Win: Adam Wainwright (17-9)
Loss: Jimmy Nelson (2-7)
HR: Jhonny Peralta (20)
When the Brewers went on a tear to start the season, right up until the All Star Break-ish, they had a look of an upstart team; a team that people didn't believe in but, dammit, they were winning. The pitching staff wasn't filled with aces like the Dodgers or Tigers. The lineup wasn't filled with MVPs, especially with Ryan Braun's efforts diminished due to his thumb injury.
But they were winning. They were winning with a ton of effort on the field, with a fun attitude, with a 'nobody believes in us, so we'll show them what we can do' style.
The past month or two, none of that has been there. This play in the eighth inning today sums that up:
Gerardo Parra fields a ball and throws back into the infield. It's not a great throw, it's one that's thrown with a lack of purpose. Parra just wanted to get it in and chucked it. Even still, it's a ball that's easy enough to field. However, it gets by not one but two infielders who turn in basically no effort to actually pick up the ball. They looked like Yuniesky Betancourt fielding grounders, where they sort of half bend over but ehhh it's too difficult and the Cardinals are already up by six anyway. That allowed a runner to advance. It was not inconsequential.
That's the problem with the Brewers right now. It's not a lack of skill or talent. It's guys looking tired and worn-down who are just waiting for the season to be over. It's a failure on two parts in terms of managing. I'm not a Ron Roenicke hater by any means, but this debacle should have him on a hot seat. It's caused both by his overworking of players (Lucroy, Smith, Rodriguez, Duke, etc) and by his inability to keep the team either loose or spark some kind of fire. Instead, the team looks lifeless entirely. And It's not just Roenicke, he's just a catch-all for the clubhouse as a whole.
It's also not just management -- the players themselves should be showing a lot more on the field in terms of effort. I don't say this lightly, it's not just an excuse. If it was just poor play, fine. But they genuinely look like they just don't care anymore. I'm not in the clubhouse, it's totally possible I am completely wrong and off-base here, I'm just going with what I see watching games on the screen. But it's been sloppy play for the last few weeks. Pop ups dropping between fielders, throwing balls away, terrible run downs, lackadaisical fielding.
Now, the Brewers would be out of the playoffs if the season ended today. At least they will after the Pirates finish off the Cubs today (up 10-4 at time of writing). Pittsburgh is now in second place in the NL Central and has the second Wild Card spot.
The Brewers aren't out of contention. They are a half game out of a playoff spot, now. They can absolutely, positively still make the postseason. But they need to show that they want it. Maybe Carlos Gomez returning can provide the spark they need. He singled in a run in his returning at-bat as a pinch hitter today and looked genuinely fired up. That is what the Brewers need. They need to get mad that they've lost first place after 150 days of dominating the NLC. They need to show that they want the playoffs. They need to actually field throws from the outfield. Otherwise, what's the point?
As for the actual game: Jimmy Nelson wasn't terrible, but the Cardinals put up a four-spot on him in the fourth inning. He went five innings and gave up five hits and two walks. He hasn't looked great his last few starts, but he'll be fine in the coming seasons. This year, though? He looks like a guy who is pitching the most innings of his career.
The Cardinals got another two in the seventh off Brandon Kintzler, then three more in the ninth off Alfredo Figaro.
Milwaukee, meanwhile, could not buy a run for most of the game. At one point, Ron Roenicke sent out three consecutive pinch-hitters in what was seemingly an act of desperation. As if he were just begging someone to do something. However, the Brewers' lone run came in the bottom of the ninth when Gomez, as mentioned above, drove in Scooter Gennett, who had led off the inning with a double.
All in all, it might be a new low the Brewers this season. Here's hoping they can muster up some energy and actually look like a team who wants to play in October moving forward.