Archive for October, 2011

Performer of the Game: Brewers lefty Wolf

October 14, 2011 Comments off

ST. LOUIS — As the Brewers battled the D-backs in the pivotal Game 5 of the National League Division Series last week, all Randy Wolf could do was sit and watch. And hope that his disastrous start in Game 4 — seven earned runs over three innings in a 10-6 loss — hadn’t cost them the series.

In the end, it didn’t, as Milwaukee won Game 5, 3-2, to advance to the NL Championship Series.

“You know, I’ll be honest with you, the day after the Diamondbacks start, I didn’t eat or shower that day,” Wolf said Thursday night. “I don’t know if they call that depression, but it was tough to swallow.”

He’ll be eating well — and be clean — Friday after cashing in on his shot at redemption.

In what the left-hander called the biggest start of his career, Wolf pitched seven stellar innings Thursday night in a 4-2 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium that knotted the NLCS at two games apiece and regained home-field advantage for the Brewers.

“Regardless of how the game went, I was satisfied with the fact that I was going to have that opportunity,” Wolf said. “You know, you don’t want to have just one opportunity and have it to be like it was.

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Cards’ La Russa, Crew’s Hairston go way back

October 14, 2011 Comments off

ST. LOUIS — Tony La Russa’s connection with Jerry Hairston goes back 33 years, to when the Cardinals’ manager started his first year at the helm for the White Sox.

During La Russa’s first year as manager in 1979, Jerry’s grandfather, Sam Hairston, was a coach with the Birmingham Barons, Chicago’s Double-A affiliate. Hairston remained with the Barons for 12 seasons and previously served as a bullpen coach and scout for the White Sox.

In 1981, La Russa’s connection with the Hairston family grew, as Jerry Hairston Sr. began his second tenure with the White Sox. It was then that La Russa first met the younger Jerry.

“I really enjoyed Jerry [Sr.], one of my favorite players, and then he had these two little kids, two little jerk kids running into my office telling me to play their dad more than I’m playing him,” La Russa said. “I’d say, ‘OK, maybe I should, but get out.'”

Sam Hairston passed away on Oct. 31, 1997, and Jerry Jr. made his Major League debut the following April for the Orioles.

Now 30 years since his father first played for La Russa, Hairston is the everyday third baseman for the Brewers in the National League Championship Series, coming through with a number of big hits against the Cardinals.

Said La Russa: “Yeah, it makes you feel real old to see Jerry Jr. kicking our butt like he does, but I hope Sam is appreciating it.”

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Roenicke has seen hitting win in the playoffs

October 13, 2011 Comments off

ST. LOUIS — It was their pitching that helped the Brewers to the National League Central title and got them to the NL Championship Series. And pitching typically is the key ingredient to winning championships.

But can the Brewers advance to or even win the World Series without it? Manager Ron Roenicke thinks so, because he has seen it happen before firsthand.

“When I was with the Angels, we won the World Series in 2002 [with] hitting, great hitting,” Roenicke said. “We absolutely killed the ball in the playoffs. We had a great bullpen. Starters, OK. So I’ve seen it where you don’t have to have great pitching. It doesn’t happen very often.”

In 2002, the Angels — with Roenicke as third-base coach — averaged 6.3 runs per game over 16 postseason contests. And their pitchers allowed 5.06 runs per game. Through eight games this postseason, the Brewers were outscored 47-38, averaging just 4.75 runs per game while giving up 5.88.

NL Most Valuable Player Award candidates Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder helped the Brewers put up strong offensive numbers this year, but the additions of starters Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, along with a solidified back end of the bullpen, made Milwaukee a playoff team.

Since they’ve reached the postseason, though, the Brewers have seen the offense carry the pitching staff more often than not. Yovani Gallardo was dominant against the D-backs in the NL Division Series, but even he struggled in Game 3 of the NLCS against the Cardinals.

Every other starter has struggled.

“The playoffs, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Roenicke said. “[In Game 3], I thought [it would be a] low-scoring game, and [after] the first three innings, I’m going, ‘Wow, where is this thing going?’ … I think it’s going to be pitching, and sometimes it isn’t.”

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Already a star, Braun finds new ways to amaze

October 13, 2011 Comments off

ST. LOUIS — If it seems as if Ryan Braun has taken his game to another level in the postseason, it’s because, well, he has.

Braun, already a National League Most Valuable Player Award candidate after putting up impressive numbers throughout the regular season, has been nearly unstoppable in the postseason. With his single in the first inning of the Brewers’ 4-2 victory in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Thursday night, Braun became the first player to start a postseason by going 15-for-30 since David Ortiz did so for the Red Sox in 2004, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

That single also marked a Major League-record eighth straight postseason game in which Braun reached base safely in the first inning. Braun has gone 6-for-6 with two homers, five RBIs, a walk and a hit by pitch in the opening frame of Milwaukee’s past eight games.

The only other player to reach base safely in even seven straight first frames in a postseason was Gary Sheffield for the Marlins in 1997.

After helping the Crew to its Game 4 victory, Braun could get the chance to extend his first-inning streak to 10 games.

“Feels great,” Braun said. “Obviously the goal was to make sure we get an opportunity to go back and play Game 6. If we didn’t get to do it, that would have meant our season was over. It’s well documented we have played well at home. These guys have played us tough at home, too, but it’s definitely a great feeling that we are going to have an opportunity to at least get to Game 6 back at home.”

But the first-inning hit was just an appetizer, as Braun would later continue his trend of seemingly coming through in every big situation he’s faced. He did it in the regular season, crushing a go-ahead three-run homer in the eighth inning against the Marlins on the night the Brewers clinched the NL Central title.

