Led by Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, the Milwaukee Brewers displayed their hitting ability in Game 1 of the NLDS
by Josh Kipnis
Milwaukee's Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder are two of the hottest topics in the National League MVP discussion. And although postseason play cannot be considered in the debate, Braun and Fielder both proved why they are among the NL’s best hitters in the NLCS opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ starting pitching was dominant, to say the least, against the Philadelphia Phillies in last week’s NLDS. St. Louis gave up just six runs and five extra-base hits in the entire 5-game series versus Philly.
With little hope in mid-September, the St. Louis Cardinals somehow have managed to find their way into the NLCS for the fourth time in eight years. Meanwhile in Milwaukee, the Brewers will play in the NLCS for the first time in their history. Back in 1982, the Brewers played in the ALCS and defeated the California Angels to reach the World Series.
This series could not be much more evenly matched. The two teams split their 18 games this season and know each other so well. Both feature big boppers in the heart of the lineup and pretty good, but not great, starting pitching. The only real difference lies in the bullpens. The Brewers’ dependable bullpen gives Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke comfort in knowing his team is 81-1 with a lead after eight innings. Setup men Takashi Saito and Francisco Rodriguez in front of closer John Axford take the pressure off the Brewers’ starters to have to go more than six innings. The much-maligned Cardinals’ bullpen was shaky at best for much of the season. But there have been fewer better performances than the Redbirds’ relievers gave with six shutout innings in their Game 2 comeback win over Philadelphia.
Milwaukee has been the best team at home throughout the season, but rest assured, the Cardinals will not be intimidated. They just survived the Halladay-Lee-Hamels-Oswalt gauntlet and won Game 5 before a raucous crowd in Philadelphia. And since August 1, after both teams made final adjustments to their rosters, the Cardinals won seven of 12 meetings. No doubt this series will be a battle between these two familiar rivals of the National League Central.
The Cardinals’ offense, which led the NL in runs during the regular season, struggled with only 19 runs and two home runs in the five NLDS games.
Keys for St. Louis
The Cardinals must get quality innings from the bullpen. Manager Tony La Russa was able to play matchups and manage his way through some tough innings, especially in Game 2, against the Phillies. Unlike the Brewers. the Cardinals don’t have the consistent go-to guys late in the game. La Russa was a master at controlling matchups in the series with Philadelphia by mixing and matching his entire bullpen.
Keys for Milwaukee
As good as the Brewers have been at home this season, they lost both games at Arizona and didn’t look like the same team. So they must hold serve at home. It was also clear how much they rely on their stars, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. As the series with Arizona wore on, the Diamondbacks pitched around the two MVP candidates. Expect similar treatment from St. Louis, so the Brewers must have clutch performances from the supporting cast.
Cardinals to Watch
Albert Pujols is poised to break out this postseason. He hit the Phillies well enough to receive an intentional walk that loaded the bases with one out for Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday late in Game 5. Rafael Furcal will set the table and spark the offense. Look for Yadier Molina to provide a clutch bat.
Brewers to Watch
Expect Jerry Hairston, Corey Hart and Nyjer Morgan to step up in support of Braun and Fielder. Hairston had a good series against St. Louis in late August and was clutch in the Arizona series. Hart drove in 15 runs in only 16 games against the Redbirds while Morgan ignited the offense with a .393 OBP. Hart, who has batted leadoff since Rickie Weeks went down with an injury, may be moved to the No. 5 spot to protect Fielder.
Milwaukee Could make its First LCS since 1982 with a Game 4 Win.
The Milwaukee Brewers will look to make the club’s first League Championship Series since 1982 when they take the field in Game 4 of the NLDS tonight in Arizona. The Diamondbacks staved off elimination in Game 3 with an 8-1 victory behind a solid performance from pitcher Josh Collmenter and five RBIs from Paul Goldschmidt.
The St. Louis Cardinals couldn’t muster enough offense yesterday and face elimination in St. Louis today. Meanwhile, rookie Josh Collmenter pitched the Diamondbacks to a win over Milwaukee, allowing Arizona to live another day.
Milwaukee at Arizona
If we are to believe what we saw last night, the Diamondbacks will force a Game 5 back in Milwaukee, which they will promptly lose. You see, the Brewers are practically unbeatable at home, quite vulnerable on the road. Why? Not sure, but it certainly seems that way. Milwaukee won a major league best 57 games at home this season, yet were below .500 on the road. The Brewers managed just two hits and one run off starter Collmenter before the rookie gave way to David Hernandez and J.J. Putz, who were just getting a little work in more than anything else.
In the first two games, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder practically beat Arizona by themselves. But last night, Collmenter pitched them very carefully and was willing to put the game in Rickie Weeks’ hands. Braun walked in the first inning with two outs and Fielder was hit. Weeks couldn’t capitalize. Weeks is 1-for-10 with a walk in the series. Nyjer Morgan, who hits in front of Braun, is 1-for-11 with a pair of walks. That’s not the kind of support that will force the D’backs to pitch to the big bats.
