Category Archives: PLAYOFFS!?!?

Matt Garza: Not a half-measure

In my last post, I called for no more half-measures for the Brewers: no more spending of resources on players who aren’t clear upgrades. That particular post discussed potential first base targets like James Loney or Ike Davis. The Brewers have thankfully taken a smarter route that costs them nothing in players/draft picks and virtually nothing in money. Mark Reynolds and Juan Francisco will likely produce similarly to what Loney or Davis would have for a fraction of the cost. Sure, it isn’t as good as acquiring a great first baseman, but it’s a lot better than spending on a mediocre one.

The half-measures theory applies to all positions, including pitchers. The reason I like the Garza signing more than almost all of the Brewers’ major acquisitions in the last three years (probably second only to the Greinke-Segura deal) is largely because he provides an actual clear upgrade to what they had.

Current Brewers pitchers, 2011-2013

Yovani Gallardo: 592 innings, 3.48 xFIP, 7.3 WAR

Kyle Lohse: 598 innings, 4.01 xFIP, 7.5 WAR

Marco Estrada: 298.2 innings, 3.57 xFIP, 5.1 WAR

Matt Garza: 457 innings, 3.46 xFIP, 8.3 WAR

Over the last three years, Garza has been more valuable than any of the Brewers’ starting pitchers. He has a higher WAR than Gallardo and Lohse despite pitching far fewer innings. This is due to his strong strikeout rate and solid walk rate (His K rate is higher than Yo’s and his walk rate is lower).

This is a strong upgrade. Lohse-Garza-Gallardo-Estrada-Peralta is a much stronger rotation than Lohse-Gallardo-Estrada-Peralta-Thornburg/Hellweg/Nelson/whomever. This also adds decent depth to the rotation, as the guys now slotted 6-8 in the rotation could be okay as spot starters.

Of course, that whole “far fewer innings” part played a big role in this signing. Without the injury concerns, Garza would have earned a much larger contract than $50 million guaranteed. Garza hasn’t had any crazy long DL stints, but he’s missed a handful of starts over the last few years due to elbow and shoulder concerns. It led to some pretty creative contract language, and it certainly makes this contract a risk.

It is a risk worth taking, however. Garza’s upside is a pitcher that’s as good or better as any the Brewers currently have. Look at those numbers again. If those four pitchers come close to their performance of the last three seasons, the Brewers will actually have a pretty strong pitching staff. Yes, Gallardo declined last year, and yes, Lohse is getting up there in age, but even if they come close to those numbers, the rotation should be average-ish. Average-ish much, much better than last year’s rotation.

With an offense that could also return to average-ishness with Ryan Braun’s return, we actually could be looking at a Brewers team that is… average! With an extra playoff slot, that means some luck could give the Brewers a puncher’s chance at a Wildcard spot. It’s something, at least.

The second reason I like this signing, and what really sets it apart from the Kyle Lohse signing last year, is that the Brewers did not have to forfeit a draft pick to sign Garza. Lohse is a solid pitcher, but I hated the signing, because the Brewers were not in a position where it made sense for them to forfeit a pick. They were not one starter away from being a contender, so they essentially forfeited a draft pick to take fourth place in the division.

The Brewers have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. The recent Baseball Prospectus Top 101 confirms that, as there are zero (0) Brewers prospects to be found on the list. They cannot afford to forfeit any high draft picks. This signing doesn’t hurt any rebuilding of a farm system, which is what has me feeling okay about it.

Still long odds

Posted by Steve

The Brewers have really accomplished something over the last month. We’ve talked about how amazing it is that they’re even in the running for the playoffs, but now, what are their chances of actually finishing it off and getting there?

Not good.

Entering today, Baseball Prospectus gave the Brewers a 5.2% chance to reach the playoffs, while the Dodgers are at 11.4% and the Cardinals are at 79.5%. The reason it’s so high has been on display over the last couple nights: The Cardinals have an incredibly easy schedule and a two-game lead on the next closest team.

The Brewers are playing out of their minds, but unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if the Cardinals (and Dodgers, I guess) don’t lose as well. The Brewers gained five games on St. Louis over ten days, whichsd is an amazing number, but it still may not be enough. The Cardinals play the Astros, Cubs, and Astros again yet this season. They’re beating up on Houston for the second night in a row, which means even after beating the Pirates and essentially vanquishing any playoff hopes Pittsburgh had left, the Brewers haven’t gained any ground.

