My apologies for not being around these past few days. I've had some health issues that needed immediate attention. While I'm still not feeling all that well, I am well enough to go over the series and vent some of my frustrations about the game. While this will be brief, I will do my best to get out a series preview for the Reds series that starts this evening. It may not be up until the middle of the game, but I promise it will get out there.
April 15th: Milwaukee Brewers 1 St. Louis Cardinals 6
April 16th: Milwaukee Brewers 4 St. Louis Cardinals 5
April 17th: Milwaukee Brewers 5 St. Louis Cardinals 3
MVP of the Series:
Prince Fielder: 3/9; 2B, HR, 4 BB, 3 RBIs
Skip Schumaker: 5/9; 2B, HR, 2 BB, 3 R, 3 RBIs
To be honest, no one on the Brewers was all that impressive this week. The Cardinals pitched relatively well, but not as good as the numbers would indicate. The Brewers took or missed almost every mistake pitch this series, Ryan Braun especially, but it was Prince who finally took advantage of breaking ball on the inside part of the plate and stole at least one win from a pretty interesting St. Louis team
If you had told met that Skip Schumaker was going to light up the Brewers on Monday, I probably would have laughed in your face. The fact of the matter is, Skip took advantage of every mistake and thew in some good hitting to boot. I wasn't necessarily impressed with what he did, but it did surprise me. LaRussa always seems to take mediocre talent and show them how to come through with quality ABs when they matter most. And that's why he gets the respect he gets, and why he's hated just as well.
What was the difference?
Approaches at the plate. The Brewers amassed total of six hits in the first 15 innings of baseball, and really only did anything respectable until the 8th inning of yesterday's getaway day. On the other hand the Cardinals did what the Cardinals have to do all year, hit singles and a lot of them. In Tuesday's game the Cardinals had 6 runs and 12 hits. But what you might not notice is 11 of them were singles. But you can't hit them in bunches all of the time. In game two the Cards had 11 hits, three of them for extra bases including unlikely bombs from Schumaker and Wainwright. And in the finale, the Brewers somehow avoided the fault of 8 walks and some leadoff extra base hits including a long ball by Ryan Ludwick, who has pretty good splits against lefties.
The Brewers need to learn something from this. They've lost two series now, and on both occasions the teams made them look silly when it comes to getting on base, which is directly related to their approach at the plate. Ryan Braun is still walkless in 61 ABs and is batting a measly .242, which in my opinion is worse that JJ Hardy's .180. 'Why?' you may ask. Well because JJ's OBP is .268. I don't care if he's batting in front of the pitcher. He's working the count and looks a lot better than Braun does while doing it. Get out of your sophomore slump and show up. And don't even get me started on Bill Hall, whose production will drop immensely if Corey stops hitting behind him.
Causes for Concern:
For the Brewers, it continues to be pitch command and an unnerving amount of walks. Parra, Bush and Villanueva had to battle there asses off to stay in the games as long as they did. Bush showed great poise and pitched well, which is good, but his ball still doesn't have a lot of movement and his big inning was saved by a wicked Pujols line drive that went straight at Joe Dillon who may have the worst arm on the team. And on the other side of the ball it's the unnerving lack of walks. This team needs to improve their OBP quick or expect a rude awakening when playoff season comes. If your bats go dry, you can't expect to win games without any free baserunners.
For the Cardinals, all I can say is this: Superb pitching does not last forever. I watched all of games one and two and the second half of game three. With the exception of Adam Wainwright, these guys were throwing balls that got a lot of the plate. It was disappointing to watch Brewers hitters flail at pitches out of the zone while taking the gimme pitches. I was pretty much unimpressed with everyone else. Flores looked good as a LOOGY, but McCellan and Thompson looked more than vulnerable, McCellan especially who threw some meatballs out there that should have been in the stands. As guys get their mechanics going, these sub-4.00 ERAs will not be sticking around. Even Isringhausen looked a bit sketchy, but I know he'll come around.
Causes for Excitement:
The Brewers have one thing to be excited about. No, it's not Prince's bomb yesterday. It's Seth McClung's three innings of scoreless baseball and what that could potentially mean for a returning Yovani Gallardo. Don't be surprised to see Parra get sent down on Saturday after the game and Bush getting moved to the five spot. If McClung can show off his trade value a little longer, we can deal with a Dave Bush start here and there as Parra continues to work on his stuff. But the beauty of it is the fact the Doug Melvin can use this performance to start baiting teams on McClung or Bush for that matter. You could get a lot more for Bush who is a cheap 4 or 5 starter on most teams. On the other hand, you could get less for McClung and allow Bush to show some veteran savvy.
One last thing that I almost forgot: Hernan Iribarren. Talk about a kid who is blocked at the major league level. Iribarren is a left handed speedster who played second for all of his minor league career, but it appears that his move to CF is an indicator that the Brewers like Rickie Weeks as their 2B for years to come. Iribarren has two hits already in his first six at bats, and they were both solid shots right up the middle. Looks like Gross and Dillon have some worrying to do.
The Cardinals have a lot to be excited about. Their first in the NL Central, Albert Pujols still has a right arm that works while he's hitting and their starting pitching has been ridiculous. Side note to the SP: Adam Wainwright is an ace in this league. And if you don't believe me, try to hit his curveball and come back. 93-94 MPH, down to 76 MPH with a 12" drop for a strike. You gotta be kidding me. And you should always be thankful for the best defensive catcher in the league in Yadier Molina.