The Brewers are one awful baseball team right now

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First of all, the Brewers are carrying 13 pitches, even though Ryan Braun can’t play because of a neck injury. That leaves them with a three-man bench that just doesn’t work in National League games.

Second of all, the Brewers are carrying 13 pitchers. Why on earth is John Axford pitching a second inning in a tie game against the Diamondbacks after getting through the first by the skin of his teeth? The first two batters Axford faced in the 10th inning today hit fly balls that were caught at the wall.  This from a guy who had already given up three homers in 1 2/3 innings this season. Yet Roenicke, even with his eight-man bullpen, sent Axford back out to start the 11th.

In the 11th, Cliff Pennington hit a leadoff double, at which point the Diamondbacks sent up pinch-hitter Eric Hinske. The Brewers declined to counter with Michael Gonzalez, and Hinske got into a curve, hitting it way out to center. Only then did Gonzalez come in. He got three outs to keep it an 8-6 game.

That’s when the Brewers had their stroke of luck: Heath Bell was going to enter the game for the Diamondbacks. And if there are two NL relievers throwing worse than Axford right now, well, one is definitely Carlos Marmol. The other is probably Bell.

Sure enough, Bell gave up singles to three of the first four batters he faces. That brought up Rickie Weeks with runners at the corners and the Brewers down 8-7. And who was standing on deck? None other than Braun.

What happened next was incredible. Weeks got ahead 1-0 and then took three fastballs that were called strikes. All three were in good locations, but they were straight, 91-mph fastballs. That Weeks went down without ever taking the bat off his shoulder was disturbing enough. If he knew what was about to transpire afterwards, then he should be truly embarrassed; it may well have been the low point of his career.

For what happened next was that Braun was called back into the dugout and Kyle Lohse was sent up to hit. The Brewers, of course, had already gone through their three-man bench, and Roenicke didn’t see it worth risking Braun’s health even with a victory one good swing of the bat away. Lohse, a career .152 hitter, struck out looking, and Bell recorded what figures to be one of the last saves of his career.

The Brewers are now 1-5. They don’t have a closer. Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart are hurt. Their ace, Yovani Gallardo, hasn’t looked quite right. They’re starting Alex Gonzalez and Yuniesky Betancourt at the infield corners. Also, they’re starting Alex Gonzalez and Yuniesky Betancourt at the infield corners. That light at the end of the tunnel is very dim right now.

Columnist bashes Bryce Harper’s fundamentals, “write it,” says Nats player

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Tom Boswell of the Washington Post wrote a column over the weekend about how the 2019 Nats are looking really, really good. And for the most part it’s a column that makes a lot of sense. The Nats added some key pieces this offseason and, because so much of their underachieving 2018 season was based on health, particularly in the bullpen, there is reason to be optimistic this coming year.

There is one weird passage in the middle of the column, though: a swipe at Bryce Harper, his fundamentals and his attitude. The upshot: Boswell is arguing that losing Harper to free agency is addition by subtraction:

Though few mention it, subtracting Harper, while it will cost 34 homers, a .899 career OPS and some amazing hair flips, would help any team improve its attention to fundamentals. When the most famous player on the team can’t go 10 days without failing to run out a groundball or overthrowing a cutoff man by 15 feet or throwing to the wrong base or being caught unprepared in the outfield or on the bases, it’s hard to demand total alertness from the other 24.

“Write it,” one prominent Nats vet said.

The “Write it” is what has me most fascinated.

It could possibly be read in two different ways. One way would be for that to be the non-committal reaction of a player when Boswell bounced his Harper-is-a-slacker theory. Saying, in effect, “you write that if that’s your take.” It seems far more likely to me though, that Boswell is echoing the off-the-record sentiments of Harper’s former Nats teammates and the “write it” is an encouraging plea to give public voice to that which the player has chosen not to.

If it is the latter, this would only be the latest of many anonymously-sourced disgruntled sentiments from the Nats clubhouse over the years. Former manager Matt Williams had a full-scare revolt on his hands that made it into the media. Last year Dave Martinez’s clubhouse had someone saying negative things to the press as well, and it was so bad that GM Mike Rizzo sent off a useful reliever — at a time when the Nats really, really needed a useful reliever — because he was the suspected source. If Boswell is giving voice to some anti-Harper sentiment in Nats camp, it’s just more soap opera from a bunch that, historically, can’t seem to handle their issues in-house.

As for the substance: I don’t watch Harper as much as Nats fans do — and I can’t say that I’ve ever heard anyone describe him as some sort of lazy slacker — but sure, there are players who are more fundamentally sound than him. It’s also the case, though, that Harper has always been judged more harshly for his deportment than a lot of players in the league, so I’m not prepared to totally defer to word of mouth — especially anonymous word-of-mouth — to someone slamming him on that stuff.

It’s still pretty interesting, though, that in an offseason in which the average fan’s take is that Manny Machado is the no-hustle slacker who should be avoided, that Machado’s former teammates have had no complaints about him, while Harper’s former teammates seem to have the knives out for him.