By: Melissa S. Wollering
Did we just watch a Spring Training game in Pittsburgh? For the first time in club history, the Milwaukee Brewers decided they were going to lead by at least eight runs in four consecutive games. The last time they made it happen, were the first three games in 1978.
Meantime, by raiding the Pirates’ ship in 20-0 fashion, the Brewers basically tied a record set on Aug. 18, 1992 in a 22-2 win playing the Blue Jays in Toronto. This is also the most lopsided shutout in club history, the previous being an 18-0 win at Boston on April 16, 1990.
Manager Ken Macha must be celebrating after having swept his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates. But bear with me as I deliver some not-so-great news. The Brewers continue to rely on the long ball for a vast majority of their runs, something they may not be able to continue doing with larger NL Central contenders, namely the Cardinals and the Cubs. Note to self, Ken Macha: on your to-do list = manufacture runs.
During the Pittsburgh stand, the long ball was the bread and butter. In this week’s Chart Magnificence, we discuss just how much of the Brewers’ production is actually coming from the long ball. As you can see, the sheer number of players contributing with homers is pretty high for how early it is in the season.
However, to give you some idea of its impact, consider this. 25% of Rickie Weeks’ batted ball contribution thus far as come from the HR. 33% of Jody Gerut’s batting contribution to the team is from the long ball. He gets fewer at-bats, of course. Braun, Hart and McGehee are all in the 20%+ range as well.
At least the starting pitching is becoming more consistent, primarily as a result of solid outings by Bush, Gallardo and Wolf over the last three days. Dave Bush pitched seven scoreless Tuesday, while Yovani Gallardo pitched five scoreless Wednesday, clocking his first in four outings this season in the W column. Yo racked up 10K’s in those 5 innings, recording his fourth double-digit strikeout game. Batters are chasing Gallardo’s curveball and slider and can’t seem to touch his breaking ball.
In Thursday’s 20-0 Pirate raid, Wolf fended off six hits on the mound and while offensively earning two of his own and scoring twice. In the series, Bush, Yo and Wolf combined to allow 12 hits in 18 scoreless innings.
Meantime, starters are still working to make adjusts after some dismal starts prior to Pittsburgh. Bush is fixing his location problems, citing that he needs to fix his head during his delivery. Davis is concentrating on his four-seam fastballs and change-ups, a problem that’s prevented him from pitching beyond 5 innings and has stuck him with a 11.25 ERA.
Fielder’s back in the swing of things. After going 0 for 15, he worked a ten-pitch at-bat and singled to end that drought Wednesday night. He was also homerless until Thursday, taking 54 at-bats to record a homer for a second time in as many seasons. April is traditionally a molasses-slow month for the King and Stella will find her groove. Maybe Fielder finally ate a steak or something. He’s turning the tide.
Prince’s left hand has been of some concern because he’s been complaining of soreness and saying it’s been “jammed” by pitches. Obviously, with his hits the last two days, his hand is playable and not a huge issue. One funny tidbit—Fielder asked for that ball Wednesday as though the voodoo power within it might prevent future droughts.
I’ve said time and again, the most exciting thing in baseball is the triple. Joe Inglett did it Thursday while Alcides Escobar had two Wednesday night and continues to pop at OBP with .354. It was only the 17th time in Brewers history that a player collected two in one night, the last being Geoff Jenkins in 2004. So, six years. The reason I like that Alcides can triple regardless of where he hits the ball, is that it will now force the opposing team’s defense to stick closer to the plate, changing the potential dynamic of that inning.
So why isn’t he in the two-spot instead of Carlos Gomez? Macha pointed to Gomez’ speed while in that spot during situations like Wednesday’s when Gomez scored from third on a weak Casey McGehee ground-out. As long as he can get on base, he can usually get home. Plus, with Escobar doing well in the eight spot, why fix something that’s not broken?
And a funny All Star sidenote, Jim Edmonds made the voting ballot for the All Star Game over RF Corey Hart, former All Star himself. Edmonds response? “I guess I have to start hitting some homers.” Thanks Cubbies, thank you again.
And remember me mentioning the fact the Brewers always seem to get hit by pitches more than the general MLB population? Rickie is now tied with Prince Fielder for five (most in the majors) in April. Apparently, we’re only the second team in 25 years to have two batters plunked in the Opening Month. This site has the best plunk stats. Visit them often.
Enjoy the 20-0 lashing at the Pirates though, fans. We swept the Pirates for a reason. And Pittsburgh–we hope you don’t whack our wieners in protest when you visit Milwaukee next week.Follow paulmbanks