Yesterday, Fox Sports tweeted out a column by Rob Neyer talking about what the Brewers’ recent nine-game winning streak meant. I didn’t get a chance to actually read the article, but it wasn’t difficult to come up with an answer to that thought.
Basically, it meant the Brewers hadn’t played the Cardinals yet.
St. Louis took their second straight game from Milwaukee last night and again did so in a way that made the ninth inning anti-climatic. (Though, to be fair, the ninth inning for the Cardinals yesterday was some fun baseball.) The bats worked, the pitching worked, and the Cards reminded the Brewers that an early rush is nice, but the division still has to go through the Archway.
Shelby Miller pitched the kind of game that we were hoping to see from him this season. Not exactly, of course–it’d been nice if he’d gone a little deeper into the game, though he probably could have if necessary, being taken out with 94 pitches–but three hits and one run will do it on most nights and it’s enough to be the Hero of the piece. It’s a little concerning that, again, his run game from a long ball, but I’d live with a solo homer a game if that’s all he gave up. Plus it came off the bat of Aramis Ramirez, who has been terrorizing anyone that pitches with the birds on the bat on their chest since 1895, it seems like.
Outside of Busch Stadium, where he’s been incredibly dominant, Miller Park is one of Miller’s favorite places to pitch. In his career, he’s 2-0 there with a 3.09 ERA. That’s probably because the Brewers are susceptible to his strikeout wiles–his 9.3 K/9 there is tied with Cincinnati for the highest in any park he’s spent a significant amount of time in. Hopefully a game like this will get Miller on track and we’ll see stronger performances going forward. I had high hopes for the young man this year and so far, he’s not lived up to them. Last night showed there’s reasons to keep hope alive.
Offensively, the Redbirds are liking Miller Park as well. They’ve hit four home runs here in two games, which given they’d only hit seven in the 12 games before that, is a pretty big explosion from the bats. Jhonny Peralta went deep for the second straight night, reminding us what power from the shortstop position looks like. We talked about it yesterday, that Peralta wasn’t far already from the top power season by anyone that’s played short for the Cards in the last decade. I now wonder if he could top all of those homer totals combined. (Without adding it up, I’d say that’d be in the 30-32 range, probably more than he’ll get, but not necessarily.) Peralta’s hitting .500 over his last three games and is starting to come around. He may not ever be a .300 hitter, but with his power potential, he’s going to be a force at the bottom of the lineup.
The bullpen didn’t do anything to mar that either, as Pat Neshek, Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness all worked smooth innings. The game was 3-1 when Siegrist pitched, so it’s understandable that he came in, but Ben Humphrey over at Viva El Birdos has an outstanding point, that Siegrist and Carlos Martinez are getting used more often than they probably should be. Let’s not look at their innings, just their usage:
March 31: Both
April 2: Both
April 3: Siegrist
April 4: Neither (Pittsburgh got out to the big early lead)
April 5: Both
April 6: Neither (Adam Wainwright went 7, Neshek 1)
April 7: Both
April 8: Martinez
April 9: Neither (Cards down 3-0 before the pen came in)
April 11: Both
April 12: Neither (Cards had the big lead)
April 13: Siegrist
April 14: Martinez
April 15: Siegrist
Honestly, that’s not quite as bad as I thought. I couldn’t remember a game off the top of my head that at least one of those two guys hadn’t appeared, so having four games without them was a surprise. Mike Matheny‘s not done a terrible job of relying on them in situations where it seemed superfluous to bring them in, either, Ben’s example in the article notwithstanding. It’d be nice, though, if Matheny could trust more of the pen and perhaps the recent outings by Maness will help in that regard.
We’ve got to find a Goat from last night’s affair and that’s not an easy task when both the offense and the pitching staff do their jobs. Only two players went 0-fer last night and one of them, Mark Ellis, drove in two runs while doing it. (Ellis looks like a pretty nice piece to have on the team, doesn’t he? Nothing flashy, but he succeeded in his RBI chances and played second well. I don’t think Kolten Wong should fear for his job, but it’s nice to have that competence available when necessary.) That should mean we’d have to give it to Matt Carpenter, who did score a run after drawing a walk but had no hits to show for it.
However, there’s a guy in the books with a hit that led to an out. Peter Bourjos got credit for an infield hit when he hit a ground ball to Jean Segura, but Segura whirled and threw behind Peralta, who had rounded third, and got him out. If Segura had gone to first, would he have gotten Bourjos? I don’t know–I don’t think so, given Bourjos speed. However, being that it was Bourjos’s only hit and he struck out twice, I think it’s still reasonable to give him the Goat in this one.
An afternoon tilt in Milwaukee with first place, in part, on the line. If the Cardinals can complete their first sweep of the season, they’ll be tied with the Brewers atop the NL Central. While the Cards have won four of five series, they’d not been able to put up the big 3-0 mark yet and it’d be nice to see it.
Joe Kelly will take the mound, trying to keep his early success going. He saw Milwaukee twice last September and lost both games, giving up three runs in five and seven innings, respectively. On the whole, the Brewers have hit him OK, if not at a dominant clip.
Wily Peralta will be on the other side and hasn’t necessarily been as strong this year as that surface look at his numbers would indicate. He’s got a 2.25 ERA, but he’s allowed four unearned runs in his 12 innings of work. Like Kelly, he faced the Cards twice in September last year and also gave up three runs in each of those games (6.2 innings and five innings).
The Redbirds have usually enjoyed seeing Peralta take the mound, though as a young pitcher he is continuing to improve. It’s a small sample size, but given his past success and the slight uptick we’ve seen out of him in the last few days, perhaps it’s Allen Craig‘s day to break out. We can hope!
Enjoy the afternoon baseball!