it’s good to be 35 and pitching

19 Apr
The Bird Fidrych; ESPN

The Bird Fidrych; ESPN

Some pitchers are bottle rockets; exploding onto the scene and capturing everyone’s attention; Mark Fidrych, Dontrell Willis; star-dust and then in a flash….gone; back to a family farm or in the case of Willis; one Indy League comeback attempt after another.

In the shadows are turtles trudging along for 5, 6 or 7 years with bloated era’s and a back-end of the rotation home when suddenly something happens; maybe a new delivery or miracle meeting with a pitching coach, a Tommy John Surgery-some strange bionic revival. Whatever it is, the turtle arrives.

Kyle Lohse was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 1996 draft; 862nd overall pick. After five mediocre minor league seasons, Lohse was traded to the Minnesota Twins. He pitched six years and was a bit above average.; close to 200 innings each year with 2003 his best; 14 wins and 211 hits allowed in 200 innings.

But the hits and walks spiked over the next two seasons and Lohse was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, then the Philadelphia Phillies and in 2007, granted free agency. He signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. That’s where he bumped into Dave Duncan; the Cardinal’s pitching coach.

Lohse learned how to throw a 2-seam fastball, command his off speed pitches. He became more of a pitcher than a thrower and isn’t that what every pitching coach does or is supposed to do? Groom young arms and revive old ones.

Duncan and manager Tony Larussa are a story in itself. The two were inseparable; first with the White Sox, then Oakland and finally St. Louis. Larussa managed. Duncan developed pitchers. Their teams won. Duncan’s pitchers won Cy Young awards.

Lohse surprised everyone, except Duncan and the Cardinals. After an incredible first half to the 2008 season, they offered him a 4-year contract.  But then Lohse regressed and began suffering fatigue in 2009 and 2010. Exertional compartment syndrome was the diagnosis. Some obscure condition causing swelling in arms and legs. Surgery was required.

Lohse was already 32-years old, but apparently saving the best for last or surgery worked wonders or age, experience, and Dave Duncan marinated a miracle.

In 2011, Lohse enjoyed the best year of his career and then he topped that with an even better 2012; winning 16 games, 2.86 ERA, WHIP around 1 and maybe most impressive-143 K’s and only 38 walks.

wrn.com

wrn.com

The Brewers waited until March 25, 2013; one week before opening day and signed Lohse to a 4-year contract, believing he was for real and had some gas left in the tank. Lohse has not disappointed.

The 35-year old was on the mound last night for game 2 against the Pirates and his performance? A clinic on how to pitch..

The very first batter of the game-Sterling Marte hit a towering pop up between the pitcher’s mound and home plate. The first and third baseman, catcher, and pitcher coffee clutched. “I got it. You got it.” Collision. The ball dropped. Marte safe at first. He steals second and the catcher’s throw sails into center field. Marte to third. He scores on Russel Martin’s groundball.

Then in the bottom of the third, center fielder Carlos Gomez failed to field a run scoring single by Martin cleanly. The runner advanced to third and the ensuing throw from Gomez was bobbled by shortstop Jean Segura. Martin advanced to second. Lohse walked Andrew McCutchen. Bases loaded and one out. Brewers already trailing 2-0.

Lohse struck out Pedro Alvarez and got Neil Walker to pop out. The game was decided right then and there. Lohse had ignored the errors and escaped the jam.The Brewers scored three times in the top of the fourth, again in the fifth and sixth.

In the seventh, Jean Segura committed the Brewer’s fourth error. Lohse then walked Marte and left the game; leading 5-2,  Reliever Tyler Thornburg allowed a run scoring double to McCutchen. Will Smith replaced Thornburg and struck out Alvarez; a game to forget for him. Alvarez left 8 runners in scoring position.

