Posts Tagged ‘Phillies’

Congrats Jenks!

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Geoff Jenkins and the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series tonight. Jenks hit a double and scored a run in the abbreviated Game 5.

Of course we would have loved to see Geoff win a ring with the Brewers, but it’s nice to see him collect the hardware in Philadelphia. He’s a classy guy that played on a lot of really bad teams in Milwaukee. We couldn’t be happier for him.

A Year to Remember

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

The 2008 season might not have ended the way we dreamed, but it was still a dream season.

Was I let down the Brewers didn’t advance past the first round of the post season or even make it a close contest? Absolutely. But let’s keep things in perspective…

First of all, this was the best team the Brewers have had in a long, long time. They finished with 90 wins, the most since 1992. It was only the sixth time in franchise history (40 seasons, including one year in Seattle) that the Brewers finished with 90 wins or more. Regardless of the evident holes this team had, they were a hell of a team and one that should be remembered very fondly by Brewers fans.

Remember, they made the playoffs for the first time in 26 years! I’m 26 years old. I was born shortly after the 1982 season began. I’m told I was at a game in late September that year, but my memory is fuzzy on that for some reason… What I’m trying to say is, the best moments of Brewers baseball in my entire life came this season. The memories of Sunday’s playoff clinching win and my first two playoff games (including one incredible win) will be etched in my brain forever. Even if the Brewers were to somehow become the second-coming of the New York Yankees and make the playoffs for 15 consecutive years, those games will be very, very special to me for as long as I live. Of course, a lot of Brewers fans are old enough to remember the 1982 season, which remains the pinnacle of the Brewers’ success, but even those fans should remember the 2008 squad fondly. After more than a quarter century drought, any playoff baseball is something to talk about.

Also, give props to the Phillies. The better team won in this series. Philadelphia exposed some of the same holes that have haunted the Brewers all year long. The Brewers have no leadoff hitter, they are not patient at the plate, they do not take walks, they rely on the home run too much, they do not play “small ball,” their defense is average at best with serious shortcomings at some positions and with Gallardo not at full health and Sheets not on the playoff roster, they are not deep at starting pitching. The Phillies did not hit great in this series, but if Burrell and Rollins pick up where they left off today and Utley and Howard get hot, they are good enough to beat anyone. I expect them to beat the Dodgers and move on to the World Series.

It’ll certainly be an interesting offseason for Milwaukee. The calls to sign CC have (predictably) already started and I have little doubt the Brewers will make an offer to him. I doubt it’ll be enough to lure him back though. He was an outstanding addition for half of the season and will forever be a part of Brewers lore. Sheets has also likely thrown his last ball as a Brewer. So, starting pitching may be a priority this offseason. Gallardo, Parra, Bush and Suppan are likely cemented in the rotation (barring a trade of one of them) with McClung temporarily holding down the last spot, pending a roster move for a pitcher. The bullpen will have to be reworked. And it’d sure be nice if the Brewers could add a lead-off hitter and one or two OBP guys so the one- or two-run home runs turn into three- or four-run bombs. Doug will likely be busy. Oh yeah, there’s that coaching issue to take care of too. Will Sveum be back in ‘09?

Still looking for a silver lining? The Brewers had one more playoff victory than the Cubs.

In the News (10/1)

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

Today’s Game: Phillies 3, Brewers 1
Series: 0-1

 

Today’s Game

OK, so that’s playoff baseball…

It’s hard to feel too bad about the loss today, but it does make tomorrow’s game an absolute must win.

I actually took a lot of positives from the game.

First of all, I didn’t feel great about the matchup coming in. Cole Hamels is a nasty pitcher and the Brewers have not really been swinging the bats well. When you combine that with the nerves most of the Brewers had to be feeling as the young guys played in their first postseason game, it was a recipe for disaster. But this game wasn’t a disaster. The Brewers were within a ninth-inning single of tying the game. They fought back in the game and came up just short, but come out of it knowing they can play playoff baseball and that they can play with the Phillies. This isn’t the same team that left Philadelphia with a four-game sweep last month. Confidence should be pretty high tomorrow, especially with CC taking the mound.

