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The Voices of Wisconsin Sports: Dario Melendez

He may be the “new guy on the block” but Dario Melendez has already become a fan favorite. Dario joined Fox Sports Wisconsin in March of this year. His coverage of the Milwaukee Brewers has been nothing short of fantastic. Alongside Jerry Augustine, Brewers Live quickly became one of the more entertaining parts of the Brewers broadcasts.

He joined the Fox Sports Wisconsin team at the right time. 2018 was one of, if not the best, seasons ever for a Milwaukee Brewers team. Now, he gets to cover the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks have been on the rise for the last couple of seasons as we all know, and now, Dario Melendez will bring Bucks coverage to Wisconsin sports fans on Fox Sports Wisconsin as well.

I was fortunate enough to sit down with Dario.

Kyle Hoffenbecker: How did you get involved in journalism and ultimately sports journalism?

Dario Melendez: I was always involved in sports. I was blessed to receive a scholarship from Sacred Heart University to play football. I always had aspirations to play in the NFL but once I realized that wasn’t going to happen, I wanted to find a career where I could still be active in sports. I ultimately channeled my energy into journalism. This career is not for someone who won’t work hard. Participating in sports helped give me that work ethic to succeed in this business.

KH: What led you to work for Fox Sports Wisconsin?

DM: After I graduated from Sacred Heart, I traveled down to Fort Myers, Florida to be a part-time producer for a TV station. From there I’ve worked for ESPN, Fox Sports Radio in the Fort Myers area, WISN in Milwaukee, and New York 1 News. I came back to work for Fox Sports Wisconsin because I was familiar with the area after working for WISN.

KH: What is your favorite part about your job? Also, what is your favorite memory from the business?

DM:  I loved working in Fort Myers right after I got out of college. After working all day, everyone would go out and party at night. I was making about $13,000 at the time, so I was living off of 7-11 and Little Caesar’s pizza too. It wasn’t glamorous but it was definitely a fun time.

KH: You interact with fans a lot on social media. Is that something you have always done in your career? Or is that something you have started to do recently?

DM: I’ve always interacted with fans throughout my career. Social media has allowed me to do it more often than ever before, but I’ve always done it. I’m fascinated by how curious fans are in the information I give them. I’m always interested in what fans have to say as well. One thing I have to watch out for is internet trolls, though. I’ve encountered my fair share of them over the years.

KH: What is the coolest sports event you’ve ever been able to cover?

DM: When I was working for WISN, I was able to cover the Packers 2010 Super Bowl run. I was fortunate enough to travel with the team to Dallas to watch them win the Super Bowl. In Fort Myers, I covered the Super Bowl when it was in Miami and Tampa Bay, but I never covered a specific team in the Super Bowl.

KH: You mentioned earlier that you worked for ESPN. What was it like working there?

DM: ESPN was a huge part in my career. I met my wife at ESPN. One of the coolest things ESPN does for its on-air talent is provide classes that help you improve as a broadcaster. I took advantage of those optional classes and use the advice I learned in my work today.

KH: One of my favorite moments from the Milwaukee Brewers season was the 12-game win streak. For those who may not know, you wore zip-tie cufflinks for every game during that stretch. How did that all start?

DM: It was actually a brain fart on my end. I normally don’t wear cuffed shirts, but I decided to wear a one for a Brewers/Pirates game one day. I forgot cufflinks for the shirt, so I had to scrounge around the Fox Sports Wisconsin studios looking for something that I could use instead of cufflinks. I tried paper clips, but those didn’t work. I eventually found some zip-ties and they just happened to work.

KH: What made you keep wearing them? I’m sure the zip-ties weren’t the most comfortable thing to have on.

DM: The Brewers were going through a rough stretch at the time. They were five games or so back in the NL Central race and they were barely hanging onto a wild card spot, after they won that game, the inner athlete came out in me. I was superstitious as an athlete and I became superstitious with the zip-ties. I didn’t mention it to anyone until the Brewers swept the Cardinals to earn a playoff berth for the first time since 2011. The Brewers kept winning, so I kept wearing them!

Why Keeping Josh Hader in the Bullpen Makes Perfect Sense

Another offseason, another six months of controversy surrounding the Brewers’ usage of Josh Hader. It has pretty much become tradition at this point, right?