A game of missed opportunities for the Pirates? Maybe, but also a game of Lohse keeping his composure and making those extra, unnecessary pitches with a clear head. But in the end, this game will be remembered for a different reason.

mlb.com

mlb.com

In the top of the sixth, Brewer’s catcher Martin Maldonado hit a hard ground ball to Alvarez at third base. Routine play, except the cover of the baseball ripped off and was flapping in the breeze. Maldonado had literally hit the cover off the ball. mythic.

Final score; Brewer 5; Pirates 3.

The Brewers are 12-5.

 

a game to forget

18 Apr

There’s been something pleasantly different in the way Yovani Gallardo pitches this season. It’s only 18.2 innings, but fewer strikeouts for sure.

Gallardo is still a spitting image of Dennis “El Presidente” Martinez with hand and arms swinging a pendulum followed by a corkscrew turn towards third base and letting loose a low 90′s fastball or 12-6 curve ball; one of the best in baseball that curve; provoking some of the silliest looking swings and misses on the spiked two strike put away variety.

Gallardo still pitches into the 6th inning. His hair is still long and black; just the beard is different; more Grizzly Adams and of course, that changes everything. He’s walked only three batters in 18.2 innings and not allowed any home runs, pitching more to contact and balls are ending up in fielder’s mitts; only struck out 13.

getty images

getty images

It’s been that way since last season; since he was surrounded by two pitchers who tend to throw nothing but strikes; Kyle Lohse and Marco Estrada. Maybe the team’s kangaroo court fines players a thousand dollars for every walk surrendered. Or maybe not.

On Thursday night Gallardo’s pitch count reached 100 by the fifth inning against the Pirates. It was the first game of a four game series at PNC Park Pittsburgh. Gallardo surrendered a two run home run to Andrew McCutchen, walked 3 batters matching his season total and struck out five in as many innings. It was vintage Gallardo. Get way ahead the batter and then labor and nit pick. Let the count run full and then finish him off with a big pitch. He only gave up three hits in six innings. Score tied 2-2.

The journey with Gallardo….stressful. “Put him away already,” I used to shout at the TV, but that was before, back when we wanted more from him and believed he had not yet peaked as a pitcher. But maybe he already has. He was a strikeout machine from 2009-2012. In 782 innings, striking out 815 batters. He won 50 games over that 4 year span and allowed less than a hit per inning,  around three walks and one home run per game. Good if not great!

Last year the strikeouts were down and the hits allowed went up, but he still survived into the 6th inning. Maybe he’s regressed from a dominant pitcher to a very good one and that’s ok. Maybe his army is tired But he’s only 28. Dammit. Or maybe last night was an indication of a return to the way he pitched earlier in his career? I don’t know. Whatever, he still keeps the Brewers in games.

Unfortunately, Thursday night was the first bullpen implosion of the season. The Pirates teed off on recent AAA call up Rob Wooten; scoring three times on a Josh Harrison pinch hit home run in the seventh inning. And then in the eighth, my oh my.  Wei-Chung Wang; the Brewer’s 21-year-old rule V draft pick selected from the Pirates, the Korean kid who pitched a scoreless inning against the Cardinals the other day….

umm…well, the Pirates kinda welcomed him to the major leagues; bam slam slice;  6 hits, 6 runs, 6 earned runs all in the ninth inning including two home runs. I hope Wang exercises amnesia and moves on.

So much for the Brewer’s perfect 6-0 record on the road. First base coach Garth Iorg didn’t know what to say after the game so he said this, “Well, we asked him (Wang) to pitch the eighth inning because the bullpen needed some rest and he did pitch the eighth inning.”

The final score of 11-2 was a bit misleading, just like a pitcher’s season stats can be. They don’t reveal the one bad inning or outing that bloats the ERA or score. The game was 2-2 to begin the 7th inning. The Pirates scored 9 runs in the 7th and 8th and probably bumped the Brewers bullpen from the top spot in team ERA.

The Brewers are 11-5.

