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Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012

Not Much to Make Noise About

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It looked like a great series when the Brewers' schedule came out last fall: the star-packed Phillies in four games at Miller Park, echoing the 2008 playoffs and perhaps previewing a rematch in October.

Instead, the Observers took the No. 90 bus to the ballyard Sunday for a pretty meaningless meeting of two disappointing teams. And after the Brewers absorbed an 8-0 drubbing, the only good news was that the reopened Wisconsin Avenue bridge made the return trip quicker.


Artie:
Remember, we saw a game between two still-reigning division champions.

Frank:
We also saw several reasons why the Brewers' reign will end in a few weeks.

Artie:
Their reign is like the rain Wisconsin's gotten for most of the summer—hardly there.

Frank:
But on this day there wasn't just rain, there was a rain delay because the roof didn't close quickly enough.

Artie:
What, they weren't looking at the radar or the clouds to the west? It ruined the chances for my ideal time of game: 2 hours 32 minutes.

Frank:
The worst part of the delay was that someone decided it was a good time to play “Come On Eileen” in its entirety. But the game still came in at 2:45, partly because the Brewers managed just five hits.

Artie:
Only the Brew Crew could make Kyle Kendrick look like a right-handed Steve Carlton. The first guy up, Nyjer Morgan, hits a triple but then gets hung up and tagged out on a comebacker—with no outs!

Frank:
How do you think that Tony Plush schtick is playing these days? And the team had two other gaffes on the bases Saturday night in a one-run loss.

Artie:
Meanwhile, Randy Wolf continues his descent to Jeff Suppan status, 3-10 with a 5.69 ERA.

Frank:
A Soup in Wolf's clothing, one might say.

Artie:
He wasn't totally awful, but 10 hits and five runs in seven innings was only a little better than his previous showing in Colorado.

Frank:
That was 10 hits and six runs in five innings, in another of the rare losses when the bullpen wasn't the cause of disaster. Hey, did you notice one of Ron Roenicke's quotes after that game? The key sentence was, “He's not throwing as bad as these numbers show.”

Artie:
Shades of Ned Yost or Ken Macha after a Suppan outing! “Soup made great pitches except for the ones that landed over the wall.”

Frank:
And remember, Wolf isn't working with his preferred catcher anymore.

Artie:
Dracula must have his Renfield and the Wolf Man must have his Kottaras! But George is gone now, and after his contract runs out this fall, Wolf will be too.

Frank:
There wasn't much noise coming out of Milwaukee bats, and before the game it seemed like the commercials coming out of the loudspeakers weren't as loud as usual.

Artie:
But it sure didn't last. Once the game started, all the music and ads were back at their usual deafening volume. It's bad enough in the top deck, but I was still rattling in the bottom of the ninth when we were standing behind the loge seats for a quick getaway. Ease up on the bass-ball already!

Frank:
In a game like that, all that's keeping the fans around are the “look at me dance” stuff between innings. Fine and dandy, but give us non-dancers some chance to hear each other talk.

Artie:
One encouraging sight these last days is the new young shortstop, Jean Segura, looking like he can do the job on defense.

Frank:
But as the Journal Sentinel pointed out Sunday, he also looks like too much of a free swinger. In 40 plate appearances through Sunday he had a single walk, and that was intentional.

Artie:
Shades of Yuniesky Betancourt in 2011! Segura must be using Carlos Gomez as his hitting guru. "If the pitcher throws, swing."

Frank:
Roenicke had a positive quote there too: “This guy has a good head. He's going to figure things out.” The manager says 50 walks a season “would be really good.”

Artie:
Compared to Betancourt, you betcha. With him, the goal was letting 50 pitches go by in a season.

Frank:
Kendrick really did pitch well; it seemed like he got to 0-2 with every hitter. And for me, it continued a stretch of terrific pitching in the last four games I've seen in person. Three weekends ago at Yankee Stadium, I saw two straight complete games: CC Sabathia over Seattle on Friday night and “King Felix” Hernandez crushing the Yankees the next afternoon.

Artie:
I saw a lot of that Hernandez game, and wow, he was putting the ball wherever he wanted.

Frank:
Just like his perfect game against Tampa Bay last week. It was stunning!

Artie:
But you couldn't have been happy about it in the Bronx, ain'a?

Frank:
Well, we were near the left-field foul pole, totally exposed on a brutally hot day. If there ever was a day for the Yankees to be two-hit, 1-0, this was it. And by the way, the game ended in 2:32.

Artie:
In that heat I'd have missed the last 2:30.

Frank:
Then when I came back to town, I saw Mike Fiers' gem against Cincinnati—six perfect innings, and he sure looked like he was on his way to Miller Park's first no-hitter.

Artie:
Fiers' last two outings have been rough, but he's one reason I'm still going to watch the last six weeks of the Brewers' reign.



How's the Backup Plan?

Frank: We're halfway through the Packers' exhibition schedule, with the season opener a little over two weeks away. Impressions?

Artie:
It's hard to draw conclusions from two not-real games. Not just because the first-stringers haven't played that much, but because there have been lots of guys held out with injuries. The good thing about the second straight loss was that nobody else got seriously hurt.

Frank:
Unlike the first exhibition, when linebacker Desmond Bishop wrecked a hamstring so badly that he might miss the season. And then there's receiver Greg Jennings, who got a concussion during the Family Night scrimmage and only returned to practice Sunday.

Artie:
There's no reason they should play Jennings until the games matter. Unless you're 100% recovered, the risk of a second concussion is that much higher.

Frank:
But if the first one was in a scrimmage with teammates, what'll happen when it's against real opponents who are going all-out? Injuries are always the biggest variable in football, but with the heightened concern about concussions, there's really nothing but uncertainty in terms of forecasting the season.

Artie:
I guess the biggest non-medical topic these days is the play of Graham Harrell, the presumed backup quarterback.

Frank:
Whose numbers haven't been impressive. Bob McGinn gave him a super-detailed negative review in the Journal Sentinel.

Artie:
But remember, Harrell's playing with second- and third-stringers. Drew Olson made a good point on 540 ESPN radio—namely, that the way Harrell looks is what a lot of teams get from their starting QBs. People shouldn't get all hysterical.

Frank:
But maybe they should say an extra prayer for Aaron Rodgers' continued safety.

Artie:
It's the same for folks who root for Tom Brady, Drew Brees or anyone named Manning. There's a reason backups are backups. Yeah, there'll be QBs on the market after the final roster cuts, but who? Russell Wilson is looking good in Seattle, but that doesn't mean Matt Flynn will suddenly be available.