Although Craig Counsell seemingly put the issue to rest in his post-season press conference, I anticipate that Twitter and the Brewers’ Facebook comments thread will be filled with fans vouching for Hader to be inserted into the starting rotation. Hopefully, this article changes their minds and illustrates the vital impact that Hader has as an elite “fireman” out of the bullpen.

What is a “fireman”, you may ask? A fireman is a reliever utilized in high leverage situations regardless of the inning, often pitching multiple innings if needed. I was introduced to the concept in Brian Kenny’s book “Ahead of the Curve”, and it fits Josh Hader’s role perfectly.

The Brewers typically save Hader for situations with the Brewers holding a close lead, and insert Hader to shut down the opposing team’s lineup. This could occur in the 5th inning, or the 9th inning, or the 3rd inning as we saw in the NLCS. The point is, Hader pitches when it matters most, allowing the Brewers to maximize on his utilization. He is a true fireman, getting the Brewers out of the most desperate of situations.

Using Hader in this manner has allowed him to significantly impact the Brewers’ chances of winning in nearly every appearance. Fangraphs tracks a statistic called “Win Probability Added”, which is described as follows:

“WPA captures the change in Win Expectancy from one plate appearance to the next and credits or debits the player based on how much their action increased their team’s odds of winning.” (link for further reading, if interested).

One important take away from this definition is that the statistic is not context neutral. With ERA, all runs are created equal. A run given up in the 9th inning of a tie game is counted in the exact same way as a run given up in the 5th inning of a blowout. WPA, however, tracks the change in win probability which resulted from that run being given up, which would be a large decrease in the case of a 9th inning tie and only a marginal one in the case of a 5th inning blowout. This makes success in high leverage situations much more valuable, which better reflects the realities of player performance.

So, how does this relate to Hader? Well, as a relief pitcher, Josh Hader achieved the 13th best WPA of all pitchers in 2018 (for those wondering, Jeremy Jeffress finished 5th).  In fact, Hader finished ahead of elite starters such as Gerrit Cole, Mike Foltynewicz, Patrick Corbin, Zack Greinke, and many, many more. Of the 12 names ahead of Hader, 9 are starting pitchers. To emphasize: only 9 starting pitchers impacted their team’s chances of winning as much as Hader did for the Brewers.

By performing at the level that he does in the situations the Brewers place him, Hader affects the Brewers chances of winning much more as a reliever than he could as a starter. As big of a Hader fan as I am, I do not think that he would perform well enough in a starting role to place him in a WPA position that is better than all but 9 starters in the league. While he certainly would be an effective and valuable starter, he would not provide the same high leverage utility that he does in his current fireman role.

The beauty of Hader as a fireman is that the Brewers get to pick the spots where he can most impact their chances of winning. Should he be a starter, the Brewers could essentially waste his shutdown innings if they take a large early lead, say 6-0 after 2 innings. While Hader would still be providing value in the form of putting zeroes on the board, he would not be changing the Brewers’ probabilistic outcome of a victory as much as if they saved him for a one-run game in the 8th inning the next day.

The Brewers’ usage of Hader is not “traditional”. It is not how the game is “supposed to be played”, at least according to several analysts (looking at you David Ortiz, John Smoltz, and Alex Rodriguez). However, there should be no arguing with its effectiveness, and all of Brewers’ Nation should applaud Craig Counsell’s willingness to adapt cutting edge, analytical strategies like this one that put the team in the best position to succeed.

Hey Brewer Fans, Settle Down with your Jeremy Jeffress Takes

Oct 5, 2018; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Jeremy Jeffress (32) celebrates after defeating the Colorado Rockies in game two of the 2018 NLDS playoff baseball series at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Last Saturday night, the Milwaukee Brewers lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 of the NLCS, 5-1. In the 6th inning Brewer reliever, Jeremy Jeffress, came into the game when the Brewers were down, 2-1. With 2 runner on, Jeffress delivered a pitch to Yasiel Puig that was hit over the fence in deep center field. This homer gave the Dodgers the 5-1 lead they used to close out the game. After this 6th inning and days after, many Brewer fans have been unfairly critical of Jeffress after he had a rough postseason. People have been saying he should have never been in Game 7, and are saying he should be released or traded. Seriously, I have seen these kind of takes all over social media.

