By Curt Hogg
Ron Roenicke said after the game it was the best he’s seen Zack Greinke all season.
After witnessing the game in person, it’d be hard for me to disagree. Greinke held the Pirates scoreless for seven dominant innings before surrendering two meaningless runs in the eighth. The Brewers starter finally delivered a performance the team has been looking for all season.
“Fastball was pretty good. Curve was as good as it’s been, slider was good, changeup was good,” said Greinke, who had nine strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings. “If you’ve got three pitches going good, you should be fine. I had four.”
Even from my seat (below), I could tell Greinke had great command with his fastball and was keeping hitters off balanced with his upper 60’s curve. As the game progressed, it seemed that his command improved, his curve got sharper, his fastball got faster, and his slider had greater movement. In his post-game press conference I heard coming back from Miller Park on the radio, The Greinkinator was beaming about his sharp curve.
K-Rod’s infield single in the eighth inning. The same day I posted about Chad Moeller hitting for the cycle, I witnessed possibly the second-craziest thing I’ve ever seen at Miller Park. Nevermind, make it the third, behind Moeller and Shaun Marcum’s grand slam that I almost caught in the bleachers. The stadium went wild and gave K-Rod a standing ovation, and the bullpen went even crazier.
“That was awesome. Any time we get to see one of our bullpen guys hit, it’s awesome,” reliever Kameron Loe said. “He’s faster than we thought.”
Earlier in the inning, after the Pirates had mounted a rally to cut the Brewers lead to 4-2, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder led off with back-to-back solo homers, both to almost the exact same spot in the right field bleachers. Both jacks were no-doubters off reliever Joe Beimel, who promptly exited the game after being lit up by Braun and Prince.
As if seeing back-to-back homers from Braun and Fielder to the exact same spot and Rodriguez leg out an infield single wasn’t enough irregular happenings for one game, Casey McGehee had a two-run triple in the third. I repeat: Casey McGehee hit a triple. Now I have seen both his triples this season in person, what’re the odds?
The crowd was raucous all night long, creating an enjoyable atmosphere Nyjer Morgan calls “the 10th man!”. Sorry, LaRussa, but the Brewers win at home in part of the crowd, not the lighting.
From start to finish, it was quite an enjoyable game, possibly the best all-around I’ve seen all year. Heck, even the Polish won the Sausage Race for the first time in the ten games I’ve attended this season.
Milwaukee has definitely bought into this team, to say the least. With 41,820 in attendance, or 99.8% capacity, it was the 20th sellout of the season for a small-market team. Not only that, but Miller Park will draw at least 3,000,000 fans again. The Brewers have filled up a greater percentage of the stadium than “baseball towns” like St. Louis, Los Angeles, New York, Cincinnati, and Detroit.
Miller Park has even become so popular, that it has been named a Milwaukee landmark, see? I can’t end a post better than that.
By Curt Hogg
Any of the 8,918 fans in attendance that night will always remember it. Maybe some of the 5,000 fans watching it on TV will remember it. I’m sure Chad Moeller will remember it. The night the journeyman catcher hit for the cycle was definitely one of the strangest feats in baseball.
It was April 27, 2004, or my ninth birthday, to be specific. Even with school the next day, Pops took me out to Miller Park were we joined a whole 8,916 of my compadres for a 2004 Brewers team that gave us early season hope (that didn’t last long).
I remember not too much from the game, and I had to dig the scorecard out of my folder to remember the events. I recall Doug Davis starting that night, so we all knew we were in for a loooong game and about a minute between pitches. Literally.
Looking at the scorecard, the Brewers really used the whole team. Ned Yost brought in bench players like the Aussie Trent Durrington (below) , Bill Hall, Brooks Kieschnik, Keith Ginter and Ben Grieve.
To put it simply, he had, in terms of WAR, the worst season in Brewers history, yet hit for the cycle. At -2.0, his WAR was the lowest of his career. He finished his career with a -4.0 WAR. That season, he hit .208 with 5 homers and a whole ‘lotta strikeouts. Moeller should have been a career backup catcher that lasted two years, a la Mike Rivera. Why teams kept him around, it beats me. He was slower than Eddie Perez (that’s a blast from the past), and was below-average defensively. But after one night in 2004, he managed to become my second-favorite then-Brewer, behind Scott Podsednik.
