Results tagged ‘ brewers ’
Coming off a successful first season with the Brewers, the focal point of Zack Greinke’s off-season workout regiment was to avoid pick up basketball games at all costs.
All (bad) jokes aside, Greinke was, at times, the most dominant pitcher on the Brewers rotation in 2011, but failed to maintain his consistency throughout the season. In wins, Greinke held a 2.55 era with a 10.9 K/9 ratio, but struggled mightily when he was the losing pitcher. The 28-year-old right hander held a 7.96 era and averaged just over five innings pitched per start in games in which he was handed the “L.” Overall, Greinke finished with an impressive 16-6 record, a respectable 3.83 era, and a dazzling total of 201 strikeouts in merely 171.2 innings due to an early-season rib injury. He led the National League in K/9, beating out Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and All Star Game starter Roy Halladay.
Yovani Gallardo is expected to get the Opening Day nod from manager Ron Roenicke, and this should come as no trouble to Greinke. The starter has a past of a social anxiety disorder that delayed his progression into the Majors.
Greinke can be slotted in to be an above-average second starter for the Brewers in 2012. Batters have yet to figure out his delicate mix of a high-velocity fastball with late life, improving change-up, low-70′s sharp curve, and nasty slide piece, and it’s unlikely Greinke will stray away from his four consecutive productive seasons, including the American League Cy Young Award in 2009.
His innings and pitch count will not be monitored as they were for his first three or four starts in 2011. Barring any injuries or other major setbacks, expect Greinke to top 200 innings pitched as he did from 2008-10 while in Kansas City. The late innings will be important for Greinke to keep the bullpen relatively fresh. After going the distance in nine games over the previous two seasons, he had no complete games in 2011. As a staff, Milwaukee only had one complete game for the entire season (Yovani Gallardo vs. Atlanta in April) and was aided by a very deep bullpen. The bullpen, with the losses of Takashi Saito and LaTroy Hawkins, doesn’t have the sixth-and-seventh-inning arms it possessed last season. More starters, Greinke specifically, will have to go deeper into games to prevent Roenicke from using Marco Estrada or Brandon Kintzler in the eighth.
Greinke’s mechanics are easily repeatable and his release point remains the same regardless of the pitch. Unless he simply loses his All Star-quality heater, hoopdy scoopdy, and slider, expect another phenomenal, punch out filled season from Greinke in 2012.
2012 prediction: 18-8, 3.30 era, 33 starts, 207 IP, 225 K, 59 BB, 1.13 WHIP, always wears the proper jersey.
Tim Dillard may have been the reason the Brewers reached the National League Championship Series in 2011, and he wasn’t even on the Postseason roster. Sound crazy? Probably is.
Let’s set the stage. June 5. Bottom of the ninth. Tie game. One out. Heart of the Marlins order coming up. Bases loaded. Ron Roenicke summons Tim Dillard out of the bullpen. Dillard’s side-winding delivery baffled All Star Gaby Sanchez, who grounded out to Craig Counsell, who came home for the force out. 2 outs. Dillard then shattered the bat of slugger Mike Stanton on a harmless fly out to Ryan Braun in left. He would come out and complete a scoreless tenth inning as well. Game preserved.
Utility infielder Josh Wilson would hit the game winning homer in the top of the 11th and John Axford would preserve the lead and
secure the win. The Brewers would go on to barely secure home field advantage in the Divisional Series. Without Dillard’s heroics, they probably would not have, which would have sent Game Five of the NLDS to Arizona…and we know how the Brewers performed on the road in the Playoffs.
Skip ahead to 2012.
Dillard is now competing for one of the Brewers final three bullpen slots. His experience and relatively successful 2011 season will undoubtedly help his position and chances at making the Opening Day roster. Dillard should be used as a righty specialist; he could end up as the right-handed version of Brian Shouse or Javier Lopez. This is exactly what Dillard can bring to the table that Brandon Kintzler and Mike McClendon, others competing for bullpen spots, are not as good at.