Secondly, most of the Brewers line-up got a good look at Phillies closer Brad Lidge, who came into the game in the ninth despite Hamels dominating through eight innings and only throwing 101 pitches. The Brewers got two hits, a walk and an unearned run on Lidge. Now, they have a little bit better feel for him. He will also probably be pretty worn out for tomorrow’s game since he threw 35 high-pressure pitches today.

The pitching for the Brewers was outstanding. Yovani Gallardo struggled with command (five walks, one intentional), which is understandable in just his second game back from injury, but he looked very solid besides that and gave up zero earned runs in four innings. Mitch Stetter, Carlos Villanueva, Manny Parra and Guillermo Mota held the Phillies to zero runs and just one hit over the last four innings. In fact, the Phillies had just four hits the whole game and only one extra-base hit. Even the extra-base hit was in Mike Cameron’s glove before falling out. It was certainly an impressive pitching performance all around.

That’s not to say there weren’t negatives.

Dropped Opportunity

The third inning was obviously the killer. After a Carlos Ruiz single, Cole Hamels laid down a bunt to the third base side that could have easily been a double play with Ruiz’s slow feet. Hall fielded it cleanly, but bobbled the ball trying to get it out of his glove. After he got his grip, he decided to go to first for the sure out. The throw was perfect, but Weeks dropped it. Inexcusable. With those two defensive miscues, it went from two outs with no one on to no outs and two on.

Gallardo battled back to get the next two outs before allowing a deep fly ball to Chase Utley. Cameron took a bad angle to the ball, but got to it and had it in his glove before allowing it to fall out. It would have been a nice play, but one that needs to be made by a three-time gold glove outfielder in the playoffs. A catch would have ended the inning with no runs scored even after Hall and Weeks’ mishaps. The game would have been completely different.

With Utley on second, Gallardo then intentionally walked Ryan Howard and gave up a walk to Pat Burrell to push Utley to third and Howard to second. With the bases loaded, Gallardo walked Shane Victorino to push in the third Phillies’ run in the inning. A 2-0 deficit is much easier to make up than 3-0. Who knows what could have happened if Gallardo didn’t walk in that third run? You can’t give away runs in the playoffs.

The offense was pretty anemic too. Four hits and just one extra base hit is not going to get it done. Two of the four hits came from players who came off the bench in the game (Craig Counsell and Ray Durham). It was nice to see Hart get a hit, but it sure would have been a lot nicer to see it in that ninth inning. He struck out to end the game. He could have won back a lot of the fans he’s lost over the past few months with a base knock there.

The big spot in the game that won’t make the highlights was the sixth inning. Jason Kendall led off with a strikeout, but Craig Counsell followed him with a single and Cameron took a walk. With two on and just one out, Bill Hall had to do something, at least move the runners over. Instead, he (predictably) struck out and Ryan Braun ended the inning with a pop out. Hamels went on to pitch two more innings. If the Brewers score one or two runs in that inning, or even if they had just put a little more pressure on Hamels, he may have had to leave the game earlier, which would have only helped the Brewers’ chances.

So CC Sabathia takes the hill tomorrow and the Brewers have to have Game 2. They face Brett Myers, who has not pitched well since he faced the Brewers in September. Hopefully his slide continues. It’d be nice to win a laugher for the first time in a few weeks… but I’ll take any W of course.

Brewers News

- Here’s the Journal-Sentinel game story.

Sabathia says he’s going to stay calm during the game tomorrow. Just do whatever you’ve been doing, big fella. And that primal scream fist pump at the end of another dominating performance will be a good release. More HERE.

- Enough can’t be said about Sabathia, but Sveum sums it up pretty well:

“It’s probably the greatest 2 ½-month performance you’ve ever seen from a professional athlete, in any sport.”

- Pitchers have done pretty well on three days rest this season. Hopefully CC continues the trend.

- The Brewers remain confident.

- I think fans can expect more offense the rest of the series, except the Phillies tomorrow against CC. There were no earned runs in today’s game. More on the Brewers’ offense HERE.

- Michael Hunt takes the defense to task. More on the miscues HERE and HERE.

