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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ryan Braun is Awesome

I fully intended to write about Gallardo's struggles today, only to find that at least two other bloggers had already done so by the time I woke up. So, seeing as how Ryan Braun successfully reached base yesterday for the 24th consecutive game, breaking Robin Yount's Brewers record for the longest streak to start a season, I thought I would instead write about the awesomeness of Ryan Braun. He just hasn't been in the news much lately and needs a bit more coverage. What a better place to provide some than my humble blog!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Estrada Shines as Brewers Beat Reds For First Time in 2011

Marco Estrada has been more than serviceable in the Brewers starting rotation while Zack Greinke remains on the DL. Yesterday he pitched seven strong innings against the Reds (2 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K), his only blemish being a solid changeup that Brandon Phillips golfed for a two-run home run. John Axford pitched a clean ninth, striking out Joey Votto before retiring Brandon Phillips and Edgar Renteria. Axford's fifth save of the year secured the win for Kameron Loe after solo home runs by Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, and Rickie Weeks. A much needed win, it gives the Crew a chance for a series victory against a team that has owned them for what is starting to feel like forever. Equally important, Corey Hart made his first appearance of the year last night as a pinch hitter.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Brewers Host Reds After Taking Two of Three From Astros

The Brewers won their series against the Astros yesterday led by another strong start by Randy Wolf (8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 4 K, 1 HR). It's a good thing they won, because many of us would have been pretty mad if they lost the series after bungling Saturday's game. I was at Saturday's game with a group of friends and family. It was actually a pretty exciting game, and we had a great time. Yes, the 8th inning was a circus act (much thanks to Jaymes Langrehr at the Brewers Bar for this awesome version of it). It was definitely a game of wasted opportunities, but I was sure excited when Braun scored off of Prince's double in the bottom of the ninth, and it was great to see Axford pitch a clean inning for the first time this year. (I snagged a picture of Prince swinging for that hit, included in this post. The ball hasn't reached him yet and can be seen just above the third base line.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Brewers Secure Series Win in Philly, Move Into First Place

Brandon Kinztler earned his first Major League win on Monday
After dropping three straight to the Nationals this weekend the Brewers won the first two games of their series in Philadelphia against the NL East leading Phillies. Combined with a Reds loss to the Diamondbacks, the win puts the Brewers in first place for the first time this season (shared with Cincinnati). The Nationals entered this weekend's series with a record of 5-7 while the Phillies were sitting at 10-4 before Monday's contest. The assumption before the road trip began was that the Brewers should be able to win series against the Pirates (which they did) and the Nationals (needless to say, they didn't), and would probably only win one while facing the Phillies and dual-aces Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Baseball is an unpredictable sport, and one thing is certain about the 2011 Brewers: like any team, they're going to have their ups and downs, but when they play well, they are a force to be reckoned with.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Brewers Season Already Over For the Second Time

After winning seven of the nine games vs the Braves, Cubs, and Pirates, the Brewers faltered this weekend in Washington vs the Nationals. Defensive miscues and a rough inning by Chris Narveson in which he handed Nats pitcher Tom Gorzelanny an RBI walk sealed the loss on Friday. Yovani Gallardo struggled in game one of the doubleheader on Sunday, giving up two three-run home runs, while Marco Estrada, meanwhile, pitched well in game two only to watch the bullpen lose the game. The offense just didn't get it done all weekend, hammering out eighteen singles of their twenty total hits on Sunday. All in all, the Brewers played poorly this weekend, pushing their record back below .500 (7-8).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Marcum's Command Returns, Brewers Become First Team in Majors to Throw Three Shutouts

The Brewers beat the Pirates 6-0 yesterday at a nearly empty PNC Park. The Pirates announced the official tally at 8,755, but spectators insisted that much less actually attended. It's too bad, since Shaun Marcum and Pirates starter Kevin Correia matched no-hitters for the first half of the game. The Pirates broke Marcum's up in the fifth, while the Brewers ended Correia's bid in the sixth. Jonathan Lucroy, in his first Brewers start of 2011, led off the inning with a double. Marcum managed a bunt single, pushing Lucroy to third, and the Brewers scored on a Carlos Gomez sac fly. After a single by Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder continued his April domination with an opposite field, three-run home run.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What a Difference a Week Can Make

I've been busy the last few days and haven't had time to post. I'm glad to be back at it today, but with everything that's gone on over the past week that also means that this will be a long one. Bear with me, though; there's a lot of good stuff in here that will make you feel great about the Brewers.

Last Tuesday Brewer fans found themselves lamenting an 0-4 start with their team facing the tough Atlanta Braves for three more games. Yovani Gallardo took the ball that day, put the team on his shoulders, and delivered a two-hit complete game shutout in which he also scored the Brewers' only run. That game started a stretch by the Brewers that left them 5-2 on the home stand and 5-5 overall, moving them back to .500 quicker than even the most optimistic Brewer fans likely hoped.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Prince Fielder Becomes First Player to Hit 100 Home Runs at Miller Park

Prince Fielder homered in his first at bat against Carlos Zambrano yesterday, making him the first player to hit 100 home runs at Miller Park. It's the 192nd of his young career and for the usually slow-starting Fielder, it hopefully means he's found his power stroke early this year. Kyle Lobner at Brew Crew Ball looked at Prince's home run numbers in his career thus far and concluded that he'll likely hit around 40 this year, having homered before playing his tenth game of the season.

