Thursday, October 6, 2011
D-backs slug their way back to Milwaukee
By David Schoenfield
Now we know why the Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks played all-out down the stretch to secure home-field advantage for the first round, which the Brewers finally clinched on the final day of the season. These teams play like the 1927 Yankees at home and the 1962 Mets on the road. The Brewers went 11-4 in their final 15 games to beat out the Diamondbacks for the No. 2 seed, which means they get to head back to the loud but comfy confines of Miller Park for Game 5, and that could be the difference in this series.
They’ll certainly be glad to leave Arizona after getting hammered by the Diamondbacks 10-6 on Wednesday in a game that featured more plot twists than the final score indicates. A few random notes, thoughts, trivia and other stuff:
- Ryan Roberts did not miss what looked like a hanging slider from Randy Wolf in the first inning, hooking it into the left-field bullpen for a grand slam. It gave the Diamondbacks a 4-1 lead and made them the first team since the 1977 Dodgers to hit grand slams in consecutive postseason games (Ron Cey and Dusty Baker, in case you're keeping track). Roberts struggled in September, hitting .205 with just two home runs, but he's been seeing the ball well in this series, with two home runs, a double and a .400 average in the first four games.
- After a much-documented disastrous Game 1 in which he pitched to Prince Fielder with a base open and started Lyle Overbay over Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson redeemed himself with several gutsy moves in this game. Leading 5-3 in the bottom of the third, he pinch hit for starter Joe Saunders with runners at second and third and two outs. Saunders had not looked good through three innings but still led. In the regular season, Saunders hits. This isn't the regular season. Gibson seized the opportunity to score more runs and looked brilliant when Collin Cowgill bounced a two-run single into left field.
- After Micah Owings delivered two scorless innings, Gibson's move to bring in Jarrod Parker, the 22-year-old rookie and top prospect who had pitched just one game in the regular season, didn't look smart when Parker allowed an infield hit, a walk and a single to load the bases. Gibson brought in Bryan Shaw, and Corey Hart ripped one into left-center ... it initially sounded (and looked) like it could be a game-tying grand slam, but left fielder Gerardo Parra took a perfect route to the ball and ran it down at the warning, showing why he's likely to win a Glove Glove this season.
- That's one of the beautiful aspects of October baseball: Collin Cowgill and Gerardo Parra, unsung heroes. By the way, make sure you watch the replay again to see how much ground Parra covered to make that catch. That ball is out of some ballparks. The play of the game and a terrific play.
- Chris Young helped out as well, with two home runs of his own.
- The key guy for the Brewers right now has to be Rickie Weeks. Ryan Braun is hitting .467 with a .529 on-base percentage in the series; Fielder is hitting .333 with a .412 OBP. Those guys are living on the bases, but Weeks is hitting .067 after going 0-for-5 on Wednesday and has just one RBI.
- Brewers fans certainly were upset with Ron Roenicke for not removing Wolf before he allowed his sixth and seventh runs in the third, but I can't fault Roenicke too much -- with the series lead, there was no need to burn through his bullpen, and Wolf was one out from escaping the inning. Cowgill's bouncer just found a hole.
- Both starters lasted just three innings. Not including that Justin Verlander/CC Sabathia rainout from the other night, the last postseason game in which both starters pitched three or fewer innings was Game 5 of the 2005 American League Division Series, in which the Yankees' Mike Mussina lasted just 2.2 innings and the Angels' Bartolo Colon left after one with injury. (Rookie Ervin Santana came on and pitched into the seventh.) The last game in which both starters got shelled was Game 3 of the 2004 AL Championship Series, in which Bronson Arroyo and Kevin Brown both pitched just two innings in a game the Yankees eventually won 19-8.
- Game 5, baby! For the first time since 2001, we have three division series going the distance. That year, the Mariners beat the Indians, the Yankees beat the A's and the Diamondbacks beat the Cardinals.
- Ian Kennedy versus Yovani Gallardo. If Gallardo has mastery of his curveball the way he did in Game 1, he's going to be tough to beat. He's on a roll; he has 45 strikeouts and just four walks over his past four starts. If either starter struggles, Daniel Hudson and Zack Greinke both will be available for long relief and would be pitching on four days' rest. But I think the biggest number is this one: The Brewers hit .277 and slugged .461 at home (versus .246 and .391, respectively, on the road). They love Miller Park. They're the favorites, but you never know ... one hanging curveball to Goldschmidt or Justin Upton with a couple of runners on ...