Do these fans not realize how GREAT Jeffress was this year? Do these fans understand baseball at all?

Jeremy Jeffress was the Crew’s number one option out of the bullpen for the entire regular season. He was tied for 11th in the league in games appeared in for a relief pitcher (only 2 of the pitchers that appeared in more games, had more innings pitched than Jeffress). He was 8-1 with a 1.29 ERA in 76.2 innings. He only gave up 11 earned runs all year. I REPEAT, 11! The only reliever that played the whole season who had a better ERA than Jeffress was Oakland’s, Blake Treinen, who pitched 80.1 innings and had a 0.78 ERA. Jeremy Jeffress also added 89 strikeouts (10.4 strikeouts per 9) with only 27 walks throughout the entire season. These stats combined to give Jeffress an outstanding 3.4 WAR. He was always there for the Brew Crew to shut the door on opposing teams. He ended up with 24 games finished and 15 saves.

Jeremy Jeffress celebrating in his usual way. (Photo via Benny Sieu, USA Today)

Jeffress made the All-Star game this year along with teammates Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Jesus Aguilar, and Josh Hader. Speaking of Hader, Jeffress had a better win percentage, more games pitched in, and a better ERA than him. However, it is usually Hader who Brewer fans think of instead of Jeffress when talking about the bullpen. After the All-Star game, when the division race was getting closer, Jeffress performed at his best. He had a 1.21 ERA in 29.2 innings and even converted 12/14 saves.

A reliever hasn’t had a better season for the Brewers since John Axford in 2011. Without Jeremy Jeffress the Brewers would not have been in a position to win the division and make a deep run in the playoffs. So calm down angry Brewer fans, the Crew will be back next year and fans should consider themselves lucky to watch a dominant player like Jeffress.

 

 

*All stats according to baseball-reference.com*

*Featured Image via Benny Sieu, USA Today*

The Two Greatest Words in Sports

After 172 games, it all comes down to one for the Milwaukee Brewers. Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. The game is at 7:09 (Central Time) tonight. You’re not going to want to miss what is sure to be an instant classic.

The Brewers offense exploded last night in game 6 and won, 7-2. The series is tied 3-3. Big market versus small market. This win forced a game 7, a game in which the Brewer players and fans can’t wait for.

Tonight’s starters are Jhoulys Chacin for the Brew Crew and Walker Buehler for the Dodgers. In 2 postseason starts for Chacin, he has pitched 10.1 innings, given up 0 runs, and struck out 9. Buehler has also pitched in 2 postseason games. He has pitched 12 innings, given up 9 runs, and struck out 15.

Tonight’s game will be Milwaukee’s first game 7 since 1958 when they were the Milwaukee Braves and they played at County Stadium. The 1958 team included all-time greats like Warren Spahn, Eddie Matthews, and Hank Aaron. They lost this game 7 to the Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle lead Yankees.

Hank Aaron’s number, 44, is one of the few retired Milwaukee numbers. (Photo via baseballhall.org)

I have been waiting my whole life for a Brewers World Series, my parents have been waiting since 1982. The day where the World Series is just one win away, seemed out of reach. However, it is here. For a full preview of tonight’s game read, “The Brewers Lineup For Success in Game 7,” by Olivia Pelishek here on creamcitycentral.com.

Win or lose tonight, there is no denying the Brewers had a remarkable season. They were incredibly fun to watch and gave us a year to remember. Thank you Brewers. Now, in the words of Christian Yelich, “LET’S GOOOOOOOOOO!” Today is the day to beat the Dodgers and earn a trip to the World Series!

(Photo via Dylan Buell, Getty Images)

The Brewers Lineup for Success in Game 7

The Brewers have put themselves into a great position for game seven. With a fresh bullpen and an offense that has come alive, they couldn’t be in a better place. It seems to always be a mystery about who Counsell is going to play and in what situation. Based on what his past patterns, here is a good assumption on where the guys will be for game seven.

Lineup

Lorenzo Cain- CF

Christian Yelich- RF

Ryan Braun- LF

Jesus Aguilar- 1B

Travis Shaw- 2B

Mike Moustakas- 3B

Erik Kratz- C

Orlando Arcia- SS

Jhoulys Chacin- P

The opposing pitcher on the mound is right hander Walker Buehler. He pitched in game three when the Brewers shut out the Dodgers 4-0. Buehler gave up 4 runs on 6 hits. As for the Brewer lineup, it is one that is very familiar. All have shown fantastic offense and defense.

