Milwaukee Brewers 6 St. Louis Cardinals 3
Milwaukee Brewers 4 St. Louis Cardinals 3
Milwaukee Brewers 3 St. Louis Cardinals 0
Milwaukee Brewers 4 St. Louis Cardinals 3
MVPs of the Series:
JJ Hardy: 11/20; 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 4 Rs
Brewers Starting Pitching: 23 IP, 6 ER, 19 Ks, 8 BB (2.35 ERA)
I want to give something to the Cardinals, but nobody and I mean nobody had a really solid series. They never hit the 10 hit plateau and in games 3 and 4 they had three and five hits respectively. These guys don't need a pitcher to get over the hump, they need another bat. Guys like Miles, Izturis and Adam Kennedy will not produce at such a high level on consistent basis. The unfortunate thing for the Cardinals is their pitching is actually going pretty good right now. With the exception of a little blow up in the top of the tenth on Monday, the St. Louis pitching staff should be pretty pleased. But the bat have just been off since the returning from the break, as shown by the fact that the Cardinal offense only walked twice a game, which is not what they usually do.
As for the Brewers, it the MVP could have gone to any of three players, JJ Hardy, Ryan Braun or Rickie Weeks. Braun ended the series 9/19 with two bombs and three RBIs. Weeks got the offense going with a 6/13 appearance with two doubles and a big three run bomb in game one. But JJ gets the nod for the simple reason that without him the Brewers offense would have fallen down, way down. Hardy had a mutli-hit showing every game this series and knocked in a big tying run on Tuesday. As a result, JJ's average has jumped all of the way up to .300 even, which is befuddling considering .242 in the middle of June. If JJ keeps this up and continues to play a solid shortstop, he could see a contract extension sent his way before teams notice he's in the top tier of shortstops.
What was the Difference?:
The ability to finish. The Cards kept taking out their nails and hammer, but could never drive that nail into the coffin. The Brewers were fueled by three late inning homeruns, a solo shot in the top of the tenth in game one by Bill Hall, another shot by Hall in the top of the ninth to break a tie in game two and then a go-ahead two run blast by Ryan Braun yesterday to finish the sweep. So perhaps it was the long ball, but one thing is for certain, the Brewers have gained an immense amount of swagger and finished the road trip 7-0.
Causes for Concern:
The Cardinals are a good team. There's no doubt about it. But they need an extra bat, either off the bench or in the starting lineup. There's nothing threatening about Brendan Ryan, Joe Mather or Adam Kennedy coming out there. They're not bad players, but they're inconsistent ones and when they falter, the team has little chance to score a ton of runs. The holes are clearly second and short where Aaron Miles is reverting to the mean, Cesar Izturis is as bad as advertised and Adam Kennedy doesn't even put the fear into me. If the Cardinals want to continue their Cinderella Story, they'll need to clean up that big big hole. Though they did play some pretty solid defense this weekend.
Speaking of defense, if there's anything that can tear the Brewers down it's their lack of concentration in the field. There was only one error in this series, but a trend of infield hits is starting to really hurt these guys. It's just like a walk when Prince Fielder makes an indecisive play at first or Rickie Weeks bobbles a ball or the pitcher deflects balls that are routine plays. Teams like a Minnesota or Arizona will be able to pick on the Brewers forever with their speed. A bunt is almost always a hit if you have reasonable speed against the Brewers. They'll have to work on this a lot over the next weeks before some one really takes advantage of it.
Causes for Excitement:
If anything, the Cardinals can take the fact that their rotation is pretty darn good or maybe it's just their pitching coach. I harp on them a lot because you never put names like Wellenmeyer or Lohse in an above average group, but they've managed to really impress me this year, Lohse especially. The Cards signed this guy to a damn cheap free agent contract and are reaping the benefits of the stupidity of the rest of the league. On top of that, the Cardinals play a very very solid defense. There were a couple of blunders this weekend, but I can't count how many extra base hits and extra bases were taken away from Brewers hitters this week. From Miles making back to the ball catches, to Ludwick snagging bloops in no man's land, the Cardinals made this a more respectable series for a four game sweep.
Come on, what isn't there to be excited about? The starting pitching has been fantastic, the bullpen just as well and finally, FINALLY, the Brewers started taking walks. The Crew managed 12 walks in this series, and it could have been more, but Kyle Lohse was dealing strikes all over the place and I can't blame the Brewers for being forced to swing at tough pitches. Nevertheless, last night's seven walk performance loomed huge because it allowed Ryan Braun to get that extra AB at the end of the game. That's the one thing I often overlook when we talk about walks, which is it has the potential of turning your lineup around one more time. And who wouldn't want their three best hitters to get an extra AB in a close game? This team has the pedal to the floor, and if they can take at least two out of three this weekend against the Astros, they may find themselves tied for the Central lead at the start of the big four game home series against the Chicago Cubs.