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Article:The Brew Haus - Gwynn Saves Gagne's Rear End in Opener

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Tony Gwynn Jr. wasn't exactly as spectacular as the opposition's rookie outfielder in his Opening Day debut, but in the end Gwynn got the last laugh.

Player profile Eric Gagne

Gagne blew a save of three runs for the first time of his career.

Gwynn's sacrifice fly in the top of the tenth rescued Eric Gagne and the Milwaukee Brewers from a loss to the rival Chicago Cubs in the season opener, as the Crew squeaked out a 4-3 win.

A half inning after the Brewers managed to break open a scoreless game with three runs off new Cubs' closer Kerry Wood, Gagne matched the effort. With a save opportunity in his first game as a Brewer, Gagne allowed a single to Derrek Lee to lead off, then walked Aramis Ramirez before rookie import Kosuke Fukudome sent a Gagne pitch into the Wrigley bleachers.

Gwynn's performance trumped the outstanding debut of Fukudome, who went 3-for-3 that included the three-run shot.

Ben Sheets and Carlos Zambrano both opened their seasons with sparkling performances despite weathering two 40-minute plus rain delays, keeping opposing offenses from getting anything started. Sheets went 6 1/3 innings, giving up only two hits -- both to Fukudome -- while striking out seven. Zambrano was nearly just as flawless, pitching 6 2/3 innings, allowing three hits while striking out five until being forced to leave the game with a cramp in his throwing hand.

But the Brewers offense finally clicked in the ninth after Wood hit Rickie Weeks with a pitch to lead off the inning. Then on his first clutch play of the day, Gwynn laid down a sacrifice bunt despite being down 0-2 in the count. After an intentional walk to Prince Fielder, reigning Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun singled Weeks home. Corey Hart followed two batters later with a two-run double.

David Riske pitched a perfect 10th for his 21st career save.

Now, I don't want to admit that after just one game I was already second guessing my defense of the Milwaukee Brewers' signing of Eric Gagne, but there it is. I wasn't the only one, though. This was a text message that I received from a friend of mine: "We payed $10 million for THAT?!"

Luckily for Gagne, Gwynn is a stud, whether anyone else realizes it but me. Gwynn's first Opening Day start included an infield single and a stolen base in the first, the 0-2 bunt, the sac fly, and a sliding catch that ended the game. Thanks, Tony, Sr. for passing on good genes.

Aside from Gagne, the Brewers shiny new bullpen was nearly flawless. A walk given up by offseason signing Salomon Torres was the only blemish on the 2 2/3 innings put in by himself, Riske and fellow offseason acquisition Guillermo Mota.

Miscellaneous Notes:

  • The Brewers are now 5-1 in Sheets' six Opening Day starts. Sheets himself is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in season openers.
  • The game was delayed 41 minutes before the opening pitch. Another line of showers delayed the game another 49 minutes in the middle of the third.
  • Gagne had never blown a save of three runs before in his career and left the park without speaking to the press.
  • Quote: "All the games in September are magnified, and those are the games that people pay attention to, but a win now is no different from a win then." -Ryan Braun
Corey Kempf covers the Milwaukee Brewers beat for AGM. His other articles can be found here.

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