Out-getting

As we have all seen throughout the series, Counsell has been very creative with the pitching staff. Don’t expect tonight to be much different. Jhoulys Chacin will be the initial out-getter on the mound. Throughout the season he has been the most consistent pitcher on the staff. This is how the pitching would work out in a perfect game.

Chacin- 1st-5th inning

Knebel- 6th inning

Hader- 7th-9th inning

If the Brewers could get five strong innings out of Chacin, they can turn the ball over to a very strong bullpen. Knebel going into the game around the 6th or 7th inning is what Counsell has stuck with. With him pitching 1.2 strong innings yesterday, availability will not be an issue.  

Hader, with a couple days rest is very fresh.  In Counsell’s post game press conference last night, he joke that he would pitch Hader 12 innings. Obviously that’s not going to happen, but with Hader being as well rested as he is, expect to see a lot of him.

Having a strong lineup and great pitching, the Brewers look at a great chance of making a trip to the World Series. If they can get out to an early lead and allow the pitching to take action with a couple run lead, the Brewers will be looking at success and a party tonight.

NLCS Game 4 Recap

Final Score: MIL- 1 LAD- 2
WP: Julio Urias
LP: Junior Guerra

Top of the 1st:

Lorenzo Cain started game 4 out by striking out to Dodgers’ veteran starter, Rich Hill. MVP candidate, Christian Yelich, followed Cain’s at-bat by grounding out to first base. Ryan Braun made the 3rd out of the inning by flying out to center field. A quick 1-2-3 inning.

Bottom of the 1st:

Brewers’ starter, Gio Gonzalez, started his outing by walking Dodgers’ leadoff hitter, Chris Taylor. Everybody knows walking the leadoff man in any inning is never good. Justin Turner was next in the order and hit a dinky ground ball to Gonzalez where the only play was at 1st base. The next batter, David Freese, was hit by a pitch in the foot. Manny Machado batted in the cleanup spot and flew out to Jesus Aguilar in foul territory. With 2 outs, Brian Dozier roped a single to left field that scored Taylor. Kike Hernandez then flew out to right field leaving 2 runners on base.

Top of the 2nd:

Jesus Aguilar lead off the 2nd inning with a walk on 6 pitches. After the walk, Moustakas seemed impatient at the plate and flew out in foul territory. Jonathan Schoop, making his first NLCS start, was up to bat after “Moose.” He struck out on a nasty curveball thrown by Rich Hill. Manny Pina, who was 2-5 at the plate in the postseason prior to this at-bat, continued getting on base by generating a walk. The red-hot, Orlando Arcia, followed by flying out to Yasiel Puig in right field. Inning over.

Bottom of the 2nd:

Craig Counsell left Gonzalez in the game to pitch the 2nd even after a rocky 1st inning. Yasiel Puig was the first to bat and hit a “swinging bunt” that allowed him to reach first safely. Next, Austin Barnes was up to bat and Gio started him out with a ball. Gonzalez looked to be in pain, and in a shocking turn of events, exited the game with an ankle injury. Mid-season surprise, Freddy Peralta, came in to pitch. He inherited a 1-0 count on Austin Barnes, then proceeded to walk him. Two men on, nobody out. In an obvious sacrifice situation, pitcher, Rich Hill, bunted straight back to Peralta and he was able to get the lead out at 3rd. With one out, Chris Taylor came up to bat for the 2nd time, and Peralta struck him out. Following the strikeout, Dodgers’ game 2 hero, Justin Turner, walked to load the bases. Max Muncy, pinch-hitting for David Freese, came up to bat next and struck out looking on 4 pitches. Freddy Peralta and the Milwaukee Brewers were able to get out of the 2nd leaving three runners on base.

Top of the 3rd:

Freddy Peralta lead off the 3rd inning by grounding out to second base. After pitching good in the 2nd, Counsell wanted to send Peralta back on the mound. Leadoff hitter, Lorenzo Cain, struck out a second time for another out. Up next, Christian Yelich, who seems to get on base every game, walked with 2 outs. The fourth batter of the inning, Ryan Braun, ended the inning by grounding out hard to Justin Turner, who made a great play on the ball.

