Tuesday, August 30, 2011

You can lead a horse to water and you can make him drink but you can't shove a straw up his ass to make him swallow

Following Tuesday night's game against the St. Louis Cardinals, I found myself flipping between channels trying to think about anything other than baseball. There is nothing wrong with losing (once in a great while) but losses like tonight's tend to haunt me for a bit so I try to watch something that has no chance of reminding me of what just happened on the diamond.

Tonight, I stopped on Spike TV to investigate a show called Repo Games. Holy crap. Where do I even begin? The segment of the show that I happened upon had the "host" of the show trying to get the owner of a truck to come to the door so that he can ask him some trivia questions in hopes of having said host pay off the truck and not repo it. (Apparently this is what happens in each segment.) In this particular episode, the owner didn't want to come forward because he thought that the host (and the camera crew) was the police.

In response to the truck owner not coming forward to answer trivia questions, the host (whose name is Josh Lewis) said the following: You can lead a horse to water and you can make him drink but you can't shove a straw up his ass to make him swallow.

Sage advice. 

Then the audience was switched to co-host, Tom DeTone, who informed us that he is about to repossess a 2005 Ford Taurus. The car owner's daughter then pulls up and blocks the tow truck's exit. After a brief negotiation, the mother and daughter team agreed to answer trivia questions in order to save the Taurus. After getting two right and two wrong, it all came down to one final trivia question.

What trees found in the Sequoia National Park are the biggest in the World?  Suspense builds. Will she keep her car? Or will it be towed away? The Taurus owner comes up with a Sequoia and maintains possession of her Taurus. Whewwwww. How does this show happen?

In tonight's game, the Brewers were getting all the trivia right until the top of the fifth inning. In that fateful inning, Prince Fielder booted a ground ball hit by Skip Schumaker to lead off the inning. This was immediately followed by Rafael Furcal hitting one to Jerry Hairston that he booted. Runners on first and second, no outs. Yadier Molina followed with a single. Bases loaded with no outs. Shaun Marcum then gave up a two-strike hit to the pitcher to score a run. The fact that Milwaukee got out of that mess only giving up one more run was a minor miracle. Still, two errors to start the inning ... haunting.

Yet, the Brewers had plenty of chances to get their Taurus off the tow truck and couldn't do it. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Corey Hart hit a lead off double that narrowly missed clearing the fence. Then Nyjer Morgan followed suit. Braun got Morgan to third on a ground out but Prince stuck out and Casey lined out. In the ninth inning, Prince and Casey walked to start the inning. But Betancourt had a straw up his ass and didn't drink ... or something ... because he bunted one off of his hand that led to a force out a third base. And Mark Kotsay was nothing like a Sequoia as he grounded into a double play to end the game.

Repo Games is bad. Tonight's game was bad.

Cardinals 2, Brewers 1
Game played 8-30-11

El Studly

Ryan Braun had a helluva week and being such a stud has earned him this week's El Super. In five games, Braun collected nine hits in 16 AB and five walks. Of those nine hits, six were doubles. His slash line goes something like this: .563/.667/.938. Yep, his OPS is 1.604. He also stole four bases. I suppose it was a little disappointing that he did not hit a home run but I can live with that.

Our runner up is Corey Hart who got hot and put up a .500/.565/.950 line with one double, one triple and two home runs. My hope is that Corey goes off like this in the playoffs--if and when the Brewers make the playoffs. Please, please, please make the playoffs.

Monday, August 29, 2011

No rompe su clavicula otra vez!

Surprising but true fact: It's more difficult to write about a good team than a bad one. Don't get me wrong; this season has been awesome but sometimes it's difficult to know what to write. Sadly, it is easier to criticise than celebrate. So, as the Brewers collect Ws and rack up a huge lead in the NL Central, the blog grows silent. Is this what it's like to be a Yankees fan? What do you mean we're only winning the wild card this year? Sigh.

In an effort to combat this, I traveled to Appleton over the weekend to scout Carlos Gomez's rehab starts. There are no limits to the lengths that I will go for my readers. Or maybe I was already going to be in Appleton for a Timber Rattlers game and it just so happened that Carlos showed up to bat leadoff and play center field.

