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Easter Sunday: 25 years later

April 8, 2012 Comments off

Easter Sunday is a special day for Brewers fans. And not just because of the feast and festivities that come along with the Christian holiday.

One of the most memorable games in Brewers history was 25 years ago on Easter Sunday, as home runs by Rob Deer and Dale Sveum on April 19, 1987, carried the Brewers to a 6-4 victory. More importantly, it extended Milwaukee’s season-opening win streak to 12 games.

A week later, that streak landed Deer and the Brewers on the cover of Sports Illustrated:

 

Looking back on that game today, I searched the newspaper archives from that Easter Monday.

Here are some screenshots of the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel coverage:

 

And here’s something I wrote about the game two years ago for MLB.com:

To open what turned out to be a wild and wacky season, the Brewers tied a Major League record, winning its first 13 games of the year. One month later, the club lost 12 in a row.

But the 13-game stretch to open the season is among many Brewers fans’ favorite memories. Along the way, two highlights stand out.

First, in the team’s ninth game of the season, lefty Juan Nieves tossed the first no-hitter in franchise history, blanking the Orioles on April 15, 1987, at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.

Nieves became the first Puerto Rican-born pitcher to toss a no-hitter, but he couldn’t do it without a little help from Yount, who made a tremendous no-hitter-saving catch in center field for the 27th and final out.

“There’s no way I wasn’t going to catch that ball,” Yount said. “When I saw it, I just took off running. There’s no time to think in that kind of situation. So I just reacted and luckily I got there and was able to be part of the Brewers’ only no-hitter.”

Three days later, the current Brewers hitting coach delivered the most famous home run in Brewers history, on Easter Sunday no less.

With the winning streak on the line, the Brewers headed to the ninth down, 4-1. At that point, the might have Brewers thought it was over, as did their fans. With that in mind, the crowd of 29,357 gave a standing ovation in appreciation for the 11-game win streak.

But it was far from over.

With two on and one out, slugger Rob Deer crushed a 1-0 curveball out to left, tying the game at 4-4. Rookie B.J. Surhoff followed Deer with a strikeout, but after a walk was drawn by Gantner, the switch-hitting Dale Sveum had a chance to make it 12 in a row.

He did just that.

With a full count, Sveum got a cut fastball, waist-high over the middle of the plate. Sveum jumped on it and blasted a two-run walk-off homer, sending County Stadium into a frenzy, as the Brewers had won their 12th straight to start the season.

“It was one of those games where nobody really wanted to leave,” said Brewers infielder Craig Counsell, a Wisconsin native who stood in the stands that day as a 16-year-old. “If you were there, you’d remember it.”

 

So, for those of you old enough (I was not born for another 10 months), what do you remember about that day, that game and those home runs?

Hart powers Crew past Cards; Greinke brilliant in 2012 debut

April 7, 2012 Comments off

Corey Hart's second-inning home run was estimated at 447 feet, landing at about this spot.

 

MILWAUKEE — So much for easing Corey Hart into the regular season.

After a knee injury in Spring Training required surgery, it was unclear whether Hart would be ready to go on Opening Day for the second year in a row.

Through two games, Hart appears to be in midseason form.

Following a 1-for-2 performance Friday, Hart blasted two no-doubt home runs Saturday as the Brewers picked up their first win of the season, 6-0, over the Cardinals.

“I think it was big for us to come back today and show that we’re still a good team,” Hart said. “I think we did that.”

Hart’s first homer went deep into the second deck in left, while the second was a two-run shot to center field. Between the two, Hart had an estimated 860 feet worth of home runs on the day.

Not bad for a guy with a knee that is not yet at 100 percent.

“He’s really seeing the ball well,” said manager Ron Roenicke. “Hopefully he’ll come in tomorrow feeling well and we can get him back in there.”

Rickie Weeks also homered in the game, while Aramis Ramirez had a key RBI double in the sixth inning for his first hit in a Brewers uniform. Add in a 2-for-3 day by Ryan Braun — with a pair of doubles, a walk and a run scored — and the Crew showed just how good the offense could be this year, even without Prince Fielder batting cleanup.

All they really needed Saturday was the one run, which Hart provided with his second-inning blast that nearly went over Bernie Brewer’s slide beyond the left field bleachers. That’s because Zack Greinke delivered one of his best outings since coming to Milwaukee last offseason.

Greinke had everything working in his 2012 debut, facing the minimum through 4 1/3 innings. Had it not been for three singles in the fifth and sixth innings — two of which were nearly outs — Greinke may have been on his way to a complete game. Instead, he turned in a stellar seven frames, giving up just four hits and striking out seven batters without a walk.

