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Honorable Mention: Ryan Braun 2/4; 2 HRs
For the first time in the a long time, the Brewers looked like a competitive baseball team, playing quality ball against and equally quality team. The Brewers struck early, scoring two in the first inning after a leadoff HBP and walk from Rickie Weeks and Tony Gwynn Jr., and Ryan Braun's two homeruns would keep the game out of reach as the Cardinals hitters did their best to claw ahead. In the end, the lack of production from the top half of the Cardinals lineup was the difference.
The Brewers looked poised to blow a big opportunity in the first after getting the first two on. Braun would move Weeks to third on a fly to right, and he would then score on a sac fly by Prince Fielder, leaving Gwynn still stranded at first. But a line drive double down the left field line by Corey Hart allowed Gwynn to come all away around and score. This was a pivotal moment for the Brewers that may have perhaps pushed them over the hump.
The Cards would fight back and the third, after Adam Kennedy and Albert Pujols reached with one out. Chris Duncan would single in Kennedy, but Pujols would get wrung up on his second baserunning mistake of the game, when Prince cut off the throw home and tossed him out at third. In the first Pujols was picked off from first when he left to early to try and steal second base. Pujols would end up making another out on the bases in the sixth following an impressive catch by Bill Hall, who saved two runs by doubling up Pujols off of second.
The Brewers would answer back in the third and the fifth with solo shots by Ryan Braun, making the score 4-1. A solo shot by Ludwick who went 1/4 with a three K's and a HR, made the score 4-2, but a pop up double from JJ Hardy and aggressive running by Bill Hall made the score 5-2. With Gagne out as the closer for probably the rest of the year, Salomon Torres and Brian Shouse tag teamed in the save after giving up a run in 9th.
Game Changing Play:
In the sixth inning the Cardinals were threatening with one out and two on. Troy Glaus ripped a ball poised for the corner and two on, but Bill Hall made a leaping catch above his head and threw an off balance ball right on the money to Rickie Weeks to end the threat and give Suppan a chance to go seven innings.
Predictions and Notes:
Well I was right about Saturday's game. It was a battle, and Gagne's final blow up has put him in a terrible mental state that will take some time to overcome. Interestingly enough he was able to man up and say, "It's mental," which you don't hear too often from baseball players. As for Sunday's game, I was dead wrong. Suppan was anything but impressive, walking far too many batters. But somehow he got away with it and went seven strong and got the first win for a Brewers' starter since Ben Sheets on April 29th.
Ryan Ludwick's homerun off of David Riske in the 8th inning ended the Brewers' bullpen not named Eric Gagne scoreless innings streak at 13, since Pence's walk-off against Mitch Stetter who has been impressive for the Brewers. Even with those two runs the bullpen has given up only two runs in 21 innings. It's promising to think about for the Crew, whose starting pitching has been an adventure. If they could get another reliable arm, they may be in line for a bit of a run, but if they don't, it will be an adventure all year.
Pujols has been as advertised. It's a rarity to see these kind of quality ABs every day, but Pujols 39-game on-base streak is ridiculous, almost as ridiculous as his .500 OBP. But Ludwick's playing time against righties has been interesting, especially yesterday with Suppan pitching and Ankiel on the bench. Ludwick is he epitome of a platoon player and is clearly a hit or miss type guy when it comes to righties on the mound. In yesterday's game he K'd three times, but hit a homerun off of Riske and in Saturday's game he struck out in his first appearance before hitting the game winner off of Gagne. I'm interested to see how LaRussa handles him the rest of the year. His .347/.407/.733 numbers are impressive, but how long do you think an average player can keep that up?
I'm still not convinced the Brewers are going to truly be competitive this year, even after these last two victories. The starting pitching is just awful and there is very little depth in the minors especially since their next best option is Jeff Weaver, who was awful yesterday giving up five runs in 4.2 innings. So this means that the Brewers have to make an immediate trade to push out one of the vulnerable three. It's a sellers market though, so it could get very interesting if they pull it off.
What's on Tap?:
The finale of this four game series comes tonight with Dave Bush taking on Adam Wainwright. This ultimately becomes the final litmus test for the Brewers to determine if they are in fact over the hump. With Bush pitching, there's no doubt the Brewers need to do some damage against the Cards ace who went 7.2 innings last time he faced the Brewers, and gave up only one run. Don't expect a great game from the Brewers, but if it happens, perhaps this team is back on its feet.