The thing that always strikes me about Gomez is that he is way bigger in real life than the picture I have of him in my head. So, every time I see him at the start of the season or when I haven't seen him in a while, I am always surprised that he's a solid dude.

I wanted Carlos to feel at home so I wanted to yell something to him in Spanish--something positive and encouraging. My sister Megan came up with the following: No rompe su clavicula otra vez! Translation: Don't break your collar bone again!

In his first at-bat, Gomez watched six pitches. He walked without lifting the bat off his shoulder. In his second at-bat, he broke his bat on an infield groundout. The sound of the wood cracking made me worry that the plate in his surgically repaired shoulder was rattling, too. Ouch. No rompe su clavicula otra vez!

Since we last spoke, your Milwaukee Brewers went 5-2 and took a 10.5 game lead in the Central. OMG, how the hell did the Crew lose two games? See, criticism in this situation doesn't really work.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rachel doesn't do housework, but she likes brooms

It is a darn good thing that the Brewers swept the Mets this weekend because then there was at least one of us that used a broom this weekend. Who cares if there's housework that I'm neglecting? We have a division to win!

For the first time in franchise history, Milwaukee swept the Mets in New York, taking the third game of the series 6-2 on Sunday. The game was scoreless until the fourth inning, when Casey McGehee put the Brewers on top with a solo home run. The lead would grow to 2-0 in the sixth inning when Ryan Braun singled, stole second and scored on Prince Fielder's single.

The Mets finally got to to starter Yovani Gallardo and tied the score in the seventh inning on a Lucas Duda blast that also scored David Wright. But as they did in Saturday's game, the Brewers answered back and took a lead in the next inning. Shoddy defense by the Mets (botched double play) led to two eighth inning runs. Two more crossed the plate in the ninth on a safety squeeze by Morgan and a Braun double.

Rachel doesn't do housework, she sits on her ass and watches baseball--8.5 games up in the Central baseball, that is.

Brewers 6, Mets 2
Game played 8-21-11

Chili Cheese Dog Day... Sort of like being in the Big Apple only with more cheese

In honor of the Brewers-Mets game being the FOX Saturday Baseball Game of the Week (and it actually being broadcast in Minnesota this week), Seth and I celebrated with chili cheese dogs. Over the years, Seth and I have developed a ritual. Any time there is a big game on TV, we watch it while eating food we would eat if we were actually at the game. I find that this ritual makes me feel a lot less guilty than if I just ate a chili cheese dog (or four) on a day that the Brewers had a regular night game (or less guilty than eating an entire pot of cheese fondue on a night that the Packers are not on Monday Night Football). I feel like even Weight Watchers would give extra points for a big game day, if Weight Watchers had a heart, which it doesn't, but that's another blog post.

The Brewers responded to Chili Cheese Dog Day with their second victory in a row over the Mets in New York. But there was definitely a point in the game where my Hebrew Nationals were sitting in my stomach like a couple of rocks.

Through six innings, the Brewers had just three hits against Chris Capuano, yet led 7-1, thanks to a two-run homer by Ryan Braun (following a walk to Jerry Hairston, Jr.), a three-run homer by Prince Fielder (following walks to Hairston and Braun) and a two-run homer by Yuniesky Betancourt (after Braun reached on an error). Josh Wilson broke up the homer streak with a solid single later in the sixth innng after Betancourt's homer.

And then the lead vanished. The Mets came back with five runs in the seventh inning and then took the lead, 9-7, in the eighth inning when K-Rod gave up a walk, double and home run after retiring the first two batters. I felt like puking.

Jason Isringhausen to the rescue. He walked the first two batters that he faced, Jon Lucroy and Nyjer Morgan, and then gave up a single to Corey Hart and another walk to Mark Kotsay to cut the lead to one. After Braun popped out, Prince took a ball destined for the dirt from new pitcher, Manny Acosta, and hit it through the infield to tie the score. Casey McGehee kept it going with a single that scored two. John Axford was able to prevent another Mets rally in the ninth and the Brewers won 11-9.

After the game, I sort of wanted another chili dog.

