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Milwaukee Brewers: Noteworthy Events of the Week

This week was an eventful one for the Milwaukee Brewers, with several events of interest that Brewers fans took pride in this week. From the Brewers winning two of three games from the Phillies, especially game two against Roy Halladay, a 9-0 shutout, to Ryan Braun’s monster, historic new contract, Brewers fans had plenty to talk about as their team has been battling in a very competitive NL Central, with no team more than 3 games back. 

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Brewers Starting to Hit Their Stride After Taking Three of Four from the Braves

After four games, the Brewers were 0-4 and struggling to get anything going. They lost a heart-breaker to the Reds on Opening Day after blowing a 6-2 lead, then lost the other two games 4-2 and 12-3. Then their home-opener came and the Brewers had a 1-0 lead until the eighth inning, when Martin Prado and Dan Uggla hit solo home runs to win the game for the Braves.

After three more games, however, the Brewers stand at 3-4 with some momentum heading into the weekend series with the Chicago Cubs. So how did this winning streak occur?

On Tuesday, the Brewers got a complete game from pitcher Yovani Gallardo, who gave up only two hits and scored the only run in Milwaukee’s 1-0 win. Wednesday saw the Brewers jump out to a 5-1 lead with RBIs from Prince Fielder, Mark Kotsay, and Yuniesky Betancourt. However, it got tight when the Braves’ Jason Heyward hit a three-run home run in the top of the sixth.

But pitchers Zach Braddock, Kameron Loe, and John Axford pitched the next three scoreless innings and Milwaukee held on for the 5-4 victory. On Thursday, the Brewers beat the Braves, winning 4-2 thanks to a home run by Ryan Braun and great performances from pitchers Shaun Marcum and John Axford, who got his second save of the season. 

How have the Brewers done it? First of all, the pitching staff has stepped up. Yovani Gallardo showed that he can go the distance with his complete game Tuesday and John Axford has stepped up in the clutch and recorded two saves the last two games the Brewers have played. Zach Braddock and Kameron Loes have stepped up as well. If they can continue to pitch consistently well, they will always have a chance to win ball games.

Secondly, the offense is starting to pick up. Prince Fielder had four RBIs the last two games and has been batting .292. Fielder also has a .414 OBP as well. Ryan Braun has also been phenomenal, with three home runs and five RBI on the season along with a .393 batting average. Nyjer Morgan made some great plays in the final game of the series against the Braves, hitting a double, stealing a base, and making a play at the plate by knocking the ball out of catcher Brian McCann’s hands.

Tonight the Cubs come to town, and this first series against a division rival will be a big test for the Brewers to see how their new additions stack up against the Cubs. The Brewers will send pitcher Randy Wolf to face the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano, who has a 6-0 record and a 1.97 ERA against the Brewers at Miller Park. The Cubs will also have first baseman Carlos Pena back in the lineup, which will be something that Wolf will have to deal with. Zambrano will be a big test for the Brewers’ bats, who in the first series with the Cubs last year, struggled to score runs and got swept.

With the way the Brewer bats have been swinging the last three games though, they will give the Cubs a challenge. The other match-ups will be Chris Narveson versus new Cubs pitcher Matt Garza, and on Sunday it will be Gallardo versus Casey Coleman. 

Tune in this weekend to this division series and rivalry. It could very well set the stage for the rest of the Brewers’ season.

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Milwaukee Brewers: 5 Things That Must Go Right to Make the Playoffs

The Milwaukee Brewers are coming off a sub-.500 season filled with inconsistency and injury.

Because of this, they fired Ken Macha and brought in Ron Roenicke, a former Angels player and third base coach. He was behind the signings of 2009 AL Pitcher of the Year and Cy Young Award winner Zach Greinke and outfielder Nyjer Morgan from the Nationals. He’s looking to make this ball club a more consistent one and a team that will be aggressive on the bases.

Here are five things that must happen in order for the Brewers to make the postseason.


1. Zach Greinke Must Stay Healthy After He Comes Back From the DL

Bringing in Zach Greinke was one of the best moves that the Brewers could have ever made in the offseason.

He won the AL Cy Young Award and AL Best Pitcher Award in 2009 and posted the lowest ERA in the majors in April with 0.50. He would go on to end the year with a 2.16 ERA.

He throws a four-seam fastball anywhere from 93-98 mph and has a 87-90 mph slider, one of the best in the majors. The two-seam fastball he throws works well with forcing ground balls. With Greinke added to the rotation, the Brewers will be a major threat in the NL Central race when he comes back. His health is vital for the Brewers’ playoff chances.


2. The Brewers Must Be More Aggressive On the Bases

One of the big issues that the Brewers have is that they can get runners on base. When they have a chance to bring those runners in, however, they often get stranded due to them not being able to get clutch hits as well as not being aggressive on base.

According to Baseball, only Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain and Carlos Gomez scored at least one run from base-running. The Brewers were not very aggressive on the bases at all, often looking to rely on the long ball to score runs. Home runs are not going to happen at every at-bat, so the players need to be more aggressive on the bases. Things like stealing bases and bunting will help move players into scoring position and can even help to produce more runs. If the Brewers can do that, they will definitely win more games.

3. Rickie Weeks and Casey McGehee Must Cut Down on Their Errors

Error is an ugly word in baseball. It can cost your team outs as well as games. These three were the worst on the Brewers in terms of making errors. McGehee and Weeks were two of the worst when it came to this category. Those two have got to clean up their fielding play in order for the Brewers to win games and make the playoffs this year.


4. John Axford Must Fulfill the Role of Closer

When John Axford came to the Brewers last year to replace Trevor Hoffman as the full-time closer, he had no experience at that spot in the rotation. After the 2010 season was over he had 24 saves, an 8-2 record and a 2.48 ERA. With the talent that the Brewers have this year and their ability to get men on base and score runs, he must protect the lead when it’s given to him.

Except for the game yesterday against the Reds, Axford should be a strong, solid closer.


5. Pitching ERA Must Improve

Last year, the overall ERA of the Brewers’ pitching staff was 4.58 (26th in the majors).

That kind of ERA is not going to help a team win.

While Yovani Gallardo, Chris Narveson and Randy Wolf all had winning records, the rest of the Brewers pitching staff was not so good. For example, starter Manny Parra went 3-10 with a 5.02 ERA. In many of his starts, he was not able to get past the 5th or 6th innings, many times not even getting through four innings. That has to improve if the Brewers want to get to the postseason. Starters have to be able to go at least seven innings and keep their pitch count down. Going longer will help keep the relievers fresh and will cut down on the work middle relievers will have to do.

If the Brewers can do these five things, there’s no reason why they can’t contend for a Wild Card spot, much less a division title.

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