Archive for the ‘baseball’ Category
The Milwaukee Brewers haven’t been playing well lately, to put it mildly. After losing more than they’ve won since the All-Star Break (with a record of 22-28 starting tonight’s action), the Brewers have needed wins in the worst way.
Enter starting pitcher Mike Fiers. Fiers has been brilliant since being brought up from AAA Nashville a month ago; he’s now won six games and lost only one, with an ERA of 1.74. More importantly still, Fiers has struck out 54 while walking only 10, and before tonight’s game had hit no batters. None.
What a difference one game makes.
With the Brewers up, 4-0, in the top of the 5th, Miami’s RF Giancarlo Stanton came up to the plate in a high-pressure situation. There were two outs and a runner stood on first; as Stanton leads the National League in both HRs (37) and RBI (105), he’s obviously someone Milwaukee — and Fiers — took very seriously.
Fiers was in an 0-1 count before he threw a pitch up and in to Stanton — the pitch that hit Stanton in the face, causing a nasty, gruesome injury with a great deal of facial bleeding. After several long, tension-filled minutes, Stanton was taken off the field in an ambulance cart, and the game resumed with an 0-2 count to emergency pinch hitter Reed Johnson.
Now, I’m a Brewers fan, but I honestly don’t understand why Stanton wasn’t awarded first base after getting hit in the face. Yes, he swung — a defensive swing, because his body was already in motion, trying to avoid the ball coming at his face — but the most important thing was that Stanton got hit in the face.
Everyone in the ballpark, much less every fan watching the Marlins-Brewers game, knows that.
Anyway, Johnson stepped into the batter’s box, and he, too, was hit by a pitch — this time on the hand. Again, there’s a defensive swing . . . again, the umps call a strike, and this time call it a strikeout due to a dead ball (the ball hitting Johnson’s hand, that is).
So even though the box score will not show that Fiers actually hit two batters, anyone with eyes knows good and well that Fiers first hit Stanton, a genuine MVP candidate for the NL, in the face. (Was it intentional? Of course not. But the fact remains that Fiers hit him.) Then, after the umps did not award Stanton first base as they should’ve, Johnson stood in there against Fiers and Fiers threw it in more or less the same place — up and in — this time grazing Johnson on the hand.
The benches cleared after the second hit batsman, which is somewhat sensible. Former Brewer Casey McGehee, who knows Fiers, came out and yelled — either at the umps for not sending Stanton’s replacement to first base right off the bat, or for the umps perhaps crediting Fiers with the oddest “strikeout” I’ve ever seen . . . or maybe at Fiers**, who is known for being a control pitcher as his fastball tops out around 88 mph (which is very slow for MLB, these days). McGehee was ejected, as was Miami’s manager Mike Redmond, and everyone else was sent back to their respective dugouts to cool off.
I reiterate: I don’t believe Fiers was trying to hit Stanton. Nor, for the record, do I think Fiers was trying to hit Reed Johnson, either.
But the fact of the matter is, Fiers hit two guys on two successive pitches, one right after the other. And the umps didn’t send either one of them to first base.
Instead, both benches were warned that if anyone else was hit, the manager and pitcher would be concurrently ejected.
The Marlins did retaliate, of course, despite the umpire’s warning.
With two outs and no one on in the sixth, reliever Anthony DeSclafani promptly hit CF Carlos Gomez on the left elbow on the first pitch. And as expected, DeSclafani was immediately ejected, along with acting manager/bench coach Rob Leary.
The rest of the game was an afterthought, as it was obvious both teams were far more worried about Stanton’s injury than they were in finishing this game out. So while the Brewers did “win” this game, it didn’t really feel like one.
As for postgame reaction?
Both Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and Fiers said during comments to the media as shown by Fox Sports Wisconsin during their “Brewers Live” postgame telecast that they both hope Stanton will be all right — and of course Fiers wasn’t trying to throw at Stanton (or Johnson, either).
Marlins manager Mike Redmond’s postgame comments were also shown by Fox Sports Wisconsin. Redmond said that anyone being upset at the Marlins for being angry that their MVP Stanton’s season has probably ended due to terrible hit to the face isn’t being honest with themselves, because any team would be upset under these circumstances. And that he, personally, was very upset that Fiers hit two guys in a row with two pitches, but neither Marlin was awarded first base.