 

maybe gold in the hills…maybe not

17 Apr

Mike Moustakas woke up Wednesday morning; a great beginning to a new day. But the feeling didn’t last too long. A nagging thought crept into his mind. I’m 4 for 40 this season and I hit .233 last year with a .287 OB%.  Moustakas is 25-years old and his status as the Kansas City Royal’s future fixture at third base is in jeopardy.

George Springer also woke up Wednesday morning; a great beginning to a new day with one significant psychological difference. The good feeling never stopped. The 24-year old right fielder boarded a plane in Oklahoma City; destined for Houston, Texas-Minute Maid Park. Springer was to make his much anticipated major league debut against Mike Moustakas and the Royals later that night.

Springer is the Astro’s golden chip who will save the franchise. He was selected 11th overall in the 2011 draft from the University of Connecticut and his time is now. But it was Moustakas who hit the go ahead home run in the 11th inning; his first of the young season.

The Astros have lost 100 games in a row for three consecutive seasons. One more and they join the only three teams in the history of baseball to lose more than 100 games in four or more consecutive years; Philadelphia Phillies from 1938-1942, Washington Senators from 1961-1964 and New York Mets from 1962-1965.

Springer; getty image

Springer; getty image

Springer does just about everything. He’s a five tool, can’t miss prospect. We’ve heard it all before. He hit a combined 37 home runs and stole 45 bases last year at AA Corpus Christi and AAA Oklahoma City…..303 BA with a .411 OB%, .600 slugging percentage. He also struck out 161 times.

Kila in Japan; wikipedia

Kila in Japan; wikipedia

But minor league success doesn’t mean squat. There’s an endless cast of failures. One of my favorites was Kila Ka’aihue of the Kansas City Royals. I loved the name Kila, his Hawaiian origins, power, and amazing on base percentage-.463, achieved at AAA Omaha in 2010. KAboooka!

Ka’aihue played parts of three seasons with the Royals; 283 total at bats. He was then traded to the Oakland A’s in 2012, played 39 games before being designated for reassignment-aka- hit the road Kila. He signed a minor league deal with Arizona and did well at AAA Reno;.hitting 16 home runs in 192 at bats with a .426 OB%, but was released and finished the 2013 season with the Hiroshima Toya Carp in the Japanese Central League. He’s still there.

If Ka’aihue’s journey drifted east, then Tyler Thornburg’s is going west. The college outfielder was a third round pick of The Milwaukee Brewers in the 2010 draft-96th player overall. He was converted to a pitcher and hopes were high as he progressed through the Brewer’s system, reaching AAA Nashville. That’s where things began to go sour. He was horrible in 2013; allowing 90 hits in 74 innings including 11 home runs; an ERA of 5.79 and a WHIP of 1.59.

Thornburg; Reuters

Thornburg; Reuters

And so the Brewers called him up in June of that year. Say what? Well, they needed a pitcher to log some innings on a depleted staff and go figure; Thornburg shined (66 innings-53 hits, 2.02 ERA.)  He’s been even better so far this year (9 innings, 4 hits, 1 run, and 12 k’s) Fastball in the upper 90′s, huge curve ball, great control. Throws over the top; motion resembling Tim Lincecum.

Yesterday, Thornburg pitched a perfect 8th inning to help the Brewers salvage game 3 of their series against the Cardinals. He helped preserve the win for another golden armed prospect-Wily Peralta who is settling in now and finding his groove. The Brewers are 11-4.

And George Springer? Well, he played right field and batted second in the Astros lineup. No pressure son. Jeremy Guthrie, an 11 year veteran was on the mound for the Royals. Singer hit a sharp grounder to Alcides Escobar in his first at bat and almost beat it out.

In his second at bat, he worked the count full and then took a Carlos Gomez/Hunter Pence ain’t gonna cheat me kind of swing. He got on top of the pitch and the ball dribbled down the third base line for a swinging bunt single. He scored his first run when Jason Castro hit an opposite field home run. A walk and two strikeouts later; his his first big league game; a 1 for 5.

