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Thursday, April 14, 2011

We DO Care If We Ever Get Back

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Sunday, 11:55 a.m.: The Observers board the No. 90 bus for their first joint visit to Miller Park this season. With Yovani Gallardo due to pitch, the Brewers have a good chance of winning their second straight series after an 0-4 start. So there's lots to discuss as they head up Wisconsin Avenue.


Artie: Where did this freakin' heat come from? I feel as unprepared as Gen. Custer at the Little Bighorn.

Frank: It's only a one-day blast, and it looks like the storms will hold off until after the game, so they'll have the roof open. Well, things are brighter for the Brew Crew than a week or so ago.

Artie: I guess you mean when I said, "Fire them all!"

Frank: Three straight wins over Atlanta and a nice shutout of the Cubs last night means they'll be at .500 if they win today.

Artie: I reserve the right to rant again, but I do feel calmer.

Frank: There's lots to be encouraged by. Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are off to good starts...

Artie: Prince even hit a homer with someone on base, which he almost never did all last year.

Frank: And to the opposite field, the same as his two doubles Saturday night. That's a mighty good sign. And the newly acquired Nyjer Morgan has been a big asset at bat and in the outfield.

Artie: He had a couple of incidents with opponents last year, which raises my hopes for this game. You know my two goals are always a nice pace—say, a crisp 2 hours 37 minutes—and a bench-clearing brawl. With Nyjer around, maybe there'll be some action!

Frank: There's no evidence that Morgan's tiffs last year were part of a pattern. What he does seem to be is a free spirit—for instance, keeping us guessing about whether he'll wear his pants down low or hitched up. I prefer the latter because it reminds me of "Mick the Quick," my old Yankee center fielder Mickey Rivers, who was also a lefty and super-speedy.

Artie: Morgan's built better than Rivers; he's a former hockey player. See? Another brawl omen. And this team can certainly use a free spirit. There aren't a lot of dazzling quote machines, and it's good to have one of those "energy" guys on the field.

Frank: I saw Morgan make two terrific charging plays Thursday against Atlanta and manufacture a key run—double, stolen base, run through the catcher on a fielder's choice. If I were Carlos Gomez, who's off to a slow start, I'd be a little worried about what happens when Corey Hart comes back from his "oblique" muscle strain.

Artie: The good thing is that if Gomez does lose his starting job again, he doesn't seem to be a pouter or griper.

Frank: The Brewers' pitching is looking pretty good. Gallardo has been excellent in two starts, Chris Narveson still hasn't been scored on, and Shaun Marcum improved a lot in his second start Thursday. One trouble sign is that Randy Wolf is starting poorly, as he did last year. Four homers allowed in 10 innings.

Artie: Shades of Braden Looper in '09! But Wolf did turn things around in the second half.


12:35 p.m.: Clearly Impressive

Frank: Behold the eighth wonder of the scoreboard world! How does the bigger, high-def upgrade look from here in Section 419?

Artie: Yeah, there it is, all right. The screen is bigger and the images clearer, but it's the same old crappy commercials. Let's really use that high-def! If the game's a blowout, they could show Young Frankenstein, or maybe reruns of "I Spy."

Frank: During the game you'll see that there's a lot more data for both the pitchers and hitters, steadily updated, and also they'll show more replays. Thursday and Friday they even showed good plays by the opponents, which never used to happen.

Artie: That's certainly an upgrade.

Frank: Here's something new that isn't an improvement. The American flag, which used to hang beside the scoreboard, is now way up above the left-field corner, like an afterthought.

Artie: Oh yeah, near the dippy painted-on 1982 "pennant" that looks like it's rusted. And not much bigger.

Frank: The out-of-town scores on the left-field wall are clearer, too, and there's pregame and post-game info about the pitchers. But if they can show men on base, why not show the outs too?

Artie: Starting lineups... Hey, no Nyjer! Well, he could still come off the bench to start a brawl.

2:10 p.m.: Slow and Loud

Frank: Looks like you won't get your quick game. The first inning took 25 minutes and Gallardo threw almost 50 pitches in the first two.

Artie: But the offense is compensating. Another two-run dinger from Prince, to left-center no less, and the same from Braun to make it 4-4 after three.

Frank: But Braun also helps perpetuate the glacial pace of the game—same as, alas, my Yankee hero Derek Jeter.

Artie: Backing out of the box after every stinkin' pitch, ain'a?

Frank: Lots of guys do it, but Braun makes a real ritual of it. Back out, flex a little, maybe take a swing, grab some dirt, check the fastening on the batting gloves...

Artie: What, the Velcro might lose its Vel?

Frank: As we've noted before, when guys are on base things really crawl. But when the bases are empty, there's a rule that a pitcher should deliver within 12 seconds. Every few years Major League Baseball shakes its finger in spring training and says, "We really mean it this time!" But they never do.

Artie: Of course the pitchers are guilty, too. Some take forever, and Gallardo has been one of 'em. Goodbye, 2:37.

Frank: The Brewers say they also improved the sound system—and if that means making it louder, I guess they did.

Artie: Oh, for the '50s and '60s, when you could go to a game and actually carry on a conversation.

Frank: What a din between the commercials and the between-pitch music. Who needs seven seconds of "Ice, Ice Baby" to stay interested in the game? Or maybe they're tacitly admitting the game goes so slowly that folks need noise to stay awake?

Artie: Here's a marketing idea—an old-school game with just the stadium organ and maybe a guy in the stands with a trumpet to blow "Charge," and that's it. No racket, no intro music.

Frank: You'd never get them to drop all the blaring commercials.

Artie: But at least drop the stuff during innings. Anyone who wants to hear music could do it on their own devices, like they do all day anyway.

Frank: Call it a "Geezer Game." I'm there!


4:15 p.m.: Thanks, Casey!

Artie: Wow, did Casey McGehee save the day. A pinch-hit, two-run shot in the eighth to make it 6-5, and now we're on the bus home. McGehee had been struggling at the plate, too.

Frank: Ron Roenicke is a genius, saving him for that spot! And I heard them announce the time of game as 2:59. In the dreary middle innings, that looked impossible.

Artie: John Axford got his third straight save since his opening-day meltdown, although the first batter reached base for the fourth time in his five outings. And they won on a day when Gallardo got only five innings out of 106 pitches, only five below his complete-game total against Atlanta.

Frank: So, five wins in six games heading into a nine-game trip to Pittsburgh, Washington and Philadelphia, and then a home series against Houston before the Reds arrive. Three of those series look mighty promising.

Artie: The Crew is at .500 for the first time since... wow, maybe a full year?

Frank: Let's consult my media guide... Last April 22 the 20-0 game in Pittsburgh made them 8-7. Then they got drilled three times at home by the Cubs, so their last time at .500 last year was 8-8.

Artie: How fitting that the Cubs help them regain their equilibrium. And look at this: We're at our stop within 20 minutes. This driver knows pace!