I think Redmond’s comments are understandable. I hope he knows that Fiers would not hit Stanton in the face intentionally, because Fiers isn’t that type of guy at all — he’s worked too long and too hard to get back to the major leagues after his mother’s untimely passing last year due to complications from lupus. But losing your MVP to a freak thing like that? I’d be upset, too, especially considering how Fiers hit Johnson on the next pitch in the hand, with neither of them being called a HBP by home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg.
Anyway, that was a very weird game, and a very odd victory that doesn’t at all feel like something the Brewers should celebrate.
Before I go, here’s the most current update on Stanton’s condition from MLB’s Joe Frisaro, one of the beat writers for the Miami Marlins. Frisaro Tweeted this in regards to Stanton’s injuries just a few minutes ago:
#Marlins Giancarlo Stanton suffered a facial laceration requiring stitches, multiple facial fractures and dental damage
Obviously this is terrible news . . . certainly not the news I’d hoped to hear, especially considering the early news from the Marlins only said “facial laceration.” (Which, admittedly, seemed ludicrous. I suspected a broken orbital bone or possibly a broken cheekbone, considering, and “facial laceration” seemed remarkably light.) This will end Stanton’s season in a truly freakish way, something no one — not Mike Fiers, not the Brewers faithful, not anyone affiliated with the Marlins and certainly no one around MLB itself — wanted.
My hope now is that Stanton will make a quick recovery and be ready to go during Spring Training 2015.
**Fiers looked wild all game. Perhaps the colder-than-average weather didn’t help, as it was 50 degrees at game time . . . yes, the Brewers have a domed stadium, and the roof was closed, but that damp cold still seeps in and it does affect the pitchers.
##A personal update: I am recovering from surgery, and posts have been few and far between for the past week because of that. But I couldn’t let this one go by . . . really hope Stanton will be OK down the road, and had hoped that somehow he would escape serious injury.
Folks, I’d hoped to write a post tonight about P.G. Wodehouse, which is the second of my “Learning from the Fiction Masters” blogs. However, that needs must be postponed as I have lots of work at the moment and very little time to do it in . . . I apologize, but I’m going to make this a bi-weekly series for the time being, and will have a new blog in this series up next Friday instead.
Anyway, I do have a few quick hits for you, updates regarding previous blog posts about sports. So here we go!
- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has changed his mind about domestic violence. Instead of the piddly two-game suspension Goodell gave to Ray Rice for hitting his then-fiancée and dragging her off an elevator (I wrote about this here), new domestic violence offenders will be penalized six games for the first offense, and have a lifetime ban after the second — but the lifetime ban is a qualified one, meaning the offender can try for reinstatement after a year away from football (and presumably improving his life in some way). This is good news, and I applaud Goodell for taking a step in the right direction.
But Ray Rice still got over, and I remain deeply unhappy about that.
- Chris Kluwe had filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota Vikings over the way special teams coach Mike Priefer behaved during the 2012 season (I discussed Priefer’s behavior in this blog, though I did not discuss the lawsuit as I was waiting for a resolution there — or perhaps for the trial to start, take your pick.) The Vikings initially were going to fight Kluwe, but instead have settled with him. The proceeds of this lawsuit are going to several LGBT and transgender charities, and are believed to exceed $100,000 (but are perhaps shy of the cool million dollars Kluwe’s lawyer was initially asking for); none of it benefits Kluwe directly in any way.
I see no losers in this deal.
- I continue to watch the Milwaukee Brewers, 2014 edition, and am cautiously optimistic that they can win the National League Central division. (Despite them stinking up the field thus far tonight in San Francisco, where as of this writing they are down, 6-1, in the bottom of the 4th.) The best position player thus far has probably been Jonathan Lucroy, and the best and most consistent starting pitcher all season long has been Kyle Lohse. (Don’t get fooled by Wily Peralta’s current pitching record of 15-8. Peralta can be very good, or very awful, and tonight he was awful as he gave up six earned runs.)