Brewers 11, Mets 9
Game played 8-20-11

Cantankerous in New York

When Seth and I were shopping at Target last week, an elderly gentleman started to push his cart into the checkout lane next to us, but then looked at the silver haired checkout clerk in that lane and yelled, "Ahhhhh, wrong lane." I suggested to Seth that perhaps they'd had a spat at the retirement complex.

A few minutes later, the elderly gentleman returned. This time, he pushed his cart into line behind Seth and me. But after a few seconds in line, he yelled, "Ahhhhh, wrong lane!" again and pulled his cart out of line and resumed his search for a lane that would be the right fit for him.

After a 2 hour and 46 minute rain delay on Friday night in New York, the Brewers were a little cranky, too. After taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning (Braun reached on an error, stole second and scored on a Fielder single), there was little offense against either Mike Pelfrey or Shaun Marcum. In the third inning, Braun was called out on strikes and found the punch-out call questionable. He had a few words with home plate umpire Angel Campos and refused to move from the batter's box. Compos tossed him.

The bats came to life for Milwaukee in the fifth inning as they tallied three runs on four hits and two walks. Hart singled and Kotsay walked, Prince and McGehee singled and Betancourt doubled to plate the three runs. The Brewers added two more runs in the sixth inning.

In the eighth inning, Fielder batted with two outs and a six-run lead. Frustrated with himself for hitting a soft grounder against relief pitcher Tim Byrdak and making the third out, Prince yelled at himself. Byrdak thought that the comment was directed at him and said something to Prince. After crossing first base, Prince turned around and started running toward Byrdak who was walking to the dugout. After the game, Prince said he had a question that he wanted answered. The benches cleared but nothing happened. The game resumed without incident.

And while Marcum didn't appear to be cranky, he was stingy as all get out. He went seven innings, giving up just one run on six hits and one walk, while striking out six.  Kam Loe and Frankie De La Cruz pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth to close out the Mets.

Whatever lane the Brewers are in right now is the right one. Please don't go looking for a different one.

Brewers 6, Mets 1
Game played 8-19-11

Speaking of being old, Friday was Ron Roenicke's birthday (DOB: 8-19-57). Coincidentally, it was also Ned Yost's birthday (DOB: 8-19-54).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I was starting to think that we'd win them all

Coming off a sweep of the Pirates over the weekend, the Brewers finished up their latest homestand with a four-game set against the Los Angeles Dodgers. I have to admit, after so much good fortune lately, I've sort of been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Not drop off a cliff drop but drop a few games drop. But it didn't happen in this series.

On Monday, the seldom seen "awesome defense" version of the 2011 Brewers appeared on the field to lead Milwaukee to a 3-0 victory. Apparently, that's how you win when you're being held in check by the opposing pitcher? I'm not sure. The awesome defense model makes infrequent appearances at Miller Park. Ted Lilly gave up only two hits and two walks over seven innings for the Dodgers, while Randy Wolf struggled a bit, giving up six hits and five walks. But the Brewers didn't let not getting on base stop them. That was for the Dodgers to do. Milwaukee turned four double plays and one triple play, getting two of those outs at home plate to preserve the shutout. Offensively, Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and Corey Hart hit solo shots.

On Tuesday, the much more prevalent "one-run victory in our last at-bat" version of the 2011 Brewers appeared. Both the Dodgers and Brewers scored one run in the second inning and then the starters went into shut down mode. Yovani Gallardo went eight innings, giving up only the one run on four hits and one walk. Chad Billingsley went seven innings giving up the one run on four hits and two walks. The game was won in the bottom of the ninth when Prince Fielder walked, Casey McGehee singled, Yuniesky Betancourt walked (walked!) and Mark Kotsay singled in Fielder. The Brewers fifth straight victory was a walk-off.

All season, Brewers fans have asked for the "2009 version of Zack Greinke." 2009 being, of course, Greinke's Cy Young award winning year. Zack's been in a little bit of a 2009 groove lately and on Wednesday night, he was 2009 good. Greinke gave up just one run on five hits and three walks. He struck out eight. The one run came on a home run off the bat of Tony Gwynn, Jr. Milwaukee scored two runs on a two-out single by Jerry Hairston, Jr. in the sixth inning and its final run when Lucroy singled and then moved all the way around the diamond on two wild pitches.

