Thursday, April 28, 2011


During Tuesday’s game we learned that Erick Almonte had been placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list and that Corey Hart had been activated to take his place on the roster. Hart was poised to make his 2011 debut in Wednesday’s game but his return was moved up a game when Craig Counsell nailed Almonte between the eyes with a thrown ball during batting practice. Almonte became the first player in MLB history to be placed on the seven-day DL.

Next came news that Almonte spent the night under supervision. "We had somebody spend the night with him last night and we didn't get a call, which is good," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Wednesday. "Any time you have a concussion, the doctors now really don't like you to spend the night (alone)."

Wait…. What? Did the supervision take place in his hotel room? Who supervised? Did this person spend the entire night watching Almonte sleep? I get the impression that Almonte was not in a hospital so I picture Almonte in a hotel room with an intern struggling to stay awake, watching him sleep. Perhaps because he was the first player to be placed on this new DL, we're just getting more details than usual. 

Without Almonte, the Brewers went 1-1. On Tuesday, the Crew finally beat the Reds, 3-2. The Reds bounced back to take game three, 7-6, in ten innings. 

Brewers 3, Reds 2
Game played 4-26-11

Reds 7, Brewers 6 (10 innings)
Game played 4-27-11

Monday, April 25, 2011

El Super and Whatever is the Opposite of El Super

Captain Obvious has arrived with an El Super for Ryan Braun. In a week where he inked a big deal to remain a Brewer through 2020, Braun also batted .480 (12-for-25) with three home runs and nine RBI. During the week, Milwaukee posted a 4-2 record and improved to 11-10 on the season.


Tonight, I'm giving an Opposite of El Super to warning track power. In the first of three against the Reds, the Brewers hit six balls to the warning track and two more off the wall for doubles. Carlos Gomez was the chief offender hitting the ball to the warning track in the first, fifth, seventh and ninth innings. Braun was the only one who actually got the ball over the wall and his homer came in the bottom of the ninth with the Brewers trailing by six runs.

Some days you come up just short. And some days your team comes up four runs short. Sometimes it's on the same day.

Reds 9, Brewers 5
Game played 4-25-11

Sunday, April 24, 2011

His moment to shine

I celebrated Easter with my family this weekend. The big news in our family is that my brother is getting married this summer. Probably bigger news to Nick was that we let him say more than two sentences during the meal. See, Nick has had the distinct pleasure of growing up with five sisters. He's the fifth of six kids. Nick has sat quietly through many meals while we all blathered on and on about ourselves. Today, we were interested in what he had to say. We needed more wedding details.

"Nick," my sister Alice said. "I've been thinking about your bachelor party and I've got it: You, all of your sisters and Chubby's North. Think about it."

After years of sitting on the sidelines, Nick is finally front and center.

It's a little like Brandon Boggs. Boggs was selected by Texas in the 2004 draft and played in 101 games for the Rangers in 2008. He never made it back to the majors as a full-time basis, however, and following the 2010 season, he was granted free agency. The Brewers signed him in November. He seemed poised to make the team out of spring training (with the injury to Corey Hart) but the Brewers traded for Nyjer Morgan and kept Erick Almonte and Mark Kotsay to play right field.

Boggs was assigned to AAA Nashville and decided to accept the assignment rather than test the free agent market. He made the most out of Nashville, and when Morgan went on the DL last week, Boggs was called up to replace him. On Sunday, he hit a second inning home run to get the Brewers on the board. Milwaukee would go on to win 4-1 behind another strong pitching performance by Randy Wolf.

Good for Boggs for taking advantage of the spotlight while he has it.

Brewers 4, Astros 1
Game played 4-24-11

Saturday, April 23, 2011

You can't hurry love ... or a Brewers victory

There were so many things going on in Friday night's game, it took 3:44 to fit them all in.

First, we had to see how Ryan Braun would react in his first game after inking the big deal. Two words: Love Fest. The fans at Miller Park started the love fest with a standing ovation for Braun as he walked to home plate for his first at bat. Make a long-term commitment to us, and we'll shower you with love (unless you start sucking). Braun responded with a line out to right. In the third inning, Braun got a second standing ovation as he walked to the plate, and this time he loved us back with a three-run homer. On the night, Ryan went 3-4 with a walk. He has reached base in every game this season, while posting a .494 OBP.