Mind, I am worried about the relief pitching. Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez has been giving up homers lately in his save opportunities, and blew a save on Wednesday precisely because of that. Will Smith has looked good again lately, but has had a ton of appearances; so have Zach Duke and Brandon Kintzler and most of the rest of the Brewers bullpen.
At some point, the Brewers pitchers may hit the wall, collectively. (We’re already seeing that with Peralta, and may have seen signs of that already with Smith, Duke and Kintzler.) If that happens, and the Brewers cannot bring up fresh and experienced arms, that will imperil the Brewers playoff chances — much less their chances to win the NL Central.
Oh, and as for folks wondering what I’m up to with regards to reviewing books over at Shiny Book Review? I hope to review something tomorrow, but it still won’t be “Mad Mike” Williamson’s excellent FREEHOLD. (I want more time and energy than I currently have to discuss that book. Let’s just say, for now, that I really have enjoyed my re-read and that it’s unlikely any fans of Mad Mike will be displeased by anything I have to say.)
It’s more likely that I will review a romance of some sort for Romance Saturday, even though I’m not exactly sure what at this point…still, I will find something, and we’ll all know tomorrow!
Thus far in 2014, the Milwaukee Brewers have played exceptionally well. They have led the National League Central division since early April, they have the best record in the entire National League at 52-38, and they’re sending four people to the All-Star game next week: CF Carlos Gomez and 3B Aramis Ramirez will be starters, as they won the fan vote, while C Jonathan Lucroy and closer Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez are also on the squad, voted in by the players.
And as such, they’ve received massive media publicity. So you’d wonder why I’d want to blog about them (especially if you don’t already realize I’m a big Brewers fan) . . . but I have noticed five interesting things about Milwaukee’s season thus far that I felt were worthy of sharing.
1) Baserunning errors need to be minimized.
Look. The Brewers are a very good team, no lie. But they’d be even better if they didn’t make stupid mistakes on the basepaths.
Last night’s game was a case in point. Milwaukee lost to Philadelphia, 3-2, mostly because of three baserunning mistakes killing rallies: the worst was when Jean Segura got thrown out at third base in the fifth inning, just after Jeff Bianchi had delivered a pinch-hit single with the bases loaded to drive in two runs and get the Brewers on the board. Segura needed to stop at second base, but was overly aggressive and ended up getting thrown out at third by a mile.
Later, Ryan Braun delivered a double to start off the eighth inning, but was obviously hobbled due to injury. (Ryan Howard actually jogged alongside Braun while Braun made his slow way toward second base. I’ve never seen an opposing player do that before.) So Logan Schafer came in to pinch run for Braun, which was sensible . . . however, when Lucroy weakly hit a ball to the right side of the infield, Schafer should’ve stayed where he was.
But did he? Hell, no.
Instead, Schafer went with the pitch and was easily thrown out at third. So a promising rally was immediately snuffed out, and the Brewers went quietly.
Somehow, these baserunning blunders need to stop. Because it’s reasonable to assume the Brewers could’ve come up with one more run and tied the game, especially back in the fifth inning before Segura’s mistake . . . if they’d just shown some common sense.
2) The relief pitching has been stellar.
Every reliever the Brewers have, with the exception of Wei Chung-Wang, has been somewhere between good to outstanding. Rob Wooten pitched two scoreless innings last night, and he has the highest ERA of any bullpen pitcher who’s pitched regularly and not been hobbled by injury at 4.34. And the best of the lot have been Will Smith, whose 21 holds and 2.16 ERA are worthy of an All-Star game appearance, and of course K-Rod, who’s 27 saves in 30 opportunities leads all of baseball is going to the All-Star game, as he ought.
3) The hitting isn’t working on all thrusters.
You might be wondering how I can say that when the Brewers, in general, score a lot of runs. I’m well aware that Lucroy is having the best season, hitting-wise, he’s ever had, and Gomez has done well also. Ramirez and Braun are performing well despite some nagging injuries. Davis and Reynolds have respectable power numbers. In addition, Scooter Gennett has done better than anticipated, while Rickie Weeks has had a good bounce-back season thus far.