Bottom of the 3rd:

All-Star, Manny Machado, grounded out to best friend, Jonathan Schoop, to start the Dodgers’ half of the 3rd. Batting second in this half inning, Brian Dozier, earned a walk off Freddy Peralta. Dozier then stole second base because of a bad throw by Manny Pina. With a runner in scoring position and 1 out, Kike Hernandez struck out looking on a curveball. Yasiel Puig, up to bat with 2 outs, fouled off a lot of pitches and then struck out on a perfectly located fastball on the outside corner.

Top of the 4th:

Jesus Aguilar batted first for the Brewers in the top of the 4th. He got Milwaukee’s first hit of the night by lining a single into right field. Mike Moustakas followed up Aguilar’s single by striking out. Schoop was up to bat next and grounded out into a double play. Through 4 innings, Rich Hill looked great as the Brewers could not generate enough baserunners to put any pressure on him.

Bottom of the 4th:

Craig Counsell stayed with Freddy Peralta and he struck out Austin Barnes on three pitches to start the inning. The second batter, Rich Hill, tried to throw everybody off guard by bunting but he was thrown out by Peralta who made the easy play. Chris Taylor, who so far scored the only run of the game, ended the inning when he struck out looking. This was the first inning Milwaukee had where nobody reached base safely.

Top of the 5th:

Rich Hill started the 5th by striking out Manny Pina on a questionable called third strike. After the strikeout, Arcia continued his hot streak by hitting a single up the middle. Hitting in the 9 spot, Domingo Santana entered the game to pinch hit for Freddy Peralta and hit a double into right center field that scored Arcia. Cain quickly made the second out of the inning when he went first pitch swinging and grounded out to shortstop. Christian Yelich stepped up to the plate with 2 outs and a runner on second but he struck out swinging to end the inning.

Bottom of the 5th:

Corbin Burnes entered the game for the Brewers after Santana pinch-hit for pitcher, Freddy Peralta. Burnes started his outing by striking out Justin Turner on a 97 MPH fastball. Max Muncy walked up to the plate after the strikeout and grounded out into the Milwaukee shift. Corbin Burnes did not shy away from the third batter of the inning, Manny Machado, he went right after him. He struck out Machado looking to end the 5th. Machado did not like the call and argued with the home plate umpire until manager, Dave Roberts, had to intervene.

Top of the 6th:

Pedro Baez relieved Rich Hill in the 6th and his first batter was Ryan Braun. Braun was first pitch swinging and singled in between short and third. The next batter, Jesus Aguilar, struck out on a 3-2 split fingered fastball. “Moose” was the next batter and flew out to first baseman, Max Muncy. Schoop, who struck out and grounded into a double play earlier this game, made the final out of the inning by striking out for a second time.

Bottom of the 6th:

Corbin Burnes stayed in for a second inning and hit Brian Dozier to allow the leadoff man on. Cody Bellinger came in to pinch hit and immediately flew out to Ryan Braun in left field. Puig was the next batter up and struck out after falling down in the count, 0-2. To end the inning, Dozier tried to steal on the first pitch to Austin Barnes but Pina threw him out by a mile.

Top of the 7th:

Manny Pina lead off the 7th inning by hitting a double to the right center gap off Dodgers’ relief pitcher, Kenta Maeda. Arcia followed and was robbed of a hit by a sliding catch from Chris Taylor. Curtis Granderson pinch hit for Corbin Burnes and hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field that allowed Pina to advance to third base. With the lead runner on third base Lorenzo Cain faced new pitcher, Ryan Madson, and grounded out to second base to end the inning.

Bottom of the 7th:

Joakim Soria came into relief and quickly gave up a leadoff single to Austin Barnes. Soria got the next two batters out and had to face Justin Turner with a runner on first. Turner hit a liner to right field and Yelich made a spectacular catch falling over the barricade in foul territory to end the inning.

Top of the 8th:

Yelich lead off the 8th inning with an infield single off Ryan Madson. Braun struck out on three pitches in the next at-bat and failed to get the runner over. Next, Aguilar popped out to first base when he swung at the first pitch. A leadoff single proved to be nothing when Moustakas lined out to right field to end this Brew Crew half of the inning.

