The Sunday Cycle

Current Record- 52-37, First Place- NL Central

Single- Hats off to the NL leading Brewers for sending four very deserving all-stars to Minneapolis for the mid-summer classic. Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Gomez earned the fan-voted starting nods, with Francisco Rodriguez and Jonathan Lucroy were selected by their peers to the NL roster. This is the first time since 2007 that the Brewers will be sending four to the All-star game, and they are the only NL squad with more than one starter. All four are very deserving, and I don’t believe there were any major snubs. I would’ve loved to see Kyle Lohse get the call as well, but with limited spots for pitchers and representation spread out across relievers and starters, I understand the omission. I’m really looking forward to watching these guys duke it out next week- I think it’s the first time in many years that the Brewers on the roster will feel like they’re playing for a little something extra in home field advantage for the World Series, but I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself.

Double- The All Star roster announcement was probably very well timed, as the Brewers are coming off their worst week of the season, dropping a two game series to the Blue Jays before losing two of three to the Reds, who seem to have the Brewers number this year. The Brewers team that led the NL in a cornucopia of different hitting stats during June seemed to disappear, as scoring runs became somewhat of an issue this past week. Even worse, just as he seemed to actually be turning the corner, Ryan Braun exited yesterday’s game with back spasms; he had been riding a nice 8-game hitting streak prior to the Red’s series, including five multi-hit games. Hopefully the three All Stars will be eager to show they deserve the spot they were awarded and inject some life back into the bats. With seven games before the All Star Break (including a HUGE series next weekend against the Cardinals), and the divisional lead down to 4.5, the Brewers need to close out the first half of the season on a high note.

Triple- It was especially hard to watch the Brewers lose four of five this week when the starting pitching was good enough to win three of the four losses. Over the five games last week, the starters had a combined ERA of 3.39, which is typically solid enough to post a record better than 1-4. Credit Matt Garza for tossing his first complete game shutout since his no-hitter in 2010; the Brewers needed every pitch of it as they escaped that game with a 1-0 win. I think this start by Garza is the reason they went out and made the big money signing this year. He really is capable of that kind of an outing every time he steps on the mound. So why does the pitching get the triple in the cycle and the hitting get the double during the worst week of the season? Because good starting pitching is what defines playoff teams. We’ve seen what the Brewers bats are capable of doing when they get hot, so I’m optimistic that this week could have just as easily swung 3-2 in the Brewers favor had the bats been a tad more timely.

HR- It can’t all be sunshine and roses during a 1-4 week, and with that I’ll end today’s cycle with what I believe to be a very real issue with this team. The bullpen is quickly fading, and they need help. The Brewers pen was dominant in April and May, but with the extended absence of Tyler Thornberg, the inability to pitch Wei Chung Wang in any meaningful games, and the inability of Brandon Kintzler to get out of an inning unscathed, they are starting to look overworked and outmatched. Even the most reliable of them all, Will Smith, has had a rough couple of outings lately, highlighted by issuing today’s brutal go ahead two-run home run to Jay Bruce, the first multi-base hit he’s issued to a left hander all year (a streak that is insane given Smith was brought on to only face lefties the first three months of the season). K-rod hasn’t been used in over a week, which is always bad news for a closer. Maybe it’s the faltering bullpen, or maybe it’s the A’s making it clear that they are all in for a world series bid this year, but I don’t see a scenario in which the Brewers don’t make some kind of a move before the trade deadline to address one of the very real weaknesses on this team. While that move could address the need for a bench player, or a bit more experience in the outfield, I think the Brewers would be best suited in signing a veteran setup man before the books are closed on July 31st.