So why am I saying the hitting isn’t quite there yet? Well, it’s not just that Braun is obviously hobbled by injuries (so, too, is Davis, who went station-to-station on the basepaths last night, a clear sign that he isn’t running well). Jean Segura really hasn’t found himself at the plate at all. Schafer isn’t using his speed to leg out hits, as he should. Both Reynolds and Davis strike out far too much, and often look completely befuddled at the plate. And Lyle Overbay is mostly showing that while he still has value as a part-time player, he’s definitely in the twilight of his career.
4) The starting pitching, with one exception, has been solid.
Kyle Lohse has pitched like a bona fide ace all year. Matt Garza and Yovani Gallardo have both been solid #2 starters. Wily Peralta has looked much steadier than last year and has killer stuff, but I’m not yet certain he’ll ever be an ace. (He may top out at the same level as Gallardo — very good, but not quite an ace.)
The one exception, of course, is Marco Estrada. Estrada has given up many, many home runs, to the point that you could probably win a betting pool if you bet that Estrada was going to give up a HR to someone whenever he starts. He’s had some rough outings. And yet, he’s a smart and talented pitcher, so his lack of success, comparatively speaking, is baffling.
Is he a decent #5 starter? Sure. But Estrada has the potential to be much better than this.
Personally, if I had to bet on one player being traded any time soon, I’d bet on Estrada as that player, even over Rickie Weeks and Weeks’ bloated contract. Because Estrada has clearly underperformed, so another team may take a chance on straightening him out.
5) The defense has, with one exception, been much better than anticipated.
For the most part, the Brewers have had solid defense all season long. Reynolds, in particular, has been much, much better than anticipated, making many sparkling plays at both third and first base.
However, Khris Davis’s outfield play continues to perplex. Even before Davis’s recent injury that limits his speed on the bases and in the outfield, Davis doesn’t seem to know how to play left field very well. His arm is quite weak, and down the line, his ultimate position would probably be designated hitter as he does hit pretty well most of the time.
Even Weeks’s infield defense has improved, but nothing much seems to improve for Davis. He reminds me of the older Carlos Lee out there, before Lee was moved to first base, minus Lee’s obvious intelligence (Lee at least knew how to position himself in the outfield, most of the time, and Davis seems to lack that despite having superior coaching available).
As Davis is hurt right now, my advice would be for him to rest over the All-Star break. (Braun needs to do that, too.) Then, after that, Davis needs to listen to Gomez and Braun and Schafer, who are all much better outfielders than Davis will ever be, and try to learn from them. Davis also needs to listen to coach John Shelby, who was an excellent defensive outfielder in his time, and do whatever Shelby and his fellow outfielders tell him to do.
Maybe that way, Davis will improve.
In summation, the Brewers have to limit their baserunning mistakes. They need better pitching from Estrada, or to acquire a solid and serviceable fifth starter. They need better defense, by far, from Davis. They need better hitting from Segura and Overbay and they need to get healthy.
Otherwise, everyone needs to keep doing what they are. Because that’s the way to win baseball games and get to the playoffs . . . maybe even the World Series. (One can dream, anyway.)
Last night’s baseball game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Arizona Diamondbacks was notable for two things: a grand-slam homer by Jonathan Lucroy that won the game for the Brewers, and an “unintentional” plunking of Ryan Braun that served to load the bases for Lucroy.
Let me break it down for you.
The Brewers were down, 4-3, in the top of the 7th inning. Two men (Scooter Gennett and Lyle Overbay) were standing on second and third base, and Ryan Braun was at the plate. There were two outs. Braun has been doing better lately, but right now, Lucroy is the better all-around hitter.
Anyway, the DBacks had a number of options. They could’ve intentionally walked Braun. They could’ve pitched to Braun. They could’ve given Braun an “unintentional” intentional walk — where they do try to pitch to Braun, but give him nothing worth having.
Instead, they threw at his backside. Twice.
The first pitch missed. The home plate umpire, Ted Barrett, went out to ask the DBacks pitcher, Evan Marshall, what occurred — Marshall clearly said something like, “It slipped,” so the ump went back behind the plate.