He was drafted in 2001 as a catcher, but could not come to an agreement with the Brewers. Milwaukee’s front office took another shot at him the next year, and he converted to a pitcher almost immediately. In 2003 with the Helena Brewers of the Rookie League, Dillard went 1-2 with a 3.32 era in 14 games. He made a name for himself in High A ball in 2005, going 12-10 with a 2.48 era in 185.1 era. He has made appearances with the Brewers in 2008, 2009, and 2011, holding a career 4.91 era.
While it’s not reasonable to expect Dillard to became a part of the back end of the bullpen, I expect him to make the Opening Day roster as a right-handed specialist in the sixth and seventh with the ability to eat innings up, if necessary. The Tim Dillard Experience may be headed to a ballpark near you soon.
For the sake of my inability to type words at the moment, I’m just going to cut straight to the chase. It saves you the obligatory feeling of having to read my opening morceau and restrains me from writing some sixth grade level jibberish. So let’s just cut to the chase, you and I.
With Opening Day now a mere 46 days away, there remains large speculation as to which players will fill out the 25-man roster. To spare you the agony of predicting which guys will begin the season in a Brewers jersey, I stepped up to the plate. Heroically, I know.
Short enough of an intro? Good.
Quick key: *=starter, (1)=batting order slot, +=Opening Day pitcher
LF*- (2) Nyjer Morgan- Plush will platoon with Carlos Gomez in center with Ryan Braun in the lineup, but will get the majority of starts in left to begin the year, assuming the MLB hands out a 50 game suspension to Braun.
CF*- (7) Carlos Gomez- To me, the defensive whiz’s key to keeping a regular role in the Brewers outfield rotation is, simply, to hit over .220. For most players, offensive numbers like Gomez’s would find them a spot on the bench, but the 26-year-old’s prowess in center field saves enough runs to put up with his offensive struggles. A place towards the bottom of the order would place much less of an emphasis straining to draw walks, Gomez’s primary struggle, and more toward driving in clutch runs and stealing bases.
RF*- (1) Corey Hart- Not the league-accepted ideal leadoff hitter, the 6’6″ Hart filled the role well for Ron Roenicke in 2011. He posted a .301 average with 15 homers and 36 RBI in his last 62 starts, all coming as the leadoff hitter. Expect him to keep the spot atop the Brewers lineup until Roenicke has to play his hand because of any struggles from Hart.
Norichika Aoki- The off-season transfer from Japan has yet to prove what he can do at a Major League level, but beats out any other competition from youngsters Caleb Gindl and Brock Kjelgaard. Once again, the Brewers won’t have any shortage of left handed bats on the bench.
Logan Schafer- Based on a whopping five plate appearances in 2011, Schafer appears to be the leading candidate to take the fifth outfield spot. He provides speed off the bench (swiped 16 bases in the Minors last season) and could find a spot on the Big League club even with Braun’s return if he outplays Aoki. It wouldn’t be surprising, however, to see the Brewers go with only four outfielders and leave Schafer off the roster to add a right handed bat.
**Each of these outfield predictions is assuming Braun is suspended for the first 50 games.
3B* – (4) Aramis Ramirez- It’s going to take a good month or so to get used to it, but let’s face it: Aramis Ramirez is a Brewer. All I ask in order to forgive him for being a Cub is 100 RBI. Nothing much.
SS*- (6) Alex Gonzalez- Another offseason acquisition by Doug Melvin, Gonzalez is an obvious upgrade at shortstop, both offensively and defensively. He may not possess the pop of Yuniesky Betancourt, but his glove and patience at the plate make up for it. Maybe he can make Brewers fans not cringe as much anymore when JJ Hardy goes yard in Baltimore.
2B*- (5) Rickie Weeks- Coming off back-to-back productive seasons, including an All Star Game start in 2011, Weeks needs to produce even more with RISP in 2012. With no Fielder and, most likely for the first 50 games, Braun, teams will find ways to work around Ramirez in the cleanup spot if Weeks and Gamel don’t produce. Just as he is the pivot man on a double play, Rickie is the pivotal hitter for Milwaukee this year.
