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There's no desire by this author to go through every nuance of Monday's game, but I want to point out three or four things that I think will be pivotal the rest of the year for the Brewers.
Usually you're supposed to leave the best for last, but I want to tackle this Eric Gagne thing right away. My mind's in a bit of a tizzy about his performance Monday, but all I can think about is confidence. If the team keeps him on his pedestal, perhaps he'll get back on the damn thing. The coach's can make excuses for him for the rest of his life, but it's his job to live up to his 10 million dollar contract and pitch like he's back on the juice. Any one out there could break records too if they were 'developing' hormones like a mad man, but when you're off them, you have to at least give us a mediocre closer Eric. Okay, maybe I'm being hard on the guy, but what it breaks down to is, one bad outing. His control was off, and that could have been because of the mound, because his glasses fogging up or because, quite frankly, he's not what he used to be. I have a hard time believing any of those. His velocity is still up and he still has a nasty breaking ball. It's confidence. Give him some time and let him work it out, otherwise Riske for President! That's right, no Derrick Turnbow in the closers role no matter which way you like it. Give me a guy who you know is going to throw strikes. T-Bow is the perfect set up man for a guy who throws for location and gets groundballs. But don't be afraid to flip flop the two. Maybe some guys struggle more with hard throwers than forkballs. There's so many opportunities. Let's just be open to them. Closing by committee is not an implausible idea with a bullpen that has this much experience. It goes against everything you're used to hearing, but if there's a group that could defy the odds, the Brewers have it.
Jason Kendall is doing exactly what Johnny Estrada couldn't do without whining or even comprehending about what his job really is. Yes, Kendall went 0 for 2, but he walked on four pitches, sacrificed the winning run to third base in the top of the 10th and probably single handedly saved the game by picking off Fukudome at 2nd base. This is a team guy. He's not going to wow you any more, but every team needs an unselfish player, and in my opinion, this team has two. I don't like Craig Counsell, but he's a good clubhouse guy and he's always been able to do something scrappy when the game is on the line. Game one's double combined with Kendall's pickoff and bunt was the display of veteran leadership that Geoff Jenkins, Johnny Estrada, Tony Graffanino and Craig Counsell were really unable to bring to the table last year. If these two continue to contribute at this level, maybe the guy from Fox Sports (McCarver) is on to something by putting the Crew in the World Series.
The last thing I want to throw out before I get down to business here at work is the lack of quality ABs on Monday, which was slightly improved in yesterday's game. I can think of only two that stick out as really good at bats and quite a few that were beyond frustrating. Of all the people who you would think would have the best ABs of the game, JJ Hardy really isn't on the top of the list. JJ got behind quickly with a 1-2 count, however he protected the plate with two foul balls before working the count full. Yes, he popped out to second base to finish it off, but listen, starting pitching is usually the strong point of most teams. Their bullpens usually can't handle the load of 3-4 innings in a game without floundering. But the effect really holds more bearing in the second or third later in the season. If you can force the bullpen into 4 innings of work in game one, and get the pitch count up again in game two, you've put a team in quite the bind. You force them to put their low end guys out there and line yourself up for an easier victory. The other quality AB of the day came from Corey Hart, when he hit a double into the right field corner. The key: getting ahead in the count. Hart went with a 2-1 pitch on the outside corner, knowing full well Wood was going to throw his fastball to get even. Pitchers get more predictable when they're down in the count, and the best hitters in baseball understand that. Let's hope this team jumps on the idea.