After the debacle that was the miraculously-won Mets series, tonight's game was thrilling to watch. It had everything (except for sloppiness--in the first eight innings, anyway), particularly a couple of pitchers on the very top of their game.
The Brewers' best pitcher (and, I hope, the Brewers' best pitcher for years to come), Ben Sheets, lowered his ERA to 3.10. Not quite in Clemens territory, but a heck of an outing in the most hitter-friendly park this side of Coors Field. Matt Wise, possible the Brewers' second-best pitcher (and certainly the most underrated) got his first career save. And while I don't want to get ahead of myself, Wise's presence gives Doug Melvin the opportunity to deal Derrick Turnbow in the offseason the same way he dealt Dan Kolb last winter: Matt Wise has what it takes to close games for the Brewers in 2006 and beyond. (I'm pretty sure he had it last year, and this year too, but if anything, he's gotten better as Yost has placed more trust in him.)
And yes, the Brewers offense ran into a freight train in Cory Lidle, who struck out 9 batters to Sheets's 7, but when the Phillies went to a mediocre middle reliever in the 10th, even the bottom of the order was ready to pounce. I assumed that whenever the Crew got something going, Billy Wagner would be in the game to shut it down, but I suppose I shouldn't complain about the poor managerial decision that made this game a lot easier to win.
Now, to the win probability graph, unsurprisingly hovering close to .500 most of the way:
Also unsurprisingly, the biggest contributors today were Ben Sheets (duh) and Damian Miller (again). Here are the stats for tonight's game:
- Clark, -11.4%
- Weeks, -8.8%
- Overbay, -6.1%
- Lee, -6.1%
- Jenkins, -0.5% (those anti-clutch outs cancelled out the second-inning dinger)
- Hall, +0.4% (then again, his error in the 10th had a negative 8.5% impact)
- Miller, +24.3%
- Hardy, -0.9%
- Sheets, -10.9%
- Helms, +0.9%
- Durrington, +0.5%
- Sheets, +54.2%
- Wise, +18.6%
Clearly not a good day for the bats: Cory Lidle racked up 39.4% against us, and Rheal Cormier totalled 14.8% as well. Geoff Geary, of course, didn't do much, accounting for -35.6%, and that doesn't even factor in the -4.3% of the two mishaps on Damian Miller's double.
Aside from the tremendous pitching performances, the big story tonight is that the Brewers are back at the .500 mark! And starting tomorrow night, they have a bullpen that isn't dog-tired anymore. And with Capuano on the mound, the Crew might not (cross your fingers) even need it. I can't believe I'm writing about this, but the Brewers' competition for the wild card has done as follows so far tonight: Cubs lost, Mets won, Nats lost, Marlins won, and Houston is still playing. And, of course, Philly lost. If Houston loses tonight, Milwaukee is within five games of the WC, though with a slew of teams to contend with before threatening Houston. But with a few more games like the last three, not only do the Brewers work their way up the list, they'll start feeling like they can do it. That is, if they don't already think so.
And I'm getting the impression they do.
For tomorrow, I have the following goal to suggest to the Brewers: no more nail-biters for a day or two! Let's have a nice, 8-2 blowout. Bring in Magruder in the 7th to give Carlos Lee a little extra rest, and let Rick Helling work the last couple innings and sit the late-inning guys for one more night. Jon Lieber, tomorrow night's starting pitcher, has a 5.12 ERA including 5.37 at Citizen's Bank, and now that the Crew has the no-wins-at-CBP monkey off their back, it's time to take control.