I don’t subscribe to the saying “when it counts in September.” The baseball season is like brushing my teeth. I can’t wait until the night before my appointment to brush and floss and hope the dentist will congratulate me with no cavities and a new toothbrush. I get into floss-ophy and brushamania every night before bed. It’s not easy, but blissing out while performing the mundane? Yes. I will it.
Ditto for games in April. The standings do matter because a game won now is a game that doesn’t have to be won in September when injures, slumps and the St, Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates put wrenches in spokes, rain on parades.
The Brewers faced General Cliff Lee Thursday night and a lot was riding on the game. 1) the Brewers first sweep of Philly at Philly in franchise history. 2) Extending their winning streak to 6 games 3) tying a franchise record for most consecutive road wins to start the season. 4) Maintaining 1st place and 5) enjoying a shut-eye night flight back home after the game.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were already in Milwaukee after beating the Chicago Cubs. The Brewers and Pirates open a three game series Friday night in the first of hopefully many NL Central showdowns. Yeh, the Pirates were probably walking around the 3rd ward taking in the PCB infested Milwaukee river scenery; relaxing while the Brewers were finishing off a road trip out east. Winning would make the red-eye plane ride much sweeter with sleep deprivation tolerable when facing Francisco Liraino Friday.
But Liriano was not on our mind Thursday night. Cliff Lee was. He’s a strike throwing machine who paints corners and throws a “dirty” change up as Brewers left fielder Khris Davis says. And Davis had never faced him; but he knows of his 6th best k/bb ratio in baseball history.
First and foremost is to get Cliff Lee out of the game, by any means necessary. Gather all players 4 hours before first pitch. Wander to the ocean or lake or anywhere where sea gulls have seized control of an open field. It should look like a putting green strewn with hundreds of white golf balls.
Admire sea gulls sitting with wings tucked into their bodies looking like Kirby Puckett bowling pins. Wait and then wait some more. Endure the awe awe cacaw. See the seagull’s split second reaction; their beaks pile driving earth at just the right moment…when a worm is snared. Process the patience and return to the stadium.
Proceed with regular scheduled programming; batting practice; infield and outfield practice, card game in the clubhouse. Swing at the first pitch. Be aggressive early in the count and early in the game, but patient when the strikes mount. Sit back and wait for that curve, just like them seagulls and scoot the ball any which way. Go with the pitch.
Lee might need an inning or two to settle in, but when it clicks beware so turn singles into doubles with Carlos Gomez tasmanian devil base running. See double out of the batter’s box on blooper base hits. Advance from first to third on singles. Bunt. Hit behind runners and move them from second to third. Hope for the sac fly. Run through the “Halt” sign of third base coach Ed Seder and score.
Lee struck out his 8 batters in 6 innings, but….Congratulation to Gomez and Davis and Braun. They rapped out five hits and drove in three runs off former Cy Young winner Cliff Lee. Big high-five to Jonathan Lucroy for hitting a ground ball to the right side; moving Aramis Ramirez to third and then home on Davis’s “I wait back on the curve ball” two strike single. Situational delight!
Marco Estrada out dueled Lee with a more devastating change-up and a slower one too. Estrada never hits 90 mph with his fastball. It doesn’t matter. Batters slip on the ice when the pitch comes in 8 mph slower at 81. And Estrada has learned how to pitch out of jams. He left the bases loaded in the 6th. That was the only threat. He gave up one hit through the first five innings; a solo home run to Marlon Byrd.
The Brewers dented the Phillies Bullpen again, extended the lead in the later innings. Final Score 6-2. The Brewers are now 7-2. The Pirates are 6-3. Liriano versus Wily Peralta Friday night.
Win or lose the rest of the way, these are the days of ascent and flight; good feelings stored in camel humps for a dry day.