Ryan Braun

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.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.

Diamondbacks sign Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million deal

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 21:  Fernando Rodney #56 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 21, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.

Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.

Hazen issued a statement following the signing:

With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.