The Brewers have 14 games left. Normally, you’d think winning nine of those games would chase down the Cards, but with that darn schedule, I’m not so sure. I feel fairly confident in saying more than nine wins in their last 14 will do it, but at the same time… That’s very difficult to do.

Yes, they’ve been playing at that rate for a long time (22 wins in last 28 games), but like I said, that’s also an unsustainable rate. The team is really firing on all cylinders, though (BTW, Jean Segura, you guys!), so who knows.

They certainly have our attention, and what they’ve done should absolutely be applauded, but if they slip up even a bit, this won’t last long. The Pirates were right with the Brewers at the start of this series, and two days later you can pretty much stick a fork in them. This could just as easily happen to the Brewers.

“It’s like the super hot girl at the bar who is flirting with you but you don’t know if she actually is or if you even want her to for fear of what might happen.”

What is happening.

The Brewers keep winning.

The Cardinals just got swept by the Padres (first time since 1995).

Rickie Weeks is a MAN.

And suddenly, the Brewers are three games out of a playoff spot.

The point of this post is not to dissect their chances, which are all of a sudden worth dissecting. That will come. No, the purpose of this post is to point out how ABSURD this all is.

Two days ago–TWO DAYS–Baseball Prospectus had the Brewers’ playoff odds at 0.0%. In reality, it was probably something like 0.04% and they rounded down, but whatever. Two days ago. Today it is 1.8, and tomorrow it should jump up a good amount.

I don’t normally do this, but I’m going to interject a bit of my personal life into this post. I just started a demanding new job. I’m moving this weekend. In other words, I have a lot going on. I had come to peace with the fact that the Brewers were not making the playoffs this season, and I had even managed to look on the bright side: Not having to watch every inning of every game the rest of the year will actually be beneficial to my mental and physical well being.

So much for that. My last post was all about how I’m not getting sucked in, but that was when they were still over six games out. They’ve cut that in half in just a few days. I don’t particularly want to be invested in this, but at just three games out, I’m afraid I have no choice.

Special thanks to reader/commenter Shawn, the genius behind this incredibly accurate title/analogy for how I currently feel about the Brewers.

 

My mind is tellin’ me no…

Posted by Steve

I remember in 2005, 2006, before the Brewers were expected to contend, how badly I wanted the team to win. “Maybe Carlos Lee and Dave Bush will be enough to get them over the top?” Because they weren’t totally awful like teams I grew up with, I sort of got attached. I enjoyed watching a team that won more than 40% of its games, so when July rolled around, I wasn’t excited for the trading deadline. Fans liked the team, but rationality eventually won out. They weren’t going anywhere that year, so selling made perfect sense–even though I liked watching. That’s how most teams are that aren’t quite good enough, really. At some point, you have to admit that they just aren’t going anywhere and cut your losses.

I feel the exact opposite about this Brewers’ team.

Swept by the Royals. Out-managed by Ned Yost. There have been about six “This has got to be rock bottom” games so far. We just saw three in a row.

Emotionally, I want to blow this up. I’ve been reading the Brewerfan “Shopping Greinke” thread for weeks now. ‘He’s not going to sign during the season anymore… Wonder what they’d get for him?’ ‘Marcum, Wolf, Morgan, KROD, even Aoki, Axford and Hart have trade value. What if they just blew it all up? They could get a haul.’

It’s sad when that’s where I’m going emotionally. Not saying, “Well, they’re only 5 1/2 out. Baseball Prospectus is still (somehow) giving them an 18% chance at making the playoffs,” but instead saying, “I wonder what they could get if they just blew up the whole damn thing?”

And then, the rational part of me says it’s still too early to do that. If they have another two-week stretch like this in them, then fine. But really, it’s still only mid-June. Only the worst of the worst are selling at this point, if any.

Still, the worst case scenario isn’t blowing up the entire team. It’s continuing to lose and then not selling. I’m pretty terrified that the Brewers will be, oh, 9 games out of the playoffs at the deadline, and Melvin/Attanasio will say “We’re still in this. Look at the Cardinals and Rays last year!” Then Greinke leaves, Marcum leaves/signs a too-expensive deal, and the Brewers toil around 70-75 wins next year as well.