However, when Marshall threw again at Braun’s backside, this time hitting him, Barrett didn’t wait: he threw Marshall out immediately.
Marshall exited to fist-bumps from his own dugout and a standing ovation from many in the crowd. (Note that the Brewers play their Spring Training games in Arizona, so there were a goodly amount of Brewers fans in the audience. They definitely did not stand up; instead, they booed.)
Now, Jonathan Lucroy came to bat. He’d hit a solo home run in the sixth inning, is among the hottest hitters in baseball (currently is hitting .340, good for third in the league), and considering Braun is “only” hitting .284 at the moment (low by Braun’s standards), no one in his right mind would intentionally hit Braun to get to Lucroy.
And Lucroy delivered, just as you’d expect him to do. He hit a grand slam homer. And just like that, the Brewers went from being down, 4-3, to winning, 7-4. And they eventually won the game, 7-5.
All of Marshall’s posturing aside, it was obvious that Marshall intentionally threw at Braun. (The smirking Marshall insisted in the post-game interviews aired by Fox Sports Wisconsin that he’d not intended to hit Braun at all. But that’s just absurd.)
It’s also obvious from all the fist-bumping in the dugout that Kirk Gibson not only knew of Marshall’s plan, but Gibson must’ve approved of it. (How else would a guy who’s just lost the game and not even gotten one single batter out get fist-bumps from his own dugout?)
And finally, DBacks catcher Miguel Montero obviously knew of this plan as well, as both times he set his glove far inside, right behind Braun’s butt.**
Mind, Kyle Lohse did hit two DBacks earlier in the game — Didi Gregorious, and Chris Owings. But Lohse barely grazed Gregorious (in fact, I’m not even sure Lohse hit him, it was that light; he got him on the pant leg), and the pitch to Owings wasn’t anywhere near as blatant as that thrown at Braun — twice.
It’s well-known that Kirk Gibson does not like Ryan Braun, and blames Braun for the DBacks losing the NLCS to the Brewers in 2011. (Gibson seems to think that if Braun hadn’t been taking PEDs then, the DBacks would’ve won. An odd assumption.) So having Braun go to the plate and get hit, and having the unseemly display in the dugout after Marshall quite rightly got ejected from the game, seems like Gibson planned this particular event to the letter.
The only thing that failed was in having to pitch to Lucroy one batter later. Lucroy was fired up, as was everyone in the Brewers dugout. Had Lucroy not hit the grand-slam homer, it’s possible there could’ve been some ugliness between the two teams.
Fortunately, Lucroy hit the grand slam. The DBacks quieted down. The partisans in the crowd quieted also, while the Brewers fans rejoiced. And Milwaukee won the game because of Gibson’s stupidity in loading the bases to pitch to Lucroy, incompetence (enough said) and obvious hatred of Ryan Braun.
Braun said he was anticipating getting hit at some point, just not at that point.
“We know the way the game works. I wasn’t surprised I got hit,” Braun said. “I was surprised I got hit in that situation, those circumstances — go-ahead run at second base, tying run at third.”
Any speculation that Gibson may have wanted Braun because of the PED issue brings to mind Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster intentionally hitting the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez last August after Rodriguez was suspended 211 games by MLB. Dempster was suspended five games.
Asked if he thought the drug angle figured in Marshall’s pitch, Braun said: “You’d have to ask him (Gibson). I wish him the best, hope he finds peace and happiness in his life.”
Which, really, is all Braun can say.
All I know is this: What the Arizona Diamondbacks did yesterday in deliberately plunking Ryan Braun in the butt, then fist-bumping and high-fiving the pitcher, Evan Marshall, who did it (and promptly got ejected for it), was classless, shoddy, and stupid.
No wonder the DBacks are 30-44. Because acting like that, they’ve obviously proven themselves to be losers of the first water.
**Note: Expect suspensions for Marshall, Gibson, and possibly Montero. Because they’ve all earned them.
Folks, last night the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Baltimore Orioles in ten innings, 7-6. The Brewers sent up Yovani Gallardo, a pitcher scheduled to start Wednesday night’s ballgame, to pinch hit for closer Francisco Rodriguez, who’d been sent out at the top of the 10th to keep the game tied. Gallardo got a ringing double, missing a home run by maybe a foot, which drove home the winning run (Mark Reynolds, who’d been intentionally walked and was standing on first base).
