Sunday, October 2, 2011
Brewers benefit from D-backs' mistakes
By David Schoenfield
Sometimes risks are calculated gambles that pay off.
Sometimes risks are just dumb.
The Brewers, after winning Game 1 over the Diamondbacks, took a calculated gamble by starting Zack Greinke on three days' rest in Game 2. Greinke had started the season finale on Wednesday for Milwaukee, a game the Brewers needed to win to ensure home-field advantage for the first round. But in order for Ron Roenicke to get two starts from Greinke if this series goes five games, he had him on short rest for the second straight start. It was a calculated gamble that at least made some sense.
Greinke didn't pitch that well -- he lasted just five innings and gave up eight hits, including three home runs, and four runs. But the risk didn't end up hurting, thanks to a risk Brad Ziegler took that opened up the floodgates for the Brewers in the sixth inning.
With Jerry Hairston Jr. on second base with one out and the game tied 4-4, Ziegler entered to face Yuniesky Betancourt. He immediately balked, which is a bad mistake, but Ziegler compounded that by walking Betancourt on four straight pitches. Maybe Kirk Gibson should have pulled Ziegler right there; it's not easy to walk Betancourt, who had just 13 unintentional walks all season.
Then came the big mistake.
Ziegler is a ground-ball specialist with his underhanded delivery, so Roenicke called for the safety squeeze. Jonathan Lucroy put the bunt down, Hairston raced in and Ziegler made the bad decision to attempt a back-handed flip to home plate.
Here's the deal: Take the out when they give it to you. The run was going to score, but you'd have two outs with a runner on second and down by just one with three still to play. Take that out and get out of the inning. That's the smart thing; the only thing to do since Ziegler had no shot at Hairston anyway. If catcher Miguel Montero wasn't shouting "first base," then he's to blame as well.
If you don't make the play, it opens up the probability for a big inning. And that's exactly what happened. Ziegler threw the ball away to put runners at second and third. Mark Kotsay was intentionally walked -- yet another questionable decision by Gibson considering on-deck hitter Corey Hart is a much better hitter. At least that move was more defensible than the decision to pitch to Prince Fielder on Saturday since Hart bats right-handed and Ziegler is tough on righties.
It didn't work. Hart grounded an RBI single up the middle on the first pitch to him. Nyjer Morgan lined a two-run single to right-center on the first pitch to him. Ryan Braun singled to center to score Hart. The Brewers had scored five runs and the game was over.
The Brewers have looked good these first two games, with Yovani Gallardo pitching great on Saturday, Braun going 3-for-4 in both games, and Fielder hitting the big home run. As good as Braun and Fielder are, however, they will need production from others in the lineup, and that makes Hart one of the key players of this playoffs. He needs to get on base in front of Braun and Fielder and he did that on Sunday with two more hits.
Arizona has played two poor games, with bad decisions in the dugout and bad decisions on the field. You can't make those mistakes in the postseason and expect to advance. This looks like it could be a short series.
Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.