It’s not time to sell yet, but it’s getting closer. The Brewers have two or three weeks to seriously turn it around. If they don’t, I will actually be rooting for the Cardinals and Reds in hope that the Brewers will do the smart thing and start selling.

 

May: The month of repeated groin punches

Posted by Steve

Wow.

It’s hard to imagine this getting much worse. The injuries have reached a comedic point, with whatever broke Jonathan Lucroy’s hand taking the cake. It’s actually fun to imagine the possibilities, assuming the story is true. What was in his suitcase? Was he using an aluminum metal case? Was it full of unmarked bills? Did it contain the nuclear football?

The injuries are just piling up. They’ve used their fourth shortstop of the year, which really doesn’t matter because all of them suck other than the one they started the year with. They’ve also lost their catcher, two first basemen, a center fielder, a starting pitcher, that starting pitcher’s replacement, and a closer’s facial hair. That’s all in one month. Oh, and they’ve also gone 9-15 over that span.

After such a terrible month, it is difficult to see this ending well. Plenty of people seem to have given up on the season. Although the Brewers have made it much tougher than they’d like, it’s too early to give up on the season. Baseball Prospectus still gives the Brewers an 18.1% chance of reaching the playoffs, believe it or not.

Even with all the injuries, I don’t think the Brewers are as bad as they’ve played. Obviously, Baseball Prospectus thinks that way too, as they give the fifth place Brewers the third-best chance in the division of reaching the playoffs.

I still have some hope. For one thing, the starting pitching has been much better lately. Their starting rotation is 13th in the NL in ERA, but 8th in FIP and xFIP. First, that’s much better than what it was three weeks ago. Secondly, this, just like last year, shows us that the Brewers starters are better than their ERA implies. Some of this can be blamed on defense (again, like last year), but they have also been fairly unlucky–their allowed batting average on balls in play is .307, which is the third-highest in the NL. Save for the random Arizona debacle, Greinke has been lights out lately. Marcum has been very good, and Gallardo and Wolf have been better too. It will be interesting to see if Mike Fiers can hold down a spot with Marco Estrada out.

I also think the loss of Jonathan Lucroy could be overstated. I recently made a post at Reviewing the Brew explaining why we should have expected Lucroy’s numbers to come way down the rest of the season. People were too caught up in how he’s done this year and expecting that all season, when in actuality, it’s entirely possible that George Kottaras outperforms what Lucroy would have done over the next 4-6 weeks. Just as big of a loss from Lucroy to Kottaras will be from Kottaras to Martin Maldonado as the backup catcher. Maldonado has a good defensive reputation, but he’ll be close to an automatic out.

I still maintain the only injury that is possibly fatal at this point is at shortstop. Alex Gonzalez is a solid player, and any of the three guys they’ve used to fill in all suck. They’re in a catch 22 right now. They need a shortstop and better fifth starter to reach the playoffs, but to get in position to make trades for those players, they need to first play better.

The next 3-4 weeks are critical. If they’re ten games out of a playoff spot by July, I’m probably ready to call it a season. At that point, it’s likely goodbye to Zack Greinke. Marcum, K-Rod and Wolf would probably all be gone, too. As much as I’d like to see Greinke sign, the Brewers could get a great haul for him if they’re out of the running.

The one thing that could be devastating for the Brewers is if they stay under .500 but still close enough that management (okay, Mark Attanasio) doesn’t want to sell. If they finish near or below .500 without trading off any players, someone deserves to be fired. With the haul they could get for Greinke, Marcum, Wolf, and K-Rod, they could contend again fairly soon.

Still, it isn’t yet time to fully have that conversation. The schedule looks favorable as soon as the team returns home, and the Brewers will have one other thing going for them: I’ve been so busy that I’ve hardly posted this month, which is clearly why they’ve struggled. I’ll be posting more going forward, which can only help, right?

Or are you telling me that you’re doubting a team that will feature a batter of Mike Fiers and Martin Maldonado, Cody Ransom at shortstop and three other players with negative WARs on the season. Is that what you’re telling me?

The first step is acceptance

Posted by Steve

Well, this still sucks.

A week and a half later, and this still really sucks. I didn’t fall into a deep depression or anything, but it wasn’t good. I didn’t know what it felt like for the Brewers to lose after getting that far. It really is terrible.

