THE SECOND INNING*
-By Curt Hogg-
Humbly, it all began. In front of 37,273 sanguine fans on April 6, 1970 at County Stadium, sporting makeshift jerseys created hastily in under a week from those of the old Seattle Pilots, the Milwaukee Brewers were thrashed at the hands of the California Angels, 12-0. Approximately forty years and four Playoff appearances later, that same franchise that unpretentiously lost to the Angels one April afternoon in 1970 was popping champagne, claiming Tony Plush to be a folk legend, and advancing to its first National League Championship Series. And all the way, the team was backed firmly by the city it called home.
This is where the author, wrapped in sheer pride and basking in reminiscence, brags about the world championships, and the pennants, and the MLB records set, and all the years of winning teams, and how being a fan of the team has always been a breeze.
But this is where an author from Milwaukee, utterly thankful to the baseball gods for giving his Brewers one deep Playoff run in his lifetime, goes on about 1982 and 2011, with minor references to Robin, CC, 1987, 2008, and the “new stadium” thrown in somewhere. This is where we ignore the 12 consecutive losing seasons, the 106-loss embarrassment that was 2002, the lack of a World Series title, the league-worst earned run averages, the horror that was the 1990s, and the ways in which Stormin’ Gorman and Mollie and Sheffield and Prince departed from BrewTown. Wait, did I mention the 12 consecutive losing seasons yet?
The things is, we can’t just forget and ignore any of this. How much appreciation can be drawn from a fan that has only ever seen a winning ballclub? Heading out to County Stadium or, more recently, Miller Park on an unpleasant summer night and cringing helplessly as the Brewers suffered another beating just to, somewhat masochistically, repeat this action time and time again is what has made Milwaukee a baseball city. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder–but in Milwaukee’s case, losing has made the heart grow incredibly fonder.
Where the love saga really began, however, was with the Braves, Milwaukee’s lost treasure of the 50’s and early 60’s. They remain the one Milwaukee team to bring a World Series title home. Led by legends Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron, and Eddie Mathews, the Braves led the National League in attendance six times in their 13-year tenure in the Midwest. And when America’s small-town team defeated the mighty Yankees in seven games in the 1957 World Series, the city erupted into a frenzy. That would be just the beginning.
From the days of seat cushion giveaways all the way through the days of Randy Wolf and John Axford bobblehead doll giveaways, Milwaukee has faithfully been behind their Brewers. For the team with the smallest television market in the league to attract over three million fans three of the last four seasons and to rank in the top half in attendance each of the last five seasons shows true dedication on part of the fans. This is a town that threw a celebration at a sold-out County Stadium after losing the World Series–and it made the actual World Series parade in St. Louis look like Brown Deer’s homecoming parade. Robin Yount’s rebellious ride around in warning track in his Harley epitomized the city and its fans; blue collar, loud, and in love with baseball.
Milwaukee’s brightest moment in the 1982 postseason sun was a special one. Close your eyes at an empty County Stadium, and you can still hear the echoes from Cecil Cooper’s ALCS-winning hit. The place nearly collapsed under the weight of all that joy. Ten days later, the city almost collapsed under the weight of that World Series despair, until along came Robin and his Harley and lifted the spirits.
Former Brewers hold special places of endearment in Milwaukee’s heart. When Cooper was managing the division rival Houston Astros in 2009, he received such a loud standing ovation from Brewers fans that his name could not be heard over the PA during lineup introductions. Geoff Jenkins had to step out of the batter’s box and tip his cap to fans during the Phillies’08 NLDS matchup against Milwaukee. Miller Park’s roof is nearly blown off anytime Robin Yount steps foot in the building. Even in the 2011 NLDS against Arizona were fans signaling an ‘O’ when former Brewer Lyle Overbay came to bat.
To say Milwaukee embraced Nyjer Morgan, Tony Plush, and “Beast Mode” in 2011 would be an understatement. The city went all-out, full-throttle, pedal to the metal, and was completely in love with anything involving any of the three. From chucking up the T’s to going Beast Mode, the city
was enamored with these in 2011. Morgan’s spunk and eccentricity won him over with the fan base and vaulted his t-shirt to the top of Brewers Fan Shop sales.
Fast forward through the Brewers history and there are those moments that have forever captivated Brewers fans. Robin Yount’s 3000th hit undoubtedly holds a special place in every Brewer fan’s heart. Close your eyes once again and you can hear legendary Bob Uecker’s nerving, spine-tingling call. Brewers baseball entered the morbid doldrums until one large man named Carsten Charles Sabathia gave Milwaukee the taste of champagne popping again.
If not for the indubitable suffering evoked and etched into the hearts of the faithful, Milwaukee baseball would not be the same. Robin, Rollie, Paulie, Coop, Jenkins, Prince, and Braunie have created the mold for modern-day Brewers baseball. Miller Park may not be blanketed by World Series pennants on the façade, but there is no tangible way to adequately represent all the passion poured into Brewers baseball.
Forget Twilight. This is truly a love saga, and I hope it never ends.
**Milwaukee and Baseball: A Love Saga is the “second inning” of a set of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game. You can read the “first inning” here.
By Curt Hogg
Once again the Mets tied the game late but the Brewers put up four runs on the New York bullpen to win.
A Lucas Duda two-run home run off Yovani Gallardo tied the game up for the Mets in the seventh inning before Milwaukee rallied with two runs in both the eighth and ninth to crack the game open.
Manny Acosta (1-1) walked Nyjer Morgan and gave up a single to Ryan Braun before giving way to lefty Tim Byrdak. He got Fielder to hit a grounder sharply to second baseman Justin Turner, who threw the ball away attempting to turn a double play. Jerry Hairston lined a ball past a diving David Wright to score Braun and give the Brewers a 4-2 lead.
In the ninth, a Nyjer Morgan suicide squeeze plated Craig Counsell, who singled as a pinch hitter on his 41st birthday. Braun then doubled in Corey Hart to give the Brewers a 6-2 lead that LaTroy Hawkins would not relinquish.
Gallardo (14-8) picked up the win despite exiting the game while tied. The only blemish was the two-run blast by Duda. He struck out six and walked only one to get within one win of the National League lead of 15 shared by three.
Milwaukee (76-52) moves to 9 games ahead in first place while St. Louis will face the Cubs on Sunday Night Baseball later on. The 9 game lead is the largest first-place margin in franchise history. Since the All Star break Milwaukee has the second-best road record, improving to 29-36 away from Miller Park.
Casey McGehee led off the scoring with a two-out solo home run off Mets starter R.A. Dickey in the fourth.
Dickey lasted seven innings and gave up two runs, leaving the game on the hook for the loss before Duda took him off.
Braun went 3-5 with a double, two runs scored, and his 81st RBI of the season. He also stole two bases; his swipe of second in the sixth led to run after Fielder’s single scored him, and stole third before Hairston’s RBI single in the eighth.
Fielder improved his league-leading RBI total to 98 with his two on Sunday. He leads Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard by two in that category.
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.
“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.
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.
Here is the Brewers lineup for Monday’s game against the Dodgers.
- Hart RF
- Hairston CF
- Braun LF
- McGehee 3B
- Betancourt SS
- Wilson 2B
- Kottaras C
- Wolf P