The Brewers came up just short of winning the rest of their games when they finally dropped a game on Thursday afternoon. On paper, it didn't look good. Clayton Kershaw leads the national league in wins (15) and strikeouts (199) and boasts a 2.60 ERA, 1.013 WHIP. Opposing him was Marco Estrada, who has filled in well for Chris Narveson, but is not a Cy Young candidate by any means. Kershaw lived up to his billing and was oh-so-tough to hit. The only Milwaukee run scored in the ninth inning when Braun tripled and Prince drove him home. Estrada, for his part, was nearly as tough, giving up only a home run to Rod Barajas (5 IP, 3H, 2 BB). Kam Loe and Tim Dillard had some problems in relief, however, each giving up two runs and the winning streak was halted at six.

No shoe dropping in this series. Maybe this version of the Brewers is pretty good.

Brewers 3, Dodgers 0
Game played 8-15-11

Brewers 2, Dodgers 1
Gamed played 8-16-11

Brewers 3, Dodgers 1
Game played 8-17-11

Dodgers 5, Brewers 1
Game played 8-18-11

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

El Super

During the Dodgers game last night, Seth wanted to debate the merits of the El Super. His point was that it was really difficult for a starting pitcher to win an El Super because the pitcher would basically need to have a week where he got two starts "unless he pitched a no-hitter or something." So I let Seth pick this week's winner.

Seth's pick for this week's El Super is Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod appeared in four games and pitched 3.1 innings, allowing four hits, no runs while striking out four. He also collected his first big league hit on Friday night against the Pirates. It was K-Rods second plate appearance in his 10 seasons in the big leagues and he made the most of it, legging out an infield hit. His fellow relievers in the bullpen went nuts. The fact that he had to leave the game in the next inning with leg cramps seems like a small price to pay for a big league hit--and an El Super.

Brewers 3, Dodgers 0
Game played 8-15-11 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

That's a lot of cream puff. Oh, and the Pittsburgh Pirates were in town

125-pound cream puff.
Having put together a very respectable 5-1 road trip, the Brewers returned home on Friday and welcomed Pittsburgh to Miller Park for a three-game series. The Brewers have been very good at home this year and they have been very good against Pittsburgh for quite some time.

After the dust had settled from the weekend, neither of these things changed--at all. After the three-game sweep, the Brewers improved their home record to an MLB best 44-15. (The Phillies and the Yankees have the next best records at 42-19 and 40-24.) Milwaukee has an 8-0 record against Pittsburgh in 2011 and a 36-11 (13-5, 9-5, 14-1) record dating back to the 2008 season.

The series against Pittsburgh went much like the triathlon that I completed on Sunday: about as well as I could have hoped for. Sure, there were times when I felt like I might drown on the swim and I almost bit it on the bike when a squirrel ran out in front of me but I finished, and that's what was important.

Likewise, after a dominating performance on Friday night both by Zack Greinke (7.2 IP, 6H, 2R, 2ER, 1BB, 9SO) and the offense (7 runs on 12 hits), the Brewers offense hit some rough spots on Saturday and Sunday. They made the most of the offense that they could muster, however, winning Saturday's game 1-0 on a home run by Yuniesky Betancourt and winning Sunday's game 2-1 in 10 innings on a sacrifice fly by Nyjer Morgan. 

Triathlons make me hungry. Yummm, cream puff.

Brewers 7, Pirate2
Game played 8-12-11

Brewers 1, Pirates 0
Game played 8-13-11

Brewers 2, Pirates 1 (10 innings)
Game played 8-14-11

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sometimes odd stuff happens

My husband once missed a few days of work when he pulled a muscle in his neck when he towel dried his hair too vigorously. Sometimes odd stuff happens.

Brewers pitcher Chris Narveson was placed on the disabled list today after he sliced open his left thumb while trying to fix his glove with a pair of scissors. Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday missed Wednesday's contest when he hurt his back lifting weights before the game. This came a day after relief pitcher Lance Lynn injured his left oblique while pitching in the ninth inning on Tuesday night.