I will say, once you get past the first round, the games don’t even feel like baseball anymore to me. So much rides on each inning. Decisions are incredibly important. Starting pitchers have the shortest hook imaginable. Watching isn’t even all that enjoyable. Even when the Brewers were leading games, I was sick with the thought of how they would hold the lead. “Oh God, K-Rod’s coming in against the heart of their order. Here comes a half hour of torture.”

I asked my friend who’s a Yankee fan how he deals with so much playoff baseball. His answer? “Jack Daniels.” Mm-kay then.

I will also say that I was right. Not that it’s any consolation at all, but I was right. I was extremely annoyed when the Cardinals snuck into the playoffs. I didn’t want them there from the start. I was right in rooting for the Phillies in the first round. Not because the Cardinals are a better team than Philly; they aren’t. But because I just had a terrible feeling about facing St. Louis, and because I knew losing to them would be the worst way imaginable to lose. And it was.

A few times since the loss, I’ve found myself falling back into ‘next year’ mode, like I always do after a season ends. ‘Well, Prince is gone, but it gives them a good chance to improve shortstop and the infield defense as a whole, and… Aw, Christ.”

I’m just not ready for that. I have all off-season to do stuff like that, and rumor has it Dan has a ‘Life after Prince’ post locked and loaded. I’ll let him go ahead. I’m just too bummed out by this season to do that right now. If I start, I just think things like, “What’s the point, when even if you get that far again, you have a manager that is so overmatched that you hardly have a chance?” or “Their starting rotation was abnormally healthy all year; they’ll never have a staff that good again.” So yeah, if I’m still thinking that way, I think I need more time.

I have hardly even watched any of the World Series. I’d guess I’ve seen about three innings total. Don’t get me wrong; I hope Cardinals lose. But it’s not like there will be anything close to happiness over it. On the other hand, I’ve heard people say it makes the Brewers look better if the Cardinals win, but does it even? Nobody really remembers who lost in the NLCS unless Steve Bartman roots for your team.

I’d like to add one more thing. I’m not sure if this is supposed to make us feel better or worse about the Brewers, but… Remember the Chris Carpenter/Nyjer Morgan event, when Morgan got fricasseed by the media, only to hear Carpenter later admit that he swore at Morgan first but still completely ignore it? Or last year, when Carpenter got angry at Carlos Lee for slamming his bat after a pop-up? I’d like to add this little goody to his collection. In case you missed this last night, Carpenter got Mike Napoli on a deep flyout to end the sixth inning last night. Carpenter then found it appropriate to yell this to Napali. Keep in mind, this was about a 400 foot flyout.

In case you’d like it in GIF form

 

The Classy Cardinals back at it again. What fabulous karma that Napoli is the guy who ended up getting the game-winning hit.

Again, though, I won’t get too much enjoyment if the Cards lose the series. I just figured it’s been long enough, so I might as well post something.

This sucks.

 

Who’s ready for a positive post?

Posted by Steve

I realize my last few posts have been negative, which seems goofy for where the Brewers are right now. I would like to just explain myself a bit. Friday I was at Game 5, which was beyond amazing. Thing is, I didn’t get a chance to post until after the weekend, which is also the last time the Brewers won until tonight. So basically, my availability prevented me from any of the excited, this is amazing-type posts.

What a game tonight! Randy Wolf, as he said, threw the game of his life. I wasn’t even concerned when he gave up those to flukey homers, because he had pinpoint control all night. Great, great job.

Jerry Hairston Jr. has been a godsend. Who knew when they acquired him in July how good he’d be. His offense has been a pleasant surprise, and his defense at third is silky smooth.

I’ve been on Francisco Rodriguez at times this year, but he’s been very solid in two outings this series. Great job tonight against the heart of the order in the eighth.

Prince Fielder: Gold Glover? If someone had only seen him play defense in this series, they might think so. From a diving stop to a series of great scoops at first, his defense has been tremendous. His scoop of Hairston’s throw tonight may have saved the game.

Jonathan Lucroy has been a defensive whiz. He is blocking everything in the dirt, and it’s resulting in some big strikeouts.

Tonight’s game was absolutely massive. Had they lost, their season was essentially over. Now, they have the edge. The pressure is back on St. Louis. The Brewers only need two out of three, and it just so happens that two out of the three remaining games would be at Miller Park.

I’m hoping they only need one of those games, however. I have a great feeling about Zack Greinke tomorrow. I feel like he’s been on the brink of a great outing for a while. He’s been a bit unlucky with some bloop hits before a home run, but tomorrow is the day he puts it all together.