After starting the season without both Hart and Greinke a year ago, the Brewers already are enjoying what each of them brings to the table just two games in. Full seasons out of both All-Stars could go a long way toward making up for the lost production of Fielder.

“It makes a difference,” Roenicke said. “Last year, we didn’t have those two guys together for quite a while.”

Twins turn tables, rally past Brewers late

July 3, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Matt Capps is still the Twins’ closer. But lefty Glen Perkins showed Sunday that he too could close out a ballgame, and with authority.

After watching Capps put two on with one out, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire called on Perkins to face left-handed slugger Prince Fielder. Perkins struck out Fielder and Casey McGehee to secure the 9-7 victory.

Facing the All-Star first baseman in a big situation, Perkins retired Fielder on three pitches, getting him to chase a slider for the second out of the inning. Then, after McGehee fouled off two fastballs and Perkins missed with two sliders out of the zone, he got the slumping third baseman to swing over a slider down and in to end the game.

McGehee snapped his bat over his knee before walking back to the dugout as the Twins celebrated the thrilling come-from-behind victory.

“That was a really hard situation; Cappy has good numbers [against Fielder], he let me know that on the mound,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve got to win baseball games, and I just thought that was a better matchup at the time.

“I think Perkins has a hot hand, and I wanted to win the ballgame, so I went to Perkins.”

Perkins has been dominan all season, giving up just seven runs (six earned) over 30 innings for a 1.80 ERA. Lefties are hitting just .209 off Perkins with 10 strikeouts in 43 at-bats.

The biggest key to Perkins’ success has been the use of his slider, which is tough on both lefties and righties, as he showed Sunday in getting Fielder and McGehee to swing and miss at it. Being able to touch 96 mph with his fastball doesn’t hurt, either.

“I’m just kind of putting it where I want for the most part,” Perkins said. “That’s a good pitch to have if I can run fastballs up there and get them off that and then throw the slider, it’s got to be tough as a hitter.”

With Perkins picking up his first career save, the Twins put together a comeback of their own Sunday against the Brewers after watching a seven-run lead slip away a night earlier.

They didn’t trail by as many runs as the Brewers did the night before, and the Twins did not wait until the ninth, but Minnesota returned the favor, handing Milwaukee a tough loss.

With their comeback, Minnesota got starter Nick Blackburn off the hook after he had a second straight rough outing, giving up six runs in just four innings.

Blackburn retired the first six Brewers in order, but all three outs in the second were hard-hit line drives. Mark Kotsay broke through for Milwaukee in the third with a 442-foot solo blast into the second deck in right field.

Milwaukee batted around in the fourth, scoring five runs on five hits, including a two-run triple by Kotsay.

Including the eight runs (seven earned) allowed on 13 hits over 4 1/3 innings Monday against the Dodgers, Blackburn has gone 0-1 with a 14.05 ERA in his last two starts, allowing 13 earned runs allowed on 19 hits in just 8 1/3 innings.

“I kind of over-adjusted from my last outing,” Blackburn said. “I struggled in it, and went out and tried to do a little too much today. We’ll just try to tune it back down a little bit and hopefully get back on track.”

After falling behind, 6-1, through four innings, the Twins’ comeback started in the fourth with a three-run home run by left fielder Rene Tosoni.

Brewers starter Zack Greinke was particularly frustrated by that pitch to Tosoni, a fastball up and away that was supposed to be buried inside.

“That pitch and the pitch to [Michael] Cuddyer before, those were the two big mistakes of the game,” Greinke said. “Other than that, I pitched real well. Those two were real bad. I don’t know that hitter [Tosoni], but that’s not a good pitch to anyone. … I don’t know why I made a pitch that bad when there’s two guys on base. I don’t get it.”

Greinke allowed five runs (four earned) on five hits over six innings with nine strikeouts and two walks. It was the sixth time in 12 starts this season he had allowed four or more earned runs, and the eighth start in which he gave up at least one home run.

With two out in the seventh, the Twins continued their rally as Joe Mauer and Cuddyer hit back-to-back singles, with the latter driving in Ben Revere from second base. Jim Thome, who earlier hit career home run No. 595, then walked to load the bases.

Third baseman Danny Valencia ripped a single to left, which was misplayed by Kotsay, allowing all three runs to score and Valencia to slide in safely at third as the Twins went from down five to the eventual two-run victory.