Second, we had to see if we should be concerned about Yovani Gallardo. Since shutting out the Braves on 110 pitches on April 5, Gallardo has had some problems. In his first two starts of the year, Yo pitched 15 innings and gave up just two earned runs on nine hits. In the two that followed, Gallardo pitched 10.1 innings and gave up 11 runs. Against the Astros, Gallardo went six innings and gave up four runs on eight hits. He struck out seven Houston batters, his highest total of the season. Not a terrible performance by any means but not vintage Gallardo. The jury is still out on this one.

Third, we had to see if we missed Bill Hall. Ummm, no. Although Hall collected a hit and a walk, and scored a run, I think it is safe to say that Houston can keep Hall and his .203 batting average.

Finally, we needed to fit in the win. Nicely done.

Brewers 14, Astros 7
Game played 4-22-11

Friday, April 22, 2011

On Ryan Braun’s contract extension

I have always been a big Ryan Braun fan, so, needless to say, when news of his contract extension broke yesterday, I was ecstatic. Barring some unforeseen scenario, Braun will be a Brewer until 2020. If nothing else, this makes my decision to get a Braun jersey a good long-term investment.

The reaction was immediate and, for the most part, based upon a statistical analysis of whether it was good for the Brewers, good for Braun or good for both.  On one hand, the extension was surprising because the Brewers already had Braun under contract until 2015. On the other hand, it keeps Braun from being able to test the free agency market after 2015. In all likelihood, he’ll be a Brewer for life.

During spring training this year, I had a serious discussion with my husband about whether Ryan Braun really needed me anymore. “He doesn’t seem to need my love any more,” I said. “Maybe another Brewer needs it more. I mean, how much better can he get?”

Seth put an end to this quickly. “I don’t know if Ryan Braun ever needed your love,” Seth said. “But you need to love him. You need a Brewer to love.”

And that pretty much sums it up, folks. I love Ryan Braun. He makes my Brewers experience better. I can’t envision a time when I won’t wait for the third spot in the batting order to come around. I can’t envision a time when I won’t want him to be a Milwaukee Brewer. There isn't always a rational reason for why you love a particular player but you will almost always gravitate toward one in particular. 

I was never very good at stats. I dropped out of my college stats class half way through so I could devote more time to drinking. You can’t really change who you love, nor should you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What are the chances?

It snowed A LOT and the Brewers lit up Roy Halladay for six runs on 10 hits and three walks, while Randy Wolf and the bullpen hurled a shut out. Really. All of this happened on Tuesday, April 19.

Brewers 9, Phillies 0
Game played 4-19-11


Monday, April 18, 2011

The straw that stirs the Brewers' drink

This week's El Super goes to pitcher Shaun Marcum. On Wednesday, Marcum went seven innings against the Pirates and gave up just four hits and one walk. Tonight, he held the powerful Phillie offense to just five hits in six innings. He gave up no earned runs in either game. He also picked up two hits in four at-bats.

In his four starts this season, Marcum has pitched 23.2 innings and given up 18 hits and 7 runs, good for a 1.90 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. AND good enough for an El Super.

In the pre-game tonight, Rock described Prince Fielder as the straw that stirs the Brewers' drink offensively. This wasn't exactly the case tonight, but, after blowing a ninth inning lead, the Brewers bullpen strung together three scoreless innings and the offense eventually came around to take the opener from Philadelphia, 6-3, in twelve innings.

Brewers 6, Phillies 3 (12 innings)
Game played 4-18-11

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blogged down

I went out of town this weekend so I ended up watching all three Nationals games today.

I was in Iowa over the weekend hanging out with a friend from college and her family. On Saturday afternoon, I plopped myself down in a recliner and didn't get up except to eat and go to bed. The effort it took to get up was so great that I decided to limit all unnecessary movement. [I'm sure there's a Yuniesky Betancourt joke that I could make here.] I'm sure that I seemed like an ungrateful house guest. I didn't really talk to anyone except that I did respond "yes" when asked if I was sleeping. Everyone said that I was OK but they were probably just being polite.

