Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Pirates—good for what ails you!

Speaking of ale … OK, we weren’t but maybe we should. I had my first beer since my surgery tonight over a couple of games of poker. It felt good to feel sort of normal again-- losing money with a Leinies in my hand.

I’m sure that it felt good for Ryan Braun to feel sort of normal again, too.  Since being called up in late May of 2007, Braun has been one of the best hitters in the National League.

2007-- .324 BA; 34 HR; 1.5 WAR
2008 -- .285 BA; 37 HR; 2.0 WAR
2009-- .320 BA; 32 HR; 6.2 WAR; (led the NL with 203 hits)

More stats here.

The last month or so have been tough for Braun, who is (was?!) in one of his longest and most pronounced slumps of his career. Simply put, he hasn’t looked good at the plate, waving at breaking balls in the dirt or grounding out weakly. Usually, Braun’s slumps are comprised of hang with ‘ems, hard hit balls right at someone. For the past month, he hasn’t picked up the ball well or made particularly good contact. We’ve never seen a slumping Braun. It’s been cause for concern and some speculation as to whether he’s hurt, going through some personal problems or distraught that he signed a long-term contact with this team.

Doug Davis returned from the DL (pericarditis) on Friday night to pitch in his first game since May 10. If you’re a blog regular, you might have reached the conclusion that I do not like Doug Davis. You would be right. To me he symbolizes everything that is wrong with this team: an aging mediocre pitcher that Milwaukee signed for $5.25 million (for 2010 with a mutual option for 2011). Before returning to the Brewers this year, Davis was 90-97 in 11 big league seasons and led the NL in walks last season. He went 12-12, 11-11 and 11-11 from 2004 to 2006 in his previous stint with the Brewers. He is best known as a “durable” pitcher. Good pick-up, Milwaukee.

On the mound for Pittsburgh was Paul Maholm. (It seems like the Brewers face him about 5 times each year.) The Brewers got off to a good start as Corey Hart delivered his 20th homerun of the season to stake Davis to a 2-0 lead. Davis had no problem slowly giving that lead back as Pittsburgh scored runs in the third and fourth innings and two in the fifth to take a 4-2 lead.

At moments like this, it is important to take a deep breath and remember that you are playing the Pirates (30-55). Fortunately, the Brewers remembered. Prince homered in the eighth to cut the deficit to one. In the ninth, Carlos Gomez got the bunt down (for once), stole second and went to third on a throwing error. George Kottaras tripled to even the score. (Kottaras was tagged out trying to score on a wild pitch.)

All of this set the table for Braun to bust out of his slump. John Axford pitched around a lead-off single (and a runner on third with one out) for a scoreless tenth. Jim Edmonds singled to lead off the tenth. Weeks hit into a fielder’s choice. Weeks stole second and Prince was intentionally walked to get to Braun. (Just typing that makes me cringe.)  Braun took the first pitch that he saw, a slider that stayed up, to the wall in right and Weeks scored easily. Hugs all around. Braun went 2-5.

“My confidence has never been the issue,” Braun said after the game. “My swing’s been the issue.”

Brewers 5, Pirates 4
Game played 7-9-10

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