A week ago last Wednesday, the Milwaukee Brewers were in a bind. They had injuries to their starting pitching, and ended up going with reliever Michael Blazek to face top Cy Young Award candidate Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals. Not much was expected, and the results were worse than that. Blazek allowed six homers in like three batters faced, the Nats scored 15 runs, and Hernan Perez was the best pitcher of the day.
But the move worked. The Brewers went 4-2 this week despite not hitting a lick. The rested Brewers’ staff went this entire week and allowed just twelve runs. Throwing away a game that was a very tough win for the future success of the team was a reasonable strategy, even if Craig Counsell and the Brewers would never admit that’s what they were doing. During the marathon of a regular season such a stratagem makes sense. You can’t do that in a short post-season series, so let’s hope that the Brewers re-pass the Cubs and find out what a short post-season series is like.
TOP PITCHING STORY: The entire staff. All of ‘em, even Brent Suter, who gave up 42% of the runs allowed this week in just 51⁄3 innings of work. Milwaukee had nine pitchers throw this week that didn’t give up a run. Nine. Even Wei-Chung Wang, who had an infinite WHIP, didn’t give up a run. The staff worked 54 innings with an ERA of 2.00 (they didn’t even allow any unearned runs this week!), a WHIP of 1.13, and 58 strikeouts against only 16 walks. They allowed just four dingers, with half of them by Yadier Molina off of Suter. Acceptable.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Swarzak has been a great addition to the bullpen. GM David Stearns has struck again - at least in the short term. Swarzak was one of the nine unscored upon, and in his four outings he went 31⁄3 innings, allowing 2 hits and no walks, striking out six. He also earned his first Brewer save to go with his only other major league save (against the Cubs, thank you very much). He’s probably due for a day off.
TOP HITTING STORY: How can you have a pitching week like that and only go 4-2? Well, let me tell ya: you don’t hit. Here are the combined numbers for Manny Pina, Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw, Eric Thames, and Domingo Santana for the week: a slash of .191/.283/.287 for an OPS of .570. They did manage to score 7 and drive in 8 of the 15 runs scored. They struck out 39 times. It’s like having five Jonathan Villar’s in the middle of your line-up! Oh, and Villar? .111/.111/.111, OPS of .222. Oh my.
Honorable Mention: Somebody had to do well, you say? Sure - Orlando Arcia slashed .364/.391/.682 for an OPS of 1.073. He also fielded his position with his usual flair, and more importantly, very well. He should have a birthday every week! Except he’d have to retire at the end of the season, being about 35 and all. Maybe he could last the post-season.
IMHO: What do you do to awaken slumbering bats? (the Brewers, not the opposition.) Counsell has tried shaking up the line-up, getting aggressive on the bases, resting various players - but you gotta put nine of them out there, so that only goes so far. In the end, it’s up to the players to look back at why they were successful the first half and work to get back to that approach. Maybe go the opposite way more often, but that isn’t working for Eric Sogard. So maybe he needs to pull the ball more. And Ryan Braun needs to stop hitting line drives at the fielders.
See how easy being a hitting coach is?
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: A change-up here. After Arcia’s wonderful Friday night game on his birthday (3-3, homer, triple, run scored, RBI with a great defensive play in the seventh to keep the Brewers up 1-0), our poll question for the Saturday game thread asked
Was your last birthday as good as Orlando Arcia’s was yesterday?
Not as dramatic, but it was OK. (29%)
Way better! (7%)
I’m very curious as to what the 7% did on their birthdays.
Milwaukee, trailing the first place Cubs by a half game, goes for the sweep in Tampa/St. Pete today, and then continues interleague play with their home and home series with the Twins - Monday and Tuesday in the Twin Cities, Thursday and Friday back at Miller Park. Then it’s back to the NL Central as the Reds come to Milwaukee for a weekend three game set.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference