Lance Berkman absolutely destroyed the Brewers, and came up big in every important situation. Unfortunately, this is where the Crew struggled the most. Whether it be grounding into double plays or making mental mistakes on the base paths, they just couldn't over the hump and got swept as a result. Cameron did his best to boost the Brewers, hitting two solo bombs and a 3-run bomb in the series, but the youngsters couldn't follow suit. Hopefully this kind of leadership will pay off in the end because the Gallardo loss really puts the team in a bad position.
What was the Difference?
The long ball. On Friday night the Brewers were up 4-0 going into the 5th, when Pence hit his first bomb of the night and then back to back to back homeruns in the 6th off of Villanueva gave the Astros a 6-4 lead, which they wouldn't relinquish. The would tack on another homer in the 8th scoring, all seven of their runs by the long ball. But the barrage of power never stopped. The Astros hit nine homeruns in the three game series, including a walkoff by Hunter Pence in the bottom of the 12th in yesterday's collapse.
The bullpen. The Brewers finally did me a favor and walked 18 times this series, but failed to take advantage on Friday and Saturday by getting only seven and five hits, respectively. All in all it was just a bad series for the Crew who got swept by a mediocre team with the worst bullpen in the league. The Astros bullpen held the Brewers to just one run in 12 innings in the series. That's just pitiful, considering they only struck out 24 times in the series. That means these guys were putting the ball in play, but if you watched the game you found yourselves screaming at every single guy who wants to pull an outside pitch over the short porch. Pulled outside pitch = strikeout, ground out or pop out and they did it over and over again.
And nobody tell me it was coaching. Yes, Yost doesn't know how to handle his pitchers and he should have never let Villanueva get roughed up that bad considering where his pitches were in the zone during the fifth, but mental errors, combined with a bunch of infield singles and some bad umping on both sides destroyed all of this team's confidence. Gagne had a save taken away from him when Berkman looked at strike three that was called a ball and a blown call at first on a play by Weeks. Jerry Layne and Hunter Wendelstedt's crews are going to get a serious look at around the end of the season. There are far too many blown calls from these groups. And in the end, they let an ACL injury to someone who is not around any more get to them, and they played bad. The Astros simply took advantage of it.
Causes for Concern:
The Astros really can't complain much. If they continue do well and are somehow above .500 in a month or so, they need to seriously consider taking a risk and bringing up a young pitching prospect to replace Chris Sampson. That guy is awful. He has little movement on his pitches and can only locate one of his two decent pitches. As a result he's susceptible to the longball and a considerable amount of walks. Additionally, the Astros need t keep worrying about their relief corps. They succeeded this weekend, but walked a considerable amount of batters (7 in 12 innings), and will get burned in their hitters ballpark.
For the Brewers, it's pretty much everything. This was a huge collapse for a team that needed a boost before heading to Florida. Instead they get swept and blow a big lead in the final game. This team has an extremely fragile character, regardless of what we continue to hear over and over again. They press every at bat, give up more times than they push when they get behind, and don't keep the pressure on when they get leads. We saw all of these things the first week of baseball, but have been broke since then. The bullpen looks like it's doing his job, regardless of what people see about Gagne. Yes, he has four blown saves this year, but he actually got the job done in two of them, regardless of what the numbers say. Also, everybody has failed to notice Kendall's recent slump at the plate. He's dropped 50 points in the last two weeks and went 2/12 in this series and 3/11 in the last.
Causes for Excitement:
The Astros have to love having Berkman return to his 2006 form. His at bats were fun to watch even though they didn't go in the Brewers favor. Last year he looked a bit uncomfortable at the plate, but this year is a whole different story. I've rarely seen a guy look so relaxed at the plate, but I guess if you have Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejada surrounding you in the lineup, they're really not intent upon pitching around you. Additionally, Hunter Pence must be exciting the Astros yet again. While he only went 3/14 in the series, all three hits were homeruns, and big ones at that, which pushed his slugging percentage up 69 points in just three games. If he gets on a role and the bullpen is reasonable, the Astros may surprise a few people and give teams in the Central some problems.
There's not much to be excited about for the Brewers. This series couldn't have gone any worse for them, but there's always a good thing to look at every series. Corey Hart is going on a tear yet again. Hart has gotten on base for 13 straight games now and has the best numbers on the team as far as average and on base goes: .310/.372. The only frustrating thing is that he hasn't taken advantage of his speed on the paths like we expect him to. Also, Brewers' fans need to be excited about Weeks' defense. I know he's struggled every now and then this year, but this kid easily has the best range at 2B than any one in the league. Yesterday's blown call in the whole between 2B and 1B was unbelievable and really should have saved the game. I know he's still under the Mendoza line, but if you give him the time, he will show you the reward, so stop with the trade talk. If you get rid of him, you're stuck with Abraham Nunez and Craig Counsell at second the rest of the year. Or if you really think you can afford to do it, you can put Hernan Iribarren out there every day. I can't lie, I like that kid and wouldn't mind seeing him get a shot, but I don't want to see it at the expense of Weeks.