Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Brewers need to acquire a reliever
By David Schoenfield
Brewers fans aren't accustomed to seeing the Pirates actually win a game at Miller Park -- the Brewers are a remarkable 46-8 at home against the Pirates since 2007.
They are, however, too accustomed to seeing John Axford struggle. After Axford blew a 4-2 lead in the eighth inning on Wednesday afternoon -- Starling Marte hit a two-run homer, Brandon Inge hit the go-ahead bloop -- he walked off the mound to a chorus of boos. (The Pirates won 6-4.) One of the heroes of the 2011 playoff team, Axford is now 0-3 with a 10.32 ERA and you wonder how long Ron Roenicke will keep using him in important situations. Yes, he'd been pitching better since losing his closer role, allowing just one run over in his previous eight appearances, but he's still not a guy you want to trust; 7.1 innings is a not enough evidence that he was back to the Axford of 2011.
The Brewers have an interesting team. They can score runs and they can really score runs at Miller Park, where the ball flies. They're getting huge performances from Carlos Gomez and Yuniesky Betancourt, who each homered again on Wednesday. Jim Henderson has pitched well in the ninth inning since replacing Axford. The rotation is acceptable. But they can't afford to let the bullpen take down the team like it did a year ago. In the NL Central, which could be shaping up as a four-team race, the Brewers are a playoff contender.
GM Doug Melvin shouldn't wait until July to fortify the bullpen. Do it now. The Brewers don't have a highly rated farm system, but relievers don't cost a lot. Ask the Marlins about Steve Cishek or the Padres about Luke Gregerson. Or find that unheralded guy who looks like a sleeper, like when the Angels acquired Ernesto Frieri last year from the Padres.
As for the Pirates, it was a terrific win and Marte continues to impress from the leadoff spot, hitting .321/.387/.491. They're 16-12 even though Andrew McCutchen hasn't hit much yet. One reason they are: Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli have locked down the eighth and ninth innings. Two innings that continue to plague the Brewers.