Brewers win 9-4, take 2-0 NLDS lead on Diamondbacks

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Busting a tie game open with a five-spot in the sixth, the Brewers beat the Diamondbacks 9-4 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the NLDS.

The Brewers won even though Zack Greinke gave up three homers in his first ever postseason start.  Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Young and Justin Upton took the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner deep, and Greinke was pulled having allowed four runs in five innings.

It was a tie game at that point.  Ryan Braun homered in the first to give the Brewers an early 2-0 lead, and two more runs followed in the third when Prince Fielder singled in Braun and Rickie Weeks followed with an RBI triple.

The big rally came in the sixth off Diamondbacks reliever Brad Ziegler. Ziegler took over from starter Daniel Hudson with a man on second and one out and proceeded to issue a balk, walk Yuniesky Betancourt and make a throwing error on Jonathan Lucroy’s safety squeeze. The Brewers then called in lefty Mark Kotsay as a pinch-hitter, but manager Kirk Gibson opted to stick with Ziegler and issue an intentional walk to load the bases.  Three straight singles followed, making it a 9-4 game, and it was only afterwards that Ziegler was removed.

That proved to be the end of the scoring for the day. Takashi Saito, LaTroy Hawkins, Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford all contributed scoreless innings in relief of Greinke.

Game 3 of the best-of-five series is scheduled for Tuesday in Arizona, with Shaun Marcum and Josh Collmenter scheduled to start. On paper, that would be a favorable matchup for the Brewers, but Collmenter pitched 14 scoreless innings against Milwaukee this season. He’ll have to keep that going for the Diamondbacks to extend the series.

Notes

– Six umpires to a postseason game, but none of them could tell that Aaron Hill’s shot off the wall in the first inning was a fair ball and should have been a double. At least Hill came back with a single afterwards, and since Zack Greinke retired the other three batters he faced, the call probably didn’t have an effect on the game. Still… instant replay, please.

Braun’s homer in the first was just ridiculous. It wasn’t hit high enough to set any distance records, but it was an absolute missile and maybe the hardest hit ball I’ve seen this year. Young took two steps in center field and then said, “Yeah, right.”

– A couple of twitterers noted that Braun appeared to miss third base scoring on Prince Fielder’s single in the third, but TBS never showed a replay. The Diamondbacks appealed and were denied.

– Greinke gave up three homers in a start for the first time since Aug. 19, 2009 against the White Sox. He had made 69 starts since.

– Young had a double and a single to go along with his homer for the Diamondbacks. He’s hit .313 with three homers and seven walks in nine career postseason games. In comparison, he’s just a .240 lifetime hitter during the regular season.

– Hill ended up reaching five times in a losing cause, going 3-for-3 with two walks.

– The theme of the series to date seems to be that Kirk Gibson has too much faith in his Diamondbacks players. Never was it more evident that when he left in Ziegler in the sixth long enough to put the game out of reach.  Now Ziegler is a very good reliever, but a balk, a walk to the usually unwalkable Betancourt and an error was a good indication that he was rattled today.  Still, rather than take him out of a 5-4 game, Gibson left him in until it was 9-4 and the contest was all but over.

Gibson is probably going to be named NL Manager of the Year once the postseason is over, but these last two days have been a disaster for him.

Ian Kinsler lists the five toughest pitchers in the AL Central

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Every now and then, The Players’ Tribune runs a “five toughest” feature. In 2015, David Ortiz listed the five toughest pitchers he ever faced. Last month, Christian Yelich wrote up the five toughest pitchers in the NL East. Now, it’s Ian Kinsler‘s turn with the five toughest pitchers in the AL Central.

Kinsler goes into detail explaining why each pitcher is difficult to face, so hop over to The Players’ Tribune for his reasoning. His list

Presumably, Kinsler intentionally omitted his Tiger teammates from the list. He has faced Justin Verlander a fair amount earlier in his career, and he has only a .176/.333/.235 batting line in 42 plate appearances against the right-hander. Verlander’s stuff is often described as tough to hit in one phrase or another. Kinsler has also struggled against Indians starter Carlos Carrasco (.590 OPS), but one can understand why he would be omitted from a list of five given who was already listed.

Angels demote C.J. Cron to Triple-A

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Angels first baseman C.J. Cron hit a grand slam against the Mets on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to keep his spot on the major league roster as the club announced his demotion to Triple-A Salt Lake on Monday. Infielder Nolan Fantana has been promoted from Salt Lake.

Cron, 27, was hitting a disappointing .232/.281/.305 with one home run and RBI in 90 plate appearances. I guess you can say that wasn’t the kind of Cron job the Angels were expecting. Cron was an above-average hitter in each of his first three seasons, finishing with an OPS+, or adjusted OPS, of 111, 106, and 115 (100 is average).

While Cron is figuring things out in the minors, Luis Valbuena, Jefry Marte, and Albert Pujols could each see some time at first base.