During the rain delay in last night’s disheartening Brewer loss, I wandered downstairs and my daughter had switched to a Thor movie. I watch games with her when I’m not recapping, but usually alone when I am. She’s an adult with a family of her own, so she can stay up as late as she wants. She asked if it was still in delay, and I said yes, but it looked like they were going to restart soon. I also said I hoped the Brewers didn’t blow it because I had the recap almost totally written. Let me tell you, that recap was a lot more fun than the one I had to post. Maybe I should have just posted the first one.
Anyway, it is instructive to observe that if last night’s game had happened Friday night, and Friday night’s game last night, I’d be on Cloud Nine this morning (cue the Temptations), and so would everyone else. The team will be fine. Every game is like this, blow-outs are rare either way. Get ready for a really tense September.
OK, Dad’s lecture is over.
The Milwaukee Brewers went 4-2 last week while out-scoring their opponents 37-32. They remain a half game behind the Cardinals for the first Wild Card spot, but now hold the second all alone. They dropped a half game to the Cubs and trail them by five full games. They did better than treading water and have won eight of twelve.
TOP PITCHING STORY: I’m getting even more excited about Corbin Burnes than I was before he came up, and it is usually the reverse on top prospects. As a rule, top Brewer prospects come up and we realize that it’s going to be a process (like Lewis Brinson or Jimmy Nelson). Guys like Ryan Braun are rare. But Burnes had three more scoreless relief appearances with three innings pitched, and now has a 2.88 ERA on the season in 19 appearances and 25 innings. His WHIP is 1.08, and teams are batting just .205 against him. While his slider hasn’t been quite as well controlled lately, he has started using all four pitches rather than just the fastball-slider combo that he started out with. I think we can check off one rotation spot for next season.
Honorable Mention: Yeah, Jordan Lyles’ wild pitch last night was unfortunate, but the righty is adapting well to short relief after a rocky start, and he also had three scoreless outings last week. In 3.1 innings his WHIP was 0.90, and he only allowed one hit. He could very well be used in high-leverage situations as the usage of Jeremy Jeffress has become a bit extreme and is probably unsustainable, and with so many arms available starters not named Chacin will rarely go past five innings. And have I mentioned every game is close?
Special mention to Wade Miley’s most excellent start in beating the Reds Thursday afternoon, with 7.1 innings of one run ball.
TOP HITTING STORY: Jonathan Schoop is starting to produce. The free swinger drew his weekly walk and had a batting line of .353/.421/.765 for an OPS of 1.186 (he was also hit by a pitch). His two homers were very welcome, and he scored four times and drove in five while appearing in all six games. With his bat going, and Manny Pina and Erik Kratz both hitting, the line-up is very deep and probably due for three ten run games when they start their home stand Monday. Come to think of it, ten today would be useful.
Honorable Mention: I know, I know, how can a guy that has a six hit game in which he hits for the cycle and almost single-handedly beats the Reds not be the top story? Maybe because my expectations for the lefty outfielder have become a bit out-sized. Anyway, he slashed .423/.483/.885, for an OPS of 1.367. Five of his hits were for extra bases, with three homers. And every out is a groundball to second, or so it seems. He scored five times in the six games and had ten RBI (!). I love extrapolating out of small sample sizes, and that’s a 250 RBI season! And one more time, for your viewing enjoyment:
By the way, Ted Williams (whose 100th birthday would have been this week) had a LIFETIME on base percentage of .482, and hit 521 career homers despite missing three full seasons to military service. He had TWO triple crowns, was a nineteen time All Star, won six batting average titles, and only won two MVP awards, because Teddy Ballgame and the press didn’t exactly get along. Oh, and wrote a book on hitting in the seventies that detailed the importance of launch angle. Your weekly history lesson! And he homered in his last at bat at age 41 in a season in which he hit .316. His OPS at age 41? 1.096
IMHO: After finishing up the series today in D.C. the Brewers return home and face the Chicago Cubs in six of their next nine games. This is important, of course, in Milwaukee’s increasingly Quixotic quest to unseat the defending NL Central champs, but is very important also because the Cubs are playing extremely well and could derail the Crew’s chances at a post season berth. I’d say that the Brewers need to take five of six to have a chance at the division, but it may be imperative that they win three of them to give themselves a chance at a Wild Card spot. Many thought that the NL Central would be the best division in the NL coming into the season. Ain’t that the truth - as good as the Cubs have been, the Cards may be playing even better.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: Milwaukee GM David Stearns was very aggressive in adding three players as the waiver trade period approached the end of August (that time period is important because only players on the 40 man roster as of August 31st are eligible for post-season play). Lefty relief specialist Xavier Cedeno, veteran outfielder Curtis Granderson, and lefty starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez joined the team (along with a slew of minor league call-ups). TonyC920 summed things up this way:
For what Stearns gave up to make these moves,… it was well worth the chances. Low Risk.
If Gio can contribute it’s a HR. I expect Cedeno will get plenty of work. Granderson is insurance. You can’t put Thames in the OF anymore. At least not this late into the final stretch.
I tend to agree with that, although the acquisition of Gio Gonzalez leaves me a bit cold. He hasn’t been good lately, to put it mildly. BTW, is TonyC920 an homage to Tony Conigliaro or Tony Cloninger? Or neither? (RIP Tony Cloninger, a former Milwaukee/Atlanta Brave who passed away a little over a month ago. On July 3, 1966, Tony hit two grand slams in a game. In the team’s final season in Milwaukee (1965), Cloninger went 24-11 with a 3.29 ERA. He led the league in walks, and in wild pitches (22)...he also led the league in wild pitches (27) the next season. Man, have you folks gotten a lot of history today!)
Milwaukee goes for the series win today against the Nationals, and then that rather important series against the Cubs starts tomorrow afternoon in a Labor Day matinee at Miller Park. After an off day Thursday (the Brewers have no Thursday games scheduled in September) the San Francisco Giants come to town for a weekend set.
Will we be giddy with anticipation or sobbing in our beer for next Sunday’s Sundries?