Bottom of the 8th:

Josh Hader pitched the 8th inning and gave up a leadoff single. He effortlessly got the next two guys out but gave up a hit to Cody Bellinger that put runners on the corners with 2 outs. Former MVP finalist, Matt Kemp, faced Hader but it isn’t 2011 and the lefty proved to be too much for the former All-Star and struck him out. Milwaukee escaped a minor scare and kept the game tied going into the 9th.

Top of the 9th:

Kenley Jansen started the 9th inning and instantly made his presence known by making a great play off the mound to get the leadoff man, Jonathan Schoop, out. Manny Pina got on base for the third time when he drew a walk in the next at-bat. Once Pina got on base, Counsell used Hernan Perez as a pinch runner. On a 0-2 pitch, Arcia was able to put the ball in play and move Perez to second base. Travis Shaw came up to the plate as a pinch hitter with 2 outs and a runner on second but struck out.

Bottom of the 9th:

Corey Knebel fell down in the count 3-1 to his first batter, Austin Barnes, but was able to get him to ground out to Arcia for the first out of the inning. Then, Knebel got Joc Pederson to strike out swinging but walked Chris Taylor on 8 pitches. 2 outs, runner on first, Justin Turner up to bat. Knebel threw one pitch to him and was able to get Turner to line out to center field.

Top of the 10th:

Around midnight (central time) Lorenzo Cain lead off with an out to right field against Kenley Jansen. The ball was hit shallow and Cody Bellinger made a ridiculous diving catch to take away a hit. Momentum stayed with the Dodgers because on the very next pitch, Yelich broke his bat and popped out to third base. A 2 out single by Ryan Braun kept the inning alive. He stole second base with Aguilar up to bat and got into scoring position. However, it did not matter because Jansen made quick work of the big first baseman and struck him out.

Bottom of the 10th:

The bottom of the 10th started with Junior Guerra striking out Max Muncy on 5 pitches. This is where things get controversial. Guerra got Machado to ground out to short and when he was running through the base, it looked like Machado purposely kicked through Aguilar’s leg/ankle. This caused Aguilar to get heated and benches to clear. Nothing more happened except I am now convinced Manny Machado is the dirtiest player in the MLB. After that, Brian Dozier struck out. Inning over.

Top of the 11th:

Moustakas started the 11th by grounding out against Alex Wood. Jonathan Schoop followed suit and grounded out as well. Erik Kratz did not put up a fight either as he struck out on a curveball in the dirt. Not much happening this inning for the Crew.

Bottom of the 11th:

Guerra came out in the bottom of the 11th and was able to get leadoff man, Cody Bellinger, to strike out. Yasmani Grandal was the second batter in the inning and Junior was able to strike him out too. Austin Barnes, flew out to Aguilar in foul territory to end the 11th.

Top of the 12th:

Dylan Floro came in to pitch the 12th inning for the Dodgers. The first batter he faced was Orlando Arcia and he grounded out to third on 1 pitch. Junior Guerra, the second batter of the inning, worked the count but ultimately struck out. Lorenzo Cain made the final out of the inning by striking out as well.

Bottom of the 12th:

After a dominant 11th inning, Guerra came out to pitch the bottom of the 12th. The first batter, Joc Pederson, grounded out to Arcia who made a nice play ranging towards the middle to make the out. Next, Chris Taylor hit a weak pop-up to Jesus Aguilar. Justin Turner made the final out of the inning by grounding out to Jonathan Schoop.

Top of the 13th:

Around 1:00 AM (central time), Christian Yelich lead off the 13th inning with a ground out to second against Julio Urias. Former MVP, Ryan Braun, was the next batter and hit a rocket of a single into left field. This was the first hard hit ball Milwaukee had in multiple innings. Jesus Aguilar followed Braun in the order and hit a deep fly ball to center but it was caught for an out. Moustakas made the final out in the top of the 13th inning when he struck out looking.