“It was unfortunate,” Kotsay said. “If I had come up with the ball, I thought we would have had a play at the plate with Cuddyer.”

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

Fielder wants Kemp on NL’s Derby squad

July 3, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Brewers All-Star slugger Prince Fielder is taking his job as National League captain for the State Farm Home Run Derby seriously, and so far, he has settled on just one of his three picks.

That pick is one of three NL starters in the outfield, but it’s not Brewers teammate Ryan Braun. Fielder wants Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp on his team.

“He’s guaranteed, I think,” Fielder said. “Yeah, he’s a guarantee, Kemp, if he wants to.”

Fielder said he had not talked to Kemp as of Sunday morning. But he has communicated with him through a mutual friend, Dodgers outfielder Tony Gwynn, a former Brewers teammate of Fielder’s.

Kemp, who entered Sunday leading the NL with 22 home runs, had indicated to reporters that he would be excited for the opportunity to swing for the fences in the Derby.

“I’m pretty sure if [Fielder] picks me, I’m in it,” said Kemp. “As a kid, everybody dreams of going up against the biggest home-run hitters in baseball. I remember seeing Frank Thomas in it and it’s been one of my dreams, definitely, if I get the chance to be in it.”

 

The Cardinals’ two All-Star outfielders, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday, expressed interest Sunday in the Derby as well, and would bring plenty of experience to the NL squad. Berkman has been in the Derby four times, in 2002, ’04, ’06 and ’08. Holliday participated in ’07 and ’10.

“It would be hard to turn down an invitation,” Berkman said. “That would be tough to say no.”

All three Reds All-Stars also said they would be open to joining Fielder in the Derby.

“If they ask me to do it, I’ll probably do it,” said Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips. “I know the Reds probably don’t want me to do it. I feel like I could put a show on for the fans.”

As for Fielder’s teammates, Braun said before Sunday’s series finale against the Twins that he was officially out.

“Oh yeah, I’m out for sure,” Braun said. “I was leaning toward not doing it, but I’m definitely not doing it now.”

Something that may have added to Braun’s decision to not participate this year is the opportunity for another Brewers All-Star to take part in the Derby.

Second baseman Rickie Weeks, one of three Brewers starters in the All-Star Game along with Fielder and Braun, could be the fourth Milwaukee slugger to give the Derby a shot in the last five years. Fielder made his first appearance in 2007, Braun did it in ’08 in New York, Fielder won the ’09 contest in St. Louis, and right fielder Corey Hart participated last season in Anaheim.

So will Fielder add Weeks’ name to his lineup?

“Yeah, I think so,” Fielder said. “But I can’t let it out. I’ve got to narrow it down. He’s in my pool, so I don’t know yet.

“I can only pick a couple of my friends. Only my friends that hit the ball far.”

Weeks certainly fits that description, as Milwaukee’s leadoff hitter has 15 home runs, including a solo shot in Sunday’s game — seven back of Kemp, the NL leader — and is second among NL second basemen.

Of those 15 homers, Weeks has eight over 400 feet, including a 434-foot blast last month over the left-field bleachers at Wrigley Field and onto Waveland Ave.

Can Weeks’ name be penciled in for the Derby?

“I don’t know, I’ve got to be asked,” said Weeks, who was then asked if he would agree to participate if asked. “Oh yeah, I’ll say yes.”

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

Twins fall as big lead evaporates late

July 2, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — It had been nearly a month since Matt Capps blew a save. Since that June 8 outing, the Twins’ closer had thrown six straight scoreless innings and converted five saves in a row.

The Brewers finally got the best of Capps on Saturday, though, as they rallied for an 8-7 victory at Target Field.

“That was pretty tough, that was embarrassing,” Capps said.

“It’s not the first tough night I’ve had. [But] it might be the worst night I’ve had that I can remember in my career.”

Called upon to close it out with the Twins leading the Brewers by three runs, Capps gave up three straight singles before getting the next two outs. With two on and two out, all Capps had to do was get Nyjer Morgan out to end the game.

Having played with Morgan for three years, Capps knew just how to pitch the Brewers’ center fielder, too. In fact, he had gotten him out in a similar situation in the past.

In 2009, Capps faced Morgan with two on and two out, as the Pirates held a 5-4 lead on the Nationals. That time, Capps got Morgan to pop out to center field to secure the victory.

This time, Morgan drove a double off the wall in right field, plating two runs to tie the ballgame.