The future is filled with hundreds of big league at bats for Springer, just like it was for Moustakas. But Springer is still a stud. Moustakas is trying to not be a dud. Everyone is pulling for both of them.

 

 

drowning in the red sea

16 Apr

The order in a pitching rotation seems more like a facial feature difference than a subtlety. The opposition knows exactly what to expect. It’s either gonna be 95 mph gas or off speed junk. And nowadays, with videos galore, the details of how a pitcher pitches can be analyzed into microscopic realms.

And yet the who and when of a pitching rotation is still very important to a manager or maybe he sits and stares at a clipboard just to appear smart and sabermetric savvy; a 21st century pose. Yes, the pitching staff order is far from random. Starts are even skipped and spot starters inserted to tilt the scales a bit and create better match-ups, increase the odds for a pitcher and his team.

A staff typically consists of four or five starters and ideally-barring injury, there’s not much tinkering to it over a 162 game season. But no two teams are exactly alike in terms of habits and tendencies; strengths and weaknesses. Some are better fast ball hitting teams and others see the junk, wait on back legs and line balls to the opposite field.

There is no exact science to a pitching rotation and no bible to follow, but that doesn’t stop teams from insisting on having at least one lefty in a rotation and assembling the others in some night then day fashion; a speed demon followed by a change-up artist; a quick worker on Sunday-a human rain delay Monday. It’s all designed to disrupt the batters; screw up their timing, keep em guessing.

But mood, momentum, and luck makes many a manager turn to the bottle and it ain’t Grecian Formula to keep grey hairs at bay; hoping for a better day tomorrow. But if the sun shines and a pitcher baffles the opposition, new theories will explain a team’s success. And poor ol’ luck- will toil away in obscurity, still the unsung hero of baseball outcomes.

The Brewers liked their chances with Marco Estrada following Matt Garza in the rotation; from 95 mph gas to 80 mph deception. Estrada pitched well Tuesday night against the Cardinals, but he uncharacteristically hit a batter, walked another and both of them scored. The Cardinals don’t waste opportunities.  And  Cardinal pitching? ….ho hum.

It must be so damn easy to design a Cardinal pitching staff, in 2014 anyway.  Just throw the names in a hat and call the first name that pops up your ace. All of em throw 95 mph with movement on the pitch. Ditto for the bullpen. Lefty-righty. It doesn’t matter.  Kudos to their scouting department for finding somewhat off the radar prospects and developing them into pitchers.

Marco Estrada kept the Brewers in the game;. It was  3-1 through 6 innings, but the Cardinal’s Shelby Miller struck out 7 and allowed three hits; the lone run a solo homer by Aramis Ramirez. That makes one run for the Brewers over the last 18 innings against the freaking Cardinals. Shelby Miller gets his first win of the season.

Oh yeh, and Matt Holiday hit his first home run of the year; a booming blast to center field in the ninth inning and a few batters later, Jhonny  Peralta smashed one off the Club Goodwill sign in the bleachers. Both long balls hit off Jim Henderson. It was the second of the game for Peralta. Final score; Cardinals 6, Brewers 1. Milwaukee seems to be the place where Cardinal slumps suddenly end. Arghhhhh!

The Brewers are 10-4. The Cardinals are 9-5.

It’s Wily Peralta’s turn Wednesday afternoon and in contrast to Estrada, he throws 97 mph with plenty of sink on his pitches. And the Cardinals? Does it matter?  He goes by the name Joe Kelly and he’ll still be wearing that red Cardinal uniform and I’m beginning to think color matters. I’ve run out of ideas. The Brewers have a .427 winning % against the Cardinals since 1997. Primal screams!!!!!

Maybe Brewer batters should wear special sunglasses; the kind you order on TV.  “Call 1-800…….right now and receive a second pair absolutely free.” Those glasses change the color of the day.

not in the cards

15 Apr

Goliath musta been dangling in the Miller Park tailgating lot last night; dangling like a piñata waiting for David to trounce and rally. The Brewers were trailing 4-0 in the top of the ninth inning; their nine game winning streak in serious jeopardy. And then it happened.