A pair of veteran lefthanders —Randy Wolf for Milwaukee, and Arizona’s Joe Saunders — will oppose each other tonight as both teams get their first looks at southpaws in this series. Current Diamondbacks have hit Wolf well over the past three seasons. Justin Upton is 5-for-15 with two home runs and four walks. Ryan Roberts is 6-for-13 with a homer. Willie Bloomquist and Gerardo Parra are both 3-for-9.
The crafty Saunders held the Brewers to two runs back on July 20 before leaving down 2-0. The D’backs scored a couple to get him off the hook prior to Arizona losing in extra innings. Over the past two seasons, Saunders had held the Brewers down. Braun, with two homers in six at-bats, has had the most success.
Playing at home and with the confidence they can get to Wolf, Arizona is expected to send this series back to Milwaukee.
Brewers will finish off Diamondbacks with sweep tonight
by Charlie Miller
Today is a day that Major League Baseball had in mind when it expanded the playoffs for what was to be 1994, but due to the strike, actually began in 1995. Four playoff games, three of which could be elimination games. All in one day.
It will be tough to match last Wednesday night for a four-game set that ranked as the best ever, but with three teams’ seasons on the line, today is must-see baseball.
Beginning today at 2:00 ET, Tampa Bay will attempt to stave off elimination at home against Texas. Then at 5:00 St. Louis hosts Philadelphia in the only non-do-or-die affair. At 7:30 the Yankees will be in Detroit trying to extend their season another few days and force a Game 5 back in New York. Milwaukee and Arizona begin at 8:30, but I suspect most of the nation will catch only the last few innings after the Yankees-Tigers tussle. The Diamondbacks will try desperately to avoid the embarrassment of being swept at the hands of the Brewers.
Milwaukee at Arizona
It’s easy to look at this series and believe that the Milwaukee Brewers have manhandled the Arizona Diamondbacks. And it’s also convenient to believe that the D’backs were happy with just making the playoffs after losing 90 games last season and being predicted by most to finish last in the NL West. But both assertions are incorrect.
The Brewers haven’t had their way with Arizona. Just Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. And content with just making the playoffs? Do you know who is managing this team? Kirk Gibson will never be content with anything short of a World Series title. He may celebrate a little with each step in that direction, but content? No way.
A quick glance at the two games played in Milwaukee shows that the Brewers outhit the Diamondbacks 20-14 and outscored them 13-5. Looks like a couple of mismatches. After all, the Brewers are batting .300 as a team. But, they’re not really batting that as a team, just as a tandem. Fielder and Braun have combined for a pair of home runs and a .563 batting average. The rest of the team has no home runs and is hitting .220 for the series. Think Gibson’s pitchers will allow Braun and Fielder to beat Arizona tonight? Doubtful. Someone else will have to step up for the Brew Crew.
And that someone is likely to be Rickie Weeks. After returning from his injury this season, Weeks has been moved to the fifth spot in the batting order. He should get at-bats tonight with runners on and the chance to be the hitting star.
The fate of the D’backs’ season rests in the hands of rookie pitcher Josh Collmenter. That’s right, Collmenter. The rookie joined the rotation in May and shut out the Dodgers and Braves over six innings each in his first two starts. The righthander had seven starts of at least five innings in which he did not allow a run. Two of those starts came in July against Milwaukee. One of those the D’backs lost 3-1, the other was a 3-0 Arizona win. So it appears there’s a chance.
However, leading MVP candidate Braun was not in the lineup for either game, dramatically changing the Brewers’ lineup. The Brewers are just too hot right now to be slowed by Collmenter. Gibson and his staff will have to take pleasure in building momentum for 2012.
Milwaukee may have pulled the pin on a very expensive grenade
In Major League Baseball's post-All-Star-break horse race toward the playoffs, the Milwaukee Brewers became the first to make a big move on the outside, acquiring veteran closer Francisco Rodriguez from the New York Mets for a pair of players to be named later.
The Brewers' trade for K-Rod makes them the favorite - and ends the Mets' seasons.
After Tuesday’s All-Star game, Milwaukee Brewers fans should be ecstatic with hometown hero Prince Fielder winning not only the MVP trophy but also home field advantage in the World Series for the National League.
Oh yeah, and the Brewers acquired the single-season saves record holder from the New York Mets in closer Francisco Rodriguez for essentially nothing (two players to be named later).
It was all becoming a little too much for Jon Loomer to take last summer.
He’d log on to Twitter, and there were the Yankee fans, chirping about the success of the Bronx Bombers. In 140 characters or less, there were the Phillie fanatics, crowing about their team during the pennant chase.