Bottom of the 13th:

Craig Counsell had full confidence sending Guerra out in the 13th inning considering nobody was warming up in the bullpen. Max Muncy made a loud out number one by lining out to Braun in left field. Manny Machado was swinging for the fences. He did not hit a homerun but he settled for a line drive single to left. The second out came when Dozier hit a foul ball that “Moose” caught close to the dodgers’ dugout. Bellinger was the next man up to bat and Guerra’s first pitch to him was a wild pitch that allowed Machado to advance to second base. The long night did not end in Milwaukee’s favor because on a 3-2 count, Bellinger hit a ball into right field that dropped in front of Yelich. Christian made a good play on the ball and made an even better throw but it wasn’t enough to get Machado out at the plate.

NLCS Game 3 Recap

After the Brewers lost a heartbreaker in Milwaukee on Saturday, the series shifted to Los Angeles for Games 3, 4 and 5. To secure a chance for a Game 6 at Miller Park, the Brewers needed to win at least one game in Los Angeles. After a stressful game that went down to the wire, Milwaukee pulled out another win. Here’s how it all went down.

Top 1

After leadoff hitter, Lorenzo Cain, struck out to the 98 mph heat throwing starter of Walker Buehler, it looked to be a tough day for the crew. NL MVP favorite, Christian Yelich, started his at-bat down 1-2. Yelich’s first plate appearance looked grim, as the Milwaukee slugger has been struggling with a .180 post season average. However, like most of the regular season, Yelich worked the Pitcher and took three straight balls to walk. Next batter up, Ryan Braun, smashed a double down the left field line on a 1-1 count, reaching second base and scoring Yelich, giving the Brewers a 1-0 lead. Travis Shaw would strikeout looking and Jesus Aguilar would strikeout swinging to end the inning.

 

Bot 1

Jhoulys Chacin looked for redemption in Dodger Stadium as his last start against Los Angeles resulted in an early 5th inning exit. In the 21-5 loss in July, Chacin gave up five hits, eight earned runs, three home runs, and three walks. Unfortunately for Chacin, he would face three of the most fearsome hitters to start off a game. However, as the Brewers ace, Chacin was dialed in from the get go. In 15 first inning pitches, Jhoulys struck out Joc Pederson and Max Muncy, while finishing Justin Turner with a groundout to shortstop.

 

Top 2

Buehler really started to groove in his pitching after giving up one run in the first inning. He would strikeout Mike Moustakas and Erik Kratz in back to back plate appearances. After Orlando Arcia reached on an error by shortstop Manny Machado (It should’ve been a hit), Buehler would finish off Pitcher Jhoulys Chacin with a flyout to the second baseman, Kike Hernandez.

 

Bot 2

Jhoulys’ night wouldn’t get any easier as he would have to face the red hot Manny Machado. In a 2-1 hitters count, Machado ripped a lead off single to left field. Struggling Center Fielder, Cody Bellinger would ground out into a fielder’s choice to the shortstop in which Machado looked to interfere. Brewers Manager, Craig Counsell, argued with the umpires, but after discussion there was no review. In the next at-bat, Yasiel Puig doubled to left sending Machado to third base. With two runners in scoring position (RISP), Catcher Yasmani Grandal would strikeout looking. Manager Craig Counsell would then intentionally walk the eight hole hitter, Kike Hernandez, in effort to face the Pitcher, Walker Buehler. After working a 2-2 count, Buehler would strikeout looking, leaving two RISP.

 

Top 3

Even though the Brewers started the third inning with the top of their order, Walker Buehler would go three up, three down. Lorenzo Cain would line out to centerfield and Christian Yelich would groundout to the shortstop. Buehler then struckout Ryan Braun finishing the inning with only 13 pitches.

 

Bot 3

Just like Buehler, Chacin would start to groove in the crucial Game 3. Jhoulys faced the top of the Dodgers order making Pederson groundout to shortstop, Muncy fly out to left field and Turner ground out to third base.

 

Top 4

Buehler would surrender one base runner and 17 pitches in the fourth inning, but remained strong. Travis Shaw would groundout to first and Jesus Aguilar would groundout to second. After giving up a single to Mike Moustakas, Buehler would get Erik Kratz to fly out to second base.

 

Bot 4

Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado would walk on five pitches, leaving Cody Bellinger a chance to yet again tie the game. After what seemed to be a fielder’s choice from first to second base, Counsell wanted to review Machado’s slide into shortstop Orlando Arcia. After review, it was found that Machado intentionally slid out of the base path and grabbed Arcia, to prevent the double play. Head umpire, Gerry Davis, would rule both Machado and Bellinger out, resulting in a 3-6-1 double play. Killing all momentum the Dodgers had, Yasiel Puig would groundout to Mike Moustakas to end the inning.

