In case you haven’t heard, the Milwaukee Brewers are heading to the National League Championship Series. Nyjer Morgan slapped a walk-off, seeing-eye single up the middle scoring Carlos Gomez in the 10th inning of the decisive Game 5 of the NLDS, giving the fans at Miller Park (including myself) a finish they will never forget. The Brewers defeated Arizona 3-2, capping a magical night in Milwaukee. Perhaps this is our season… Perhaps it is ‘written in the stars’…
2B: Braun (21).
HR: Braun (18).
RBI: Braun 2 (66); Lucroy (37); Morgan (22); Weeks (43).
Outfield Assist: Braun (Drew at home).
SB: Weeks (8).
CS: Betancourt (3).
What a thriller in the desert. Milwaukee starter Chris Narveson pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing only four base hits while striking out four and walking none in a no-decision. He was staked an early 1-0 lead thanks to Ryan Braun’s first inning solo shot, his second in the past two games. Jonathan Lucroy added an RBI double in the seventh, however Arizona would rally to score twice and tie the game in the bottom of the eighth thanks to Willie Bloomquist’s double off of Francisco Rodriguez. Milwaukee reliever Takashi Saito entered the game in the bottom of the ninth looking to push the Brewers into extra innings. After a lead off double and wild pitch, Arizona found themselves with the winning run – Justin Upton – on third base with no outs. Saito escaped the jam with two groundouts to Casey McGehee and a flyout to Nyjer Morgan. Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson decided to go with Ryan Cook in the top of the tenth, a 24-year-old making his major league debut. Veteran Mark Kotsay started Cook’s career off with a single which was followed by a Corey Hart walk and a balk. Nyjer Morgan promptly sliced a single into right field giving Milwaukee a 3-2 lead. With runners on first and third and nobody out, Ryan Braun slapped a sharp single into right scoring Hart and putting the Crew up 4-2. Cook was lifted in favor of Alberto Castillo who got Prince Fielder to ground into a double play. D-backs reliever Sam Demel then gave up an RBI-single to Rickie Weeks, scoring Morgan and giving Milwaukee a three-run cushion in the tenth. McGehee was called out on strikes for the third out but the damage was done. Brewers’ closer John Axford secured the win, earning his 26th save in the process. Overall, an improbable win for the Brew Crew who moved into sole possession of first place and once again showed why they are the NL Central favorites. Milwaukee won their second consecutive game without a hit from Prince Fielder. Ryan Braun, with three base knocks, pushed his batting average to .320. Arizona shortstop Stephen Drew left in the fourth inning with a fractured right ankle. Carlos Gomez also left in the fourth with a broken collarbone and could miss the remainder of the year. Regardless, the Brewers look to be serious contenders who could make a deep postseason run. Zack Greinke will start game four of the series as Milwaukee looks to take 3 of 4 at Chase Field.
15. Carlos Gomez, OF
Go-Go came to Milwaukee in a trade after the 2009 season that sent shortstop J.J. Hardy to Minnesota. Gomez makes up for his lack of batting average with his outstanding hustle and great defense in center field. His blazing speed makes him look like a lead-off man to the naked eye, but his .292 career on-base percentage makes him better fit to hit 7 or 8 in the lineup.
14. Nyjer Morgan, OF
Morgan adds swagger to a Milwaukee team already overflowing with confidence and young talent. He’s a much better hitter than Gomez, boasting a career .286 batting average along with a .347 on-base percentage. His numbers with the Brewers so far this season are even more impressive (.356/.406), although the sample size is small (68 plate appearances, 59 at-bats). Morgan has speed as well, making him a solid option in the 2-hole.
13. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
Yuniesky is a serviceable major league shortstop. He’s not going to bash the ball or make highlight reel plays daily (with the exception of the incredible behind the back flip to Weeks to turn two); however, he’s not a liability on defense and has a tendency to come up with timely base knocks. He’s struggling out of the gate with the Brewers, hitting .232/.260/.335 (BA/OBP/SLG), well below his career averages of .269/.294/.389. Shortstop is a key position, so Betancourt has obvious value, but here’s to hoping Milwaukee selects high school SS Javier Baez with one of their two picks in the 1st round today.
12. Randy Wolf, SP
The veteran southpaw pitched fairly well for the Brewers last season, his first year with the club, posting a 13-12 record with a respectable 4.17 ERA in 215.2 innings. This year, as the number four starter, he’s off to a 4-4 start with a 3.69 ERA. He likely won’t be relied upon if the Brewers make the playoffs, but the lefty is crafty and reliable. Pitching is at a premium, and Wolf is an above average fourth starter.
11. Chris Narveson, SP
Why is Narveson, the fifth man in the rotation, ranked higher than Wolf, the fourth starter? He’s five years younger and has much more left in the tank. Narveson had a breakout campaign last season, going 12-9 with a 4.99 ERA and 7.4 strikeouts per 9 innings. He hasn’t come out guns blazing this year, but his ERA is a tad lower (4.85) and his K/9 innings has improved to 8.2. Like Wolf, Narveson won’t be counted on should Milwaukee make the postseason, but he’s a key member of the club and needs to pitch well down the stretch.