Milwaukee’s magical run came to an end with a Game 6 loss to the Cardinals Sunday night. But keep your heads up Brewers fans, the 2011 Brew Crew won the most games in franchise history and the core is coming back: Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, John Axford, etc. will all be around in 2012. As for the humongous pink elephant in the room, Albert Pujols said after the game that he believes Prince Fielder will be a Brewer next season, and he thinks Milwaukee will be back in the NLCS sooner than later.
After leaving Milwaukee with a 2-0 lead in their NLDS clash with the Diamondbacks, the Brewers promptly dropped games 3 and 4 in Arizona. With back-to-back losses by Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf, the Brewers will put their entire season on the line Friday evening at Miller Park, where they own a Major League-best 59 wins in 2011 (including the postseason). Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo will once again face Arizona’s 21-game winner, Ian Kennedy. There’s not much more to say –a trip to the League Championship Series is on the line. The same goes for the Yankees-Tigers series as well as Cardinals-Phillies.
The Milwaukee Brewers continued their winning ways Sunday afternoon, sweeping the Houston Astros with a 4-0 win at Minute Maid Park. Shaun Marcum pitched seven innings and allowed only one hit en route to his 12th victory of the season.
Ryan Braun overtook Jose Reyes for the National League batting title, going 3-for-3 with a home run (26), walk, and three runs batted in (94), to raise his average to .335.
Zack Greinke was brilliant in six of his seven innings Thursday night in Arizona, but that wasn’t enough. Two fourth inning mistakes would haunt the Brewers as they fell to the D-backs 4-0, splitting the four-game series at Chase Field. Justin Upton and Miguel Montero both went yard in the decisive fourth, tagging Greinke with his fourth loss of the year. Kelly Johnson added a home run, his 17th, in the eighth that put the Brew Crew away. Diamondbacks ace Ian Kennedy (11-3) tossed seven sparkling innings in the desert, scattering four hits while silencing the Milwaukee bats to the tune of zero runs. Once Kennedy exited due to a high pitch count, Milwaukee got a rally going. Corey Hart singled to left to start the inning and Nyjer Morgan was immediately hit by a pitch. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Ryan Braun, running gingerly due to his ailing knee and hamstring, grounded softly into a double play. Prince Fielder followed by striking out on three pitches and finished the series 1 for 16. The Brewers also squandered a bases loaded opportunity in the fifth inning when Morgan flew out to center. Milwaukee was shut out for the second time in the last four games and tenth time overall this season, all on the road. The Brewers now head to AT&T Park for a three-game set against the defending champion Giants before having an off day on Monday. Tomorrow, Shaun Marcum (8-3, 3.39 ERA) toes the slab for Milwaukee and will face San Francisco right-hander Matt Cain (8-5, 2.99 ERA).
Shaun Marcum left after one inning and the Milwaukee Brewers dropped their Interleague opener to the Boston Red Sox 10-4 at Fenway Park Friday evening. Marcum threw 44 pitches but allowed only two runs. He didn’t return for the second frame, leaving with a strained left hip flexor. The Red Sox lost left fielder Carl Crawford to an apparent hamstring injury after he legged out an infield single in the bottom of the first; third baseman Kevin Youkilis was also replaced in the fifth inning due to a stomach illness. However the Brew Crew couldn’t take advantage, as John Lackey settled down after a shaky start to retire the final fifteen batters he faced, giving Boston their 12th win in their last 13 games. Brewers left-handed reliever Danny Herrera was designated for assignment after another horrendous outing, allowing four hits, four runs (three earned) and one walk in an innings work, ballooning his ERA to 21.60. Milwaukee looks to end their feebleness at Fenway when they send lefty Randy Wolf (4-4, 3.20 ERA) to the mound to face off against fellow southpaw Jon Lester (9-2, 3.73 ERA).
Here we go – under the lights at Fenway Park to begin an arduous fifteen-game stretch against a who’s who of the American League. The first test is tonight versus former long-time Angel John Lackey. Lackey’s nowhere near the pitcher he was back in 2007 when he posted an AL-best 3.01 ERA, leading the Angels to a 94-68 record and finishing third in AL Cy Young balloting. Nevertheless, he possesses a hard sinking fastball and could give Brewer bats problems if his command is sharp. Milwaukee gives the nod to Shaun Marcum in the opener of this three-game set. The Brewers righty is no stranger to the Red Sox having played in the loaded AL East up til this season. In his career, Marcum is 5-5 with a 4.38 ERA against Boston in 16 appearances (11 starts). Lackey has never faced Milwaukee. Now onto the lineups for game #71 of the 2011 season.
