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Thursday's Frosty Mug

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Some things to read while defending butter's honor.

Last night was a perfect example of the differences between the AL and NL game as the two managers played what Tom Haudricourt called "interleague cat-and-mouse," combining to use nine relief pitchers, three pinch hitters and two double switches.

For the second straight night, John Axford picked up the save. Last night's was the more conventional, one-inning variety, but he still threw 22 pitches to record the final three outs. Since Axford has now pitched three innings in the last two days, it's probably safe to assume Trevor Hoffman will close if the need arises today.

Actually, Hoffman likely would have pitched last night if he'd been able to get loose in time. The Brewers had him scrambling to get ready after they scored their fifth run in the bottom of the eighth, but he didn't have enough time. It looks like this might be Ken Macha's long term plan: Finding low-leverage save opportunities for Hoffman to get him to #600. Craig Calcaterra says the back end of the Brewers' bullpen isn't broke, so they shouldn't be trying to fix it.

Manny Parra tied a franchise record by throwing four wild pitches last night, and the Brewers set a new record for most in a game when Kameron Loe threw a fifth. Jack Moore of Disciples of Uecker says it's not important, and highlights some of the Brewers' strong pitching performances.

In the seventh inning last night Prince Fielder was hit on the hand by Twins reliever Brian Duensing, tying Fielder for the league lead with 11 HBP. (As you might imagine, Plunk Everyone has all the details.) Fielder was upset at the time and I probably would have been too, for a couple of reasons:

  • He'd just been hit with a 91 mph projectile in an area with lots of small, fragile bones.
  • It was Duensing's second straight pitch up and in. The first one had been around chin-level.

With that said, Landon Evanson of Bugs & Cranks says Fielder should "get the chip off your shoulder, and get your big ass out of the way when the ball is coming at you." I'm guessing Evanson's never been hit by a pitch, and I'm also guessing he'd wet his pants if given the opportunity to say that to Fielder's face.

Other notes from the field:

The Brewers are 2-0 in this 20 game stretch that could decide the direction of the season. Miller Park Drunk is starting to get excited.

Chris Capuano, meanwhile, might be starting to get drowsy. The most strenuous thing he did yesterday was talking to Tom Haudricourt about not having been used in a game since June 12.

The pitching hasn't been bad lately, leading some to wonder if Jonathan Lucroy deserves some credit for helping turn the season around. A poster at noted that the Brewer team ERA is 4.08 when Lucroy catches, compared to 5.07 for George Kottaras and 5.67 for Gregg Zaun.

Meanwhile, we're just a few hours from Yovani Gallardo taking the mound in today's series finale. Jaymes Langrehr of The Brewers Bar has a preview of his start.

Jerry Crasnick of ESPN says the depth of quality starting pitchers in the NL might keep Gallardo off the All Star team, but thinks Ryan Braun and Corey Hart will make it.

Speaking of Hart, Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports thinks the Brewers should be looking to trade him for pitching, and the Braves, Red Sox, Padres, Mets and Rays could be interested. Hart didn't like getting booed in Milwaukee, so Boston and New York probably wouldn't be good places for him.

Chris Narveson's first inning struggles have been pretty well documented: Over at Beyond the Box Score, lar has a look at how they compare to some of baseball's worst first inning pitchers.

In the minors:

  • On the field yesterday the affiliates went 3-3. Unfortunately, the most notable pitching performance of the day came in Arizona, where Eric Arnett was rocked for six runs on six hits in two relief innings. You can read about that and more in today's Minor League Notes.
  • Helena improved to 3-0 yesterday despite having trailed in every game this season. Last night they overcame a five run deficit to win 10-6.
  • Another day, another accolade for Brett Lawrie: He's the honorable mention second baseman on Matt Hagen of The Hardball Times' Minor League All Star Team.
  • The best accolade of the day, though, went to Wisconsin's Kyle Heckathorn: Call to the Pen says he could be the next Roy Halladay.
  • Minor League Ball also had a quick scouting report on Jake Odorizzi yesterday, crediting his improved curve and slider for his increased strikeout numbers.
  • The Brewers officially announced second round pick Jimmy Nelson's deal yesterday, along with deals for 21st round pick Kevin Shackleford, 41st round pick Derrick Shaw and three undrafted free agents. They've now signed 29 of their 50 draft picks.

On power rankings: Beyond the Box Score moved the Brewers up one spot to #16.

Around baseball:

Astros: Placed shortstop Bobby Manzella on the DL with a broken left index finger and announced that outfielder Cory Sullivan has rejected an outright assignment to the minors and is now a free agent.
Marlins: Fired manager Fredi Gonzalez, bench coach Carlos Tosca and hitting coach Jim Presley, and released pitcher Renyel Pinto.
Mets: Signed pitcher Ramon Ortiz to a minor league deal.
Phillies: Placed pitcher Chad Durbin on the DL with a hamstring strain.
Pirates: Placed pitcher Zach Duke on the DL with a strained flexor pronator in his left elbow.

It's hard to feel too bad for Fredi Gonzalez: Sure, the Marlins had no business firing him, but he's almost certainly going to be the frontrunner to take over for Bobby Cox in Atlanta when he retires after the season. Meanwhile, the Marlins are reportedly looking to hire Bobby Valentine.

Raise your hand if you saw this coming, so I can call you a liar: The Mets have won 21 of 28 games, and enter play today just a half game back in the NL East.

Sometimes cooler heads prevail: After facing negative publicity on the national scale, the Pirates have re-hired the pierogi they fired for making negative comments about the team last week.

I've been a baseball fan for a long time and I've traveled to a bunch of minor league parks, but I've never seen a Northwoods League game, something I plan on changing this summer. If you'd like to check one out too (or a game in any of several other collegiate wood-bat leagues), then Jeff Sackmann's guide at The Hardball Times might help you find one near you.

Or, if you're just looking for something cool to stare at for a while: Jeremy Greenhouse of The Baseball Analysts has some charts assessing the potential effectiveness of shifts against several hitters, and The United Countries of Baseball is a cool project designed to outline the fan bases of major league teams. (h/t to Baseball Musings for the second link)

Happy birthday today to:

Oh, and today is a Woot-off day.

Drink up.