Kind of like the Brewers. It would be nice to say that it is OK that they got swept by the Washington Nationals but it's probably not a great thing to do with a series with the Phillies beginning Monday. On the other hand, now that it's done there's not much sense in continuing to feel bad about it. Move on and do better next time.

Nationals 4, Brewers 3 (10 innings)
Game played 4-15-11

Nationals 8, Brewers 4
Nationals 5, Brewers 1
Games played 4-17-11

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pitching is what's new

The other day I was on the phone with a senior vice president from my Company. He asked, “what’s new?”  I never know how to answer this question with a co-worker. Should I say, “not too much; just keepin’ it real”? Should I explain that my brother got engaged and I’m trying to diet so I don’t look fat in the wedding pictures (but am failing miserably)?

I rejected all of these options and instead went with: “Well, I’m excited that it’s finally baseball season.” It turned out to be the right way to answer this question as we were able to: a) discuss the weather in the Midwest (which people who live in warmer climates always like to do); and b) discuss baseball. I think he appreciated my helpful insight regarding the Seattle Mariners lack of offense.  Man, Justin Smoak needs to start hitting. Baseball might be the best thing that’s happened to my career in a while.

I like to imagine that if Ron Roenicke were asked, “what’s new?” at his post-game press conference on Thursday night, he’d have answered, “Well, our starting pitching doesn’t suck this year.” [And then immediately found some wood to strike with his knuckles so as to not jinx the 2011 season.]

After a rainout on Tuesday, Shaun Marcum took the mound on Wednesday night against Pittsburgh. Marcum went seven innings and gave up only four hits and one walk. In fact, both Marcum and Pirates pitcher Kevin Correia took no-hitters into the fifth inning. The Pirates led off the fifth inning with two singles but were unable to score. Milwaukee’s first hit came in the sixth inning when Jonathan Lucroy made a triumphant return from the DL with a lead-off double. Marcum bunted him to third and was safe on the play. Lucroy scored on a Carlos Gomez sacrifice fly. Braun then singled and both Braun and Marcum scored when Prince Fielder hit a home run to center field.  Zach Braddock, Kam Loe and Mitch Stetter held the Pirates scoreless over the last two innings to preserve the shut out.

Thursday night was Randy Wolf’s turn to shine. Prior to his most recent start, Wolf had struggled. He gave up six earned runs in four innings against Cincinnati and two earned runs in six innings against the Cubs (although he pitched worse than the numbers actually indicate against the Cubs).  Against the Pirates, Wolf went 6.2 innings and gave up just three hits and two walks, while striking out ten batters. The Brewers, meanwhile, jumped on Pittsburgh early taking a 2-0 first inning lead. The Brewers tacked on two more runs in the ninth inning. John Axford made things a little interesting in the ninth, loading the bases and allowing a run to score, before striking out Josh Rodriguez to end the game.

The two wins against the Pirates put the Brewers at 7-5. Through 12 games, the team ERA is 2.98. Brewer pitching has given up 35 earned runs (44 runs total), 13 home runs and 40 walks in 105.2 innings pitched.  They have stuck out 86 and pitched three shutouts. In March and April of last year (206 innings), Milwaukee posted a 5.16 ERA. The team ERA had dropped to 4.58 by the end of the season.

I know it’s early in the season, so I hope when the 2011 season is over, I can say the pitching didn’t suck this year.

Brewers 6, Pirates 0
Game played 4-13-11

Brewers 4, Pirates 1
Game played 4-14-11

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's El Super Day

You might think that this week's El Super would be a no brainer--Prince Fielder was named the NL player of the week on Monday. Prince went 11-for-22 (four doubles and two homers) with a 1.496 OPS in the last week (or 11-for-25 in the last seven games).

I decided to go in a different direction.

