What a difference a game makes: There’s more Miller Time on tap for the NLCS
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Following an encouraging thrashing of the Cardinals in the NLCS’ first game, the Crew dropped Games 2 and 3 of the series, and with them, also lowered the collective confidence of a Brewers fanbase that was riding high after a dramatic NLDS. The negativity spread rampant throughout Twitter and Facebook as the collectively nervous and knee-jerk Brewers semi-faithful called for Shaun Marcum’s head (preferably without the hepatitis-riddled hat attached) and, well, continued to rightfully hate Mark Kotsay for being old and ruining everything. One could sense most of the state adjusting its—thought to be Brewerless—Sunday and Monday plans. Even super-fan Front Row Amy Williams probably pondered whether it was even worth flaunting her assets for the amusement of men half her age, if it meant sitting through Brewers elimination.
But after a Randy Wolf gem Thursday night, all such worries, ill will, schedule shifting, and mammary-concealment consideration brought about by the recent Brewers losses were set aside for another time. The NLCS is now tied, and Milwaukee enters the weekend with all the ingredients necessary to claim its first NL Pennant. We don’t know about you, but The A.V. Club wholeheartedly believes it’s written in the stars, a million miles away and… whatever the rest of the lyrics to that song are. Here are some reasons you should, too.
It’s almost Miller Time again
Another encouraging thing brought about by Thursday’s win is the guarantee of playing at least one more game at Miller Park. Monday’s home loss aside, the Brewers have been excellent at the keg—winning 57 of the team’s 81 regular season home games and four of five Miller Park postseason contests. With Game 6 and (if necessary) Game 7 to take place in Milwaukee, the Brewers have to feel good about the remainder of the series.
Including the 1-1 postseason split, Milwaukee has won seven of 12 Miller Park contests against St. Louis in 2011.
Yovani will pitch Game 7
Should the series require a seventh and final game, Yovani Gallardo will almost assuredly take the bump for the Crew. For those of you new to caring about Brewers baseball, this is a good thing. With the exception of Monday night’s rough outing (in which all the damage came in the first inning), Gallardo has been the gold standard for a team in need of a consistent postseason ace. Even after surrendering four runs over five innings in his last start, Gallardo is still toting a 2.84 ERA. His 16 strikeouts and .254 opponent batting average are each far and away the best of any Brewers starter.
After Yo’s (predominately) airhump-inducing October outings, there’s a significant dropoff in the performance of Milwaukee’s three other playoff starters. Good news, naysayers! Having four great starters—and, like, 800 Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder home runs—is the reason the Brewers even made the playoffs. Hopefully Wolf’s seven-inning, two-run gem is a signal of Milwaukee’s No. 2 to 4 hurlers deviating to their previously awesome norm. Recent struggles or not, having Zack Greinke starting, a player just two years removed from winning a Cy Young, is never a bad thing. Unless you’re on the other team, I suppose.
St. Louis counters with Jaime Garcia, who’s been just terrible in the playoffs, followed by Edwin Jackson and his career 4.22 ERA against Milwaukee in Game 5 and 6. If Game 7 is necessary, Chris Carpenter makes the deciding game a real nail-biter.
As can be expected, the Brewers starters have been bailed out by Milwaukee’s potent offense. Not expected, though, is the strange source of a lot of the offensive output. Yuniesky Betancourt and Jerry Hairston have accounted for 24 of Milwaukee’s 77 postseason hits (12 apiece) and each have batting average above .350. Hairston has an impressive .405 OBP and, most impressive of all, Yunie B. walked! The unlikely emergence of the low-level trade deadline acquisition and the year-long pariah have picked up the slack the likes of Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks have left at the plate of late. It’s almost enough to make a fan ponder the possibility of Milwaukee re-signing Betancourt for next season. Almost.
In the area of players doing exactly what’s expected of them, we come to the Brewers bullpen. Not counting Kameron Loe or Chris Narveson (because why would we count them?), the bullpen has been more than solid. And as far as the 6th through 9th inning guys go, holy shitballs! It’s almost like the opposition has five frames to take the lead while Milwaukee has all nine.
Meanwhile, Tony LaRussa mound trips bring about the likes of Mitchell Boggs (7.20 ERA), Kyle McClellan (27.00 ERA), Marc Rzepczynski (9.00 ERA), along with Octavio Dotel and Arthur Rhodes (who could both die at any moment) and a cast of a couple other good—but not John Axford good—relievers in Jason Motte and Lance Lynn.
Knotted at two wins apiece, it’s Milwaukee’s series to lose. Take two, Crew!