By the way, I love reading his quotes.Like this one:

On his home/road splits: “The big thing is I’ve had some really bad games on the road — the Chicago Cubs game and the Yankees game were really bad. I guess the Pittsburgh game, I was cruising the whole game and all of a sudden, I think it’s the seventh inning and I gave up 4-5 hits in a row. Besides those two games, I felt like I’ve pitched just as good everywhere. Those two games…it wasn’t because of being on the road. It’s just because of bad games.”

I also love this one:

Did you get much feedback regarding what you said about Chris Carpenter: “I guess I didn’t get a whle lot. My wife likes to read stuff, and then she gets mad, and she’s mad that I said it. But it just happened, and I don’t need to talk about it anymore.”

Awesome.

Two more wins. I can’t believe the Brewers make the World Series with just two more wins. I never thought I’d see this day.

I leave you tonight with some entertainment. These are highlights from a Cardinals message board from tonight’s game.

- Playing in Milwaukee doesn’t even remind me of baseball…Like, I dunno. It’s just not baseball.
- It just bothers me even watching a game in Milwaukee. I hate to buy into the sign stealing thing, but no team is just that good at home and the fans just suck ass. It physically makes me angry watching them play at home. I don’t know why, it just does.
- That is really going to hurt tonight and tomorrow.
And next week. And it’s kind of chilly in STL tonight. It’s gotta be throbbin
- And now Hairston. I’m so tired of these scrubs. Holy [bad word]. Hairston, Weeks, Betancourt, Wolf. They’re beating us. Not Fielder, not Braun, not Gallardo.
- Seriously, braun looks terrible away from Milwaukee. Probably nothing.
- This whole team looks punchless outside of Milwaukee. Probably nothing.
- I just [bad word] hate Milwaukee. Not the team or the city, just the people that live there

No, really. Start managing like it’s the playoffs.

Posted by Steve

It’s been a few days since I was able to post, and quite a bit has happened in the world of Brewers baseball over that time. It’s old news by now to talk about beating Arizona, so I’ll just say that attending that game was perhaps the most nerve-wracking and exhilarating thing I’ve ever experienced. Amazing.

But moving on to this series. Of course, my worst nightmare of facing the Cardinals came true. Anybody but the Cardinals. Since there’s nothing they can do about it now, let’s take a look at what we’re working with this series.

Everyone is talking about the struggles of the Brewers’ starting rotation. The starters have struggled, but people seem to be downplaying one important factor: They’ve been facing great offenses. Arizona scored more runs than the Brewers this season, and the Cardinals are the best offense in the National League.

I would argue that neither Zack Greinke on Sunday nor Shaun Marcum yesterday were awful. Both allowed some cheap hits and then made the fatal mistake of giving up a meatball with runners on. Marcum certainly doesn’t seem like himself, but he was hurt by bunting, hit-and-runs and poor defense as well.

At some point, you have to be willing to admit a good part of the runs the Brewers hav given up is due to the Cards’ great offense.

Now, how does that help any going forward? It doesn’t, really; they’ll still be facing a great offense. It’s why I don’t expect the Brewers to win this series, but you never know. The Brewers’ offense has knocked around Cardinal pitching as well, so I expect more slugfests going forward.

Before looking ahead to the rest of the series, I want to reflect on yesterday’s trouncing. Obviously, the pitching and defense needs to be better, but I was again discouraged by what I saw from Ron Roenicke. Again, his moves are ones that managers make in a regular season game. There was no sense of urgency.

After the top of the fourth inning, the Cardinals had a five-run lead. The Brewers finally got on the board with Weeks’ homer and cut it to 5-2. I ask you this: Is a three-run deficit heading to the fifth inning still a winnable game? Apparently not to Roenicke. At least that’s what his decision communicated.

After cutting the lead to three runs, the Brewers needed to hold the Cardinals right where they were. They had their 2-3-4 hitters coming up. Who does Ron turn to when he needed a hold? Saito? Hawkins? Even Loe with right-handed Pujols and Holliday due up?

Nope. The answer is: the last guy in the bullpen! That’s right; after cutting the lead to three and the heart of their order coming up, Roenicke called on Marco Estrada. Unbelievable.

