Looking Back on the Brewers in 2011: The Regular Season (Part I)
Happy Hangover Day everyone, I hope you had a safe, enjoyable night and that you can remember most of the important parts.
Today we take the opportunity to continue our month-by-month, year-in-review spectacular of our beloved Central Divison Champion Brewers. In this installment, we take a look back at the regular season in all of its ups and downs. When we last left our intrepid heroes on the ball field and your narrators, every one was looking ahead with optimism and excitement for Opening Day at Cincinnati on March 31st.
The Brewers lost their Opening Day game to the Reds on a walk-off homer against Axford, and they would go on to lose the next three games. 0-4 was, to say the least, an unexpected way to begin the season. The team would eventually turn it around by taking three out of four against Atlanta, beating the Cubs twice in a three game set and sweeping Pittsburgh in a rained shortened two game set. April saw Greinke’s rehab moving along nicely, and Saito falling into both command and injury troubles. Marco Estrada got his first win as a Brewer in April and the team turned its troubles around to finish 13-12 – but with as many questions as there were answers. Notably, it was injuries to Lucroy, Hart and Morgan; and the fact that pretty much everyone who played right field was terrible. Especially Almonte.
Here at RtB, we tried out best to answer those questions. Lou went on a rant about Axford, celebrated the first rainout of the year, got in a snark-fest with the folks at That Ball’s Outta Here, and lamented the Brewers woes. I got really upset at the Brewers, gambled with my dad, introduced the live blog, went to bat for Axford, and got jealous of Ryan Braun.
Whatever hope was abound from the end of April, it was soon squandered in May. The Brewers dropped seven games in a row, and were outscored 37-7 in those dismal contests. It didn’t stay that way for long as Zack Greinke finally was able to take the mound again. Greinke dropped his first game but he wouldn’t lose again in the month of May and helped in large part to turn around the Crew, who ended up with a 17-12 record on the month and were beginning to turn the corner at 30-24 on the 2011 campaign. Gallardo also went eight no hit innings against St. Louis and came as close as anyone in a Brewers jersey has gotten to history since Nieves. The legend of reliever Tim Dillard began this month, though it was not quite as prolific as many fans would have hoped. The Brewers only lost one game at home in May, and somehow Lucroy led the team in average. Gomez and Yuni did not, and no one was sure what to do with them. May was, for the Brewers, the pivotal point in the young season.
Meanwhile: I talked to my cats, gambled some more (I think I have a problem), and talked about the T-Rats. Lou became underwhelmed, thought about moving Prince, chastised Mat Gamel, and gave out a prize. I think it’s safe to say we ran out material pretty fast in the season, but through the first two months we were spent emotionally from the drastic swings in production from the team.
June is typically the time when a team needs to decide if it’s going piss or get off the pot – if you can pardon the expression. The Brewers had already had a tumultuous beginning to the 2011 campaign, but finished the end of May strong. Starting pitching was almost untouchable – Greinke hadn’t taken a loss since May 4th and Gallardo was riding a five game winning streak through May that wouldn’t end until his second start in June. Unfortunately the bullpen faltered in a big way this month and led to more than a few late-game collapses. On the plus side, Ryan Braun amassed an impressive 20-game hit streak by this time and was the leading all-star vote getter. But as his shoulder tightened up and he needed time to rest, a few other Brewers got some all-star consideration in June, including Jonathan Lucroy (who would end up watching from home) and Rickie Weeks (who became a starter). Saito also came down with another bit from the injury bug which delayed much of his effort and involvement in the team. By June, Nyjer Morgan was already a top-flight freak show both on and off the field. Betancourt’s offensive production took a nose dive and the coaches decided to let him swing away and hoped to compensate for that later. McGehee was knee-deep in a slump as well, and nobody had any answers for him. By the time everyone was gearing up for the Midsummer Classic, it seemed like no one outside of Lucroy below 5th in the lineup, and even Hart wasn’t up to snuff by his old standards. The good news is by mid June, despite finishing the month with a 14-13 record and being the only NL team to draw the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays for Interleague Play, the team was in striking distance of keeping the Division Lead.
Watching from monitors near Puget Sound, Lou took to his blogging post and let us know about his trip to Miller Park, his short-lived seat on top of the division, a few warm wishes for Axford’s new baby, and he talked to a man who knows a lot about mustaches. I, on the other hand, spent my time filling you in on why the Brewers are better than the Marlins and Yankees, the draft picks I got all wrong, and how I have superior mind powers. For us here at RtB, we felt like something big was starting to happen. That usually means we retreat to making childish jokes and try not to over-think things. I think we did a good job of that.
As you can see, there is a lot that goes on in a Major League season. That’s why we’re breaking this bad boy up here right around the All-Star Break – I want to keep this is as fun, light, and digestable as possible. Also it took like a hundred years to get this far and I’m pretty burned out from rehashing all this. If you have any noteworthy stories of your own to share from the 2011 season, please feel free to share them with me. Join us tomorrow for the exciting conclusion of our trip down memory lane (SPOILER ALERT: IT INCLUDES THE PLAYOFFS!)