1B*- (3) Mat Gamel- Young man, it’s your time. I mean, it’s not like you’re taking over for a three-time All Star, Home Run Derby champ, All Star Game MVP, the youngest player to hit 50 homers in a season, career .282 hitter with 230 homers in six seasons. No pressure.
UTIL- Taylor Green- The youngster impressed in 20 games in 2011, batting .270 and making the Postseason roster. I like him. You like him. Ron Roenicke likes him. This kid better be on the Opening Day roster.
UTIL- Cesar Izturis- He was invited to camp as a non-roster invitee, but Izturis’ experience and glove will be beneficial off the bench. Brooks Conrad, a notorious pinch hitter, could pose a challenge for this spot. Conrad has a career 14 home runs while in Atlanta, most of which came off the bench. Izturis, a Gold Glove winner in 2004, provides a more reliable option to back up Gonzalez, Ramirez, or Weeks and is a much better contact hitter (averages one strikeout per 10 at-bats over 11 seasons).
C*- (8) Jonathan Lucroy- With yet another year of experience behind the plate, Lucroy enters 2012 uncontested for the starting catcher role. Pitchers love his improving abilities behind the plate. He’s no slouch at the plate, either. He hit .265 with 12 dingers and 59 RBI in front of the pitcher throughout 2011.
C- George Kottaras- Randy Wolf’s personal catcher was solid as a backup in his second season as a Brewer. He set career highs in average, OBP, SLG, and OPS in 2011. There’s no reason to think he won’t improve both behind and at the plate this year.
1- + Yovani Gallardo
2- Zack Greinke
4- Randy Wolf
5- Chris Narveson
Expect nothing less than a great season from the intact staff from 2011 that was one of the National League’s best. Greinke, barring any setbacks and pick-up basketball games, will have a full season under his belt after striking out over 200 in 28 starts in 2011. Randy Wolf’s ability to pick up the dreaded stat of quality starts and Chris Narveson’s first couple innings are focal points for the season. We know what to expect out of the three studs at the top, but will Wolf and Narveson be as productive as they were last year?
John Axford (closer)
Francisco Rodriguez (set up man)
As much as I would love to see a guy like Wily Peralta or Santo Manzanilla or last year’s extra inning hero in Philadelphia, Brandon Kintzler, make the Opening Day roster, there isn’t the space to fit in all the options. I don’t see Roenicke and Melvin sending Parra down again and, essentially, ending his chances with the Brewers. With a lack of southpaw options for the ‘pen, his job will primarily be to retire possibly multiple left handed hitters in an inning. The Dillard selection, however, can be attributed more to an educated guess. With Estrada and Parra, Roenicke doesn’t need any more inning eaters and The Tim Dillard Experience has a repertoire much more suited to retire one or two batters than Brandon Kintzler. Just ask the Marlins.
* Predicting the Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day Roster is the “fifth inning” in a series of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game. Read each of the first four posts here.
Dealing with adversity is something all professional athletes must overcome in order to be successful. The ones that handle it best are ultimately the ones that go on to do big things. This is no different for Brewers outfielder and reigning National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun. Braun’s situation, however, has called upon an imperative professionalism to which he has met.
The typical highest point of adversity for a baseball player is to be caught in the doldrums of a slump, whether it be at the plate, in the field, or on the mound. Braun, compared to most, has experience far less of this sort of adversity in his career, yet has trumped nearly them all with the ongoing saga surrounding him this off-season.
In December, ESPN reported that Braun tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and was facing an imminent 50 game suspension. Click here for more details on the story. As the lengthy appeal process continues and the jury is still out (literally) on his status for the fast-approaching 2012 season, Braun has handled the personally strenuous situation with class and high regard. Unlike Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, former icons who became widely disliked for the way they handled the media during their PED trials, Braun has not crossed any lines, spoken out in portions about the situation, and politely declined any question or comment he deemed unanswerable.
He could have trashed reporters when questioned about his alleged use of synthetic testosterone. He could have created a stir toward the MLB for releasing his test results, which were supposed to be confidential. He could have sued for his private medical information being publicized. He could have gone faded off into a secluded abyss. He could have declined the invitation to attend the BBWAA Awards Dinner, where he gave a brief speech. He could have gone against the Brewers for possibly mal-testing him.