This was a great game for the Brewers.
They weren’t perfect, but they got the job done. Jonathan Lucroy, of all people, tied the game up with an infield single in the bottom of the ninth (Lucroy is known for his clutch hitting and currently has a nine-game hitting streak, but he rarely gets infield hits). The bullpen was stellar, again, after starting pitcher Matt Garza fell apart in the 7th (though, admittedly, an error by SS Jean Segura didn’t help matters and prolonged the inning).
Still, what did I find when I went to look at the sports section at various Internet sites this morning? In addition to this fun story, there was something much darker.
According to Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin, OF Khris Davis actually had a threat made against his life via Twitter back when the Brewers were playing the Cubs in Chicago. (This was about ten days ago, give or take a few.) Davis said he reported it to Major League Baseball, and Melvin says it’s “been handled.”
No one should threaten anyone with death. Period. Not via Twitter, and not via any other means, either. This behavior is reprehensible. It cheapens every fan, everywhere, when someone makes death threats against a player for any reason.
In short, I’d like to see some common sense when it comes to baseball fans.
Yes, criticize the players for their play on the field when they make mistakes. Definitely compliment the players when they do something right — or better yet, something unexpected, like Gallardo’s walk-off double. Go ahead and exercise your freedom of speech as much as you like . . . but do not make death threats against players.
Folks, things continue to be very challenging around here, but I thought I’d try to catch you all up on what’s been going on with me over the past few days.
First, I just played a concert with the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Community Band on the clarinet. I was fortunate enough to have solo clarinet parts on two pieces (Gordon Jacob’s William Byrd Suite and Gioachino Rossini’s La Cambiale di Matrimonio), and my former clarinet teacher, Tim Bell — who’s been retired for several years now, but looks as youthful and energetic as ever — told me he thought I played well, which was very nice to hear.
The reason I am mentioning this concert, though, is because it was the final concert for Professor Mark Eichner, who’s been the Director of Bands at UW-Parkside for many years. Professor Eichner was my faculty advisor when I finished up my Bachelor’s degree at Parkside many moons ago, and also helped me rough out some musical compositions (Parkside did not have a composition teacher at that time, so Prof. Eichner was gracious enough to help me on an independent study basis); I couldn’t have had a better one.
The Community Band played as well as we ever have in order to salute Prof. Eichner and send him into retirement on a good note. (Pardon the pun.)
Best of all, Prof. Eichner received three standing ovations after the concert was over . . . no musician could’ve had a better send-off.
Next, I wanted to let you all know that author Dina von Lowenkraft has put up a blog for the most recent Blog Hop (called “4×4″ or “Four Questions for the Writer”) . . . please go check that out when you have time. (She had tagged me, as did Katharine Eliska Kimbriel; I discussed my own answers here.)
I am also happy to report that I read Eric Brown and Jason Cordova’s new novella KAIJU APOCALYPSE (which I discussed here) and actually reviewed it on Amazon. I enjoyed it; it’s a very quick read with a lot of action, very well-paced.
Other than that, though, it’s highly unlikely I’ll be reviewing anything over at Shiny Book Review (SBR) this weekend due to my cousin’s passing. But I should be back at it next week, so do stay tuned.
Aside from that, what’s going on with my favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers? Over the past week-plus, the Brewers have lost six of the last eight; before that, they’d started the season 20-7. Their record now stands at 22-13.
This is maddening mostly because the Brewers are not hitting very well. The starting pitchers have been really good to excellent with one exception (Matt Garza, I’m looking squarely at you), and the relievers have mostly been lights-out.
Still, I’m hoping the Brewers’ bats will get it together.
Before I go, it’s time for my weekly shameless plug: if you’re interested in buying something I wrote, or something my husband Michael wrote, please go to the “about Barb” page; there are links there that will get you to Amazon so you can purchase them to your heart’s content.
Enjoy your weekend, folks. (As for me, I intend to think about my cousin Jacki and reflect on her life, which was one well-lived.)