He did it in Game 1 of the NL Division Series — going 3-for-4 and scoring two runs — and again in Game 2 of that set, with a two-run homer in the first inning on his way to a 3-for-4 game in which he drove in three runs and scored a pair.

Braun also had a big hit in Game 5 of the NLDS, doubling in the sixth inning and later coming around to score the go-ahead run. Two days later, Braun blasted a two-run first-inning homer to put the Brewers on top early in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Cards.

More surprising have been the moments when he hasn’t delivered.

In Milwaukee’s Game 3 loss to St. Louis, Braun grounded out to lead off the eighth inning of a one-run game after flying out with the tying run on first in his previous at-bat.

But Thursday night, with the Crew needing a win, Braun was back, delivering the go-ahead single in the fifth inning off reliever Mitchell Boggs.

“Real big at-bat there,” said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. “To get the infield in on the right side there, they left the shortstop back a little bit. But Braunie, he battles until they make a mistake where he’s able to handle it, and he continues to get big hits for us.”

Braun is batting .471 this postseason, with six doubles, two home runs, nine RBIs and seven runs scored.

Even if Braun is not the NL MVP, he’s certainly making a case to be NLCS MVP.

“Everyone says what a hot streak he’s been on. He’s Ryan. He’s been doing that all year long,” said Brewers third baseman Jerry Hairston. “Probably him or Prince [Fielder] will win the MVP, both deserving of it. [Braun] is a complete player. He can run, hit for average, hit for power and he’s been clutch for us all year long. So having him do this, it’s not surprising. He’s been doing it for us the whole season.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Concern over family tickets a misunderstanding

October 13, 2011 Comments off

ST. LOUIS — Any apparent issues with seating for the families of Brewers players at Busch Stadium turned out to be “much ado about nothing.”

It was a misunderstanding that blew up into an story on Wednesday charging the Cardinals of gamesmanship, but a misunderstanding nonetheless.

In fact, some might consider their seats — many of which are in three catered, first-level party suites down the first-base line — an upgrade over the usual spots behind home plate.

“It’s different than what they’re used to when they come here as a visiting team,” said Katy Feeney, senior vice president of scheduling for Major League Baseball. “It’s nothing different than what they gave the Phillies, it’s nothing different than what they did in ’09 when they were in the postseason.

“[The families] can get in and out very easily. They don’t even have to come through the crowds. In some ways, it’s an advantage.”

All of the players’ wives, children and other immediate family members were able to fit in the suites, aside from the ones who chose to use some tickets in the main seating area.

Brewers left-hander Randy Wolf and manager Ron Roenicke met with the media before Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday, and neither expressed much concern over the apparent issue.

Said Wolf: “If I were to have a list of things to think about, that would definitely be at the bottom.”

But there was some concern that the families would be scattered all over the stadium before the players fully grasped the situation, said Brewers director of team travel Dan Larrea.

Most of the tickets provided in the main seating area were for Brewers staff members who made the trip down from Milwaukee. In the end, the club even ended up sending back most of the tickets allotted for family members in the main seating area of the stadium.

“There are no security issues, which was the first concern,” Larrea said. “It was an overreaction initially, but everything was worked out. There is no ‘ticketgate.'”

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Brewers choose to avoid hot Pujols

October 12, 2011 Comments off
ST. LOUIS — Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has made it clear he prefers not to intentionally walk opposing hitters, both through his words when asked about it and by giving out fewer intentional free passes than all but two teams this season.But when a guy is beating you with his bat like Albert Pujols has been over the first two games of the National League Championship Series, the only logical choice is to put him on first and take your chances with the guy batting behind him.

“He’s scary when he’s hitting everything, and we make good pitches and he’s still hitting them,” Roenicke said. “He’s done a lot of damage against us.”

Pujols batted in the first inning of Game 3 with first base open, but with none out, Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo pitched to him. Gallardo threw one pitch, a curveball just below the zone, and Pujols hit it for a double, scoring Jon Jay from second and making it a two-run game.

Each of Pujols’ next two plate appearances also came with first base open, and the Brewers then decided to put Pujols on first and take their chances with Matt Holliday.

“[Pujols] kind of half-swung at it and hit a double in the gap. Whenever you’re going hot, that kind of stuff happens,” said catcher Jonathan Lucroy. “We’re going to pitch around him; we’re not going to let him beat us. We didn’t let him beat us after that, and it still didn’t work out for us. But we kept him from hurting us even more.”

Milwaukee pitchers sent 16 batters to first base intentionally during the regular season, tying them with Arizona for second-fewest intentional walks behind Boston, which put 11 men on first intentionally.

Even in the postseason, the Brewers entered Wednesday’s game tied with the D-backs and Rays for the fewest intentional walks with just one. And that one backfired on Roenicke, as Shaun Marcum surrendered a game-changing grand slam to the next batter he faced in Game 3 of the NL Division Series.

But after giving out three in Game 3, Milwaukee moved to the front of the pack with its four intentional walks being the most so far in the playoffs. And it has worked a lot better for Roenicke to put Pujols on first than let him swing away.

Including his first-inning double Wednesday, each of Pujols’ past three hits — all of which are doubles — have come with first base open. Holliday has gone 1-for-2 with a walk in his at-bats following those three Pujols hits.

Following each of Pujols’ intentional walks, Holliday struck out swinging. But while the strategy worked, Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman doesn’t like the Brewers’ odds if they continue with it in the long run.

“I have a hard time walking anybody to get to Matt Holliday,” Berkman said. “He’s won a batting title. He’s been an LCS MVP [with Colorado in 2007]. You might get him a couple of times, but you’d better be careful. If they keep doing it, he’s going to absolutely make them pay.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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