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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.

Axford & Nieves after securing the win
A few things, in my opinion, can be drawn from this win, at least with regard to the pitching. First, Marco Estrada just might make an adequate replacement while Greinke continues to rehab. Overall he threw well and his performance didn't seem to be a fluke. Indeed, Ron Roenicke said this morning that Estrada may stay with the team to give the other four more rest at this early stage of the season. Not a bad idea if Estrada can continue to put together outings such as yesterday's vs the dangerous Braves.

Second, Kameron Loe continues to be a reliable bullpen arm, and Zach Braddock's Spring Training struggles have not followed him into the regular season. He has yet to give up a run in his first three appearances.

Third, John Axford's pitch command still looks suspect. I want him to succeed as much as anyone, and I commend him for shutting the door after issuing a leadoff walk to Jason Heyward in the ninth. He showed some guts and made some nice pitches. Still, it looked to me like he just wasn't hitting the spots lined up by catcher Wil Nieves. I'm pulling for him, and I hope it's nothing more than some early-season kinks he needs to work out. I do see him remaining the Brewers' closer all season.

Exciting game last night, with what should be another good one today, beginning at 12:40. Shaun Marcum squares off against Tommy Hanson. Here are the lineups:

2B Rickie Weeks
CF Carlos Gomez
LF Ryan Braun
1B Prince Fielder
3B Casey McGehee
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
RF Nyjer Morgan
C George Kottaras
RHP Shaun Marcum

3B Martin Prado
CF Nate McLouth
C Brian McCann
2B Dan Uggla
RF Jason Heyward
SS Alex Gonzalez
1B Freddie Freeman
LF Matt Young
RHP Tommy Hanson

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