He has maintained a professional mannerism in a situation that has progressively drawn a “Braun+Brewers fans vs. the world” feel. If anybody actually believes that Braun went over-the-top with his initial reaction,telling USA Today the report was “BS”, they need to get a realization of how 98% of people would react. Imagine being one of the game’s elite sluggers and just having won your first MVP award, just for it to be reported you tested positive for PEDs. Who wouldn’t defend themselves in this scenario? Calling a report “BS” in an attempt to instinctively defend yourself is anything but over-the-top, unless your name is Tim Tebow.
At the BBWAA dinner, in his first public appearance since the report surfaced, Braun asserted that challenge is opportunity.
“You know, sometimes in life, we all deal with challenges we never expected to endure…and I’ve chosen to view every challenge I’ve ever faced as an opportunity and this will be no different. I have always believed that a person’s character is revealed through the way they deal with those moments of adversity.”
Throughout, the 28-year-old has been able to voice his opinion on the report respectfully without attacking any group or individual. This video from TMZ found on Bleeding Yankee Blue shows just this.
The final verdict on Braun’s pending suspension has yet to be reached and the star outfielder may have to report to Spring Training without knowledge of whether or not he will be in Ron Roenicke’s Opening Day lineup. I expect him to handle all the media attention in the same way since he was called up in May of 2007. Seeing Braun tear the cover off the ball in Spring action can also be expected at the same elite level we’ve seen since May 2007.
Prolonged slumps have avoided Braun over the course of his five Big League seasons. Ever since Little League, he has been one of the most feared players on any given diamond. From sharing the field little Jonny Olson and TJ Johnson to doing so with the likes of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, Braun has always been the primary focus of opposing pitching. Any notion that Braun only had a MVP-caliber season with 33 homers, 111 RBI, and a .332 average because of alleged PED use is absurd. There was no significant increase in power numbers for Braun in 2011; he blasted 34 in a mere 113 games as a rookie in 2007 and didn’t test positive for PEDs. The lucid fact that he has always been a pure hitter should remain prominent when discussing the situation.
What I’m trying to say in that last paragraph is that, if the report holds true and he is suspended 50 games, Braun didn’t become the National League MVP simply because of taking any performance boosters.
Without Braun, the Brewers don’t win the division for the first time since 1982. Milwaukee would have been absent from the party in October, yet again. They don’t make the franchise’s first National League Championship Series appearance. Miller Park doesn’t draw 3,000,000 fans.
The bat of #8 was invaluable for the Brewers in 2011, which is why he won and has retained, for that matter, the MVP award. If Braun
was really a fraud, he would have failed other postseason drug tests in the past and any random drug tests administered by Major League Baseball throughout the regular season. To our knowledge, however, he never failed any of these.
Rightful MVP, indeed.
The goal here is most definitely not to offer my opinion on whether or not Braun is innocent, but ,as a Brewers die-hard, believing Braun’s words emanates a lining of hope. The kind of hope that the truth will come out and that it will be favorable to Braun and the Brewers. Maybe even hoping that, despite it being merely a rumor, his test was mishandled, as I reported earlier this week on Plushdamentals.
Many of the details surrounding the Ryan Braun saga are currently ambiguous to the public, but I know three things are certain: Braun has handled a beyond-adverse situation professionally, and, because of doing so, has shown he is the deserving MVP and will receive a standing ovation that rattles the Miller Park roof whenever it be that he returns to the Brewers lineup.
*’Ryan Braun: Professional Man, Pure Hitter, Rightful MVP’ is the “fourth inning” in a series of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game. Read the first, second, and third posts here.
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.
The indelible image from a magical 2011 is that of the regularly exuberant Nyjer Morgan, separating from the post NLDS Game 5 celebration, and submerging himself in the splendor, magnitude, and sheer joy of the moment. Following his game-winning hit and the least surprising F-bomb in television history, he took the cross-legged and grinning pose of a joyous kindergartner in a corner of the clubhouse. The celebration, meanwhile, ensued, much like the Brewers season as they advanced to their first NLCS in franchise history.
