Things continue to be very hectic at work. Again, I'll try to get a preview out for the Braves series that starts tonight in Atlanta, but no promises. There's lots of reading and sample prep to be completed. On to the recap.
Milwaukee Brewers 5 Baltimore Orioles 8
Milwaukee Brewers 3 Baltimore Orioles 2
Milwaukee Brewers 7 Baltimore Orioles 3
MVPs of the Series:
Prince Fielder: 5/11; 3 HRs, 2B, 6 RBIs, 5 Rs, 2 BBs
Brian Roberts: 5/11; 3 2Bs, 3 BBs, 3 Rs
Prince Fielder was off his rocker this weekend, and especially on Sunday, when he single handedly willed the Brewers to victory. I missed most of Friday's game, but it appears he did his best to try and keep them in that as well, by hitting a two run blast and getting on two more times. I guess I was a series too late on the call that he was about to carry this squad. The Brewers will need more like this from him as they head to Atlanta and Minnesota this week.
Brian Roberts displayed why fans were intrigued by Ken Rosenthal's article about a straight up trade for Rickie Weeks. This switch hitting second baseman put on a show in the field and at the plate. Ultimately, he set the table for guys like Huff and Markakis and scored all three runs for the Orioles on Sunday. He may be over 30, but the guy can play and continues to have a good career ahead of him.
What Was the Difference?:
No surprise here, the long ball. The Brewers never snagged ten hits this series, but when they did hit it, they made it count. In three game the Brewers knocked seven balls out of the park, amounting to 12 of there 15 runs. The Orioles, on the other hand, only hit three. While they walked a considerable amount, seventeen times, they just could not get them to the plate. The Brewers walked nineteen times and got over the hump by putting it over the wall.
Causes for Concern:
The Baltimore Orioles have to wonder how they let this series slip away. After an 8-5 victory on Friday, their bats practically fell out of their hands, as they only managed 10 hits in the final two games after accumulating 13 in the first game. The problem? The bottom of their order. After the clean-up hitter, the Orioles went 9/46 (.196 BA). While they walked seven times, they also made the mistake of grounding into three double plays and scored only three runs the entire series. I was impressed with most of the Orioles squad, but if they plan on continuing to stay afloat, they better get some help at the back end of their line-up.
The bullpen, which has been fantastic for almost two months now, looks to be in a bit of trouble. David Riske and Guillermo Mota, who have been pretty darn good in their play, have struggled mightily. Unfortunately, this means struggles are to come in the 7th and 8th innings when it's their turn to take the ball. Villanueva, DiFelice and Shouse have really stepped up their game to pick up these two guys, but that can only last for so long. Sooner or later these guys are going to need to find it again, and I have no doubt they will. Riske needs to dust off some rust from that elbow and Mota needs a couple of days off, since Yost has used him nearly as much as he's used Salomon Torres.
Causes for Excitement:
If the Orioles bottom half of the lineup was a cause for concern, their 1-4 part of the lineup is something worth cheering about. Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts are straight ball players. These guys have an exceptional awareness of the strike zone, can steal bases and can hit for power. It's the recipe for consistency, and the Orioles will have no trouble moving these guys if they ever wanted to. Roberts might get the heave-ho, but Markakis will get himself another three years of Orioles baseball and is not a bad guy to start building around. Though it's pretty difficult to build a monster that's good enough to take on teams like the Yankees and Red Sox on a regular basis.
The Brewers took walks! Oh my! I could not have been happier with Friday's and Saturday's game. The Brewers took five walks on Saturday and 11 on Friday. While both games were tight and the Brewers did lose one of those, there was no doubt they wouldn't even have been in that game if it wasn't for some plate discipline. The Brewers scored five runs on seven hits Friday. Three of the runs that scored, reached via the walk. If the Brewers have found some way to improve their plate discipline, they may have ventured on to something big and could start to levy an attack on the NL Central leading Cubs. After their ten game road trip, the Brewers finish the first half with a ten game homestand against the Pirates, Rockies and Reds and then go to San Francisco to start the second half. It could be a very interesting four weeks.
- Mark DiFelice has been outstanding his last couple of outings and has done an incredible job eating up innings. From June 17th to June 22nd, DiFelice tossed 5.1 innings an gave up one run on four hits, while striking out seven and walking no one. In fact, DiFelice has net to walk a batter this season and has struck out 14 in his 13.2 innings.
- Rickie Weeks returned to the line-up in yesterday's game and went 0 for 3 with a walk. Unfortunately, bloop hits look like line drives in the box score and line drive outs look like lazy fly balls. Weeks turned on a pitch in the first that was right at the left fielder and then put one in the gap with bases loaded that was barely run down. I've said this elsewhere, but if this guy can get a few breaks and work that BABIP up, Fielder and Braun may have career years yet again.
- Props to Carlos Villanueva for completely saving the bullpen this weekend after Suppan went just 1.2 innings on Friday. After DiFelice tossed 2.1 innings, Villanueva pitched four solid, only giving up a homerun to the hot hot hot Aubrey Huff. Carlos pounded the strike zone and allowed Ned to have a fresh bullpen for Saturday and Sunday.
- Seth McClung is about one start away from getting my full confidence. He's been ahead of Bush for quite some time, but I always get nervous when he's on the mound because he gets away with a lot of mistakes. The more I watch him, however, the more I understand why he can get away with it. His ball is just alive and has some real nasty sink. The only worry is that as his pitch count gets higher, these balls will straighten out, and with his velocity, solid contact goes a long way. He'll get his shot this week against the Twins in Minnesota. Let's see what the hostile environment does to the guy. It will be well worth the watch.