Again, this move makes perfect sense during the regular season. Marcum wasn’t getting it done, they pinch hit for him in a scoring opportunity, and then they need the long reliever Estrada to eat some innings and save the bullpen.

But what are we saving the bullpen for now? Especially with a day off before the next game! The Brewers gained nothing by not having Saito, K-Rod or Axford pitch yesterday. They wouldn’t have lost anything either, as I mentioned, because of the off day today.

This is just like when he kept Randy Wolf in to face Cowgill in the game against Arizona. Both times it was crucial that the Brewers stop the bleeding, as they were very much still in the game. Both times RRR failed to recognize that fact, and the game blew up and got away from them.

As much as I despise Tony La Russa with every fiber of my baseball being, he runs circles around Roenicke when it comes to this. He removed his starting pitcher with a three-run lead in the fourth inning! Talk about something you’d never see during the regular season. Yet, it was the right move. TLR sensed the Brewers were figuring Edwin Jackson out, and he made a proactive move rather than the one Reactive Ron Roenicke (“Reactive” has replaced “Runnin’” until further notice) made.

So anyway. I want to see that change immediately, or the Brewers will waste more opportunities.

Quickly looking ahead. What do the Brewers need to do? They don’t necessarily need to win tomorrow; they just need to win one of the next two. I’d feel great about a 2-2 series. I’m not sure I see it, though.

I’m very nervous about tomorrow. I wish the Brewers would essentially punt Game 3 and put their eggs in the Game 4 basket. Here’s my reasoning: tomorrow is Yo against Chris Carpenter (ugh). Carpenter’s been lights out lately, and the odds of the Brewers beating Carpenter in the Cards’ first home game of the series is pretty low. So why waste Yo in this game? Pitch Randy Wolf instead. That way, if you lose the game, no big deal–you have a huge advantage in Game 4 with Gallardo against Kyle Lohse. And if you somehow win the Wolf-Carpenter match-up, well then you’re sitting pretty with Yo against Lohse in Game 4 and a great chance at a 3-1 series lead.

But if Yo loses to Carpenter tomorrow, suddenly they’re faced with Randy Wolf on the mound in a must-win game. Not an enjoyable thought, but  a very real possibility.

This is all moot, as Yo is going to start tomorrow. Like I said, this makes Game 3 much more crucial than I’d have liked it to be. For this reason, the Brewers need to do everything they can to give themselves an edge. Specifically, I’d like to see Carlos Gomez get the start in center over Nyjer Morgan.

I know it sounds funny to ask for Gomez to start against a righty over Morgan, but consider the factors. First, Morgan and Carpenter have their history, and you never know what sort of controversy might arise with Morgan in the lineup. More importantly, though, Morgan hasn’t been hitting lately, and he has very poor numbers against Chris Carpenter in his career. And most importantly, Gomez is the team’s best defender, and they’re going to need all the defense they can get in what could be a low-scoring game. Gomez isn’t likely to hit Carpenter, but neither is Morgan, so get the All-World defender in center if it’s a wash. Morgan’s play in center yesterday should only further help RRR to make this decision.

To be honest, I’d be fine playing Morgan in right over Hart. That makes the outfield defense fantastic. hart only has a .701 OPS against Carpenter in his career, so it’s not like the Brewers would be missing much.

So, to recap:

  • Remember it’s the playoffs, and manage accordingly
  • Flip Yo and Wolf.
  • Since you won’t flip Yo and Wolf, at least play Gomez in center. The Brewers need great defense in what they hope is a low-scoring game.
  • Win plz.

 

Manage like it’s the playoffs

Posted by Steve

Early in the series, the decisive managerial decision was Kirk Gibson allowing Ian Kennedy to face Prince Fielder late in the game. Ron Roenicke topped that one last night.

Randy Wolf was as bad as it gets last night. Even after the five runs in the first inning, he was lucky to labor through the second without allowing anything more. The third inning was more of the same. He struggled to get two outs, allowing runners to reach second and third. Kirk Gibson sensed an opportunity, and with the pitcher up to bat, he pinch hit. Colin Cowgill got a two-RBI single, and the work the Brewers had done to close the deficit was out the window.

It was a great move by Gibson; the type of move managers need to make in the playoffs. Roenicke should have absolutely responded the same way. Wolf’s spot was up third the next inning, so clearly Roenicke was hoping to get Wolf through the third and then pinch hit for him. Leaving the starter in there is a move you make during the regular season when you have to preserve your bullpen.