Moeller looked more like a construction worker or the quiet guy who never talks to you at the office. And he hit like the bullpen catcher, but don’t tell that to Cory Lidle.
Lidle was the starter for the Reds that day, and this is the only time I’ve ever heard his name come into play. Moeller put the Brewers on the board in the second with a homer to right center, off the ivy that used to serve as Miller Park’s batting eye. Next time up, Moeller doubled to left and was stranded. Then came the apocalypse.
Moeller took a pitch inside-out to right field where the lumbering Willy Mo Pena misplayed the ball and it ricocheted past him off the fence. Everyone that was no one was at the game that night, and we all collectively wondered “why the hell is Moeller still running?”. Chad galloped his way to third for an insane triple, something I would never see again. He only hit seven triples in his eleven-year career.
Then in the bottom of the seventh, with the Brewers down one and reliever Ryan Wagner in the game, Moeller laced a grounder up the middle that Barry Larkin couldn’t get to to complete the shocking cycle. Shocking is probably an understatement, but all the fans remaining gave Moeller a standing ovation that was probably so quiet he couldn’t hear.
In the end, Milwaukee won on a Bill Hall walk off home run after a Reds error kept the game alive. It was one of the most exciting games I’ve ever attended, and it reserved Moeller’s place in baseball lore.
The fact that Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Tony Gwynn, Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Albert Pujols, Ichiro, and so on never accomplished the feat makes it all the more amusing. A .204 hitter in three seasons in Milwaukee made one of the most surprising feats of all-time with the cycle. I guess there was something mystical in the Milwaukee air that night, and Chad Moeller took advantage of it.
Moeller didn’t even start for three days when he went 0-4 against Pittsburgh.
ESPN and everyone will tell you he was the fifth Brewer to do so, I say different. Abner Dalrymple of the American Association Milwaukee Brewers hit for the cylce in 1891. Jody Gerut also hit for the cycle as a Brewer in 2010.
The Brewers young prospects were just making a splash on the Big League level. Corey Hart, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, and JJ Hardy were to lead the next wave of Milwaukee baseball, with Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo stirring in the Minor Leagues, waiting for their call-up. 2
Flash forward to 2011.
Each of these core young players, minus, obviously, Hardy, have become stars for the Brewers. Each of them has made at least one All Star appearance, with Hart, Fielder, and Braun having been selected multiple times. They, with a little help from the left arm a man named CC, led the team to its first postseason appearance since 1982 in 2008. Now, they’re on an even better team with more talent and depth.
The 2008 NL Wild Card team was considered the best Brewers team in nearly 30 years until the calendar turned to 2011. Think about some of the changes that have taken place on the team;
Nyjer for Cameron. Betancourt for Hardy. McGehee for Hall. Axford for Torres. K-Rod for Gagne. Lopez for Durham. Lucroy for Kendall. Marcum, Greinke, Wolf, and Narveson for Sheets, Suppan, Bush, and Parra. The biggest one may be Roenicke for Yost.
The upgrades from the Wild Card team to the hopeful divison champion team are evident, and so is something else.
The time is now for the Brewers.
Let’s face it, Prince Fielder probably won’t be back next season without a gift from the baseball gods. Who knows if the team’s health will hold up or if their production will. Though the team shouldn’t fall into the cellar of the division next year, it is unlikely GM Doug Melvin can put together this kind of team again.
Melvin has shown that he is all in for this 2011 Brewers team. He’s traded away top prospects Brett Lawrie, Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress, and Alcides Escobar to accumulate this current roster with acquisitions such as Greinke, Marcum, K-Rod, and Betancourt. The talent level on this team is immense, a statement even the most oblivious and pessimistic fan can’t deny.
Milwaukee fans are buying into the buzz surrounding their beloved club. Day of the week nor opposing team matter to the fans, as they come out and fill up the stadium with 40,000+ fans for every game. At a recent game against the Cardinals I attended, Betancourt received a standing ovation and gave a curtain call for a fifth inning go-ahead home run. Try telling me Milwaukee doesn’t have some of the best fans in baseball, I dare you. I’ll win that argument for sure.
The “young core” of players Melvin and the Brewers developed in the middle 2000’s is now paying dividends for the current Brewers. No longer are any of them works in progress. They are all legitimate threats, combining to form one legitimate threat to win the National League, a threat also known as the Milwaukee Brewers.