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Milwaukee Brewers 3 Cincinnati Reds 6
Milwaukee Brewers 8 Cincinnati Reds 1
Milwaukee Brewers 6 Cincinnati Reds 3
MVPs of the Series:
Corey Hart: 6/11; 2B, 3B, SB, 2 Rs, 4 RBIs
Jay Bruce: 4/10; 2 HRs, 2B, BB, 3 Rs, 5 RBIs
Corey Hart busted out of his slump to lead the bottom of the lineup out of mediocrity, at least for two games, and did it in almost every way possible. From sliding catches to a ton of bullets right up the chute and to the left center gap. That was probably the most interesting thing about Corey's week is that he didn't have a single one of those lean out over the plate fliners that lands short in right. Instead, Rickie Weeks took that opportunity and went opposite field for three of his four hits today.
In the home dugout, Jay Bruce has quietly continue to produce as a rookie. Adam Dunn did little to nothing, which was a surprise, but even if he did, Bruce easily would have outshined him. He did it in every way, just as Corey did, except he was able to show off an absolute cannon, resulting in two outfield assists this afternoon and holding runners at bay when turning bases. On top of that, Bruce handled the bat magnificently, going dead center for a game-tying two run shot in this afternoon's game and fighting off a Brewers rally in the sixth inning on Monday with another two run bomb to help the Reds pull away. To say the least, Brewers fans cannot be happy they'll be seeing him for at least four more seasons in a Cincy uniform.
What was the Difference?:
Nothing sticks out heavily in this series, except for the offense. The Brewers racked up a ton of hits, but the Reds only managed 17 hits in the three games, and won the first game of the series despite only throwing up four hits. The Brewers, on the other hand, batted a solid .312 (34/109) in the series. That'll do against the Reds, but you can't expect that to happen all the time, especially when facing good pitching. It's amazing what a good offense can do for the Brewers' starters.
Causes for Concern:
Inconsistency continues to plague the Brewers in ways unimaginable. Their approach is inconsistent, their defense is inconsistent and worst of all, their confidence is inconsistent. It just seems that the Brewers have very little ability to start from scratch, but when they get a little wave of momentum going, they can ride it into a huge stretch and look like a playoff team. This leads to ridiculous swings in their game and in their record. Other than that, I have a few concerns about Manny struggling down the stretch. Jim over at Bernie's Crew and I disagree over the fatigue of Manny down the stretch. He believes that because Manny's age, the risk of fatigue isn't all the big, but I disagree. Manny pitched 139 innings in 2003, but only reached 132 last season after coming off the DL from an elbow injury. Manny's command has been rough around the edges all season, and was particularly frayed late in the pitch count on Monday. I'm not terribly worried yet, but want to monitor it closely. If he's really struggling, give DiFelice a spot start in September to catch him a breather if needed.
As for the Reds, defense is always a big concern. The only two guys I trust out there are Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce (okay, maybe Joey Votto). The biggest problem is definitely the left side of the infield, though I don't know a whole lot about Jolbert Cabrera. Other than that, there's a big problem in the bottom half of the order with Corey Patterson, Edwin Encarnacion and David Ross in the lineup. It's like a black hole that the power of the top half just can't make up for. It sounds a lot like the Brewers to be honest, but the Brewers make up a bit with pitching and a solid bullpen.
Causes for Excitement:
First of all, little things always go unnoticed, so I'm going to throw a few things out there that are worth keeping an eye on or just plain great for this team. Bullpen: 6 IP 0 ER, including two good looking performances from Eric Gagne and a much improved sinker by Salomon Torres, who has looked shaky since the break. Rickie Weeks went opposite field three times this afternoon and was rewarded all three times. God, imagine what this kid could do if he used the whole field. That will improve his BABIP immensely. Jason Kendall and Mike Cameron both had significantly better weeks considering their struggles, but you have to remember who was pitching. If they repeat these performances on the upcoming west coast road trip, excitement will be bellowing through me. And finally, Dave Bush had a solid performance on Tuesday, despite being on the road. Guess how. No home runs. Bush has given up 20 this year and in his last four victories, has given up not a one big ball. It's amazing how the numbers make sense doesn't it?
Yes, the Reds' manager is Dusty Baker, and somehow Corey Patterson still has a regular playing gig, but you have to be pleased with the direction the Reds are headed. There's a solid base there that oddly resembles the preamble the Brewers brought along four or five years ago. Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Edinson Volquez offer hope to an organization that has had trouble obtaining success in recent years. But with a few prospects floating over via the trade of Ken Griffey Jr. and possibly one or two more in the likely trade of Adam Dunn, there's at least some light at the end of the tunnel. Jay Bruce looked phenomenal this weekend and Joey Votto is just solid over at first. Whether or not he offers up enough offense for his position remains to be seen, but at this point, I would be pleased with what he's offered in his first full time playing gig. Look for the Reds to keep gaining momentum from year to year, especially if they can grab some pitching on the way.