A bittersweet taste, however, still lingers in the mouths of Brewers players and fans. Sure, the team won a franchise-record 96 games. Yes, they won the division and beat the Diamondbacks in the NLDS. And, of course, it was a seven month long party in Milwaukee. But to get so close and to not taste the full effects of winning it all hurts. Add to this the idea that the St. Louis Cardinals, whom the Brewers were a better team than for the entire year minus one roughly mistimed series in October, ended up hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy, and you have yourself a recipe for “what if….?” thoughts.
But, as they say, time heals all wounds (unless you tend to hold grudges), and, soon enough, 2011 will bring forth only positive memories from Brewers fans, of which there is a plethora to choose from.
There was the 4 hour 35 minute marathon in May that ended royally with a Prince Fielder walk off blast to right field. Or the 4-6-3-2 triple play turned by the Crew against the Dodgers. There were all the hilarious post-game antics of Morgan-err…. Tony Plush. Braun’s game-winning home run vs. the Marlins as the Brewers clinched the division on September 23. And the vivaciously unforgettable “Beast Mode” celebration that enthralled the entire city of Milwaukee.
Deftly put, 2011 was one incredible dream for all Brewers fans alike. After being confined to futility and mediocrity for 29 years, with a brief 2008 Playoff stint thrown in for kicks, Milwaukee baseball finally returned to prominence.
Ryan Braun brought home the Brewers’ first Most Valuable Player award since Robin Yount won it in 1989. Braun out-slugged the competition, beating out Matt Kemp and teammate Prince Fielder for baseball’s most coveted award. He led the league in slugging and in OPS in addition to batting .332, second to only that of New York’s Jose Reyes, and hit 33 homers while driving in 111 RBI. Braun also led the team with 33 stolen bases while only getting thrown out six times and hit .500 with 4 RBI in the NLDS. Ignore the drama for the time being surrounding the Brewers four-time All Star and Silver Slugger; Milwaukee has found itself a star.
The loss of Prince Fielder to free agency will undoubtedly affect the team’s performance offensively. Without the dynamic 1-2 punch of
Braun and Fielder, the 2011 season would have had a significantly different outcome. Fielder’s .415 OBP, 38 home runs, and 120 RBI provided protection to Braun in the 3-hole in the lineup and provided an elite power bat.
It was not all Fielder and Braun, however. All Star Game starter Rickie Weeks was on pace to have a career year until an injury in July set him back. Corey Hart filled in nicely for Weeks at the leadoff spot, finishing the season hitting .285 with 26 homers. He finished the season hitting .301 as the leadoff batter for the Brewers. Morgan proved to be more than all talk, batting .304 with countless clutch hits and stellar defensive play. Jerry Hairston filled in nicely for the injured Weeks before replacing a struggling Casey McGehee come Playoff time. The team produced more than enough offense to back their stellar starting rotation.
GM Doug Melvin’s off-season acquisitions of Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke payed off, with Marcum’s rotation-leading ERA. Greinkem, despite missing 7 starts to begin the season, struck out 201 batters and posted a 16-6 record. Yovani Gallardo proved to be the team’s ace time and time again, and Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson went a combined 24-18 to round out the rotation.
We could go on for days about the key parts to the 2011 Brewers. I just spent four paragraphs discussing the players and didn’t even touch John Axford or Francisco Rodriguez or Jonathan Lucroy or Takashi Saito. This speaks volumes about the depth that the Brewers possessed.
The turnstiles of Miller Park were rushed all year long as the team set a franchise record for attendance with over 3,071,000 million fans. Nothing was magical at all about this influx of Brewers fans to Miller Park. Mix together a great baseball team with a great baseball city and the result is party rockin’ in the house every night. Miller Park was a living nightmare for opposing teams, as the Crew won a franchise-record 57 home games in their friendly confines (Shut up, La Russa, it wasn’t the lighting). Braun, Fielder, Plush & Co. made damn well sure that DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” would be blasted after every game from the same speakers that once chimed “Hell’s Bells” for Trevor Hoffman.
