Current Record– 73-63, Tie, 1st Place- NL Central
Single- Let’s begin this week with a bit of lighthearted and encouraging news. The Brewers acquired right-handed reliever Jonathan Broxton from the Reds for two players to be named later. Broxton is a 10-year veteran that has been pitching well all year, sporting a 1.86 ERA in 51 innings of relief. I like this move for a number of reasons. First, “players to be named later” typically implies it will not cost the Brewers any current roster members or top prospects. Second, Broxton is under contract for 2015, so the Brewers will get to keep his arm heading into next year’s campaign. Broxton is not susceptible to the home run ball that has plagued the Brewer’s bullpen as of late, allowing just three all year. WIth the acquisition of Gerardo Parra at the non-waiver deadline, and the addition of Broxton today, I think the Brewers front office has sent a message to their players that they’re willing to make moves and invest in this year. Unfortunately, front office management can only do so much, and it is unlikely that a middle reliever will be able to single handedly turn this team around.
Double- The sky is falling. Alright, now that I got that off my chest, I’m going to refuse to push the panic button at this point in time. The Brewers find themselves on a five game losing streak that has been ugly on all fronts. As a result, they are in a dead tie for first place in the NL Central with the Cardinals, who are not exactly playing good baseball themselves. Slowly creeping up in the standings are the Pirates, who will enter play tomorrow three games back. To start the analysis of the five-game skid, I’m going to go back to where it all began on Tuesday night with Francisco Rodriguez’s fifth blown save of the year. Now, my rant: you can look at K-rod’s 39 saves, good for fourth best in the major leagues, and ask how the Brewers could possibly take away his closing privileges. However anyone who has watched the majority of those saves knows that they are never clean, and Rodriguez nearly always makes a battle out of a closing situation, even in two and three run situations. There are three closers with more saves than K-rod, and they have allowed two, three, and three home runs respectively; Rodriguez has allowed 12. Also important to note- only one closer in the top 10 saves leaders has a higher ERA than Rodriguez. Blown saves are one of the most deflating ways to lose a game, and Tuesday night’s loss set the town for this week’s downward spiral.
Triple- You can’t hang three subsequent losses on a closing pitcher. The Brewers went in to San Francisco and turned in some embarrassing team performances featuring shoddy defense, a lack of production from the top of the lineup, and some dismal starting pitching on Friday and Sunday. The scoreboard will only show three errors in the series, but there were at least five more plays that fall under the “should have been made” category that extended innings against a red hot Giants team that was able to execute defensively all weekend. With regards to the top of the lineup, the Brewers 1-4 hitters went a combined 8-43 in the three losses. They’ll need to find a way to get on track against the Cubs, but may have to do it without Carlos Gomez, who exited today’s game with left wrist soreness on one of his patented tornado-style swing and misses. Peralta and Lohse got rocked; Wily allowed 6 earned runs in just 3 innings of work, and Lohse allowed 7 in 5.2. With every subsequent loss, the pressure grows for the next day’s starting pitcher to reverse their team’s fortunes. Jimmy Nelson will get the chance to do just that tomorrow in what may be his final start before Roenicke has to decide who to keep in his five-man rotation.
Home Run- The Home Run section of the Sunday Cycle is supposed to be reserved for the most important observation of the prior week of Brewers baseball. While this has been the most disappointing stretch of the Brewer’s season, what is most important at this point is the month that lies ahead. Here’s where we stand at the end of August: a tie for first place with the Cardinals, a schedule that features 22 of the remaining 26 games against NL Central teams, and a Brewers club that will need to prove that the five month streak of being in first place was no fluke. The front office has done their part, adding two much-needed pieces in Parra and now Broxton. The Brewers will likely also call up more players than in years past. Anyone that has a standout quality (speed, defensive range, success vs righties or lefties, etc.) will be added to the roster. Anything to mixup the current chemistry of this downtrodden club house, at this point, could be a blessing. 162 games is a very, very long season; the Brewers will get every opportunity this month to prove they’re a first place ball team worthy of a division crown. Here’s to hoping they make the best of it.