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.

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”