Gosh darn it, those Saturday losses just ruin my mood. Optimism took a blow as the Brewers enter the second to last week of the season, with a sad clunker of a game that leaves Milwaukee 2.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs for first in the NL Central.
But the Brewers turned in a 4-2 week, and that included taking two of three from the Cubs at Wrigley. The Crew scored one run total in their two losses, so better pitching wouldn’t have made a difference. Besides, the bullpen (not including players named Soria or Barnes) was lights out. Those two allowed seven hits, two walks, and three earned runs in three innings over five appearances. The rest?
21.1 innings/9 hits/1 run/4 walks/31 strikeouts
I’d do the math, but as you can see it’s pretty darn good.
The hard-charging Dodgers have charged so hard that not only have they passed the Cardinals for the Wild Card, they’ve flown right past the Rockies and into first place in the NL Wild Wild West. The Rockies hold wildcard spot number 2, 3.5 games behind the Brewers, and St. Louis is a half game behind them and currently out of the Wild Card game.
TOP PITCHING STORY: Surprise! We’ll again go with a reliever; and it’s rookie righty Corbin Burnes. Burnes had a win (he’s 5-0 on the season) in three appearances, for 3.1 innings, with two hits allowed, no walks, and two strikeouts. He’s member #4 of the ‘A’ group of relievers, and in his rookie season has a 2.67 ERA over 23 appearances and 30.1 innings.
Honorable Mention: Brewers’ GM David Stearns landed three players at the end-of-August deadline, and all have contributed, but Xavier Cedeno’s performance as a lefty specialist has been a bit quiet for the casual observer. But X has seven appearances without allowing a run since his acquisition from the White Sox, and on the week he worked two innings in three appearances without allowing a base runner.
TOP HITTING STORY: Remember Domingo Santana? The guy who was the starting right fielder coming into the season, and had 30 homers last season? Early season struggles sent him to AAA Colorado Springs, and the success of other outfielders kept him there all season. But he has come back as a September call-up, and produced as a pinch hitter. He pinch hit in every game this week, so that’s six at bats, and had three hits including two doubles, so I’ve got to give a call out to Sunday on Sunday Sundries.
Honorable Mention: Lorenzo Cain can play the game of baseball. He has been the Brewers best player on defense and on the bases this year, and he can hit and get on base, too. He hit .440 for the week with nine singles, was on base nearly half the time (.484), had a highlight catch to go along with several other good to very good plays, and kept the club relaxed but intense (is that possible?) with his play.
IMHO: Over the last two days, the Cubs have scored four runs and won two games, while the Brewers have twice as many runs and half as many wins. Sigh. But kudos to the Cubs’ starting pitching, and to a bullpen that has lost it’s second closer this season. That may come back to haunt the Northside Nine, but as of now they seem to be pulling things together with a group effort. Yesterday’s 1-0 win over Cincy was finished off with three different pitchers getting an out in the ninth.
Both Chicago manager Joe Maddon and Craig Counsell are taking advantage of the ridiculous September roster rules (don’t get me started) and are managing every game as a must win. If Milwaukee starters are showing any cracks in their performance, or if the offense needs a spark, said starters are coming out. Post season play can (and will) be like that, too — it’s just that the managers might just run out of guys in late game situations if they aren’t careful in the post-season. Not so much in September.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: Speaking of Corbin Burnes, Kyle pointed out some interesting measurements of why Burnes has been a very effective pitcher since joining the big club, and the measurement of spin rate on his pitches explains a lot. An alternate reading of the importance of “spin rate” was provided by stigmo:
Spin rate is nonsense
Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro as well as all-stars like Tim Wakefield, Charlie Hough, R.A. Dickey, and Jim Bouton all had spin rates that were next-to-nothing.
Get a clue, morans.
For the under-informed, please note that the above mentioned pitchers were all knuckle-ballers, and one of them was the author of my favorite baseball book of all time (“Ball Four”, by Jim Bouton). The success of the knuckle ball depends on very little spin, making the path of the ball entirely unpredictable. My apologies to those that don’t need that rather basic explanation of baseball and physics.
So onward, intrepid Brewer fans! Milwaukee has four more games coming up against the ‘pesky’ Pirates, who excel at putting the ball in play. After today’s game (in the shadow of drama at Lambeau Field), Milwaukee welcomes Cincinnati to Miller Park for three. The Reds aren’t beating the Cubs at Wrigley this time around, which is sad. But hey! They have another chance today. Then the Crew has three at PNC Park in Pittsburgh where home runs go to die and the Brewers lost five straight just before the All Star break. More demons to exorcise!
Stay confident, my friends.