No more Saturday nights
Saturday night can't happen any more to the Milwaukee Brewers.
The team, struggling as it is to stay relevant in the National League Central, can't afford another game like that evening's 6-4 setback against Pittsburgh. What happened the night before, when Cody Ransom shocked the world with a late-inning, game-clinching grand slam, and what happened Sunday afternoon when Yovani Gallardo struck out 14 and Martin Maldanado came through with clutch hits, have to become the norm if the 2012 season is to be saved.
It's as simple as that.
There've been too many Saturday nights this season for the Crew, games where Milwaukee leads melted in the late innings and soul-crushing losses ensued. There've been too many one-run losses, games that the Brewers won quite frequently the season before.
The Brewers staked the Pirates to a 2-0 lead Saturday night when Marco Estrada made one of his few mistakes--one that is almost unforgivable at the major league level. He got ahead of Pittsburgh's best hitter, Andrew McCutcheon, before serving up an 0-2 meatball that McCutcheon blasted for a two-run home run. 0-2 pitches are supposed to make hitters reach. They're supposed to land in the dirt, the batter chasing it in futility and defeat. They aren't supposed to be thigh high and out over the middle of the plate. Hitters--even those not nearly as good as McCutcheon--turn those mistakes into crooked numbers.
Estrada was otherwise great, striking out 11 before giving way to Kameron Loe with two out in the sixth and Milwaukee clinging to a 4-3 lead. Loe finished the frame with a fly ball but his good fortune would end in the seventh. Loe's arm has been the culprit in his otherwise undistinguished season to date but Saturday night it would be his fielding prowess that would do him in. Loe gave up a base hit before he took Josh Harrison's routine sacrifice bunt and turned it into a game-tying tally. Another base hit gave Pittsburgh a 5-4 lead. A walk followed, and Loe's night was over. Pittsburgh would add an eighth inning insurance home run to seal the deal.
Brewers hitters took the night off after scoring two runs in the third, mustering all of two hits off the likes of Pirate relievers Chris Resop, Jason Grilli, and reliable closer Joel Hanrahan. They staged a threat in the seventh, but Travis Ishikawa couldn't come through with two outs and runners on first and third. Another rally fizzled one inning later as Rickie Weeks and Maldanado couldn't come up with a hit with runners on first and second with one out. Weeks went 0-4 but did drive in the Crew's first run of the night. His sub-Mendoza batting average is tolerated only because the team doesn't have anyone else.
Saturday night can't happen again this season. It's no longer "early". Those kind of evenings put the Brewers in this hole, and their continuance will assure that they stay there. What should've been a sweep of the Pirates is instead a series win--two wins where three could've been had. No one is running away with this division, at least not yet. The Reds are on a roll, through, and the Cardinals are, well, they're the Cardinals. Pittsburgh isn't to be trifled with, either, not so long as their starting pitching holds up.
The Brewers did remarkable things despite their injuries,finding starting pitching to fill the voids left by Chris Narveson and Shawn Marcum. Corey Hart's solid play at first in the stead of Mat Gamel opened up right field for Nori Aoki. Unreliability in the bullpen and a lack of production from middle infield are the team's undoing and may be it's epitaph if we get more Saturday nights.
That can't happen any more.