Time For a Break

With the first half coming to a close, I’ve decide to resurrect this failed attempt at a blog. I figure if the Brewers can keep on fighting and treading water, so can I.

As Doug "Double-D" Davis takes the mound today for the final game of the first half, a lot rests on his shoulders. For starters, the Crew are a game under .500 and have fought tooth and nail for the last month and a half or so to get over the watermark and falling each time. The only exception being last week when they swept Cincinnati, moving a game over .500. Today’s game has much of the taste and feel of the last game against Pittsburgh last year when the Crew were fighting to end the season at the middle mark.

They’ve had many highs (Carlos Lee, Billy Hall, Prince Fielder in April and May) and plenty of lows (Ben Sheets, Tomo Ohka, any No. 5 starter) but have managed to keep their heads above water all the while. The fact that they are amongst the league leaders in come-from-behind victories and home wins speaks to their desire and commitment to winning. And there’s much to be hopeful about with the second half coming up.

Last year Lee was dominating in the first half proving that he was well worth the trade of Scott Posednick. A power outage in the second half though left him not nearly as productive as he was earlier. Many attributed it to the fact that he participated in the Home Run Derby and All-Star game. With the All-Star festivities and the fact that he started or played in all 162 games left him with little time for rest. Ned Yost has said that he doesn’t think Lee will have a problem keeping at another hot half season going.

There’s plenty to be hopeful of with the second half approaching. Last year Jenkins went on an offensive tear carrying much of the load for the team with Lee’s drought. This year, if Jenks and Lee can stay hot at the same time, the Brewers have a serious chance of becoming an maintaing their offensive force. The Brewers also, as a team, played better ball the second time around last year with the hopes of doing so this year. Most importantly injuries have riddled the Brewers in key areas. With Sheets and Ohka expected to come back soon after the break and J.J. Hardy later in the month, these three additions alone can act as a major trade. Sheets and Ohka weren’t exactly ace-caliber starters before their injuries though. Big Ben wasn’t so big when he started the season on the DL and compiled a 1-3 record with a massive 6.64 ERA before going on the DL again. Hopefully they just brought him back too soon the last time and now will be fully healed and in rare form. Ohka isn’t an overly powering pitcher, but was decent when he has pitched this year. Hardy had been struggling again with the bat before sliding into a brick wall that goes by the name of Sal Fassano. His defense was spectacular as usual and his bat started to come back around just before being injured.

Even if Sheets, Ohka, and Hardy don’t perform straight off the bat as expected, they’ll provide a much needed ego boost with their mere presence alone. The addition of Sheets and Ohka will give a much needed rest to a depleted bullpen and rotation. And while Hall has been amazing, both defensively and offensively, in Hardy’s absense at short, he desperately needs a rest and the Brewers can use his utility abilities at third and second (not to mention center) once again. Especially now that Corey Koskie is sitting out for awhile after that insane relay catch to Hall. The psyhological edge and boost these three players will give the team can alone help them carry on stronger through the rest of the season.

Day of Firsts

The pregame big news was the fact that second baseman Rickie Weeks was going to lead off the order for the first time this year. Interim lead-off man Brady Clark was sent down to the eight spot in hopes of lightening any pressure that he may have expereinced so far in the early season. Both went hitless with Weeks going 0 for 4 and Brady 0 for 3. Being it was the first game in their new spots, I’m not too concerned about the results. According to manager Ned Yost, this won’t be a one time deal. Rickie can expect to play at least a week as the number one man. Being, easily, the fastest set of feet on the team he would be the ideal leadoff man, if not for his average.

   Entering last night’s game with a ten game hitting streak, Rickie failed to get a hit, but seemed ready to jump back on track tonight. Not so was the case as he finished 0 for 4 with a strikeout and a reach on an error by Braves second baseman Marcus Giles. His woes continued definsively as he commited two errors, one on a throw to first, the other on a easily dropped catch from third baseman Corey Koskie trying to turn a double play.

  The main story tonight, however, was another sort of firsts. Corey Koskie not only got his first home run and RBI of the season, but got them on a single swing of the bat. After rookie first baseman Prince Fielder singled to open up the seventh, Koskie sent a pitch to straight away right-center giving him his first home run and first, and second, RBI’s of the season. His average being .314 at game’s end, his drought wasn’t as significant as say, right fielder Geoff Jenkins, but must have felt good to finally break away as he’s capable of hitting many more.

   Chris Capuano (3-2) solidified himself as a threatening picther in the league as he completed his fifth consecutive quality start giving up only a single run on 3 hits, 6 strikeouts and only a single walk. He entered play tied for second in the national league in strikeouts. Matt Wise felt a little bit of trouble as he gave up a leadoff single to pinch hitter Pete Orr to center field. After walking Giles, Wilson Betemit hit a shot ground ball to Koskie for what appeared to be a 5-4-3 double play. Weeks muffed the reception from the third baseman though and Giles and Betemit reached safely into second and first, leaving the bases loaded. After left fielder Matt Diaz grounded into a run scoring double play, All-Star center fielder Andrew Jones grounded to third and was thrown out to end the inning.

   The top of the ninth featured lock-down specialist Derrick Turnbow a day after finally finding some throwing duty in the 11-0 rout delivered by the Reds. He shut down 1-2-3 including a strike out of Adam LaRoche and recorded his sixth save of the season.

The Journey (A Recap)

Baseball, such as life, is a marathon, not a race. It’s important to keep this philosophy in mind as we look forward on the season of the Milwaukee Brewers. With an outstanding beginning of the season (5-0), the Milwaukee Nine have fallen steadily to a 9-10 record. With a hard road trip to St. Louis, New York and Houston, the Brewers brought a decent 3-6 record back to Milwaukee only to have a weekend series rollarcoastered to 1-3 series loss to Cinncinatti. The highlight being an 11-0 rout in which the Brewers tied a major league record 5 homerun 4th inning; the last time being 40 years ago. That of course was washed out in an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better 11-0 Reds rout of their own. The series wasn’t a complete loss as we also watched Ace starter Ben Sheets come through with a very strong outing Friday and David Bush’s 4 hit shutout in the record tying Saturday game.

Come One; Come All

As is the norm, on here I’ll talk about everything Brewers and anything else I can think of, baseball-related, that I feel is of any note. I think we’ll enjoy a fun and productive season and hope to see you all in October.

– Mark