The bullpen doors opened and out walked Wei Chung Wang and 27,090 fans knew what was coming next. Wang’s major league debut would go 1-2-3 and the offense would rally for 4, maybe 5 runs to win the game and extend the streak.

Wang; jsonline.com

Wang; jsonline.com

The 21-year old lefty had not pitched this season. We waited against Atlanta, Philly, Boston, and Pittsburgh, 12 games in all but still no Wang. He was the rule V draft pick Pittsburgh left unprotected and the Brewers must keep him stashed in the big league bullpen all season or the Pirates can steal him back.

The skinny Korean pauses in mid motion like most Asian pitchers do. He curls his right leg and delivers an over the top pitch and it looks good and so does he; standing there all calm and composed and under control. He throws another pitch; a change-up and Jon Jay swings and pops out to shallow left field. Tony Cruz pops out too. Pete Kozma singles, but Doug Descalso flies out to right field. Wang’s debut a scoreless success.

Now it’s David’s turn to topple Goliath; to take down the St. Louis Cardinals, but it doesn’t happen. It can’t; not against the Cardinals. The Brewers go down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth. Curtains.

St. Louis has golden arches, ferry boats and big red wheels turning on the Mississippi, but it’s just St. Louis; home of the Cardinals to Brewer fans and they’ve been a thorn for more than 30 years now- a monkey on the Brewer’s back.  It all started with beer and it was fun; Anheuser Busch in St. Louis and Miller in Milwaukee. And like good drinking buddies, backs were scratched-favors made.

The December 1980 trade sending Ted Simmons, Pete Vuckovich and Rollie Fingers from the Cardinals to the Brewers played a huge role in transforming Milwaukee from a good team to a great one. The Brewers won the second half of the AL East in 1981 and then the AL Championship the following year; losing to those very same Cardinals in the 1982 World Series.

Fingers won the Cy Young and MVP in 1981 and Vuckovich the Cy Young in 1982. St. Louis had opened the door for Milwaukee and like a cruel teaser slammed it shut at the last possible moment.

The Cardinals returned to the World Series in 1985 and 1987, but lost. They won it all in 2006, again in 2011 and last year lost to the Red Sox. A tale of success that began a long time ago when Cardinal’s General Manager Branch Rickey rounded up America’s best talent and filled Cardinal minor league rosters. All in all…11 World Series trophies.

The Brewers enjoyed winning records in 1983, 1987 and 1988, and 1992, but never made the playoffs and never really came close. But solid draft picks and smart trades brought a wild card in 2008 and then in 2011-first place in the NL Central ahead of those St. Louis Cardinals. But there was still an obstacle.

The Cardinals slipped into the playoffs on a wild card ticket and they got hot; real hot. The Brewers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in round 1 of the playoffs. Only one team stood in their way from reaching the World Series and there they were again, those St. Louis Cardinals. There was Tony La Russa the lawyer/manager who accused Milwaukee of tinkering with its home field lights to distract Cardinal batters.

And yeh, the Cardinals beat the Brewers with little trouble and went on to win the 2011 World Series, but La Russa retired and the new Cardinals manager was Mike Matheny, a former big league catcher who was drafted and developed by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Happy ending to the rivalry? Lion lay down with lamb? I hope not. There’s 18 more games to go against the Redbirds, but hats off to Lance Lynn. He had his way with Brewer batters last night; striking out 11 and allowing three measly hits over 7 innings.

The winning streak is over. The Brewers are 10-3, but there was an ember in the fire. Wei Chung Wang pitched.

more than perfect

14 Apr

Twenty seven batters come up. Twenty seven batters go down. No runs, no hits, no walks, and no errors. It’s a perfect game. It’s blue moon rare; 23 times since 1900; the last by Felix Hernandez in 2012. There’s no denying the suspense and thrill, the awe it provokes in fans, but  the game’s outcome  never hinges on critical pitches unless it’s Harvey Hadddix. It almost feels sure real like it isn’t really happening.

