Ace Yovani Gallardo gets a high-five from Brewers Slugger Ryan Braun after Gallardo hit a homerun, his 11th of his career, giving him the most of any Brewers pitcher in the team’s history. His homer helped beat the World Champion San Francisco Giants. (Photo by Yvonne Kemp)
by Troy Sparks
Amazing how a little trip out of town helped the Milwaukee Brewers get back on track to being a playoff contending team. It’s really too early for playoff talk, but the “Crew” began their 2013 season on a bad note with the first six games at home. They left Miller Park with a 1-5 record.
After splitting two games at Wrigley Field with one game to make up against the Chicago Cubs, which they couldn’t play because of bad weather, Milwaukee went to St. Louis, winning the last game of their three-game series and avoiding a sweep.
The Cubbies and their fans drove the 90-or-so miles north to try to invade Miller Park, Apr. 19-21. They even call the stadium in Milwaukee “Wrigley Field North.” Some of the people here help the out-of-towners get in our park by selling their extra tickets to them.
And since the Brewers vs. Cubs series are marquee games, the ticket prices are higher. Most Cub fans will say that it’s cheaper to come up here and see their team against the Brewers than at Wrigley Field.
The “Crew” entered their weekend series against Chicago with a 6-8 record after sweeping the San Francisco Giants, last year’s World Series champs, at home, to begin their second home stand of the season. You throw out the record books when you play your division rivals.
In their series against the Giants, the Brewers scored 21 runs. The bats continued to smoke for the team in the first inning, Apr. 19.
Two men were on base when outfielder Ryan Braun cleared the bases with a 3-run homer. They got another run against the Cubs to jumpstart starting pitcher Marco Estrada, who had a 4-0 lead to work with and try to maintain.
That shutout didn’t last because the Cubs got to Estrada in the third inning after he went through their batting lineup the first time around. Estrada gave up three runs in that inning as he struggled with his pitching. In the fourth, he was off track again.
“I got a little out of whack,” Estrada said. “It felt pretty good the first two innings. The first inning, I felt pretty good. The second inning, I felt a little out of whack.
By the third, I was just way out of whack. It took me a little while to get it back. The fourth was still tough. It felt like my mechanics were just a little off. It felt much better by the fifth.” Estrada stayed the course, pitching six innings and picking up his second win of the season.
In the eighth, the Brewers had runners at first and second base and no outs.
Shortstop Jean Segura was caught in a pickle, trying to steal third and was chased back to second. Braun also went to second on an attempted steal.
Braun didn’t leave the bag. Both of them were on second. Braun was tagged out. Segura got up and ran back to first. Did Braun do the right thing by staying on base?
“Had (Segura) just stayed there, it’s ‘Siggy’s’ base,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “ ‘Siggy’ probably hasn’t been in (that situation) that much and didn’t know . . . Pops up and runs. I don’t know if he can run back to first or not.” Roenicke admitted that he never saw anything like that before in all his years around baseball.
You couldn’t blame Segura for misinterpreting the baseball rule book. “I was surprised because I was going to the dugout,” he said. “The ump told me to stay.”
Section 7.01 of the Major League Rule Book says this: “A runner acquires the right to an unoccupied base when he touched it before he is out. He is then entitled to it until he is put out, or forced to vacate it for another runner legally entitled to that base.” In laymen’s terms, Braun couldn’t go back to first base and he had to stay on second until he was officially called out. Braun went to the dugout and Segura stayed on first. Segura was later thrown out trying to steal second to end the inning.
Roenicke came to Segura’s defense, which was a forgotten subject because the Brewers won the game, 5-4. “ ‘Siggy’ is 23 years old,” he said. “He had all kinds of energy. He’ll make some mistakes. We know that. But his pluses are so good that those mistakes are going to happen. I thought we had a chance to score (an insurance run) in the eighth inning, first and second with nobody out. I thought we had a chance to score, so we messed that up.”
Recently promoted pitcher Hiram Burgos threw the ball well enough to help the Brewers win the Apr. 20 game, 5-1. The Crew evened their record at 8-8 and went for their second straight series sweep at home against Chicago, Apr. 21.
The Cubs got on the board with two runs when Anthony Rizzo knocked the ball out of the park. We had our own guy, an all-star in Braun, who turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 gain for the “Crew” with a three-run shot and his fifth homer of the year with Nori Aoki and Segura on base. Braun was thrown out the game in the Milwaukee eighth inning by home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi for a flipping his bat in the air after a called third strike on a 3 balls and 2 strikes pitch that he thought was too low. Braun thought he drew a walk to first base. All-star or not, Cuzzi didn’t give a darn who he was. Rules are rules.
“Umpires are always trying their hardest,” Braun said. “Not everybody is going to be perfect. Obviously, it was a ball. It’s frustrating for me because the challenge is not to swing at that pitch . . . Three-two borderline pitches. It’s a ball. The challenge for me is not to swing at it. Nobody’s perfect. Umpires are always trying their hardest. It happens.”
The Brewers’ 4-2 win gave them their second straight home series sweep, a 9-8 mark and a 7-game winning streak before traveling west to take on San Diego and the L.A. Dodgers.