Okay, I’ll be the first to admit I completely agree with the general idea of Brandon Phillips’ statement (Read it, you sonofabitch!) after Sunday’s game between the Brewers and the Reds. As a former writer that tried his damndest (Is that a word? Probably not. I’m sticking with it.) to get interesting quotes and almost always whiffed thanks to public relations directors and media coaches sucking the truth out of athletes, I love when athletes actually tell us how they feel. Of course, the majority of the media rips them to shreds for being selfish, arrogant or something of that ilk about 17 seconds after they complain of getting boring quotes.
To quote one of the best scenes in one of the best baseball movies, Bull Durham:
Crash Davis: It’s time to work on your interviews.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do?
Crash Davis: You’re gonna have to learn your clichés. You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends. Write this down: “We gotta play it one day at a time. I’m just happy to be here. Hope I can help the ballclub. I just want to give it my best shot, and the good Lord willing, things will work out.”
There’s a reason that scene is so damn funny. It’s true! Athletes are taught to say the same shit no matter what happens. It avoids controversy and makes them look all humble and gracious. But here’s the thing – they aren’t humble, that’s why they are where they are. If you can’t believe you’re the best, you won’t be the best. And if you don’t believe your team is the best, your team won’t be the best.
With that being said, thank you Brandon Phillips for being honest. Also, thank you for being horribly wrong. The Reds are a good team, and will be making noise in the NL Central for years to come if they stay healthy. But guess what? The Brewers are better than you, at least in 2009. So deal with it, and go mess up the Cardinals for us. Now get the fuck outta here.
Friday – Brewers 3, Reds 2: Braden Looper is the man of the hour as he twirls seven strong innings with a heavy heart and only gives up two runs on two hits. A fantastic outing, and more on him later (foreshadowing!). The Crew’s offense barely showed up, but as is their style, it was enough to win. Johnny Cueto held Milwaukee to three hits in seven innings, but two of them were dingers, including a solo shot in the 7th by Corey Hart to seal the deal.
Saturday – Brewers 9, Reds 5: The offense officially broke out against Aaron Harang with a 3-run first (Prince Fielder goes ya-ya again) and 6-run fifth. Dave Bush had his worst outing in an otherwise outstanding start to the year, but the bullpen picked him up with five shutout innings. The Crew had all nine batters reach base consecutively in the decisive fifth inning and that outburst essentially wrapped up the series win. More bad news for Cincy: Joey Votto hit the 15-day disabled list thanks to his ongoing struggle with dizziness and an ear infection. Is this the right time to make a swine flu joke, or is that not cool anymore?
Sunday – Brewers 5, Reds 2: After his baller outing against the Cards earlier in the week, Yovani Gallardo struggled a bit. He only went 5.1 innings and took 97 pitches to do it. However, he did hold Cincy to two runs (only one earned) and notched nine strikeouts to get his fifth win. The bullpen continued its badassness with 3.2 no-hit innings and Mike Cameron launched another homer (that’s 11 thus far, Shooter) to go along with a RBI single. Mat Gamel also broke out of a slump with a 2-for-3 afternoon. On the Reds side, Micah Owings got lit up and the hitters struck out a combined 14 times. Not much good to say for those guys on this day.
Hot Fire Player of the Series: Prince took a big lead in the NL RBI race with a good series, but this one has to go to Braden Looper. He threw his best outing of the year (noted above) the day after burying his grandfather back in Oklahoma. From his post-game press conference, it sounds like his grandfather really helped him get on track to a career in baseball. This time of year gets me as well because we’re right around the anniversary of my own grandfather’s death (Mom’s dad died too young for me to know him, so Dad’s dad was all I had) and it would be great to still have him around. But when the Big Guy calls, ya gotta go. Pitching and playing with more important things on your mind is one of the more difficult and underrated tasks in sports, so kudos to Looper for sticking it to Cincy.
Weak Sauce Player of the Series: I guess I’ll go with J.J. Hardy here. He only went 1-for-11 but with no strikeouts and a sacrifice fly, it wasn’t as bad as the numbers look. He hit the ball hard, he put it in play, he just didn’t catch the breaks. Coming off his back spasms issue from Minnesota, we’ll let it slide for now. Still though, get your game up, J.J.
Records: 30-20 overall, 1st in the NL Central, 1 game up on St. Louis. 16-9 at home.
Next up: The Crew heads southeast for a week-long 7-game road trip. First up is a 4-game set in Miami against the Marlins, followed by three games in ATL against the Fightin’ T.I.’s.