Game Notes: Brewers 4, Cardinals 3 03/09/09 -- Opportunity, Missed.
-- I really, really hate Casey McGehee. I don't know how else to say it, so there it is. No real personal beef with the guy, mind you, but when you pick up nine RBIs in a single series against the Cardinals, you're just going to have to deal with me not liking you. It's really only fitting the Brewers got him from the Cubs' minor league system. Of course, nowadays, my disdain for the Brew Crew runs almost as deep as for the Cubbies, but it isn't quite there just yet.
-- Tell you the truth, this loss really felt to me more like a game from 2008 than what we've typically seen from the 2009 squad. I remember all summer last year watching game after game in which the Cardinals put tons of runners on base, yet struggle to bring them home. Today felt a whole lot like that. Fourteen total runners, compared to only six for Milwaukee, yet the Cards just couldn't seem to get that one extra hit to put them over the top and blow an inning open. Hell, Albert Pujols with the bases loaded has been as sure a thing as you'll ever get in the game of baseball this year, and even he couldn't get the job done. Still, seeing the Cards draw six walks was encouraging.
-- The more I see John Smoltz pitch, the more I'm beginning to believe he just might have a place with this team next season. He'll be a year older, sure, but also another year removed from shoulder surgery, and may have better stamina. With Joel Pineiro pitching himself out of the Cards' price range and Todd Wellemeyer pitching himself out of their quality range, there will be two open rotation slots going into 2010. Personally, I would be comfortable filling both internally, but I can also concede it might be beneficial to have one of those two spots locked up with a bit more of a known quantity. Smoltz definitely still has the stuff and the knowledge to do it.
Come playoff time, I still expect Smoltz will head to the bullpen, and honestly, that's probably the best case scenario. Even if he's pitching on par with or better than Kyle Lohse by that time, Smoltz's experience coming out of the 'pen makes him a much, much better choice than Lohse to try and transition into a relief role. Given that you only need a fourth starter once in a seven-game series, and generally not at all in a five-game, Smoltz could have much more of an impact pitching late in the game than he could starting once or twice. Going into next season, though, I would certainly consider Smoltz coming back on a one-year deal to start a very, very good thing.
-- Seeing Alcides Escobar make that diving play on Mark DeRosa's grounder should give us all a little taste of how opposing fans probably feel most nights watching Brendan Ryan take hits away from their team. (Although I still think Fielder came off the bag early.)
-- Whether or not fatigue played a part in the hanging slider Smoltz threw to McGehee in the sixth, I have to say, I think it's the first really bad breaking ball I've seen Smoltz throw since he's been here. It's pretty remarkable, really, when you're talking about a couple hundred pitches and that's the first one that really stands out as being bad.
-- Colby Rasmus getting picked off in the eighth inning was just a back breaker. I'm one of Colby's biggest fans, but you just can't get yourself picked in a situation like that. It's exciting to see he apparently had the green light, as he was clearly ready to take off for second, but now you have to wonder if, given the same situation in the future, La Russa will even give him the chance to utilise his speed. Colby did an excellent job of laying off some borderline pitches and drawing the walk off Vargas, but really blew it once he was on.
In the end, though, I'm willing to chalk that up to the excitement and inexperience of a young player still learning the ins and outs of the game at the major league level. The team struggled all day long to score runs, then all of a sudden Colby finds himself the potential tying run on at first base and with the green light to move himself into scoring position. You could almost see his eyes get a little big at the thought of being the hero. Hopefully, it's a lesson he'll take to heart; sort of a ballplayer's Hippocratic Oath: First, make no outs.