Until the ninth inning, it was a nearly perfect game. Dave Bush gave up no runs and only three hits, the Brewers scored four runs off of none other than Roy Oswalt, and we were set to give Francisco Cordero the day off.
And it nearly fell apart. I'm not going to jump on Ned this time: I would've sent Bush out there for the 9th inning, too. He was under 100 pitches, and he was throwing as well as any starter has for the Crew all year long. If there's ever a time to give your starter a chance for a shutout, it was today.
On the other hand, Ned has got to realize that he didn't have that much room for error. As frustrating as it is to have to go out to the mound after a leadoff double (or after the second baserunner), that's what a manager has to do. But no--like yesterday, with Capuano, Ned let Bush go until he absolutely had to make the move. In other words, he forced himself into the corner of using Cordero, who looked like someone who needed the day off.
Again, I'm not putting the near-loss on Ned here, but I hope these last two games give him something to think about. He's said that he wants more innings from his starters--fine. We all do. But a whole bunch of 5-6 inning starts is plenty, especially if you occasionally let Villanueva go two innings following the shorter ones. To keep sending pitchers out there until they must be pulled is setting them up to fail: Bush came the closest to avoiding that fate, but most of the time, our starters aren't going to be that good. Once a pitcher has given you six or seven quality innings, it's a-ok by me to be accused of the quick hook--better to let Villanueva or Dessens or Wise (or, hell, even Aquino, until his demotion) start with a clean slate than come in with two runners on and the game on the line.
Once again, I realize I'm being negative after a win...it's a bad habit. On the upside, the Brewers only struck out three times (two by Estrada, who did not look good today at all--perhaps he's not accustomed to playing day games?) and put four runs on the board against a very good pitcher. Oswalt wasn't unhittable today, but he did look solid, and Geoff Jenkins hit a couple of pretty good pitches.
So, plenty to get excited about as we open up a little bit of breathing room atop the division. No matter what else happens in the division, we'll end the day up 1.5 games, which I believe is the biggest lead any team has had in the Central thus far. The bats are locked in, Bill Hall is starting to look like a real center fielder, and--for eight innings, anyway--Dave Bush outdueled last year's NL ERA champion.