As was Miller Park, homes around Milwaukee were rockin’ on a nightly basis. 96 wins. NL Central champions. National League Championship Series appearance. National League MVP. 3 All Stars. Franchise attendance record. A Prince that blossomed into a King. Nightly lessons of Plushdamentals from T. Plush. Axford’s mustache and saves. Beast mode.
*2011: A Healthy Brew of Magic is the “first inning” of a set of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game.
Stay posted on the series. and “Follow” Plushdamentals, the #1 Brewers fan blog.
Down 2-1 and facing the possibility of being eliminated from the NLCS without going back to Miller Park, Randy Wolf threw a gem on the biggest stage for him as a Brewer. 7 innings of two-run ball along with, finally, some timely hitting from his offense, and the series in knotted up at 2-2 with a guarantee of finishing the series at home for Milwaukee.
Game Five, however, still looms large for both teams.
If Milwaukee wins, the Cardinals are faced with the task of winning back-to-back games in front of a rowdy crowd at Miller Park on Sunday and Monday.
If St. Louis wins, the Brewers will have to beat Edwin Jackson and Chris Carpenter, the two pitchers who have picked up wins thus far in the series.
Losing Game 5 might not be automatically fatal. But it definitely would not be advisable.
For Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin, his headline off-season trade for Zack Greinke will either come to fruition or leave the Brewers wondering ‘what-if’ tonight. Greinke will get the start for the Brewers after picking up the win in Game 1 despite rough numbers.
St. Louis will start Greinke’s Game 1 counterpart Jaime Garcia, whose fifth-inning collapse gave the Brewers a lead and, eventually, the win. At home Garcia has been a different animal, with a 9-4 record and 2.55 era at Busch Stadium.
For Greinke and the Brewers, keeping the Cardinal bats silent in the first inning is key. Wolf is the only starter through Game 4 to not surrender a first inning run, and that momentum carried him through the game, picking up the win. Greinke gave up one run to start Game 1.
Game 5 may evidently come down to the two bullpens, which have been dynamite in locking down leads in the series. Wolf was the first pitcher to go more than six innings in the series.
Three two-run home runs, two of which came in a six-run fifth inning, propelled the Brewers to a 1-0 lead in the NLCS. Ryan Braun’s 463-foot blast over the Harley Davidson Deck in left-center opened it up, and homers by Prince Fielder and Yuniesky Betancourt ensued in the fifth to give the Brewers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“With the shadows it can get hard (to hit), but I’m just fortunate it went over the fence,” said a modest Ryan Braun on his first inning moon shot off Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia (0-2).
However, it wasn’t all fun and games for Milwaukee, who is 4-0 at home so far in the Playoffs.
A three-run home run by David Freese in the fourth gave the Cardinals a 4-2 lead against Brewers starter Zack Greinke. St. Louis added to their lead with a two-out RBI single off the bat of Lance Berkman in the fifth.
Milwaukee responded, down 5-2 in the fifth. The rally began humbly with a meager base hit through the left side by Corey Hart. Following a Jerry Hairston double to left, Braun sent a Garcia breaking ball down the line in right that barely stayed fair for a ground-rule double. 5-4. Fielder carried the momentum by launching Garcia’s first delivery into the visitor’s bullpen on a rope to give the Brewers the lead 6-5. Octavio Dotel then relieved Garcia and botched a Rickie Weeks grounder, disposing the ball into right field for a two-base error. The usual free-swinging Betancourt then put together an eight-pitch at bat before homering to the Milwaukee bullpen to make it 8-5.
Braun finished with 4 RBI with a homer, double, and two runs scored as the Brewers followed suit of the 1982 Milwaukee team to take the opening game in a Playoff series with St. Louis (the two teams met in the World Series that year).
The team that won Game 1 of the NLCS has advanced to the World Series in 16 of the past 19 years.
Milwaukee is now 17-0 at home in games Greinke (1-0) has started. Greinke, who criticized the demeanor of Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, went six plus innings, allowing all six of St. Louis’ runs, striking out six.
