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April 4th: Milwaukee Brewers 13, San Francisco Giants 4
April 5th: Milwaukee Brewers 5, San Francisco Giants 4
April 6th: Milwaukee Brewers 7, San Francisco Giants 0
MVPs of the Series:
Gabe Kapler: 6/10, 2 HR, 5 RBI, SB
Eugenio Velez: 2/12, 2B, 3B, BB
People are really going to hound me for making Gabe Kapler the series MVP for the Brewers, but hear me out. Yes, Braun had 5 hits and 4 RBIs, and Bill Hall 5 RBIs. Kapler was the most consistent out of anyone this series. And like the role player he is, Kapler kept his mouth shut while the media avoided him pretty much all together. The guy is a leader on that field, and it's going to be a difficult decision for the Brewers when Mike Cameron returns from his 25-game suspension.
Eugenio Velez must have Giants fans excited. And if they're not, somebody get them some oxygen. Velez is a switch hitting 26 year old utility player who can play the corner OF positions as well as 2B. He really didn't do much in the weekend series, but neither did any other Giant player, so this kid gets the nod. He's not going to hit you any homeruns, but he's going to steal a ton of bases and turn a high number of his singles into doubles and an unheard of amount of doubles into triples. He would have had two triples in the series had his 2B against Sheets not bounced over the wall. Keep an eye on this kid. He's not going to be a superstar, but he's going to keep some teams off balance on the paths and at the plate.
What was the difference:
Pitching. That's it. The San Francisco Giants bullpen is outright awful, and Brad Hennessey might be in need for a change of scenery. He was excellent last year, but apparently batters have him figured out. He's given up 12 hits and 8 runs in just three innings, and has yet to get through an appearance without giving up a run. However, reasonable bullpens are aided by good starting pitching, which the Giants also lack. Jonathon Sanchez couldn't even get through the 5th inning on Friday and Barry Zito only mustered 5 innings, while Kevin Correia got through six in a pretty solid performance, marred only be his three walks.
Brewers pitching, on the other hand, was stellar, giving up only 8 runs in the series and never relinquishing a lead or tie for that matter. The Brewers never trailed this series, all thanks to three straight quality starts from Carlos Villanueva, Manny Parra and Ben Sheets. Villanueva and Parra anchor the bottom of the rotation and are scaring the wits out of Dave Bush, who wishes he had been in the league for one more year and didn't have options left. Both Manny and Carlos made it to the sixth inning, each only giving up two runs. At 26 and 24, respectively, these two young men kept the Brewers in the game the at every step, making sure the Giants could not ride any momentum. Sheets didn't let the Giants play at all, and that's more fun to watch. The bullpen was just as good, allowing only 4 runs over 7.1 innings, two of which were not their fault. Salomon Torres continues to impress as he plowed through 3 innings in only 35 pitches for a 3 inning save and Eric Gagne showed flashes of brilliance with his first save as Brewer on Saturday. The rest of the bullpen did what they're supposed to, stand tough and throw strikes.
Causes for Concern:
If the Giants have anything to worry about it's Bruce Bochy's inability to hurt his veteran's feelings. Dave Roberts could be the worst leadoff hitter in baseball. He's a career .341 OBP guy, who steals bases, but doesn't do much else except throw lame ducks from left field. I know Brian Bocock is a rookie, but he took more pitches than anybody, and walked three times. If he continues to show these flashes, Bochy wouldn't consider moving him up, but I sure would. Randy Winn is also a pretty big liability. I'm not familiar with the Giants farm system, but Winn is 34 and while he's still quick, he's well past his prime. If you're going to go young, go the whole way San Francisco. It's a re-tooling year and getting some of those guys experience will help immensely in the long haul. Just ask us Brewers' fans.
The big concern for the Brewers is still strikeouts and giving away ABs. It doesn't matter if you have a big lead or not, there's no time in a big league AB where your sole focus is hitting one out, causing you to swing at pitches out of the zone. The Brewers struck out 14 times in the first two games of the series, Bill Hall falling victim 5 times. The Brewers did walk 8 times though, which is a big improvement over last year, but they would be much better off with a couple of more, which will come directly from better plate discipline. They are currently 2nd in the NL in OBP and first in batting average, which makes up for their 43 SOs. If they sustain this, they can get away with striking out this much, but don't get too comfortable.
Causes for Excitment:
I already said it before, but I'll reiterate. The Giants young OF Eugenio Valez and SS Brian Bocock will do some good things for this team. They will not be superstars, but they are excellent role players who will get the job done if you can get the proper big talent around them. Good luck Giants fans. It's the post Barry Bonds era, and this is the first and last time I'll ever mention his name again. He's old news. These guys are the new Giants.
The Brewers have tons of reasons to be excited. They're aggressiveness on the base paths is paying off, the bullpen has been lights out, the young guys are hitting and the starting pitching has been pretty consistent. You can keep going, but it's only six games. If you find yourself winning 2 or 3 more series in the next two weeks, you can finally say these guys are real. And that's when the media will stop hounding the Cubs and start knocking on Ned Yost and the Brewers' door. Let's just hope Ned doesn't turn into a head case again. I know the media is annoying Ned, but if you get crabby, your team is going to notice and it does bleed over into your coaching. Hopefully Ted Simmons will knock him on the side of the head if this happens again.