It’s the same with people pretending to be perfect. They can’t be touched and so they aren’t. It gets boring after a while.

A perfect game lacks timely hits, double plays, slides into home, seeing eye choppers over third base heading towards the outfield corner, runners playing cat and mouse with the pitcher. There’s no dropped third strikes and batters hustling down to first base. But when miscues and timely base hits dance side by side near pitcher perfection, it almost feels more than perfect.

I watched Ben Sheets strike out 18 Braves in 2004. He allowed three hits and the Brewers won 4-1. It was part of maybe the greatest, most underrated single season pitcher performance of  of all time; 237 innings, 264 K’s-32 BB’s, and a 0.983 WHIP. He only won 12 games and played on a team with a record of 67-94.

Yesterday, Kyle Lohse of the Brewers evoked memories of the Sheets 18 K game. The first inning felt like a premonition; a miner’s light I hoped would shine through all nine innings.

Three groundballs to shortstop Jean Segura including a fully extended spear of a bullet off the bat of maybe baseball’s fastest runner-Andrew McCutchen. Segura sprung to his feet and in nano seconds threw a strike to first baseman Lyle Overbay.

The Pirates mirrored the Brewers in the bottom of the first with two ground balls to short and a lay out spear by first baseman Travis Ishikawa. Pitching and defense. Pitching ansd defense. Yes, pitching and defense. It was Charlie Morton for the Pirates and Lohse for the Brewers. The game finished in 2 hours and 11 minutes, but almost slipped under the 2 hour mark.

Lohse struck out 9 pirates, including 5 in a row during the 7th and 8th inning. He allowed three hits-all singles and just one run. His pitch count was under 90 to begin the 9th inning. With two outs and two strikes on McCutchen, he had a chance for a 10th strikeoout and 11th complete game of his career. The Brewers were leading 4-1 and I was feeling greedy. On Lohse’s 100th pitch, McCutchen lined a single past Segura. It was Lohse’s last pitch.

Lohse saluting fans; usnews.com

Lohse saluting fans; usnews.com

He walked off the field to a standing ovation; replaced by Will Smith who struck out last year’s NL home run champ-Pedro Alvarez on three nasty sliders outside the strike zone. Nice when the home team wins on a swinging strike because it feels like 35,000 fans will the pitcher to make it happen and then he does.

That 1st inning turned out to be a microcosm after all. Both pitchers had their A game. The Brewers scord 2 very legitimate run early in the game; on a double, sac bunt, and sac fly in the fourth inning and on back to back hits the following inning..

The other two runs were 6th inning gifts. Back up catcher Tony Sanchez dropped a third strike with runners on second and third. No problem. Easy throw to first base, right? Nope. He threw it over Ishikawa’s head at first base and into right field where Jose Tabata bobbled the ball some more. Two runs scored.

No home runs, no triples in this game but plenty of suspense as the game remained very close until the Sanchez mistake. Pitching and defense including a close play at the plate and some rally buzz kill double plays, but this game belonged to Lohse. He just kept pouring in strikes; both sides of the strike zone; up and down; inside and outside.

And to think he was beaned above the knee while batting in the 5th inning and yet, he just got stronger and more accurate; maybe more determined.

Lohse is a Nomlaki Native American; one of three Native Americans in baseball; the other two being Jacobi Ellsbury and Joba Chamberlain. Lohse now has 131 career wins. I wonder if that’s the most all time for Native Americans? not that it matters, but trivia and tangents; oh how I love trivia and tangents; coco puff crazy love.

Lohse is not even close says baseball reference.  Charles Albert Chief Bender from the Ojibwa tribe had 212 wins.

But anyway, the Brewers completed their third consecutive sweep; first against the WS champ Red Sox, then the Phillies, and yesterday last year’s NL wild card winning Pirates. That makes 9 wins in a row and a 10-2 record.

