The Sunday Cycle
Current Record- 59-47, First Place- NL Central
Single- The Brewers were able to put together a very nice 5-2 week by sweeping the Reds in a divisional series and splitting four games against the Mets. They remain on top of the NL Central by two games, and are atop the NL team standings with 59 wins. After the struggles before the all-star game and last week’s series loss against the Nationals, 5-2 is an outstanding home stand. Friday night’s game, however, left a bitter taste in my mouth. Leading 2-0 going into the ninth, Francisco Rodriguez blew the save after Yovanni Gallardo’s strongest outing of the year. The Mets regained the lead before K-Rod was able to record a single out. Admittedly, I’m nervous about Rodriguez in the closer role and have been for some time. He has a 5.08 ERA over his last 30 innings, and has allowed six earned runs in eight innings in July. At times he just doesn’t seem to have the “mow them down” mentality you want in a closer. It will be interesting to see how the last two months play out should a healthy Jim Henderson return to last year’s form. I wouldn’t hate seeing the once unhittable 8th inning K-rod / 9th inning Henderson tandem as we get into the autumn months.
Double- On the same subject, as Thursday’s trade deadline draws near, many people expect Doug Melvin to make some sort of move to make this team better before they begin their playoff run. Many people have argued that the Brewers need another bullpen arm, but I would disagree, and it appears that Doug Melvin does too when he stated there was nobody available to trade for that would be better than a healthy Jim Henderson. That’s a bold statement. While the pen has struggled lately, the recent addition of the flame throwing Jeremy Jeffress has already begun to pay off, as Jeffress topped out at 100MPH on his fastball in two straight scoreless appearances. Assuming Henderson continues to work his way back in the minors, and Tyler Thornberg is able to make his way back to the roster before September, I don’t really see a need for another bullpen pitcher. Combine that group with the situational excellence of Zach Duke and Will Smith, and I’d argue this is a group that will be tough to crack down the stretch. Where should Melvin make his move then? I say first base, and I like Justin Morneau now that Seth Smith is off the radar. Look for any moves made to be discussed thoroughly in next week’s cycle; I do hope they do something.
Triple- I worry about the Brewer’s tendency to over rely on the long ball. While it certainly helped them win a number of games this week, it can also be the death of a team when they get into a rut. Perhaps due to the summer heat and humidity, the Brewers have hit a lot of home runs and won a lot of ball games during the months of July and August over the past five seasons. While you can only hope that the Brewers continue to stay loose and knock the ball out of the park on a nightly basis, I worry that the need to hit home runs in order to plate runners is going to hurt them when the air gets cold in September. It’s that “swing for the fences” mentality that can lead to players trying to do too much and win the game with one swing of the bat. Let’s hope the Brewers can stay patient when the long ball escapes them and still find a way to plate runs.
HR- Chants of MVP rang through Miller Park Saturday night as Jonathan Lucroy hit an off the wall two out double to put the Brewers ahead for good. Perhaps it was his second career walk off home run last Tuesday that started to get the Milwaukee fans thinking about their second team MVP in four years. Whatever it may be, Lucroy has been making a name for himself all year and is showing no signs of slowing down after the break. He continues to rank amongst the top five catchers for pretty much every offensive statistic known to man (BA, OPS, Hits, 2B, HR, etc), and is in the top ten for a number of key defensive areas such as baserunners caught stealing, fielding percentage, and defensive runs saved. Beyond just the statistics, he has come up with clutch hits time and time again this year, and the Brewers young pitchers continue to sing his praises from a leadership standpoint. To get in the MVP discussion, Lucroy will need to get hot again towards the end of the year and bump up his batting average back to that .320 level. For now, he continues to be the Brewers MVP and a huge reason why this team continues to contend.