- Bob Wolfley takes a look at the broadcasters from Game 1.

- MLB has some “Short Hops” from Game 1 and break down several of the key moments and decisions in the game.

- Ryan Braun has a blog, and is awesome:

“Then we went home and got changed and went out downtown to this place called Martini Mike’s with the whole team. Mark Attanasio, our owner, came out and there were a bunch of fans in there. We just had a good time celebrating, drinking, dancing. It was cool that the fans were there because getting to the postseason is a big deal for us, but those people have been through 26 years. Now they can be proud of their hometown team, proud of Milwaukee. That means as much to us players as anything else. I had grown men coming up to me, crying, and telling me what it meant to them and their family. That put it in perspective a lot.”

He already has a post up from Game 1 and is still pretty confident and ready to get back out there for Game 2.

- Gallardo was the second pitcher in MLB history to ever start a game in the postseason without winning a game in the regular season.

- “Playoffs could kick start Hart” - Uh, not exactly… but one hit is better than none I guess.

- Baseball Prospectus gave the Brewers a 54.7744 percent chance of winning the series against Philadelphia before it began. I’d guess it’s considerably lower now… (H/T to BBKTUTH!)

- The Hardball Times odds don’t look as good.

- But, hey, Diamond Hoggers picks the Brewers over the Phillies in five. Make it happen, Brew Crew.

- And Jeff Sackmann of Brew Crew Ball details why the Brewers will beat the Phillies.

- What superstitious thing are you doing to help the Brewers win?

- Matt at Chuckie Hacks has an interesting theory about why karma is on the Brewers’ side. Mini-horses?

Playoffs

- Sure, losing Game 1 stunk…but at least we didn’t already assume a World Series trophy was locked up. Cubs fans might want to rethink that a bit… Dodgers 7, Cubs 2. And they have a good chance of going down 2-0 with Chad Billingsley facing Carlos Zambrano tomorrow.

- The Cubs have now lost their last seven games called by Dick Stockton. Those Cubs sure have a lot of superstitions.

- Oh yeah, there’s another little twist to that goat thing too…

Other News

- It’s hard to be a Pirates fan.

The Underdog Came Out On Top

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Great to see the Brewers get it done. It really wouldn’t have been too exciting if they would have just rolled into the playoffs. That is why sports is so compelling. It cannot be scripted.

You had all kinds of drama this past weekend, but in the end, the good guys won. It reminded me of the finish to the movie “Hoosiers.” The small high school defying the odds to outlast the Amazin’ Mets. The quotes coming out of New York were of a team that felt their team overachieved. Disappointed, yes, but from a team that will be moving into a state-of-the-art facility and vast amounts of revenue the Brewers cannot match. If the Brewers came up short, the fallout would have been severe. The underdog won…

Respect for the Pitching

I really gained a ton of respect for five pitchers this past weekend for the Crew.

1. CC Sabathia — Looking at the biggest contract for a pitcher in the history of the game. He pitches another complete game, in the biggest game of the season. Tough pitches all the way through as the playoffs are usually max-effort-type pitches. Third start in a row on three days rest, now looking at possibly as many as seven more starts on an already taxed workload. Anyone who ever thinks that players are all about the money haven’t been paying attention to what this guy is putting on the line. Don’t you think CC’s agent, the Yankees, Mets, Angels Dodgers and the MLB Players Association cringes every time they hear CC is going again on three days’ rest? What he has done for this team has put his own personal issues to the side for the good of the Crew. Trust me when I tell you that every player in the Majors has taken notice of what CC has done. The respect he has gained from his peers will be talked about for a long, long time.

2. Ben Sheets – The free agent to be showed his true character by trying to take the ball on Saturday against the Cubs. He knew his arm was worn down and sore, but still put his own personal issues to the side and tried to step up one more time in possibly his last start as a Brewer. He had so many great games, but saved his best performance as a pro for the game on Saturday.

3. Manny Parra — He rebounded nicely in relief on Saturday. Pitching in a meaningful spot, Manny put aside some of his struggles in the last six weeks to step up and pitch like a seasoned veteran.