While I think it is important to celebrate what a special player Prince is (and the fact that he's hitting in April!), I want to give the award to a player  (or maybe two) who stepped in to fill a hole before it turned into a black hole. First, I want to give an El Super to Chris Narveson. In his second outing of the year, Narveson blanked the Cubs. He went seven innings and gave up six hits, while striking out nine. In fact, he has yet to give up a run this season. If the Brewers are to be a playoff contender this year, they'll need more solid contributions from Narveson. This is especially true with Zack Greinke on the DL.

I'm also awarding an El Super to Nyjer Morgan. Some of the areas that caused the greatest concern for Brewer fans as the season opened was the play of Carlos Gomez and the play of what ever right fielder would replace Corey Hart (which led to the fear that our 6-7-8 spots in the batting order would be where rallies would go to die). Whether starting, pinch hitting or entering the game as a defensive replacement, Morgan has shined. Morgan posted a .533 BA (8-15) with one double and two triples and an OPS of 1.429 in the last week. All the while, being a quote machine AND having an alter ego.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Remember how you got here

My parents are visiting this weekend. My brother purchased tickets for them to the King Tut exhibit and dinner as a Christmas gift. Because my brother lives in Wisconsin and I live next to the King Tut exhibit, my husband and I took them to this dinner. My sister Megan and her boyfriend, Ben, joined us.

We went to a small place and we were a party of six so we had to wait a bit for a table. As a result, we had a few cocktails at the bar. After we'd all had a round (except Seth who was the DD), my Mom was debating trying a different kind of wine. She was on the fence, so I suggested that she ask the bartender if she could see the bottle or possibly even try a small sample. She asked to see the bottle, and when the bartender turned around to answer the phone, she pulled the cork out and poured herself some. After she had her "sample" she decided she didn't like it and went back to the original kind.

Later, after we'd been seated, my Dad spilled some of his beer. He joked that he was going to lap it up when no one was looking. My Mom seemed to appear out of no where a few seconds later with a few paper towels from the bathroom. She quickly cleaned up my Dad's spilled beer. "But, Mom," I said. "He was going to drink that."

"I know," she said, with the clear implication that had she not acted so quickly, my Dad would have slurped the beer off the table. No joke.

As my friend Dianna would say, I come by my personality honestly. If you spend any amount of time with my family, there will be little doubt in your mind about how I got "here."

Yovani Gallardo took the mound on Sunday in the follow-up to his complete game shut-out of the Atlanta Braves. He was no where near as sharp today in the third game of a three-game series with the Cubs. He was in trouble most of the game, giving up two runs in the first inning and ending his day after five innings. In those five innings, he gave up a total of four runs on seven hits and four walks.

Fortunately for Gallardo, Milwaukee's offense has some big guns. In the first inning, Prince Fielder smoked one to center field for a two-run homer to tie the game. After the Cubs grabbed a 4-2 lead in the third, Ryan Braun squared one up and knocked it out of the park to tie the game at four. In the seventh, the Cubs went ahead again, 5-4. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Yuniesky Betancourt walked (after falling behind 0-2). After Counsell moved him  to second with a sacrifice and George Kottaras struck out, Casey McGehee came to the plate as a pinch hitter. And he came through with the Brewers' third two-run homer of the game to give Milwaukee a 6-5 lead. Axford pitched the ninth for his third save.

The Brewers have a lot of new faces this year, but in this game, they relied upon three offensive mainstays--Braun, Fielder and McGehee. On a day when the pitching was not great, it was nice to see that the Brewers have the offensive power to outscore their opponent. They've certainly had a lot of practice over the last few years.

Brewers 6, Cubs 5
Game played 4-10-11

Brewers 6, Cubs 0
Game played 4-9-11

Cubs 7, Brewers 4
Game played 4-8-11

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Refuse[d] to lose

The Brewers shrugged off a tough 0-4 start and took the last three games (of a four game series) from the Atlanta Braves. Milwaukee is now 3-4 heading into a weekend series with the Chicago Cubs at Miller Park.