Milwaukee Brewers – Shaun Marcum (7-2, 2.68 ERA)
2B Rickie Weeks (.290/13 HR/31 RBI)
CF Nyjer Morgan (.333/1 HR/9 RBI)
LF Ryan Braun (.312/15 HR/51 RBI)
DH Prince Fielder (.297/19 HR/59 RBI)
3B Casey McGehee (.230/4 HR/28 RBI)
RF Corey Hart (.284/6 HR/19 RBI)
1B Mark Kotsay (.252/0 HR/9 RBI)
C Jonathan Lucroy (.274/6 HR/31 RBI)
SS Craig Counsell (.221/0 HR/3 RBI)
Boston Red Sox – John Lackey (4-5, 7.41 ERA)
CF Jacoby Ellsbury (.314/7 HR/33 RBI)
2B Dustin Pedroia (.262/5 HR/29 RBI)
1B Adrian Gonzalez (.347/14 HR/61 RBI)
3B Kevin Youkilis (.254/10 HR/45 RBI)
DH David Ortiz (.314/17 HR/44 RBI)
LF Carl Crawford (.240/6 HR/31 RBI)
SS Marco Scutaro (.278/1 HR/10 RBI)
RF J.D. Drew (.225/4 HR/16 RBI)
C Jason Varitek (.229/3 HR/13 RBI)
10. Casey McGehee, 3B
Batting behind Prince Fielder, Casey McGehee enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2010, posting a .285 batting average along with 23 long balls and a whopping 104 runs batted in. However he’s struggled mightily out of the gate in 2011, hitting a paltry .234 with only 4 homers and 24 RBI. He’s also been a liability at third, routinely kicking the ball around and forcing manager Ron Roenicke to give him several “days off.” Hopefully he’ll find his swing again; but perhaps he’s not the long-term solution at third base that he seemed to be last season. Mat Gamel anyone?
9. John Axford, RP
The Axe Man gets the job done. Milwaukee always seems to find a closer out of nowhere (i.e. Kolb and Turnbow), but Axford looks like a long-term solution. Last year, as a rookie, Axford went 8-2, posting a 2.48 ERA and closing the door on 24 of his 27 save opportunities. He also struck out an impressive 76 batters in only 58 innings. After struggling early this season, the Axe Man has settled back down, converting 16 of 18 saves (including 13 straight) with a 3.29 ERA while fanning 36 hitters in 27.1 innings. Having stability at the back end of the bullpen can do wonders for a baseball club, and Axford provides that for the Brewers.
8. Jonathan Lucroy, C
Finally, it looks like the Brewers have found a catcher. Drafted in the 3rd round in 2007, Lucroy is one of the best young backstops in the league. He handles the pitching staff very well for his age (24) and has shown excellent pop in his bat – hitting .291 with 6 homers and 27 RBI so far in 2011. Ryan Braun has even gone as far as to say Lucroy should be an All-Star this year. With continued improvement, Lucroy could become one of the best catchers in the game, period.
7. Shaun Marcum, SP
In 2007, Shaun Marcum began to show flashes of his dominating stuff – going 12-6 with a 4.13 ERA and a 1.245 WHIP in the AL East, commonly known as the toughest division in baseball. He improved on those numbers the following year, posting a 9-7 record with a solid 3.39 ERA and 1.163 WHIP before his season was cut short as he underwent Tommy John surgery. After missing all of 2009, Marcum came back strong in 2010, going 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA and a tidy 1.147 WHIP. Marcum made the switch from AL to NL after the Brewers departed with their top prospect, Brett Lawrie, in order to acquire his services. So far he’s pitched like a Cy Young candidate for Milwaukee, posting a 6-2 record with a sparkling 2.78 ERA and an even more impressive 1.017 WHIP. Marcum is a true professional who toes the rubber every fifth day and gives the Crew a chance to win each time. He’ll be a key cog in Milwaukee’s rotation this year and next, and should be handed the ball should the Brewers make the postseason.
6. Corey Hart, RF
The 6’6″ Hart is still one of the best kept secrets around the majors. Hart is a vintage five-tool ballplayer and is a class act as well. The two time All-Star smacked 31 homers to go along with 102 RBI and a .283 batting average in 2010. The Brewers wisely locked him up through the 2013 season, and he’ll become even more valuable to the team should Prince Fielder leave the club to explore his options as a free agent. He bats productively out of the 2 and 5 spots in the lineup, and has even had success leading off. He can steal bags, hit for power and average, has a cannon out in right field, and also sports some of the coolest tattoos in the Bigs. He’s a fan favorite in Milwaukee who should continue to be a monster run producer for the Brewers, giving them the best tandem of corner outfielders in the majors.