Lots of odd injuries in this series. And lots of unusual (but awesome!) road victories.

After sweeping the Astros over the weekend, Milwaukee had a off-day before heading to St. Louis for a three-game series. On Tuesday night, the Brewers let a 3-1 lead slip away before winning 5-3 in 10 innings. Casey McGehee drove in two runs on an opposite field double to earn the victory.

On Wednesday night, after giving up a first inning run, Randy Wolf shut down the Cardinals en route to a 5-1 win. In Wolf's last start he gave up five runs on nine hits over six innings to the Cardinals but tonight he gave up just the one run and five hits over eight innings. 

Brewers 5, Cardinals 3
Game played 8-9-11

Brewers 5, Cardinals 1
Gamed played 8-10-11

RIP, Mr. Landgraf

In the mid-80s, I was just another mouthy junior high school student with unfortunate hair. I was also completely obsessed with sports--watching, playing, reading about, writing about--you name it, I could not get enough baseball, basketball or football. As you can imagine, nothing was more disappointing to me at that time than having to take gym class with the other girls in my class, who wanted to do jazzercise and braid each other's hair. (This was back when gym class was the major source of sports for a kid in rural Wisconsin.)  So I complained that it wasn't fair that I didn't get to play flag football; I whined that I didn't get to play basketball or floor hockey or soccer.

And for once someone listened to me.

That someone was the boys' gym teacher, Mr. Landgraf. He said that I could take phy ed with the boys but I had to understand that he was not going to take it easy on me and that he would not change his grading system to accomodate me. And he didn't, even when I had a heck of time long snapping a football with my little hands. And he made me get up and keep playing when Nathan Hilger missed the soccer ball and kicked me in the shin during a game.

David Landgraf was a stud. He was one of the best athletes you'll ever see. And no one outworked him. He was one of the founders of the Birkebeiner and had finished every Birkebeiner race since it started in 1973. He was the track and field coach at Bloomer High School for many years and he inspired an untold number of runners to push themselves to new levels. He was so fit, his runners used to call him Bruce after Bruce Jenner (this was long before the whole Kardashian clan nonsense).

Mr. Landgraf was killed this past weekend when he was hit by a car while biking south of Hayward. He was 61 years old.

I cannot count all of the lives that Mr. Landgraf touched in his many years as a teacher and coach, nor can I say with any certainty why he let me be a part of his phy ed class. I guess he just recognized that I loved competing as much as he did. Rest in peace, Mr. Landgraf.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What a week! What an El Super!

This past week was a good one for our Milwaukee Brewers. They posted a 5-1 record and now hold a three-game lead over the second place St. Louis Cardinals. There were a lot of memorable performances: Prince Fielder posted a .500/.560/.950 line, while Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke both gave up just one run over eight innings and seven innings, respectively.

This week's winners of the El Super, however, are Casey McGehee and Yuniesky Betancourt. It wasn't so long ago that the blogosphere (me included) was wondering if we could send Doug Melvin to Mexico to find Luis Cruz. But McGehee and Betancourt have been playing better of late, and that makes the Brewers a whole lot more dangerous heading into the stretch run.

McGehee takes the El Super for posting a .368/.400/.842 line over four games and for his three-homer game against the Cardinals. Yuni gets some El Super love by posting a .458/.458/.667 line (always the same BA and OBP for Yuni). He had 11 hits, 8 RBI and even one stolen base.

I hope it's just as hard to pick a winner next week. Go Brewers!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

There oughta be a rule

In honor of that noted rules follower, Tony LaRussa, here are the Miller Park Ground Rules as printed in the 2011 Media Guide. Enjoy. 

The decision as to whether a game begins with the roof open or closed rests solely with the Milwaukee Brewers.

If the game begins with the roof open:
- It shall be closed only in the event of impending rain or other adverse weather conditions. The decision to close the roof shall be made by the home club after consultation with the Umpire Crew Chief.
- The Umpire Crew Chief shall notify the visiting club, which may challenge the closing of the roof if it feels that a competitive imbalance will arise. In such an event, the Umpire Crew Chief shall make a final decision based on the merits of the challenge.
-The roof may be re-opened by following the procedures for opening the roof as detailed below.

