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.
By Curt Hogg
The city of Milwaukee held a parade for the Brewers after the team lost the 1982 World Series in seven agonizing games to the St. Louis Cardinals.
That in itself could tell the whole story about sports in the city of Milwaukee, but we won’t end it there.
Following the great run of Harvey’s Wallbangers came the years of mediocrity to misery to torture. Slowly the franchise’s former mantelpieces of Molitor, Cooper, Thomas, Fingers, Simmons, Vuckovich, Haas, Caldwell, and others split. In a 23-season stretch the team only finished higher than third in the division once. Rob Deer struck out a lot. Steve Sparks was the ace for a period of time. They switched to the National League and still lost. A new stadium couldn’t even change the team’s success as they lost 106 games in 2002, the second year of Miller Park.
As a young boy enduring the historically terrible years of 1999-2004, the years when baseball met my eyes and never left, it was hard to claim the Brewers as mine. But I did. Eight games or more a year, every year. Jose Hernandez missed grounders and struck out. Ronnie Belliard hit .200. Glendon Rusch got rocked. Luis Vizcaino blew leads. Hell, our beloved Racing Sausages got whacked. How much of this did I witness in person? All of it, even Randall Simon’s malevolence to the Italian.
Nor did Milwaukee gain the perception of a “baseball town” through those years. Only once did County Stadium, which lasted the first 31 years of Brewers baseball, draw more than 2 million fans in a season. The franchise had only seen eight winning seasons in its first 36 years.
The fans didn’t have a winner to root for; they had the Brewers, simply put.
However, now things are a bit different in the town formerly known primarily for its brewing industry.
CC Sabathia’s borderline-inhuman pitching over the second half of 2008 to lead the Brewers to the Playoffs is migrating to the back of the minds of Brewers fans. No longer does the winner-starving city look back upon 1982 and 2008 in the same light– what were formerly dwelling moments are now just good memories. A new cast of players has brought the national spotlight to Milwaukee and the troupe hasn’t backed away.
Nyjer Morgan, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Braun are on the cover of the August 29 edition of Sports Illustrated. Morgan’s alter ego Tony Plush has not only swept through Brewer Nation, but through the entire nation. Ask a baseball fan last season who Tony Plush is and they would respond like a high school dropout on Jeopardy; ask the same person this season, and they’ll tell you he’s the quirky gentleman alter-ego to Brewers centerfielder Nyjer Morgan.
Forget about the 90’s and early 2000’s rotations featuring forgettable pitchers such as Ricky Bones, Scott Karl, Brian Givens, Jason Snyder, and Paul Rigdon, the new-look, eccentric 2011 team sends out a cast of Yovani Gallardo, Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, and Chris Narveson, all proven veterans at the Major League level. The bullpen features LaTroy Hawkins, K-Rod, Takashi Saito, and the dynamite, fu-manchu sporting closer John Axford.
Sitting a franchise-record 10 games ahead in first place in the National League Central, the Brewers appear destined for October baseball for only the fourth time in franchise history. Miller Park will be rocking, as it has been all season. The Brew Crew are an MLB best 47-16 at home and much of their success can be attributed to the fans.
“The atmosphere has been electric, it definitely helps the team out,” said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke after a sellout crowd filled Miller Park.
Tony LaRussa has had an issue with the Brewers’ home success, so much so that he has charged the Brewers with stealing signs and adjusting the lighting at Miller Park depending on which team was batting. Some baseball purists, referred to as “Plain-Jane Wonderbreads” by Morgan, like LaRussa have an issue with this loose Brewers club. The fans don’t.
Miller Park is packed every homestand, regardless of the opponent, with fans that have enamored themselves with their team, not the consistently inferior 90-plus loss teams that have plagued the Brewers history. A new team, bringing a new era to Milwaukee baseball with their winning record.
Milwaukee’s skyline isn’t exactly one whose image stays with those who view it, but the 2011 Brewers seem to have brightened it up more than ever before. The winner the city deserves is now a godsend.
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.”
Plushdamentals n. The fundamentals of the game of baseball taken to another degree. These include, in addition to the basics, scraped knees, run-over catchers, grass stains, bunting runners over, and stealing third. Because ya gotta be startin’ something.
Origin: c.2011, from Tony Plush referring to his style of baseball.
While describing Plushdamentals may be harder than out-running a horse or keeping your head during the French Revolution, it may be best to do so by referring others to watch the Brewers center fielder, Nyjer Morgan.
For a more in-depth view on Morgan and his alter ego Tony Plush, click here.
There are even shirts to tell you what Plushdamentals are, well sorta. Make sure you get yours.
The Brewers just announced that they signed both Jed Bradley and Taylor Jungmann, their first round draft picks in the 2011 MLB Draft.
The team came to terms with Bradley, a left-handed starting pitcher from Georgia Tech, first. Bradley agreed to a signing bonus of $2.0 million. He was selected 15th overall as compensation for not signing Dylan Covey, last year’s first rounder.
Financials on Jungmann have not been confirmed, but it is reported that the right-hander from Texas was given a $2.525 million signing bonus. Jungmann was a Golden Spikes finalist for the Longhorns and was taken with the 12th overall selection.
Both players on now in the fold for Milwaukee, and scouting reports on both will be up Tuesday.
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.