By Danny Mehigan
I know this series was already discussed by one Mr. Andrew Paschen mere hours ago (and a few posts below), but we don’t let Cubs fans do all the talking when it comes to this rivalry – especially when they win two of three in Brew City. And what a series it was. Depending on how you look at it, it could spell impending doom or a bright future. We’ll stick with bright future … because that glass looks awfully half-full from here. Probably with Miller Lite. Delicious.
Friday – Brewers 4, Cubs 3: Braden Looper started off his Brewers tenure with a solid outing, going five innings and giving up one run. Rich Harden of the Cubs performed as expected, throwing a ton of pitches, getting a lot of strikeouts (10) and leaving early (6 innings). Seth McClung gave up a 2-run bomb to Koyie Hill but he just wanted to set up some dramatics. Thusly, Rickie Weeks delivered with a ringing double off the wall to tie it in the 9th and he beat the throw home on a fielders’ choice groundball to short to seal the win just a few minutes later. But just in case Crew fans started to feel comfortable after the rousing Opening Day win …
Saturday – Cubs 6, Brewers 5: The Crew should have taken the series here. Milwaukee made Carlos Zambrano work for everything in his six innings, Dave Bush threw a solid 6.1 innings, and the bullpen gave it away twice. Prince Fielder blasted his first dinger of the year, Mike Rivera had two hits (Aside: Somebody tell me why Jason Kendall plays 97% of the games. Rivera needs more playing time. Plain and simple.), and J.J. Hardy broke out with a clutch 2-run single in the 7th. But it was all for naught as Carlos Villanueva gave up an absolute moon shot to Alfonso Soriano with one out in the 9th to give the Cubs a 6-5 lead (and eventually, the win). A complete 180-degree turnaround from the highs of Friday night’s win.
Sunday – Cubs 8, Brewers 5: I am not the only one to rip on Jeff Suppan. He makes it much easier than that. But I just want people to know that I saw this coming. The Brewers WALKED IN four runs for the Cubs in the 4th inning (Suppan 3, Jorge Julio 1) and couldn’t complete the comeback later on. They gave it a go – Reed Johnson robbed Prince of a grand slam with a ridiculous catch in the 5th (it would have tied the game) and they got Prince up to bat in the 9th as the tying run against struggling closer Kevin Gregg (he struck out). The pitching was awful (10 walks, 2 HBP), the hitting was okay (3 extra base hits, 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position), but they a chance.
One last note on Suppan: I was listening to the game on the radio with a friend, and before it started, I bet him a dollar that Soriano would go deep to lead it off. Kind of a joke to make fun of Suppan, kind of because Soriano kills the Brewers. Either way, when Soriano lambasted the first pitch, it became the saddest dollar I’ve ever earned.
The Brewers could have, and should have, won this series, but you can’t be too mad about Villanueva’s blown save because the Friday night comeback evened it out. You can be mad about the pitching on Sunday, but you have to be happy that the Brewers made it very difficult on the Cubs despite facing good pitchers every day. Considering the prognosticators think the 2009 Cubs are God’s gift to baseball, losing a series like this is frustrating but not so terrible in the grand scheme of things.
Hot Fire Player of the Series: Corey Hart. He went 4-for-9 (.444) in the series with two home runs and also drew four walks. After seeing him struggle so much in the second half last season, it’s good for Brewer fans to see Hart well at the plate again. He still swings over the occasional slider down and away, but he’s making progress.
Weak Sauce Player of the Series: Jeff Suppan. I realize I just kill this guy, but everyone else did something right this week. He did not. His final line: 3.2 innings, 2 hits, 5 earned runs, 6 walks, 1 strikeout. Not only is he racking up losses but the “innings eater” is getting knocked out of games early, and in turn, decimating the bullpen. As the veteran, he has to get it together (or get sent to the ‘pen) for the Brewers to be in contention. Carlos Villanueva was also considered, but he had a good inning on Friday and blown saves happen – so he gets a pass this time. Get your game up, Jeff.
Records: 2-4 (1-2 at home).
Next up: The Reds come to town for a 3-game set at Miller Park Monday through Wednesday. On the hill are Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra and Braden Looper.