Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Milwaukee Brewers Opening Series — Heartbreaking, in More Ways than One

with 6 comments

The Milwaukee Brewers “Opening Series” has ended after the Brewers lost today, 1-0, against the Atlanta Braves. Today’s loss means the Braves take the series, 2-1, and that the Brewers scored only four runs in three games.

Yep. You read that right.

Four runs. In three games.


What’s sad about today’s game is that Brewers right-hander Matt Garza took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Garza only lost it after giving up a home run to Atlanta Braves third baseman Chris Johnson at the 6 and 2/3 innings mark — but that was all the Braves needed due to the impressive performance of Aaron Harang (who took his own no-hit bid into the sixth also) and the relievers who followed him.

Now, could the Brewers have scored some runs today? Yes, they could have. But they had only two innings in which to do so — the third, where Lyle Overbay stood on second base and Carlos Gomez had a chance to drive him in (but didn’t), and the seventh, where Ryan Braun stood on third with Aramis Ramirez on first with only one out. Jonathan Lucroy, the Brewers best clutch hitter after Ramirez and Braun, couldn’t even hit the ball into the outfield for a sacrifice fly, instead popping it up weakly to the second baseman (infield fly rule)  — then, with two outs, Ron Roenicke sent up Rickie Weeks as a pinch-hitter for Scooter Gennett, and Weeks promptly struck out.

What Roenicke needed to have the Brewers do in the seventh was this: Bunt. A suicide squeeze might’ve tied that game up, and the way the Brewers pitchers were going, we might be in extra innings right now.  Gennett was the right guy to get that done, as he has speed and his bat control last year was excellent.

Instead, Roenicke sent up Weeks. The results were predictable. Weeks did what Weeks generally does: he struck out, albeit on seven pitches. (He nearly took a walk. But nearly doesn’t count.)

Mind you, if Roenicke had just made out his lineup card slightly differently, and had put Overbay sixth instead of eighth, Overbay would’ve been up instead of Gennett (or Weeks) in the seventh. And there was a good chance that Overbay, unlike Weeks or Gennett, would’ve been able to successfully take a walk and extend the inning. With the bases loaded, anything could’ve happened.

But that’s water under the bridge, considering Roenicke for whatever reason decided to use Gennett instead of Overbay in the six spot.

What’s frustrating to me as a Brewers fan is that just a few, small changes would’ve won today’s game.

Granted, it’s much easier to manage a team from an armchair — I will admit this freely — but I do not understand why anyone would put Weeks into a clutch situation. Weeks has clearly lost his speed, he can’t catch up to the fastball, and his situational hitting skills are atrocious. He’s the last guy you want up in a 1-0 game with two guys on and two outs.

In fact, I’d rather have had a pitcher come in to try for a suicide squeeze — someone like Kyle Lohse, last night’s starter (who pitched more than well enough to win, providing the Brewers had just managed to score a few more runs) — than sent Weeks up there to strike out.

One thing is clear. The Brewers are not hitting yet.

But if they don’t start hitting, and soon, it’s going to be a very, very long year. No matter how good the starting pitchers are.


6 Responses

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  1. Braun isn’t that fast, and they brought in Avilan specifically for Weeks (PH him was a good call, but the Braves countered with their specialist). Can’t pinch hit for a pinch hitter.


    April 3, 2014 at 1:01 am

    • True enough, Jason. Once Weeks is in, you can’t get rid of him unless he somehow gets hurt — that’s the only way a PH can be pinch-hit _for_ — but why Roenicke brought him in at all was what I didn’t get.

      Gennett *is* fast. He also is good at getting down squeeze bunts. And the way the Brewers haven’t been hitting, a suicide squeeze was the best chance the Brewers had at actually scoring on Wednesday.

      Weeks has clearly lost almost all of his speed, though it’s possible that if he actually hits an extra-base hit, he’ll be able to accelerate OK. (We haven’t seen much of that from Weeks thus far, or anyone else, either. Only Ramirez really is hitting, and Braun has hit a bunch of hard balls right at people. That’s about it.)

      Barb Caffrey

      April 3, 2014 at 2:11 am

      • The object, with one out, isn’t about getting the runner to first but the man on third to home. They could have pinch-run for Braun (a better choice, but still not the right one) but then you lose a potent bat out of the line-up.So pinch hitting Weeks, as horrible as it seemed in retrospect, was a good call at the time.


        April 3, 2014 at 7:41 am

      • I replied below, Jason. WordPress was being awful.

        The short reply is that in retrospect, both you and Roenicke are right. There was a factor that Roenicke knew about and I didn’t — Braun has tweaked his thumb again, and there’s no way Roenicke would’ve wanted to risk a possible collision at home plate under the circumstances.

        I gave a lot more detail underneath, though, if you want to see why I was so disgusted. (Lucroy made the second out; Weeks made the third.)

        Barb Caffrey

        April 4, 2014 at 5:10 pm

  2. Jason, the problem was that Weeks made the last out in the inning (I said that, too). Jonathan Lucroy needed to hit a sacrifice fly or get a hit, but instead he popped out (infield fly rule), making the second out. That’s why I said, in a game like that where you’d just had two no-hitters broken up (clearly a pitcher’s day where no one was going to be able to score a lot of runs) that I’d have risked the suicide squeeze.

    Braun isn’t slow. He’s not the fastest guy on the team, no — that’s probably Logan Schafer, with Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura right behind — but Braun is not slow. He’s not who I’d normally want to try to score on a suicide squeeze, and I think in retrospect the reason Roenicke did not consider this as an option was because apparently, Braun has already tweaked the same thumb he had a problem with last year, and if you have to slide (which you’d think Braun would’ve, in a potential suicide squeeze situation), that might’ve really messed things up.

    I agree with you that Roenicke probably did the best he could. He didn’t expect Lucroy to pop up weakly to make the second out with Braun standing on third and Ramirez at first. That was the decisive play of the inning.

    To be fair to Roenicke also, Weeks had a very good Spring Training. He is hitting better than he did last year, at least as far as his mechanics go. His main problem is going to be compensating for his lack of speed, as Weeks before his various injuries was among the fastest guys on the team — but now, he’s right down there with Lyle Overbay and Ramirez (Mark Reynolds may even be faster than Weeks, and Reynolds is not known for his speed, as I’m sure you’re aware — he’s known for his power instead).

    My best guess is that Roenicke was hoping that Weeks would be able to get the ball out of the infield somehow and that Braun would score. Weeks is a better candidate for an actual hit than Gennett, at least for now, and that’s probably why Roenicke did what he did.

    I also agree, now that I know that Braun had already tweaked his thumb (he DH’d today in Boston and went 0 for 5), that Roenicke probably would’ve had to put in a pinch runner for him if he’d have wanted to try a squeeze play. The best pinch runners available would’ve been pitchers. The Brewers are only carrying four real OFs, and Davis had already pinch-hit for Schafer, meaning only three OFs were available (Braun being one of the three). So sending a pitcher in to pinch run would’ve meant Jeff Bianchi would’ve had to go to the OF, and he’s not very good out there.

    Anyway, in retrospect, Roenicke did the right thing. I was just frustrated, because I didn’t know that Braun was injured. That changes everything, but Roenicke doesn’t like to let the opposing managers know much, which is why we fans know almost nothing.

    Barb Caffrey

    April 4, 2014 at 5:09 pm

  3. […] night’s contest against the St. Louis Cardinals (which the Brewers lost by a score of 4-0). After my blog post bemoaning the Brewers’ lack of hitting in their opening series against the Atlanta Braves, the Brewers started to […]

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