring Morgan.
“Obviously, I would have rather done it throughout (the game),” McGehee said. “The guys in front of me had some great at-bats to give me a chance. It was a big win for us.”
After both teams’ bullpens helped the opponent scoreless for innings seven, eight, and nine, Dotel came in and surrendered the two winning runs for the Brewers, who added their final run on a Yuniesky Betancourt sacrifice fly.
The Cardinals could have put the game away in the ninth inning after they put runners on first and second with two outs for Albert Pujols, but LaTroy Hawkins popped him up to right on a first-pitch fastball.
Brewers starter Shaun Marcum went six innings, allowing all three of the Cardinals runs before giving way to scoreless frames from Takashi Saito, Francisco Rodriguez, LaTroy Hawkins, and John Axford, who converted his thirtieth consecutive save opportunity. After the game, Ron Roenicke announced Chris Narveson will miss his next start after cutting his finger while repairing his glove.
Milwaukee’s 3-4-5 hitters were a combined 0-12 entering the tenth inning, when Fielder and McGehee came through.
Corey Hart was in the lineup and hitting leadoff after being hit by a pitch Saturday night and sitting out Sunday. He payed dividends to this move by hitting a two-run home run off Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson in the third inning to put the Brewers up 2-0. The other Brewers tally came off a Jonathan Lucroy RBI single in the 6th.
Pujols was a rare 0-5, leaving six runners on base. He declined to comment after the game, obviously in rare form.
The other headline in this series is carried over from last week when the teams met in Miller Park. After Ryan Braun was intentionally hit last week, neither team appeared to get any revenge on Tuesday, which is a good sign to see.
With eight games left between the two teams, there is still time for tempers to flare. Or for a division race to be won or lost.
By Curt Hogg
Milwaukee opens up a three-game series in St. Louis with first place in the NL Central on the line. Forget the off-the-field storylines, this is a match up of two very good, sound, well-managed ball clubs. Here are the keys for the Brewers to take the series and extend their NL Central lead.
Probables: Tuesday: Marcum (10-3) vs. Jackson (1-1), Wednesday: Wolf (8-8) vs. Lohse (9-7), Thursday: Gallardo (13-7) vs. Westbrook (9-5)
-The Brewers have won 6 out of 9 against their rivals this season, but the Cardinals took 2 of 3 at Busch Stadium earlier this season.
Filling in for Hart
Brewers RF Corey Hart had been tearing up opposing pitchers over the last few weeks ever since entering the leadoff spot. He blasted 5 homers and was hitting .309 as the leadoff hitter for Ron Roenicke. Hit by a pitch on the hand on Saturday, Hart will most likely be out for the series. Mark Kotsay hit fifth and started in right field on Sunday, which is most likely what will occur in St. Louis, even though Roenicke hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Hart playing. Nyjer Morgan will display his Plushdamentals as the fill-in leadoff hitter. Ever since Carlos Gomez was lost for the season, Morgan has only started against right-handed pitchers. The Brewers and their center fielder caught a break here, facing three right handed pitchers.
Hart’s production over the last three or four weeks has energized the Brewers to a hot streak that has pushed them into first place. If Kotsay and Morgan can maintain this production for a mere three games, the offense shouldn’t lose a beat.
Okay, so maybe the Brewers don’t have any Gold Glove caliber fielders, but sound fielding against the Cardinals is a key.
In the last series, multiple throws to the wrong base and botched ground balls cost the team extra outs and, evidently, extra runs. With run producers in each batting spot for St. Louis, the defense has to be sound and make every routine play. No bonehead plays.
I’m talking to you, Betancourt.
No Ace, No Problem
During the Brewers hot streak in which the team has won 11 of 12 games, the starting pitching has been nothing short of phenomenal. Each starter, aside from Shaun Marcum (1 win), has 2 wins over the streak. When your starter goes out and gives the team, say, six or seven, two-run innings, the odds of winning are in your favor. Add in the Brewers hot bats, posting double-digit hits in nine straight games, and you have a recipe for success. Hell, even Chris Narveson (knock on wood) is keeping the team in games. He should have three wins!
Case in point, this team doesn’t need one “ace”. We see the Yankees or the Tigers, for example, send out their aces in CC and Verlander every fifth day, but have four other questions in their rotation. Roenicke’s only issue with his starting pitchers is when to take them out, and turn the game over to the bullpen. I don’t know about you, but I would love that to be my problem as manager. No ace, no problem.
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.
The site is called Plushdamentals, named after Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan aka Tony Plush. Unpretentiously, it’s obligatory for me to post about the Plushdamental sightings throughout Milwaukee’s series across the MLB. So here goes nothing.
There were no Nyjer sightings at the dish on Friday, but he made his presence known in his only inning in the field. Entering the game in the ninth inning in left field, he made a great leaping grab at the warning track to end the game. When asked by Nyjer Morgan about the game and the catch, Tony Plush replied on Twitter that it was “Jus an all around great game fo tha Crew! How bout tha iceing on tha Cake! Nice Grab Plush!!! Aaaahhh”. Closer John Axford even chimed in, explaining that the bullpen displayed Plushdamentals by helping Nyjer out with the fly ball. Way to catch on, Johnny Boy.
Saturday night, T-Plush masterfully bunted for a single in the first following a Corey Hart leadoff base hit. Perfect example of Plushdamentals, and it paid off when Prince hit a three run jack two batters later to give the Brewers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The bunt, however, wasn’t his signature play of the game. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and Milwaukee up 7-5, Lance Shuck of the Astros hit a liner off of Axford, who ensued to throw the ball away into right field. Schuck rounded second to stretch it into a three-bagger, but Nyjer Morgan was roaming in right field. He hustled over, and his post-game tweet explains the rest….”Wat issssssssss it Nation! They should kno betta not to run on Plush when he’s playing a corner outfield position! Aaaahh! Plushanomics!!!”
T-Dot mainly let P, Yuny B, The Kid Wonder (Luuuucroy), and Flip (his names for them) do the work at the dish while he made multiple running grabs in center.
AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH GOTTAA GOOOOOO!