4. David Bush — This guy has pitched out of relief, back in the minors, started, pitched on a swinging fifth man rotation and for the last two months has been one of the top ten pitchers in baseball. So he gets asked to piggyback Ben Sheets, doesn’t gripe about again being bumped and goes out and throws three no-hit innings to give the team a chance to win.

5. Yovani Gallardo — First Playoff game since 1982 goes to this young stud. What poise he has to come back in the pennant race to not only pitch but have very little rust or psychological hangover from his injury. The Brewers may lose two star pitchers at the end of this unbelievable season, but Gallardo and Parra have established themselves as two that can continue this run into ’09.

Playoff Matchup

The Brewers were ripe for the picking three weeks ago after a 3-7 homestand. Both teams start from scratch again. If anything, CC’s performance could give the Crew a slight advantage in momentum going in. When teams slump their isn’t much you can do except ride it out. Like a cold, it is going to last seven days and there is nothing you can do to prevent it.

That being said, the Brewers still are not swinging the bats very well as a whole. Prince has been absolutely carrying this squad on his back. Look for the Phillies, even with Hamels and especially Moyer, to pitch around Fielder and test his discipline. The same goes for Howard on the other side.

It will be interesting to see Gallardo attack a good offensive team in a smaller ballpark. He is a strikeout, flyball pitcher. Love his poise. Nothing seems to faze this kid. He misses all of spring training, throws a gem against the Reds in Cincy. Look for the Phillies to test Yo’s durability and nerves on the grand stage.

The batters for the Crew have been in another funk at the plate. They looked like they had gotten out of it the last two series on the road. But guys like Maholm, Duke and Lilly really gave the hitters fits at the plate. Not good considering they will face Hamels twice and Moyer once in this best of five. With Hamels they have to attack the fastball early in the count as to not let him get to his changeup, which is one of the best. The Brewers have seen him twice this season and really had some great at bats against him in that Saturday game in Philly.

Moyer, is a tougher matchup than Hamels because of his ability to change speeds with a still unreal changeup. Hopefully the Brewers hitters will realize that Moyer is only throwing 81 mph and move up in the box and stand on top of the plate. Take away his bread-and-butter changeup that fades off the outside corner of the plate. Hart, Hall, Cameron and Braun all need to dare him to throw inside to get them out. If nothing else, Moyer, who is a great study of hitters’ tendencies, will have to learn on the fly as the hitters will look different to what he has seen from them on video. The problem is young hitters are stubborn and don’t want to get out of their comfort spots in the batters box.

Brett Myers has pitched very well this second half, think Dave Bush. Myers pitched a complete game against the Crew last time out. But that is a bit deceiving. The Crew had nothing left in the tank the fourth game of the series. It didn’t matter who was pitching for the Brewers (Suppan) or who was pitching against the Crew (Myers). If you know anything about momentum, you realized that the Brewers had no chance in that one.

I think Gallardo, CC and Bush can get it done this series. The bats need to come alive though. I think the pitching will be fine.

The bullpen edge goes to the Phillies only because of Lidge. He is a strikeout pitcher who has the best slider in the game. Only guys like Pujols can get him, or Braun also has.

I think that the Phillies have the edge on the bench too. They have Dobbs, who has become the best pinch hitter in the National League. The Brewers have Durham, who has really had some big hits down the stretch.

Nostalgia anyone?

Geoff Jenkins will be on the active roster for the Phillies in this series. Jenks, a fan favorite in Milwaukee, is beyond happy for the community and the guys on the team. He is also going to get himself off a dubious list — most games played without appearing in a playoff game for active Major Leaguers. I know this one well as I was ahead of him last year. The fans of Milwaukee probably won’t be as warm this time around, but for only this little bitty series.

Send in Your Rants!

I will be covering the games on FSN postgame Brewers Live with Craig Coshun. We will do a complete breakdown of Game 1 and have interviews and manager comments following the game. The show will start after the last pitch and run for an hour. Please help me with some comments for a Rant. Leave your comments on this post and I will choose one that I like.

Nostalgia Two

It is ironic that the guy the fans booed so much would end up being so loved. Thanks, Wes Helms!

