Found April 18, 2013 on
Fox Sports Wisconsin:
MILWAUKEE -- Does an NFL team panic if it loses its first game?
Ten games in a Major League Baseball season equate to nearly one full NFL game, or in other words, a small chunk of a very long season.
Though the Brewers were 2-8 through their first 10 games of 2013, their season wasn't doomed to the basement of the division. Milwaukee has responded with three straight wins to crawl back to 5-8 and just 2.5 games out of first place in the NL Central.
Coming up on three weeks into the season, the Brewers have played bad baseball and have played good baseball with not much of an in between. A look at five of the key issues in the team's slow start and sudden resurgence and which will either be fleeting or have staying power as the season continues:
The bullpen has been drastically better in wins.
As obvious as it sounds, Milwaukee's bullpen has simply performed better in the five wins than it has in the eight losses. A lot of that has to do with how the relievers have fared during the three-game winning streak. The bullpen has a 2.50 ERA in wins and a 6.29 ERA in losses. Most teams' bullpen numbers look much better in victories, but this is an ongoing trend for the Brewers. In 2012, Milwaukee was in the playoff race until the end despite a bullpen that had a major league-worst 4.66 ERA with 29 blown saves. John Axford and Michael Gonzalez started this season with late-inning roles and have struggled. With Axford working through things in a different role, Jim Henderson has done well in a short period of time as the team's closer. Tom Gorzelanny has pitched well, and Burke Badenhop and Brandon Kintzler have had rough spots, but both did their job during the winning streak. Will the bullpen struggles be a trend? It's too early to tell. Nobody would have guessed Milwaukee's bullpen would have been as bad as it was last season, and bullpen success is nearly impossible to predict. The sample size is just too small to see a trend quite yet, but a few things are clear. The Brewers need Axford to at least become a reliable reliever, Gonzalez to get left-handers out and Badenhop to be a solid workhorse. Who knows, Francisco Rodriguez, signed to a minor league deal Wednesday, might even make an impact. We'll just have to wait and see.
Timely hitting has been in short supply.
The Brewers simply couldn't get a clutch hit during the first 10 games of the season. There was a stretch last week in which the Brewers couldn't even get anybody on base. During the three-game winning streak, Milwaukee not only has put runners on base but it has gotten clutch hitting. It all started Sunday in St. Louis when Ryan Braun broke a franchise-record 32 inning scoreless streak with a two-run eighth-inning home run to cut a deficit to 3-2. Yuniesky Betancourt had a clutch double to tie the game in the ninth inning, and Jonathan Lucroy came through with a big home run in the 10th that eventually won the game. In Tuesday's series opener with the Giants, Rickie Weeks started an eight-run third inning with a two-run double. Though many players had big hits in the inning including Betancourt with a grand slam Weeks' double felt like it lifted a weight off the shoulders. With Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez on the shelf for a bit longer, the Brewers don't have their usual punch in the middle of the lineup. When the Brewers do get runners in scoring position, they must capitalize more often than not to score enough runs to be able to win games without two of their power threats.
The other guys need to do more for now.
Milwaukee should expect to have some offensive lulls without Hart and Ramirez, but early-season struggles by Lucroy, Carlos Gomez and Rickie Weeks compounded matters. Gomez has nine hits in his last 13 at-bats and is now hitting an even .300 on the season. Lucroy has made a mechanical adjustment and is swinging the bat much better. Weeks is still struggling to find consistency in the cleanup spot, but the Brewers are getting others to help Braun, including the hot-hitting duo of Norichika Aoki and Jean Segura. Even Betancourt has chipped in with a few big hits. Milwaukee's offense is going to be fine when it's healthy. But the key is going to be scoring enough runs to win games before the lineup gets back to full strength.
Injuries have been a fact, not an excuse.
Milwaukee can't afford any more missing players. Ramirez's knee injury was a big blow to suffer right away. That's not to say Hart's injury isn't felt, but Milwaukee knew its first baseman was going to miss at least the first two months of the season. The Brewers played three games without Braun and lost all three. Segura and Alex Gonzalez have missed games with injuries, and the Brewers had to pinch hit with a starting pitcher with the tying run on third base with two outs in an extra-innings game against Arizona. There's never a good time for an injury, but the Brewers are due a bit of good fortune at this point. If another starter goes down for more than a day or two, Milwaukee will be in a real tough spot.
The rotation is still taking shape.
What do we know so far about the starting pitchers? Kyle Lohse has made spring training look unnecessary and has picked up right where he left off as one of the National League's best pitchers; Marco Estrada appears poised to have a solid year; Wily Peralta is going to flash signs of dominance while also enduring struggles; and Yovani Gallardo is going to take his usual time especially with an off-field issue to settle in. The fifth starter is still an unknown. Mike Fiers got one start before moving to the bullpen when off days left a fifth starter unnecessary until May. The rainout in Chicago means the Brewers will need a fifth starter Saturday against the Cubs, but Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is hesitant to give Fiers the ball because he hasn't pitched well in the bullpen. Either Tyler Thornburg or Hiram Burgos is likely to come up from Triple-A to start Saturday with a great chance to earn a rotation spot for the time being. The Brewers had a stretch where the rotation wasn't going deep into games, and it was putting pressure on the bullpen to cover a lot of innings. That trend shouldn't continue because the Brewers appear to have a very solid top three in the rotation. Gallardo, Lohse and Estrada are going to be just fine. From there, the Brewers are going to have to live with the ups and downs of the two young pitchers who fill the fourth and fifth spots. Has every question about the rotation been answered? Not yet. But Lohse's early-season performance has settled things down. Just think if the Brewers didn't have him.