Friday, April 8, 2011

It's Official: I Love the Trade For Nyjer Morgan

I admit I was nervous when I first heard that Doug Melvin had shown interest in Nationals' center fielder Nyjer Morgan. I had heard the stories, had seen the clips, and feared that Doug might be sacrificing clubhouse chemistry in his attempt to go "all-in" in 2011. Melvin quickly shot down the rumor, only to acquire Morgan two days later for Cutter Dykstra. After the trade I wrote about Morgan, mainly focusing on his struggles last season and the problems that followed, while closing by mentioning his plus-defense and speed.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Estrada Effective Through Six, Axford Notches First Save

Most Brewers fans probably didn't expect much from Marco Estrada yesterday, called up from the minor leagues to start in place of the injured Zack Greinke. Although Estrada fell short of a quality start thanks to a Jason Heyward three-run home run in the sixth, he made it through that inning with the lead intact. Zach Braddock, Kameron Loe, and John Axford combined for three scoreless innings to secure the win and Axford's first save of the season.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Yovani Gallardo Beats Braves

Brewers fans witnessed a classic performance by 25-year-old ace Yovani Gallardo on Tuesday vs the Braves. With the Brewers facing a potential 0-5 start to the season, Gallardo put his team on his shoulders and went the distance to end the streak at four. Pitching a complete game, two-hit shutout, Gallardo allowed two walks and faced only one batter over the minimum. No Brave reached second base safely, the closest being Dan Uggla, tagged out by Rickie Weeks after sliding past the bag while stealing second. Even more impressively, Gallardo gathered only two strikeouts in the game while inducing 16 groundouts, two of which led to double plays.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Time For a Lineup Shuffle?

The Brewers lost again yesterday despite an excellent outing by Chris Narveson (6 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 5 K), pushing their record to a disappointing 0-4 to begin the season. Another tough loss for the Crew, who saw their 1-0 lead slip away in the eighth inning when Takashi Saito, a pitcher historically good at keeping the ball in the park, gave up two solo home runs to give Atlanta the lead. Surely most Brewers fans didn't expect their best performance by a starting pitcher to begin the season from Chris Narveson, and the Narve Dog indeed looked somewhat shaky in the first inning. He quickly overcame what I'm calling his "home opener nerves," settled in, and mostly made Braves' hitters look foolish for six innings.

Through those innings no Brave passed first base. Had the Narve Dog been more economical with his pitches he surely could have stayed in the game longer. Unfortunately, such performances sometimes go to waste, and Brewers' bats just couldn't provide enough offense for the bullpen to secure the win. It's far too early to start worrying, but it's probably time for Ron Roenicke to shuffle his lineup, if not only for the day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Few Positives in Series vs Reds

By the 6th inning of Sunday's game vs the Reds the Brewers must have thought the series couldn't end soon enough. After Opening Day's deflating ninth inning loss, the Brewers failed to compete in games two and three. Consequently, many more negatives than positives come to mind when thinking of the series. Brewers' pitchers threw for a combined 6.57 ERA, second only to the Houston Astros for last in the National League. Needless to say, Brewers fans didn't see that coming after this offseason's moves to improve the team's pitching. Yovani Gallardo stands as the only starter with a sub-five ERA (3.00) and the staff's numbers would have been worse without scoreless outings by Zach Braddock, Sergio Mitre, and Takashi Saito.

The team batted .223 after leaving the Cactus League with by far the highest team average. In large part this average owes itself to poor performances at the plate by Mark Kotsay and Yuniesky Betancourt, batting 0-18 collectively (Yun-E6 0-11, Kotsay 0-7). Many now hope (myself included) that Nyjer Morgan and even Craig Counsell see more playing time in weeks to come. Others fared better than Brewers' fans favorite whipping boys of 2011, and some positives can certainly be pulled from the series as the Brewers move on to host the Braves.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Erick Almonte Hits Second Career Home Run Exactly Eight Years After His First

There weren't too many positives to take from yesterday's loss to the Reds. Shaun Marcum struggled to find his location in the first two innings (with some help by an umpire who apparently thought Marcum's strike zone should be tighter than his opponent's). Perhaps that should have been expected after he missed one of his spring starts. He found his groove in the third and struck out seven over 4.2 innings. The biggest highlight of the day, however, had to be Erick Almonte's solo home run to lead off the fifth inning. The second of his career, he hit his first way back in 2003 with the Yankees while filling in at short stop for the injured Derek Jeter.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Longest 48 Hours of the Year

I'm sure I'm not the only one thinking that 6:10 tomorrow evening can't come soon enough. I'm equally sure that the Brewers can't wait to get another shot at the Reds after yesterday's tough loss. Things could be worse, though. The Cardinals, for instance, lost their home opener in extra innings to the Padres after losing the lead in the ninth inning. Albert Pujols ground into a double play a career high three times.