Wednesday's Frosty Mug: Squeezing for success

Mike McGinnis

We're talking baserunning, good and bad, in today's roundup of all things Brewers.

Some things to read while pondering the contact play.

This morning's Mug is a little late partially because I was at last night's game with my wife. When the Brewers had two on with none out in the ninth, I turned to her and said, "The Brewers are two bunts away from winning this game." Apparently Jack Moore had the same thought.

After Scooter Gennett bunted the runners over to second and third (reaching on an error) and Caleb Gindl popped out, Logan Schafer dropped down the squeeze and the Brewers emerged with a 4-3 walkoff win. Eric has the full recap, if you missed it. Jordan Schelling tweeted out a great AP photo of Jeff Bianchi scoring the game-winning run.

While the squeeze play paid off last night, the much-maligned contact play did not. Norichika Aoki tripled to lead off the seventh but was later thrown out trying to score on Jonathan Lucroy's weak grounder, and Lucroy added insult to injury by getting thrown out trying to take second on the play. After the game Ron Roenicke was asked about the strategic decision to run on contact, and here's what he said:

"It's not good," said Roenicke, asked about the team's success rate running on contact. "We're not running it right. The whole purpose of the contact play is, if the ball is hit right at somebody, you stop short of the catcher and you stay in a rundown, and that [batter] ends up at second base. So the disadvantage is you're not on third, but you're still in scoring position."

So, based on my understanding, the point of the contact play is to score on balls hit through the infield, where just about any baserunner would score without the head start, but also to trade a runner on third for a runner on second if the ball is hit at someone. I still cannot fathom why this is a good idea.

The Brewers tied the game in the seventh inning last night on Carlos Gomez's 20th home run of the season, making him the sixth Brewer center fielder in franchise history to reach that mark (h/t @AdamMcCalvy). The Brewers have now had at least one 20 homer hitter in every full major league season since 1985.

Other notes from the field:

  • Despite the fact that the game-winning run had already scored, Cubs reliever Justin Grimm threw over to first base to retire Logan Schafer on his squeeze bunt. Because Schafer would have been the third out if there hadn't been an error in the inning, the run in the ninth counts as unearned. (h/t @AdamMcCalvy)
  • For the second straight day there was a visible argument in the Cubs dugout, this one between starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija and coach David Bell.
  • The Brewers have now beaten the Cubs 12 times in 17 tries this season (h/t @Haudricourt).
  • The Polish won the sausage race.

The series continues tonight when Tyler Thornburg takes on Chris Rusin at 7:10, and Eric Single has the MLB.com previewDavid Temple of FanGraphs notes that there may not be much on the line tonight, but at least Thornburg and Rusin are both fast workers.

Meanwhile, today's most newsworthy event is probably happening off the field. Adam McCalvy reports via Twitter that the Brewers' baseball operations department has a meeting scheduled for today to dissect the 2013 roster and discuss what went wrong this season. I'm assuming someone will discover a bookkeeping error that led to Yuniesky Betancourt remaining on the roster all season and correct the mistake.

Johnny Hellweg is one of the players that will probably generate some conversation today. J.P. Breen of Disciples of Uecker suggests moving him to the bullpen next season until he proves he can be consistent enough to succeed as a starter.

Most of these guys will probably generate some conversation too: Justin Schultz of Reviewing the Brew has five player-related opinions to share on the Brewers going forward.

I've already mentioned Carlos Gomez's home run from last night, but he also played his usual, phenomenal, level of defense. Jonathan Bernhardt of Sports on Earth listed him as a dark horse candidate for NL MVP, but said "since the Brewers are a last place team, Gomez isn't going to be winning any awards this year." Sadly, I suspect similar logic is going to lead to Andrew McCutchen edging Gomez out for a Gold Glove.

In the minors:

  • The Helena Brewers came up a game short of a Pioneer League championship, falling 7-0 to Idaho Falls in a decisive game three last night. morineko has the recap, if you missed it.
  • Jimmy Nelson was on the Helena Brewers' 2010 championship team and reflected on the experience.
  • That wraps up the 2013 minor league season, but the Arizona Fall League's opening day is October 8, less than a month away.

If you'd like more Brewer coverage but you're sick of reading, my weekly appearance on The Home Stretch with Justin Hull on 95.3 FM WSCO in Appleton has been archived and can be heard at this link. We spent three segments this week talking about Brewer rookies, their roles going forward and Ron Roenicke.

Around baseball:

Astros: Placed catcher Jason Castro on the DL with knee soreness.
Blue Jays: Placed pitcher Brett Cecil (elbow discomfort) and third baseman Edwin Encarnacion (wrist surgery) on the DL.

Let's go around the NL Central:

  • The Cardinals jumped back into first place with an 11-4 rout of the Rockies last night. Cardinals 1-3 hitters Matt Carpenter, Jon Jay and Matt Holliday combined for ten hits, six runs and five RBI in the game.
  • The Pirates fell a game behind after a 5-2 loss to the Padres, their second in as many days. San Diego second baseman Jedd Gyorko had three hits to go with his funny name.
  • The Reds scored four runs in the first inning and cruised to a 10-0 win over the Astros. Mike Leake pitched eight shutout innings for the victory.
  • The Brewers, of course, beat the Cubs 4-3.

You can read more about those games and all of last night's action in Noah's Wednesday edition of Around the Bases at SBNation.com.

Here are today's updated standings and probables:

Team W L GB Today Time Matchup
Cardinals 88 63 -- @ COL 7:40p Adam Wainwright v Tyler Chatwood
Pirates 87 64 1 v SDP 6:05p Charlie Morton v Tyson Ross
Reds 86 66 2.5 @ HOU 7:10p Greg Reynolds v Brad Peacock
Brewers 67 83 20.5 v CHC 7:10p Tyler Thornburg v Chris Rusin
Cubs 63 88 25 @ MIL 7:10p

He's not a former Brewer, but minor league manager Mike Jirschele is a Clintonville, Wisconsin native and last night his Omaha Storm Chasers won the AAA Championship (h/t @TimberRattlers). Congratulations to him.

This morning's edition of Today In Brewer History marks the 33rd anniversary of Cecil Cooper becoming the first Brewer ever to collect 200 hits in a season. Here are today's other bits of history:

  • Plunk Everyone notes that today is 2009-10 Brewer Jody Gerut's 36th birthday, and his 15 HBP are the fourth most ever for a player born on September 18.
  • Today also would have been 1972 Brewer Ken Brett's 65th birthday, and his 23 career plunkings are the fourth most ever for a pitcher born on this day.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to take this call.

Drink up.

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