Follow Andrew Gruman on Twitter.
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
I wanted to acknowledge Craig Counsell, since he's supposed to be in the FSN broadcast booth, at some point. I drew this in June, but it's got a nifty-looking border that looks sort of like an old portfolio...or some sort of sheet music folder. The picture of the cheese was in the original version, as well. Craig Counsell will be a GM, someday. One who won't spend a significant...
MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Brewers optioned right-hander Mike Fiers to Triple-A Nashville following Thursday's 7-2 victory over San Francisco, opening the door for right-hander Hiram Burgos to come up from Nashville to make his big-league debut in a Saturday start against the Cubs.
Burgos, 25, was Milwaukee's minor league pitcher of the year in 2012, posting a 10-4 record...
MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Brewers infielder Taylor Green is in Milwaukee on Thursday to have his injured hip examined by team physician Dr. William Raasch.
The 26-year-old injured the hip during spring training and was left behind at the team's minor league facility to rehab in extended spring training. Right when he was about to embark on a minor league rehab assignment, Green...
MILWAUKEE -- His manager and his catcher both noticed it. There was something different about Yovani Gallardo on Thursday afternoon.
Pitching for the first time since he was charged with drunken driving early Tuesday morning, Gallardo was sharper than he's been all season. The right-hander not only picked up his first win of 2013 by allowing just one run in six innings, but he...
MILWAUKEE -- At this time last year, Hiram Burgos was preparing to make his next scheduled start for Brevard County in Single-A. Now he's one day away from making his Major League debut.
Burgos was recalled from Triple-A Nashville to start for the Brewers against the Cubs on Saturday at Miller Park.
"Right now I just feel really proud, and I'm happy and excited to...
The Brewers, seeking help for an unsettled bullpen, are turning to one of their former relievers.
The team announced Wednesday that it had signed right-hander Francisco Rodriguez to a minor league contract.
Rodriguez, 31, will report to the team's spring-training complex in Maryvale, Ariz., and must be assigned within 30 days, the club said.
The Brewers entered Wednesday with...
MILWAUKEE -- With a scoreless streak of 32 innings in the rearview mirror, the Milwaukee Brewers surpassed their run total of any of their first 11 games in one inning Tuesday night.
After not being able to scratch anything across the plate for most of last week, the Brewers scored eight runs in the third inning off San Francisco left-hander Barry Zito, who entered not having allowed...
MLB News: The Milwaukee Brewers optioned pitcher Mike Fiers to Triple-A Nashville on Thursday after struggling in his only start of the season. Flawed with mechanical issues, the Brewers are hoping that he can go down to Nashville and right himself.
Fantasy Ramifications: Fiers, even if he makes it back to the big leagues, is no more than a back end starter in a bad rotation. Leave...
The Yankees and several over teams around the MLB decided to honor Boston and the victims of Monday’s Marathon bombing by playing Fenway-favorite “Sweet Caroline” over their stadium’s loudspeakers on Tuesday night. The Brewers, however, took a different (but equally as great) route by playing the Cheers theme song during their game last night. Pretty great gesture by Milwaukee...
Yovani Gallardo homered and struck out six in his first start since being arrested on a drunken driving charge, and the Milwaukee Brewers beat San Francisco 7-2 Thursday for a three-game sweep.
Gallardo (1-1) was arrested early Tuesday morning. The right-hander allowed five hits, one walk and one earned run in six innings.
Milwaukee took all three games from the World Series champion...
FOX Sports Wisconsin has announced that former Milwaukee Brewers infielder Craig Counsell will make his television debut at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday as part of the network's Brewers Live team.
The 16-year major league veteran and two-time World Series winner is scheduled to appear on a number of upcoming shows for FOX Sports Wisconsin. Counsell, 42, played with the Brewers in 2004...
Rarely used, Blake Lalli quickly showed he was totally prepared.
On the first pitch, the pinch-hitter lifted a long single in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday night that sent the Milwaukee Brewers over the San Francisco Giants 4-3.
''He was in looking at videos, he was looking at the pitcher throw and he knew what he wanted to do with the first pitch,''...
After sweeping the defending champions, the Milwaukee Brewers appear to be playing with some confidence heading into their three-game series against the Chicago Cubs.
With their early struggles behind them, the surging Brewers look for their 16th win in 18 home games against the Cubs and fifth straight victory overall Friday night.
Riding a club-record scoreless streak and three...