“Go for them seats,” Morgan said of his approach, before fitting in a mention of his alter ego, Tony Plush. “In that situation, with Plush facing one of my former teammates in Matt Capps, I know he’s going to come after me. He [threw] a nice pitch, and I happened to get it with the sweet spot of the bat. I thought I put it in them seats. I should have kept running to third. I was caught in the moment, there. But now I know for next time, I’ll keep running for third.”

Morgan crushed a 94-mph, first-pitch fastball just over the outstretched glove of Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer, completing a 3-for-4 night. Along with the double, Morgan had a two-run homer and a triple, with four RBIs and three runs scored.

“I felt like I had a bead on it,” Cuddyer said. “It felt close.”

Finally, pinch-hitter George Kottaras delivered the knockout punch to Capps, ripping a single to right-center to give the Brewers the lead and Capps his sixth blown save of the season.

Kottaras’ single completed the Brewers’ comeback from a 7-0 deficit in the fourth. The seven-run lead is tied for the fourth-largest blown lead in Minnesota history, and the last time the Twins had blown a seven-run lead was June 10, 2001, against the Pirates, when they led 8-1 and eventually lost 11-8.

“Definitely, the biggest win of the year,” said Ryan Braun, who exited with a left calf strain in the eighth, setting up Kottaras for the go-ahead single. “Considering the way that we have been playing and the way the game was going, down 7-0. We tried to chip away and put ourselves in position to come back and win that game. It’s unbelievable.”

After he kept them guessing last week at Miller Park, the Twins had jumped all over Brewers lefty Chris Narveson early. Alexi Casilla got things started with a single and a run scored in the first inning, but Narveson really struggled in the third and fourth.

With one down, Cuddyer and Danny Valencia hit back-to-back home runs in the third, the first Twins to do so since Sept. 25, 2010, at Detroit. An inning later, Narveson got two quick groundouts before he ran into trouble, as the Twins plated four runs with two out in the fourth.

“We knew what we were facing, we just faced him last week,” Cuddyer said. “Half changeups, half heaters. That at-bat that I hit the home run, I was looking for the changeup. I got it and, fortunately, I didn’t miss it.”

Narveson left after 4 2/3 innings, having given up seven runs on 14 hits with two walks and just one strikeout. The last pitcher to allow that many hits in less than five innings was Mark Buehrle, who gave up 14 hits in 4 1/3 innings on Aug. 2, 2008, at Kansas City.

Twins starter Carl Pavano faced just one over the minimum through four scoreless innings, and gave up four runs (three earned) on eight hits in 7 2/3 innings of work on the night.

“It’s tough. Matty is so solid. It’s just one of those things where it got away,” Pavano said. “Those guys battled back. You have to tip your cap at them.”

After giving up 15 runs on 25 hits earlier in the week to the Dodgers, the Twins looked to be on their way to a similar performance through four innings, with seven runs and 14 hits on the board.

Instead, the Brewers’ bullpen came in and shut them down, tossing 4 1/3 scoreless innings without giving up a hit.

“Very tough loss for us,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Any time you get the ball in your closer’s hand and you lose, it’s really hard. Capps got the ball out and over the plate a few too many times.”

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

Pavano struggles as Twins are swept by Brewers

June 26, 2011 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — A six-game National League roadtrip finally ended on Sunday for the Twins, but not before their fifth straight loss, a 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Brewers at Miller Park.

It was Minnesota’s seventh consecutive loss to Milwaukee, finalizing the Brewers’ second straight sweep of the Twins.

“I hear they’ve struggled a little bit offensively, but we don’t see it,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We see some pretty good hitters all the way up and down that lineup, to tell you the truth. Right now, I wish we struggled like they were struggling.”

In the first inning of the trip, the Twins’ offense looked pretty good, as it scored eight runs on nine hits on the way to its eighth straight victory. In the ensuing 53 innings, the Twins were outscored, 30-9.

Minnesota now sits nine games behind first-place Detroit.

“For us right now, because of the injuries, everything’s got to be going on all cylinders,” said Michael Cuddyer. “Our hitters have to pick up our pitchers, and our pitchers have to pick up the hitters. That’s the way that we went on our streak, and that’s the way we’re going to have to win. That’s it.”

Right-hander Carl Pavano got the win in a 9-2 victory over the Giants on Tuesday, but he couldn’t end the Twins’ losing skid on Sunday. After four scoreless innings, Pavano gave up five runs, including a two-run home run to Ryan Braun in the fifth and RBI doubles in the sixth by Jonathan Lucroy and Brewers starter Chris Narveson.