The Brewers had chipped away to make it a 5-3 game, and if the they could have held off the DBacks’ offense for a bit, it might have ended up a close game. Roenicke needed to realize that was a pivotal moment in the game. He should have brought in Kameron Loe (or any other reliever; Loe was the next one to come in) to face the right-handed Cowgill. Instead, he left Wolf in and the DBacks delivered the crushing blow.

I’m not blaming Roenicke for the loss yesterday; clearly, that one is on Randy Wolf. He just didn’t have anything. Still, Roenicke needs to be more proactive and pull out all the stops tomorrow. As I type this, the Yankees just pulled Ivan Nova after two innings. He had only given up two runs, and both came in the first. They still took him out, because it’s game five, they were down two, and they obviously sensed he wasn’t going to keep them close.

Nothing should be out of the question tomorrow. Gallardo is starting tomorrow, but it will also be five days since Zack Greinke’s last start. Greinke needs to be ready to go for any reason. If Yo gets hit around early, Greinke needs to come in to stop the bleeding. If it’s a close game, say, scoreless in the fifth with two outs and runners on, Roenicke needs to pinch hit for Yo and bring Greinke in.

Tomorrow could quite literally be the last day of the season, so there’s no need to save anybody. The time for lining up a potential NLCS rotation is passed; that went out the window when they lost last night. Worry about the next round once you’re fortunate enough to make it there.

So. Here we go. Of course, they couldn’t make it easy, so now we have to sit through a Game 5. If the goal was the World Series, they weren’t going to get there without any nerves. Put on your lucky socks, underwear, jersey, hat, whatever your good omen may be. Apparently, this is why we torture ourselves by being die-hard fans of a baseball team.

Brewers! Brewers! Keep Turnin’ Up the Heat!

Do or die? Just about.

Posted by Steve

There’s a blog post at the JS in which Roenicke says today’s game isn’t a “do or die” game. Of course, it isn’t by definition, because the Brewers are not eliminated if they lose today. By all other accounts, though, it’s a game they need to win.

Aside from the obvious fact that if they don’t win today, they can be eliminated in their next game, here are reasons why the Brewers need to win tonight:

-If they win tonight, they can hold over Yovani Gallardo for Game 1 of the NLCS. That means that Yo would be able to throw three times in that series. If Yo is needed to pitch game 5, he wouldn’t be able to pitch until Game 3 of the NLCS. That is a huge difference, particularly when you combine how great Yo’s been with how much Shaun Marcum has struggled as of late. The goal here is to win the World Series, so with that in mind, having Yo for Game 1 is a must.

-I don’t want to see Ian Kennedy again. I think Yo is the better pitcher, but it’s pretty darn close. Kennedy certainly has the ability to out-duel Gallardo in one game. The Brewers face a vastly inferior pitcher tonight in Joe Saunders; this is their best shot.

-Even though the Brewers would probably be favored in Game 5 at home, anything can happen in one game. The Brewers are a better team than Arizona, and Yo is a great pitcher, but anything can happen in one game. The bullpen could blow it. The shaky defense could cough up the game. An umpire could blow a call. The Brewers need to win tonight to avoid putting themselves in a situation where something like that could cost them.

-For the sake of my personal mental and physical health, they need to win tonight. They cannot put me through a Game 5 after having a 2-0 lead. The rest of my week will be shot, as clearly I will be unable to focus on anything at all.

I do feel pretty good about tonight’s game. I felt okay yesterday, but as it got close to game time I started to worry about Marcum for whatever reason. Obviously, Josh Collmenter had pitched well against the Brewers, too.

Tonight is very different. Joe Saunders is absolutely not a good pitcher. He’s one of the worst qualified starters in the NL. Granted, Randy Wolf is not very good either, so it could be a shootout. Still, if the Brewers don’t get at least five runs tonight it would be a huge disappointment. Among qualified NL starters, Joe Saunders is exactly last in strikeout rate: it’s just 4.58 ks per 9 innings! He also walks more than Wolf and allows more home runs.

The Brewers need to jump on Saunders early and take the crowd out of the game. I have confidence they will get back to the good, disciplined at-bats they had in the first two games. It should be a new-look lineup tonight as well, with Carlos Gomez getting the start in center. It will be nice to have his defense.

Time to close out this series. Line up your rotation and enter the NLCS at full strength.