While Yovani Gallardo pitched a complete game shut out on Tuesday, Milwaukee called on John Axford to shut down the Braves in the ninth inning of both Wednesday's and Thursday's games. The opportunity to close Wednesday's game not only gave Axford a chance to redeem himself after his opening day meltdown but also gave us fans an opportunity to hear his new entrance music. As I'm sure everyone knows by now, Axford allowed fans to vote for his entrance music. The options were:

1. Audioslave - Cochise
2. Ennio Morricone - The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
3. Rage Against The Machine - Bulls on Parade
4. Refused - New Noise

On Wednesday, with the Brewers clinging to a 5-4 lead, Axford came out to New Noise by Refused. He promptly walked Jason Heyward, but then settled in to get the next three batters and preserve Milwaukee's second win of the season. After the game, Axford said that he was contemplating interchanging New Noise and Audioslave, but after the victory, he would probably stick with New Noise.

I've seen plenty of grumblings about this selection, but I think that it is a solid choice. Last year, Axford had the unenviable task of replacing Trevor Hoffman, who not only was the game's all-time saves leader but also had one of the all-time best entrance songs in Hells Bells. If Axford picked ANY classic heavy metal song, it would have seemed like he was trying to be Trevor 2.0. By selecting a song performed by a Swedish punk band, the Ax went in a different direction, and I can appreciate that--but only if they still play Livin' On a Prayer and Don't Stop Believing between innings--I'm a middle aged Wisconsinite after all. You can't argue with the results of entering to Refused. Axford closed the door on Atlanta on Thursday afternoon, as well.

Some other thoughts on the Brewers first home series.

Who is Tony Plush? Just days before the season began, Milwaukee traded minor leaguer Cutter Dykstra for Nyjer Morgan. Reactions were mixed. Morgan had a good 2009, followed by a 2010 campaign that saw his numbers drop and his suspensions rise. At least he isn't Mark Kotsay, was a common refrain. Tony Plush is Morgan's alter ego. He had some fun with the T-Plush thing but declared him dead in an interview this spring.  "It got to the point where it was time to grow up. It's time to turn into a true professional. It's time to kick some ass," Morgan said.

Morgan's been pretty kick ass this year for the Brewers. He's gone 6-13 with a .500 OBP and one stolen base. Plus (or should I say Plush?), he's a very solid defender. He nearly single handedly scored Milwaukee's third run on Thursday. He doubled with one out, stole third base, and scored on a grounder when he knocked the ball out of Brian McCann's glove. I hope Morgan feels like he has something to prove this whole season.

Payback. Did anyone else notice that Ryan Braun gave a little extra fist pump after he homered off Tommy Hanson in the first inning on Thursday? Hanson hit Braun on the elbow last May. It was widely speculated that Braun was more injured than he ever let on and this led to an extended slump.

Perspective. I had to watch two of the four games through Atlanta's feed so I got to experience the musings of Chip Caray and Joe Simpson. Having come off of several weeks of listening to Gus Johnson, I can honestly say that I appreciate understated analysis. But (yawn), these guys (yawn) may go too far in the other direction. After Morgan took out McCann trying to score, Simpson started to whine that the Brewers were "launching themselves at Brain." His voice didn't get louder, his pitch just got higher. After replays, Simpson admitted that McCann was blocking the plate so Morgan had to go at McCann. But then he complained that Morgan didn't really slide properly so as to make contact with McCann. And that's a problem?

Brewers 5, Braves 4
Game played 4-6-11

Brewers 4, Braves 2
Game played 4-7-11 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Brewers win!

I was getting something off the printer at work on Tuesday, when one of my co-workers strides by and says, "tough start for the Brewers!" To which I replied, "yes, I don't think the Brewers OR THE TWINS really got off to the start they hoped for."

When you're 0-4, even fans of teams with 1-3 starts can make fun of you.

But, really, we shouldn't have worried. Yovani Gallardo was on the mound on Tuesday night and Yo often takes matters into his own hands. Bullpen giving up too many runs? No, problem. He'll pitch a complete game. Offense not scoring any runs? No problem. He'll pitch a shut out and get the game's first hit and score its only run. Gallardo went 9 innings and gave up just two hits and two walks. He struck out two as well. He went 1-3 at the plate.

Brewers 1, Braves 0
Game played 4-5-11

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Inaugural El Super

When my nephew Jake was little, I called him Super Jake. This hurt his feelings because he confused super and stupid. When I called him Super Jake, he'd get this really hurt look on his face and say, "no, you're super. I am NOT super." After a time, I was able to convince him that being super was a good thing.