 

out-tricking the trickster

13 Apr

Some came racing to Water Tower park by Schwinn red sting ray bicycle. Others walked  along the railroad tracks and through the bush. The coach’s children packed into a four door Honda and arrived with yawns and hair still wet.

not Amanda, but still; sodahead.com

not Amanda, but still; sodahead.com

A few kids sat on one corner of the dugout bench playing with Star Wars figures. They didn’t really want to be on a baseball team. Some tugged on mom or dad’s sleeve; hoping for soda or hot dogs, preferring to watch rather than play. And then there was Alexandra Simmons. Of course we called her Amanda Wurlitzer because she was a girl and she could pitch. We never bothered explaining to her the real origin of our Pirate’s name. Alexandra believed in the power of being a pirate.

We turned her Santa Klaus faith into a good luck charm and encouraged her to wear a patch before every game. Some called her Panda; a nice mix of Pirate and Amanda, but most of us just watched her paint corners with awe. We kept our discussion about the Pirate’s name to ourselves. We did it for the team.

The original name was the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, but when they were accused of stealing players from the rival American Association League, “for being piratical,” they renamed their team Pirates for the 1891 season. The new nickname didn’t appear on their uniforms until 1912, but once it was there, it never came off.

Alexandra Amanda Wurlitzer Simmons didn’t need to know. None of us did because no matter how different we were, we were winning and all of us knew what to do when the other team’s runner reached first base and advanced to third on a single. The situation called for a sleight of hand, art of deception, decoy, pirate trickery. Oh, we called it all kinds of names including “73.”

The runner breaks for second and our catcher who we nicknamed “Malted,” throws a strike to the second baseman, but just as the ball reaches the destination, the shortstop who we called “Flight” steps in the way, intercepts the throw, plants his feet and throws a return strike to the catcher-”Malted.”

The runner breaking home from third slides. The ensuing cloud of dust gives way to a riot because the runner is a dead duck. The umpire thrusts his arm down signalling out. The double steal has failed.  We had practiced that play ad nauseam and seeing it come to fruition was the only proof we needed in life.

But that was Little League. The double steal in first and third situations seldom happens in the major leagues, maybe because the arms of defenders are missile bulls eyes, but last night?….well, I’m still ringing from the Brewer Pirate fever.

The score was tied 2-2 in the top of the 8th inning.  With runners on first and third, last year’s MVP-Andrew McCutchen hits a towering pop up to the right of home plate. It was a dome closed Miller Park sky. Things can get Dizzy, but Brewer’s catcher Jonathan Lucroy makes the catch with one hand and jumping geewillikers, the runner from first-Travis Snyder tags up and tries to advance to second base; a poor man’s Pirate double steal trickery?

Lucroy throws a strike to second base, but shortstop Jean Segura steps in front, intercepts the missile, plants his feet and returns a strike to the pitcher; yes the pitcher-Jim Henderson who is now covering home plate. And Henderson doesn’t flinch; blocking the plate like no pitcher is supposed to do, like the hockey player from Calgary, Canada that he is. Tag applied; completion of a little league double play.

Braun with winning run; Wisconsinrapidstribune

Braun with winning run; Wisconsinrapidstribune

And with poetry aligning the batting order and planets to make sure the great defender is rewarded, Lucroy steps to the plate in the bottom of the inning. Braun stands on second as the go ahead run. The Milwaukee crowd is screaming Luuuuuuuuuuc just like we did for Cooooooooop all those years and the boy from Louisianna-Jonathan Lucroy lines a sharp single into the hole between the first and second baseman. Braun scores just out of the reach of the catcher’s tag. Brewers take the lead 3-2.

Frankie K-Rod Rodriguez allows a lead off walk in the ninth, but then closes the door for his fourth save.

Brewers win their 8th game in a row good for first place in the National League Central with a 9-2 record.

Oh screw it, if you wanna see the Bizzaro double play with pitcher Jim Henderson covering home plate, click for some trickery

 

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