The Biggest Series in 15 Years

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Editor’s Note: I like to think I’m a pretty level-headed guy when it comes to the Brewers. I’ll get a little grumpy after a tough loss, but I can usually put it behind me after a few minutes. It’s a long season and you can’t live and die with every game. Even when the Brewers started stringing together losses after the calendar flipped to September, I kept telling friends and co-workers that the team still had a nice lead and it wasn’t time to panic. However, as the cushion continued to shrink, the losses mounted and the Brewers looked nothing like a playoff contender, worry started to creep in. After two crushing losses to the Reds this week, I felt for the first time since the Brewers took a nice lead in the Wild Card race last month that there was a real chance this team could blow it down the stretch. I was on the verge of slamming that panic button myself. So, what better way to calm myself than to shoot an e-mail tirade to a player that is as familiar with what’s going on in Milwaukee right now as anyone who’s not sporting a Brewers uni on game days?

And Jeff Cirillo came through with some thoughtful responses.

Me: It seems like every time this team plays meaningful games, especially late in the season, they go into a full collapse. Now the Brewers are losing in every way possible at a time when they absolutely need to win. Why do they have these struggles? Is this team mentally weak? Is this just a case of a team full of young players going through growing pains? How long is that excuse viable?

‘Rillo: You have to remember that every team in the majors will win 60 and lose 60. The other 42 seperates the teams. The Brewers have done a great job of beating up the teams they have to beat up. The Dodgers got swept two weeks ago in Washington, the worst team in the Majors. Yes, they have had their struggles, but what about the ride they were on from late May, when they were under .500, to August 31? When you look at a season you cannot judge your team on one series, week or even month. Two teams come to mind when I think of this: The (2005) Houston Astros, who were 10 games under .500 in late May, World Series. The (2007) Colorado Rockies, under .500 late August, World Series. Every team is beat up, tired and looking forward to the season being over.

The players are not young when it comes to Major League Baseball years of service. What happens is teams find ways to lose instead of playing to win. It is hard to put into words, it is more of a feel for the attitude of the team at that time. When they played that series in St Louis, you could see the swagger of a ballclulb that expected to win. Unfortunately, that gate can swing the other way. You get caught on your heals and instead of playing your game, you play not to lose. In the big leagues the seperation in talent is pretty equal. It is this mental swagger that seperates that last 42 games. Today was a must win. They showed great competitiveness today in coming back in CC’s game. You lose today with CC, it shows a vulnerability even when the best pitcher in baseball gets beat. Now you roll into the next stop, realize that this is a playoff series against Philadelphia. I can’t think of a bigger series the Brewers have played in the last 15 years, since ‘93.

I’ve defended Yost for the entire time he’s been here. I think he has weaknesses (managing a bullpen, dealing with the media, being very stubborn with struggling players, etc.), but I also believe he’s a player’s manager that helps keep the clubhouse tight and does everything he can to put a winning team on the field. That said, it’s beginning to seem like he just has no answers when his team is in a stretch like this. I believe one of the main jobs of a manager is to make sure his team stays out of funks like this (especially late in the season) and if they do begin to struggle, the manager should make sure the team gets out of it, and fast. Do you think part of these struggles can be put on Yost? If so, what could he do differently?

Ned Yost, if you look at the stats compared to their rankings in hitting, fielding and pitching. The team should be about 10 games over .500 so if a manager w/l record is a plus/minus 5.  The Brewers are probably 10 games over what their record should be. It is an objective formula, but the manager is not a magician. Ned always protects his players, whether he wants to or not! That type of loyalty goes over well in a clubhouse. Players have tons of pressures to perform on a nightly basis and there is enough arm chair managers that are very quick to doll out criticism to the players. It is a nice luxury to have when you know the manager doesn’t show you up on the field or throw you under the bus in the media.  

Players like Bill Hall and Eric Gagne, who have struggled all season, remain in prominent roles on the team despite the fact that there are other players on the roster that could certainly contribute as much, if not significantly more, if given the chance. I understand having loyalty to players that have been grinding all year and have made sacrifices for the team in the past, but this team is in the heat of a playoff chase and it’s all about winning now. Shouldn’t Yost be plugging holes in the line-up instead of allowing the team to continue to sink?

