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Ryan Braun single handedly won game one of this series going 4-for-4 with a homerun and a couple of runs, but he followed those up with pretty solid games on Saturday and Sunday, though he struggled a bit on his routes in left. Braun continues to rake at home, going .358/.387/.755 with 10 HRs and 21 RBIs. This may or may not be interesting, but Braun has both of his SBs at home. I wish Davey Nelson would come in and do some work with these guys like he did when Scott Podsednik was here and stealing bases. These guys, especially Braun, have the speed to steal more bases and teams are scared to walk Prince Fielder the way Corey Hart has been hitting. The stolen base by Braun on Saturday was big, and I hope he continues to go for it, even if he his 2/5 this year.
Ty Wigginton is having a pretty good season thus far in a small sample size going .268/.260/.440. He's shown incredible plate discipline so far, and it should have been rewarding for his team but they just couldn't get him over. It wasn't particularly easy to pick the Astros MVP because they just couldn't put it all together in any given day. They had their opportunities on Friday, but Manny Parra found ways out of jams and Carlos Villanueva looked pretty solid again out of the 'pen. I would have given the MVP to Lance Berkman because he did go 4/10, but no runs and no RBIs. Why is that? The leadoff guys went 7/38 this weekend, got caught stealing twice and were only on base once when Berkman got to the plate. That has to be frustrating for a guy who is right now the runner up for the MVP in the NL (Insert Chipper Jones).
What Was The Difference?:
The proof is in the pudding, or th score. When your team scores three runs the entire series, you have to hope it was three in one game. That wasn't the case for the Astros, meaning they showed that wins often come behind great pitching, which was the case this weekend. Each Brewers starter gave up only one run in their turn in the rotation and the bullpen put together 5.1 scoreless innings to hold the lead in every game and give the Brewers a sweep. Even Mark DiFelice looked pretty good, despite the Astros giving up on Sunday.
Causes for Concern?:
The Astros are built on offense, no doubt about it, so you have to question how they only managed three runs in three games and six in their last five. The stat that sticks out the most is the part where they didn't take a walk off of the usually wild Dave Bush. The biggest problem right now (ie this series) appears to be an aging Carlos Lee, who continues to do what he normally does and that's pretty good, but doesn't look as confident at the plate as he used to be as shown by his 2/12 series with no walks and two K's. I'm sure it didn't make Astros fans happy to hear he was hanging out with Brewers fans at Fiesta Girabaldi's after the loss on Saturday. Nevertheless, you have to ask yourself how much more the guy has in the tank and when you should trade him to an AL team and get some real defense in left field. Other than that, the Astros just need to keep working and hope that their pitching will do just enough to keep them in games because the trio of Hunter Pence, Miguel Tejada, and Berkman will be able to produce runs all the time.
The Brewers looked pretty good this weekend, but I'm still not convinced their plate discipline is what it needs to be. While they walked and got hit by a pitch on nine occasions on Sunday, they only managed that four times combined on Friday and Saturday. This may be too much to ask, but I would like our team to hit for average and walk on a more consistent basis. These are the things that make championship and league leading teams. The Brewers may be over that hump, but I'll believe it if they win the series against the Arizona D'Backs starting today. Walks will be key, especially against former Brewer Doug Davis. If the game lasts three hours tonight, I expect it's because the Brewers did their job and took their walks.
Causes for Excitement:
This is a tough situation for the Astros who played poor defense, didn't pitch particularly well though not bad and clearly were unable to get anything going. They can always be excited about Lance Berkman. The guy is hitting the ball well on both sides of the plate and continues to show good plate discipline. Furthermore, I felt that Cecil Cooper did a good job handling his bullpen yesterday in a blowout game. The Astros have a day off today and instead of wasting a number of guys, Cooper rolled out four pitchers after Shawn Chacon went only an inning. A lot of times a coach hands the game over and rolls one of his pitchers and just says, "It's you for four innings, deal with it." But Cooper realizes he has a young team and is doing his best to keep his team balanced.
The Brewers have to be happy with their bullpen. A lot of people have been going off about the acquisition of Eric Gagne and Mike Cameron this season, but they neglect the acquisitions of Guillermo Mota and Salomon Torres, who have been solid all season long. When David Riske comes back and DiFelice gets sent down, this bullpen could turn into one of the top five in baseball, if they aren't already. Imagine what would happen if you took out Derrick Turnbow's numbers. Nevertheless, if the starting pitching stays in tact and does not falter and force long innings for these guys, the Brewers have a chance to make a big time run at the wild card, not the division. The Chicago Cubs will have to have a disaster happen to stop them from playing good ball, specifically an injury to Carlos Zambrano or Derrek Lee. Three games against AZ starting today should be a good sign of how the Brewers match up with the Cubs since they swept them at Wrigley Field.