As frequent followers of the Sunday Cycle are aware, I take a number of different approaches to my weekly recap of all things related to the Milwaukee Brewers. Occasionally, I stray a bit from the play on the field in order to write something substantial. Let’s be honest, when the Brewers are playing poorly, there’s not a lot to write that people care to read about.
This week was not one of those weeks. In fact, the Cubs series alone provided me with enough content for the entire week. So despite the Brewers getting swept in a competitive but ultimately disappointing series against the Mets, I had a number of valuable takeaways from the Brewers impressive series win against the “best team in baseball”.
Chase Anderson’s near-no hitter was one of the most exciting Brewers games in years.
I’ve got to admit, I thought it was going to happen. I really really did. I had not planned on watching Tuesday night’s series opener against the Cubs. I started the evening with dinner with my girlfriend at a local East Side watering hole, the game on multiple TVs in the background. After about 45 minutes of casual glancing, I started to pick up on just how good Chase Anderson was pitching. I ended up racing home during the 5th inning to try to catch the end of the potentially historic game.
Anderson would end up losing the perfect game with a walk in the bottom of the 6th, and the no hitter on the first pitch of the 8th inning. He would come within one pitch of a complete game shutout before giving up back to back home runs with two outs in the ninth. Jeremy Jeffress was brought into the game and earned a one-out save to cap a 4-2 Brewers win.
The Brewers have just one no-hitter in franchise history, and it game from Juan Nieves in 1987, three years before I was born. Given the lower than usual expectations for this year’s Brewers team, the first Brewers no-hitter of my entire life would have been a huge gift for a fan base that’s looking for a reason to stay interested while the Brewers work through this rebuild. Unfortunately, despite pitching an absolute gem of a game, the wait continues for Brewers fans.
I strongly disagreed with two decisions that Craig Counsell made during the Brewer’s extra inning loss.
Before stepping on my soap box, let me say that I rarely write about in-game decisions I disagree with. On top of that, I am a HUGE fan of Craig Counsell, his managerial style, and the role he is playing for this rebuild. All that being said, he made two decisions on Wednesday night that ultimately (in my opinion) cost his team the game.
The first came in the bottom of the 12th inning, when Chris Carter reached base on an error with no outs. At 245 lbs, Chris Carter is a BIG guy. He’s likely the slowest guy on the Brewers 25-man roster; so I couldn’t believe Counsell didn’t pinch hit for him as the potential game winning run as soon as he got on base. The broadcast crew pointed out that at the time, Counsell was running out of bench players that could have been used to run in that situation, but I disagreed then and I disagree now. Counsell had four starting pitchers, all of whom could get between the bases quicker than the Brewer’s heaviest position player.
Two walks loaded up the bases with no outs for the Brewers. At that point, one could argue that the Brewer’s inability to score is 100% on the players. I would argue, however, that the Brewers weren’t able to call on a sacrifice or suicide squeeze in that situation because Chris Carter wasn’t quick enough to execute it. Three straight shallow pop flies allowed the Cubs to extend the game another inning.
In the top of the 12th, Counsell made another questionable call that ended up backfiring. With one out and runners on first and second base, the Brewer’s skipper elected to intentionally walk Miguel Montero and load up the bases. The Cubs, out of position players to pinch hit, sent pitcher Travis Wood (a lifetime .181 hitter) up to the plate. Carlos Torres, pitching for the Brewers at the time, caved under the extra inning bases-loaded pressure and walked in the eventual game winning run- Wood never even took a swing. Obviously hindsight is 20/20, but at the time (about 11:30PM on a work night) I didn’t like putting the pressure of loading the bases on Torres. Counsell could’ve had Torres pitch around Montero carefully as opposed to walking him intentionally to get to the pitcher.
Again, I think it’s important to note that I am a huge fan of Craig Counsell, and I think the Brewers have won many games over the past year because of how he manages this team. That being said, I put Wednesday’s extra inning loss at least partially on Counsell, who I don’t think read the situation properly.
The Thursday comeback win says a lot about this team, especially after the way they lost Wednesday night.
The Brewers lost a 13 inning game that extended just past midnight on Thursday morning, and turned around 12 hours later to play a rubber match. While it was technically a home game, a friend of mine described Miller Park as being filled with 70% Cubs fans. And while every professional sports organization will tell you that they go out and try to win every single day, you would have thought that Craig Counsell was writing the game off when you saw his lineup; no Braun, no Lucroy, and no Domingo Santana.
The Brewers won Wednesday afternoon. They played comeback baseball, down 2-0 after two innings, and rallied behind rookie starting pitcher Junior Guerra, who is now 3-0 with a 3.96 ERA. Guerra settled down and threw seven solid innings, Michael Blazek held the Cubs scoreless in the 8th, and Tyler Thornberg earned his first career save, pitching in place of Jeremy Jeffress who had thrown in five straight games.
In the grand scheme of things, it was just one win. But to me, it was a series win against a team with the best record in baseball, who happens to shuttle all of their obnoxious fans up to our stadium so they can take advantage of cheap tickets. It was a win just twelve hours removed from a heart wrenching loss that cost the Brewers a chance to win the series after two games and set themselves up for the sweep. It was a win in which the Brewers new faces were left to fend for themselves without their All Star veterans.
It was only one series, but when your division rival’s fans take over your home ball park, and that team has twice as many wins as yours does, it’s easy to get carried away. For me, the entire series was the closest thing to playoff baseball that this team is going to go through this year. And for once, it was nice to see the Brewers on the winning side of things.