You play manager! The Brewers play in Philly this next series. Go to Fox Sports or another Web page. Go to batter vs. pitcher and left/right splits. The lineup you come up with will probably not waver much from what Ned’s lineup would be. We also don’t have the information from the trainers. Cameron’s knee, Durham’s shoulder, Weeks’ wrist. They have team meetings and for the most part they are for a fire-up type approach. I am sure they probably had one last night, usually they are planned around who is pitching that night’s starter, i.e. CC. You can only have so many meetings though, because they lose their affect.

P.S. I just heard on a show, Lou Pinella said, “We are playing not to get beat.” Sound familiar?

Gagne had a horrible first month of the season. For a reliever, who is a one-inning guy, it takes a long time to get your ERA down. You have to judge him on when he came back from the DL and make your decision. He throws strikes and can strike people out. That is what you need late in the ballgame. Unfortunately, when his strikes get hit, they are leaving the ballpark.

Billy Hall has a great energy about him. Every day he comes with a great attitude, works hard and plays all out. His struggles come from power right-handed pitchers, who run the ball under his hands or elevate the ball with above-average fastballs. Keep in mind, the Brewers hitters are all very streaky. But, when two or three are streaking (hot), they can carry your team. During the season, Braun, Fielder, Hart, Cameron and especially Hardy have carried this team on their backs.

Yost is very loyal to his players and defends them to the media even when they are clearly not getting the job done. He says things like ‘He’s throwing well. They just hit a good pitch’ or ‘We just ran into a good pitcher today.’ On one hand, I think that’s admirable, but on the other, I think the manager should hold these guys accountable for not getting it done. Maybe he does that behind closed doors, but I think the perception that he pats his players on the back and tells them they’re great even when they are playing horribly is part of the reason a lot of fans have soured on Yost. I don’t think it takes the criticism off of the player. It just makes Yost look foolish. Why does he continue to do this? And do players appreciate it? 

Look back to 1.

Publically, the players back Yost all of the time, which is understandable, but this year and at times last year it has seemed like there are some tensions. There have also been rumors that some players will not talk about extensions while Yost is manager. (Editor’s Note: The “rumors” are very much hearsay and from no sources that I would even consider close to reliable. It’s just a “guy at the bar” kind of rumor. So, I wouldn’t put much faith in it, but it makes for interesting fan conversation). Is Yost well liked in the locker room? Why or why not?

Players, if they are paid according to the other players in the league, will sign long-term deals. Agents have all the comparisons to the other players in the league and what they are paid. Ryan Howard won his arbitration and got $10 million in his first year of arbitration. Some agents want their players to go year to year. Guys like Hardy, Fielder and Hart, if they go year to year, will be free agents at 27, 27 and 28, I think. For general managers in baseball they know that those years are the prime years for great players.

A week ago, you felt very good about the Brewers chances of making the playoffs and about how they’d play once they got there. Do you still think this team will make some noise in October? What can you tell us fans to make us feel better?

Fans are panicking right now, but what would be the feeling if the Brewers had won every game on their homestand to get to within 3 1/2 games of the Wild Card? Who is in a better position? The Cardinals and a beat-up starting rotation? The Astros with a questionable rotation, offense?

The thing I get pissed at is the national attention the Brewers don’t get! The Brewers have lost seven of 10, but all you hear about is the Rays, Red Sox, Toronto and the Cubs. I think that is a joke. The Brewers have all the ingredients to get to the World Series and hopefully their snag is right now instead of going into the final week.

Playoffs, First Round: CC, Sheets for four of the five games. Is there another team in baseball that can match that twosome? The only snag for the Brewers would be if teams pitched tons of righties against them, but the Mets’ and Phillies’ top pitchers are lefties and Perez and Moyer are also lefties. So, these next four games should be very fun to watch. Have fun watching and realize that these are all playoff games…

 

Between Jeff’s responses, a nice come-from-behind victory for the Crew this afternoon and a Phillies’ loss today, I feel a little more at peace going into this big Phillies series. How about everyone else?


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