Are the Brewers turning the corner?
So if you would’ve told me Monday afternoon that the Brewers would’ve swept the Los Angeles Dodgers, the MLB’s best team so far this season, in four games, I would have called you insane and found you a psychiatrist. The way the Brewers had been playing before the Dodgers series was abysmal. To go into LA and sweep them in four, wow, that was amazing. Michael Fiers came up big in his first major league start, while also getting his first win. The offense, mainly led by Aramis Ramirez in this particular series, came through when needed. Ryan Braun’s two run homer in Wednesday’s game is all the Brewers needed to win. Yes, there were a lot of close victories, but a close victory is better than a loss. With that, the Brewers are now home to start a nine game home-stand that consists of playing the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Chicago Cubs and the San Diego Padres. These are games we “should” win because we know we’re a good enough ball club to do so. Now, actually going out and beating the teams you’re supposed to beat is an entirely different animal. The bullpen still is struggling with consistently outside of Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford, but if our starting pitching is back on track, the bullpen will have a lot of time to mull over their past outings. The offense isn’t necessarily all together yet, especially with all the injuries, but even still, we’re winning games with guys who we didn’t even think would be on our roster. That says a lot.
With this post, I want to silence the naysayers. The Brewers are not dead, which is something I will reiterate. The NL Central is a division that if you get in the top 3 and actually continue to play well, you’re going to stay there. The Pirates are fighting this year, but with the Cubs and Houston Astros still lagging behind, the Brewers have a real shot to move higher. The St. Louis Cardinals have seem to hit somewhat of a brick wall, going only 5-5 in their past 10 games. The Cincinnati Reds have stayed pretty strong, rallying behind Johnny Cueto’s strong starts and the bats of Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. The Brewers are turning it around. A slow start is better than no start at all. I look at this season so far as the race between the tortoise and the hare; slowly but surely wins the race. Ryan Braun has had to do more than his fair share of the work and now with Jonathan Lucroy out for the next six weeks, that load only increases. Braun leads the team in batting average (.309), home runs (14), RBIs (36), on base percentage (.395) and hits with 56. However, much to the Brewers’ avail, Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez (especially A-Ram) seem to be heating up. In Ramirez’s last 10 games, he has hit a solid .317 with 13 hits and five multiple hit games. Ramirez has also hit three home runs and driven in 11 RBIs. While Corey Hart’s past 10 games have not been as successful as A-Ram’s, Hart has still been producing by raising his average and he actually had a three hit game Wednesday. Even Norichika Aoki is doing well, batting .301 in 96 appearances at the plate. The Brewers’ offense may be the next thing to arise, but it’ll happen soon enough. We’ve been having a lot of clutch base hitting lately, particularly in last night’s game. Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Gomez hit two huge two run home runs. The Brewers are becoming a little more clutch than what the people see. This is what I believe our line-up should be nightly:
1. Norchika Aoki – RF
2. Nyjer Morgan / Carlos Gomez – CF
3. Ryan Braun – LF
4. Aramis Ramirez -3B
5. Corey Hart / Taylor Green – 1B
6. Edwin Maysonet / Cody Ransom – SS
7. Rickie Weeks – 2B
8. Martin Maldonado / George Kottaras – C
9 . Pitcher
You have contact, power, and then a mix towards the end with this line up in that order. That is what seems to be most successful, at least in my mind. With Rickie Weeks struggling, he needs to be down farther, because when he does have that huge hit, you want people on in front of him instead of him leading off the line-up.
Pitching wise, we’ve been getting some tremendous starts. Zack Greinke has been the constant, going 6-2 with a 3.46 ERA and 69 strikeouts. The high ERA is attributed to a bad outing against the Arizona Diamondbacks, where Greinke gave up seven runs in 2.1 innings pitched. Other than that mess up, Zack has been pretty spectacular this season, leading the Brewers’ starters in every pitching category, except quality starts. Shaun Marcum had a pretty big outing Monday against the Dodgers. Marcum went seven strong while only allowing one run and striking out nine. Marcum striking out nine? Have I entered bizzaro world? Regardless, Marcum has done well in his 10 starts this season, going 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA and 58 strikeouts. He had one bad out when he got lit up by the San Francisco Giants, but other than that, Marcum has allowed three runs or less in a ball game while still pitching an average of six to seven innings. Yovani Gallardo is almost like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, at least he used to be. You know he can pitch well, you really do, but with that, he also has his bad outings. To be fair though, that may be the Gallardo of old. At Reviewing the Brew, when we say Gallardo should not pitch against the Cardinals, we really aren’t joking. He’s historically had bad outings against them, regardless of where the series is being played. He’s given up 14 earned runs against the Cardinals this season in only 5.2 innings pitched, of course that is in two separate outings. Other than those blow ups, Gallardo has pitched very well, and should have won a game that ended in his loss because he gave up two runs. On the year, Gallardo is 4-4 with a 4.22 ERA (don’t let that fool you, it’s high because of the two blow ups) and 61 strikeouts. Gallardo also leads the team in quality starts with nine. The last main piece to the rotation has been Randy Wolf. While he typically can go out there and give you six good innings of work, Randy Wolf has been struggling this season, more so than any Brewers’ fan wants to see. Wolf got off to a very bad start this season and going further, they haven’t been the prettiest of starts, but he’s pitching well enough to try and keep the Brewers in the game, if only by being a run or two down. He’s 2-4 on the year with a 5.73 ERA and 30 strikeouts. Wolf isn’t a strikeout pitcher, but he does make outs, much like Marcum. His problem so far has been his high pitch count. Sometimes he gets to 100 pitches and he’s only pitched five innings. That’s a lot of wear and tear not only on his arm (because face it, that’s a lot of pitches for that short amount of time) but also the inconsistent bullpen. Collectively, I’d say our rotation is doing well and they’re starting to pitch like themselves. Michael Fiers, the new fifth guy did well against the Dodgers, going seven innings, giving up one run on five hits and striking out three. He also did not walk a single batter. This rotation impresses me because they can get the job done, and even at times slam the door. If they play like this for the rest of the season, we’ll be at the top of the NL Central in no time.
So, are the Brewers turning it around? Perhaps. The bullpen still needs to get on track, but it’s been great to see Frankie and the Ax-Man come in and shut down the opposition late in a game. Tim Dillard seemed to have trouble last night, but fortunately Manny Parra came in was able to help the Brewers close the door on the Dodgers. Jose Veras has been shaky at best and Kameron Loe has actually been decent this season, despite his mishaps at times. This bullpen, once they figure it out, has the potential to be lethal. If you have starters that can average six, seven innings at most and a bullpen that nullifies the bats of the opposing team, that is a recipe for success. The offense has been warming up and this is only the beginning. I would like to see Corey Hart more at first though and Aoki in right. The fielding situation just feels a heck of a lot more comfortable that way. With our nine game home stand against some of the softer teams in the MLB, I really am hoping we can go 7 out 9 at best. That can move us from fourth to in contention for second, depending on how St. Louis does. Tonight’s match-up will see Randy Wolf against Pirates’ Kevin Correia (1-5, 4.30 ERA). June is a critical month in deciding whether or not we have it as a team, but this previous series said a lot. It was not a fluke to sweep the Dodgers in four games, it was a sign. A sign that the Brewers were down, but far from out. Now, it’s a new round, a new month. Let’s get back to where we were last year. You know we can, I know we can, they know they can.
Until next time, as always, go Brew Crew!