If the game begins with the roof closed:
- It may be opened when, in the opinion of the home club, the climatic environment has reached a level where fan comfort and enjoyment will be best served by opening the roof to the natural atmospheric conditions.
- Notwithstanding the foregoing, the following guidelines should be applied when opening the roof during a game:

* The roof may be opened only once during the game.
* The Umpire Crew Chief will be notified at the commencement of the inning that the roof will be opened at the inning's conclusion
* The Umpire Crew Chief shall notify the visiting club, which may challenge the opening of the roof if it feels that a competitive imbalance will arise. In such an event, the Umpire Crew Chief shall make a final decision based on the merits of the challenge.
* The opening of the roof shall only commence between innings.

Got it?

Brewers 6, Cardinals 2
Game played 8-1-11

Cardinals 7, Brewers 6
Game played 8-2-11, 11 innings

Brewers 10, Cardinals 5
Game played 8-3-11

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Axe Super

This is probably overdue but because he's been so gosh darn consistent, it's possible that I've taken him for granted. No more. This week's El Super goes to closer John Axford. Over the past week, Axford appeared in four games and recorded four saves, giving up just one hit and no runs, while striking out five. On Sunday, Axford converted his franchise-record 28th consecutive save with a perfect ninth inning against the Astros. Overall he has saved 31 games in 33 chances this season.

Married to the Crew

Over the weekend, the Astros traded Hunter Pence to the Phillies for three minor leaguers and a PTBNL. It was an odd exit for Pence. He played four innings but was removed from Friday night’s game after taking the field in the bottom of the fifth inning before a pitch was made.

This was probably a huge relief to my now sister-in-law, Karen. Over the years, I’ve developed a unique relationship with Pence. I documented this last year but, in a nutshell, I tend to yell F@#k Hunter Pence! a lot. It caught on and is now sort of a family catch phrase. Somewhere along the way, I started following him on Twitter and Facebook, etc… and now I feel like we’re practically friends.

The Astros trip to Milwaukee coincided with the wedding of Karen to my brother, Nick. Nick secretly arranged to have the TVs turned to the game, but muted, during their wedding reception on Saturday night. Karen only found out when she read the contract with the reception hall. The last time that Nick and Karen visited me, Karen mentioned that there would be an open mic and that it would probably be best if I didn’t get too close to it if I was watching the game and Hunter Pence was batting. As it was, Hunter exited the game during the rehearsal dinner so Karen didn’t have to worry about me ruining the reception with a few f-bombs.

Muted but not forgotten.
Baseball, unlike marriage, is not one of those ‘till death do us part kind of relationships. (The weekend was a frenzy of activity as the trade deadline was Sunday afternoon.) That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel like a marriage sometimes. Last night I dreamt that I pulled Prince Fielder into an empty movie theatre and had a heart-to-heart with him about staying in Milwaukee. I was pleading with him. He couldn’t go. Didn’t he know what he meant to me and the State of Wisconsin? In the end, he tugged on his beard and told me that he’d think about it. (Kind of like when I ask Seth to do stuff only Seth doesn’t have a beard.)

The Astros may have traded Pence (and Michael Bourn) but the Brewers are holding onto Prince for now. After struggling following the All-Star break, Prince led the Brewers to a three-game sweep of the Astros over the weekend. On Friday night, Prince went 1 for 4 and scored the first run of the game after hitting a double. On Saturday night, while the wedding party was being introduced for the grand march, Prince clubbed a 475-foot home run. It was one of three hits for Fielder on the night in a 6-2 victory. Fielder went 3 for 4 on Sunday, as well; delivering the go-ahead run on a single in the bottom of the eighth inning after Ryan Braun led off the inning with a double.

The win was the sixth in a row for Milwaukee, who took a 2.5 game lead in the Central with the back-to-back sweeps.

Brewers 4, Astros 0
Game played 7-29-11

Brewers 6, Astros 2
Game played 7-30-11

Brewers 5, Astros 4
Game played 7-31-11

The Happy Couple.

Me and my nephew, Braxton.