It all started with a triple to left field by Lucroy that could have been a double, if Jason Repko had fielded it cleanly. Pavano retired the next two batters, but Nyjer Morgan followed with an RBI single before Braun crushed an 0-1 pitch to right-center.

“He can really hit the ball, we’ve all known that for a long time,” Gardenhire said. “He covered that fastball pretty good. I think it was up just a little bit, but man, he hit the heck out of that ball.”

Pavano finished with five runs allowed on eight hits over six innings, with five strikeouts and one walk. He took his sixth loss of the season, despite recording his 1,000th career strikeout in the fifth inning.

“That’s a tough loss,” Pavano said. “My job today was to go out there and end this losing streak, and I wasn’t able to do that.”

Jim Thome, who pinch-hit in the seventh, reached a milestone of his own by recording his 1,637th RBI, putting him ahead of Ernie Banks for 28th on the all-time list.

In addition to helping his own cause at the plate, Narveson was impressive on the mound, giving up just two runs on five hits in 6 2/3 innings, with seven strikeouts against two walks. Narveson improved to 5-5 on the season with a 4.42 ERA.

Not only did the Twins lose five of six games on the roadtrip, they also added two more injuries to the long list they had already compiled this season. The Twins have now used the disabled list 16 times this season for 13 players.

“It’s tough to go out there and win and even compete when you’re missing some of your best players,” Braun said. “I think when they get everybody back healthy, obviously, they’re a much better team.”

Of the nine hitters in the Opening Day lineup for the Twins, only three — Alexi Casilla, Danny Valencia and Cuddyer — have avoided stints on the DL. Through 76 games this season, the Twins have used 39 players, including four catchers, four shortstops, five second basemen, six left fielders, five right fielders and 11 designated hitters.

But that doesn’t mean anyone is going to take it easy on the injury-plagued Twins.

“I don’t really care,” Brewers slugger Prince Fielder said. “That’s the team that’s out there, so you have to try to beat them.”

Gardenhire has also used 70 different batting orders and 66 different defensive lineups in 76 games. The most common of each has only been used three times.

When the Twins won 15 of 17 games earlier this month, they executed well, and it didn’t seem to matter who they put on the field. On this trip, they looked more like the Twins ballclub that was 20 games under .500 and 16 1/2 games back at the beginning of June.

Especially in Milwaukee, sloppy defense and mistakes cost the Twins. In their five straight losses, the Twins have committed seven errors, which allowed four unearned runs to score.

“It looked like we were chasing a mouse around out there,” Gardenhire said. “I hate sloppy baseball. … Those are plays you just have to make. And it just shows right up on the scoreboard when you don’t make ’em; all these runs start going up.”

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

Young sprains ankle, lands on DL

June 25, 2011 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — As he crashed into the left-field fence in the fifth inning, Delmon Young’s spike got caught on the bottom of the wall, forcing his weight down on his right ankle.

Young left Saturday’s 11-1 loss at Miller Park and was carted off after suffering a right ankle sprain. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list after the game, and the Twins recalled outfielder Rene Tosoni.

“I got my spike caught on the bottom of the scoreboard; the black ledge just sticks out,” Young said. “Instead of my foot missing it and just hitting the ground, it got caught in there, and the rest of my weight went into it.”

Young misjudged a fly ball by Brewers shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, first coming in on it before racing back toward the warning track. As he crashed into the left-field fence, he landed awkwardly on his ankle at the bottom of the wall. Betancourt raced around the bases for an inside-the-park home run.

The ball bounced away from Young as he laid on the warning track, clearly in pain. He was helped to his feet and onto a stretcher before being carted off the field.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and the training staff raced out to attend to Young when he was unable to get back up after the play.

“I saw him go into the wall and then when I saw him start rolling, honestly, I passed Betancourt rounding third,” Gardenhire said. “I was out of the dugout running that way and he was coming home. I was just looking at Delmon and it didn’t look very pretty.”

X-rays taken at Miller Park on Young came back negative. Young will have an MRI when the Twins return to Minnesota on Monday.

“Hopefully the MRI shows that there’s no ligament damage or anything,” Young said. “It’s not as [bad] as the sprain I had back in ’03 before the Draft, but it’s the same foot. So hopefully this one doesn’t cause any problems from the first one I had.”

Young already spent two weeks on the disabled list in early May with a strained oblique, and his most recent injury is yet another on a long list for the Twins this season.

“We’ve been dealing with it,” Gardenhire said. “You just have to keep playing and keep trying to run people out there. It’ll be easier on us once we get back to American League baseball.”

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