Takashi Saito relieved Greinke after a leadoff single from leadoff man Rafael Furcal in the seventh and immediately made Brewers fans nervous.
With Furcal running on the pitch, the Cardinals avoided a double play and wound up with a Jon Jay single to put runners on the corners with no outs and the heart of the order coming up. Saito avoiding the jam, breaking Albert Pujols’ bat for a 5-4-3 double play with Furcal coming home. A Lance Berkman pop out ended the inning and Milwaukee escaped up 8-6. A Jonathan Lucroy RBI single would get the run back immediately for the Brewers.
Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford held the lead in the eighth and ninth with no trouble as Axford picked up his second postseason save.
“F*** YEAH! F*** YEAH!” Nyjer Morgan yelled into the microphone for what was meant to be a post-game interview, which he then followed with “I GOT NOTHIN TO SAY! AHH GOTTA GO!”
TBS should have known better than to try to get Morgan, Friday night’s hero and forever’s legend, for an interview.
With Carlos Gomez on second and one out in the bottom of the tenth, Morgan transformed into legend Tony Plush and laced a single right back up the middle as Gomez came around to score the winning run. On to the National League Championship Series.
The Brewers held a 2-1 lead going into the ninth inning, but John Axford blew his first save opportunity since mid-April when Gerardo Parra scored on a Willie Bloomquist suicide squeeze. Axford then escaped a major jam, striking out Aaron Hill, inducing a weak fielder’s choice groundout from Justin Upton, then Henry Blanco rolled out to Yuniesky Betancourt. Betancourt out-sprinted Upton on a phenomenal play. But who cares about the blown lead? He was just setting up the stage.
After Craig Counsell lined out sharply to Upton to lead off the tenth off of Arizona’s JJ Putz, Gomez singled to left. Everyone in the raucous Miller Park knew what was to come: “Go-Go” would be stealing with T. Plush at the plate.
On what turned out to be a completely overlooked play, Gomez took off for second and Plush squared to bunt. At the very last moment, the Brewers center fielder pulled back, screening the catcher Blanco as the ball squirted away. Gomez reached second and the stage was set.
Putz threw a 2-2 fastball that Plush, or Morgan (you choose) laced back right up the middle. Putz had the only play on it, but a kick-save attempt failed. The speedy Gomez then beat out the throw from center fielder Chris Young as the celebration began.
Miller Park and the city of Milwaukee erupted and rejoiced as the Brewers won their first Playoff series since 1982.
To say the least, the Snakes are on a plan going home.
Arizona opened up the scoring on a solo homer from Justin Upton to the D-Backs bullpen in right field. The homer came two pitches after Milwaukee thought they were out of the inning on a supposed strike three.
Milwaukee tied up the score on a Jerry Hairston sac fly that scored Morgan. Second baseman Aaron Hill had to range to shallow right field to make the grab and his momentum was too much to overcome and Morgan tagged and scored easily. The lead then came in the 6th from an unlikely source.
After a Ryan Braun leadoff double, Prince Fielder walk, failed bunt by Rickie Weeks, and incredible catch by Young in center to rob Hairston of a bases-clearing double, Betancourt singled to center to score Braun. The oft-criticized Betancourt was in place to be the hero.
Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo consistently found himself in jam after jam, but escaped them all. With a pitch count of 112, Gallardo exited after six excellent innings of one-run ball. He gave up five hits, struck out five, and walked two. The only blemish on Gallardo’s line was the two-out homer to Upton.
D-Backs starter Ian Kennedy gave up two runs in six innings of work and was on the hook for the loss until Bloomquist’s safety squeeze tied the game.
Takashi Saito pitched a perfect seventh and Francisco Rodriguez escaped a nerve-wrecking bases loaded jam in the eighth.
Arizona third baseman Ryan Roberts, who hit the Game Four grand slam, came up and K-Rod had nowhere to put him. The mid-season pickup came through for Milwaukee, as Roberts grounded into a fielder’s choice, shortstop to second.
Immediately after the hit, Morgan gave the Beast Mode signal to Brewers players and fans. What a sight.
In the words of T. Plush “F*** YEAH!” ONTO THE NLCS!