Now, if I could only convince the 0-4 Brewers that being super is a good thing.

Today I'm introducing a new Hangwith'em feature: the weekly El Super award. The plan is to hand out the award every Monday. Week One's El Super goes to Rickie Weeks. His offense is one of the lone bright spots of opening week. Weeks went 6 for 17 with two doubles and three homers. That's a line of .353/.353/1.000. A good start to what I hope is a great season for Rickie.

Chris Narveson pitched well in the home opener for the Brewers, going six innings and giving up just three hits. The Brewers held a very tenuous 1-0 lead going into the eighth inning but Takashi Saito was unable to hold the lead. He gave up solo shots to Dan Uggla and Martin Prado. Milwaukee would finish the game 0-8 with RISP. Is it just me or do the Brewers continue to be horrendous in scoring runners from third with less than two outs?

Braves 2, Brewers 1
Game played 4-4-11

Sunday, April 3, 2011

You say 'cause for concern'. I say 'area for improvement'.

The Brewers opened the 2011 season with three straight losses to defending NL Central champ, Cincinnati. The opener featured a ninth inning meltdown as the Reds rallied from a 6-3 deficit to win 7-6 on a walk-off home run. On Saturday night, the Reds led from start to finish behind the strong pitching of Travis Wood. The series was capped off with a 12-3 blowout, with the Reds collecting 19 hits in just eight innings.

Rickie Weeks called the sweep, “a wake-up call” but said that it was just part of the game and that the Brewers would get better. Here are some thoughts on those potential areas of improvement.

= Yuniesky Betancourt went 0-11 with one strikeout. In those 11 at-bats, he saw just 32 pitches. He also committed an error on Sunday. The acquisition of Betancourt was easily one of the off-season’s most controversial moves. Doug Melvin said that getting Betancourt was key to the Greinke trade and that he didn’t “know how [stat guys] can say he’s the worst player in baseball.” Well, Doug, let me tell you something about those stat guys—they’re pretty smart. I don’t expect Betancourt to go hitless for the entire season but this start doesn’t leave me feeling overly optimistic. We may find out how many innings you can get out of a 40-year-old shortstop.

= The good folks over at Brew Crew Ball have christened Mark Kotsay, Kotsucker. Again, no one in the blogosphere could quite figure out why he was signed. His 0-7 start seems to justify this criticism. With Kotsay, Betancourt and Wil Nieves/George Kottaras, filling the 6-7-8 spots in the line-up, I don’t think the bottom part of the line-up is striking fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers. The return of Corey Hart should help. I hope the return of Jonathan Lucroy helps as well.

= Carlos Gomez’s approach to hitting seems unchanged. In Sunday’s game, Brian Anderson said that he really liked Gomez’s approach against Francisco Cordero in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game. Anderson said that Gomez was just trying to make contact and go with the pitch. For most of the weekend, Gomez swung for the fences. He went 2-12 with one home run and four strikeouts. At this point, I don’t think he is going to be successful if he doesn’t make some consistent changes to his approach. Surely, I can’t be the only one that thinks this. Has no one told him this or is Gomez not capable of making a change to his approach?

= Cincinnati is gifted defensively. Milwaukee is not. Defense may have cost them Thursday night’s game. That Milwaukee is not a great defensive team is not a surprise. This weekend’s series made me wonder how much better our hitting and pitching will need to be if the Brewers are an average to below average fielding team.

= Part of the belief that the Brewers would win more games in 2011 was the underlying belief that the starting pitching would be much better. And part of that belief had to be based on the anticipation that existing members of the staff, like Randy Wolf, would be better. We’re only three games in so I’m not going to rush to judgment here. Hopefully Shaun Marcum was a little rusty after missing some time in spring training and Randy Wolf will find his groove/pace/aggressiveness [or whatever he attributed his turnaround to last year].  

I’ll revisit these areas at the end of April.

Reds 4, Brewers 2
Game played 4-2-11

Reds 12, Brewers 3
Game played 4-3-11