 

Top 5

Buehler really started to stroll along getting nine of his last ten batters out. Orlando Arcia and Jhoulys Chacin would both strikeout, as leadoff hitter, Lorenzo Cain, would groundout to second base.

 

Bot 5

Chacin would start off shaky in the fifth inning giving up a double to the Brewers NLCS MVP, Yasmani Grandal. However, in the next at-bat Jhoulys would get a key flyout to left from Kike Hernandez. Dodgers Manager, Dave Roberts, would now have to face the decision of keeping in his best Pitcher, or pinch-hitting him to tie the game with a RISP. Roberts would stick with Buehler who eventually struck out looking. With two outs, Joc Pederson would fly out to centerfield leaving yet another RISP.

 

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Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun would both groundout to Manny Machado to start the beginning of the sixth inning. However, Travis Shaw would finally catch a piece of Buehler, tripling to deep right center field. After a wild pitch got passed the Brewers MVP, Yasmani Grandal, Travis Shaw scored. Jesus Aguilar would groundout to third base to end the inning with a two run Milwaukee lead.

 

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After Starting Pitcher Jhoulys Chacin got Max Muncy to strikeout swinging, he would run into trouble against Justin Turner. A hard hit ball to Mike Moustakas lead to a throwing error giving Turner second base. With only a two run lead, Counsell went to his trusted relief pitcher, Corey Knebel. On the first pitch, Knebel would get Manny Machado to ground out to third base, Turner at second. With two outs in a close game, Knebel would get Cody Bellinger to strike out with a RISP.

 

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After Mike Moustakas grounded out to second base to lead off the seventh inning, Buehler was in for a rude awakening. Veteran Catcher, Erik Kratz, unleashed a double to left field on the first pitch. With Kratz in scoring position, Mr. October took over. Arcia, who is now on a 12 game hitting streak, took advantage of the tired pitcher. Arcia launched a two run home run to opposite field, giving the Brewers a four run advantage. After a double switch by Craig Counsell to strengthen defense, Hernan Perez was due to hit. Perez would fly out to right field and Cain would fly out to center field to end the inning. After giving up four runs, and his spot coming up in the order, Buehler would exit the game.

 

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Yet again, Knebel would finish his night strong. Knebel would Strike out the side of hitters Puig, Grandal and Hernandez on 13 pitches. Corey would finish with 19 pitches on the night, leaving him a chance to be available for Game 4 if needed.

 

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The Brewers would threaten to score in the eighth inning but wouldn’t score. Yelich would lead off with a bunt single down the third baseline. After Ryan Braun hit a “Texas-leaguer” in front of Right Fielder Yasiel Puig, Yelich was thrown out at second base. Though Ryan Braun seemed mad at the moment, Yelich thought there was a chance of getting doubled up at first. (Rather be safe than sorry on the base paths.) After tripling in the sixth inning, Travis Shaw would strikeout, leaving two outs for pinch-hitter Domingo Santana. In the regular season as a pinch-hitter, Santana hit a cool 12-for-29 (.413). Keeping this in mind with a RISP, Dave Roberts intentionally walked Santana. Roberts move would prove to work as Moustakas would fly out to right field, ending the eighth inning.

 

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Trying not to use Josh Hader right away, Counsell called Joakim Soria to pitch. After throwing just four pitches, Chris Taylor would fly out to the first basemen to secure one out in the eighth. With the top of the order coming up, Counsell again called the bullpen to get LHP Josh Hader to finish the job. Even though Roberts would switch out Pederson and Muncy for Freese and Kemp, the Dodgers would be no match for Haderade. Only throwing eight pitches total, Josh Hader struck out both hitters leading the Brewers to the ninth inning.

 

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Heading into the ninth inning, Counsell hoped to get some insurance runs for his Closer. Erik Kratz would lead off the inning with a walk but a fielder’s choice by Arcia would lead to an out. Perez would rip a single to left field advancing Arcia to second base. While Cain attempted to score both Arcia and Perez on a 2-2 hit and run, the center fielder struck out. Without making contact, Cain left Perez caught stealing, and ending the hopeful ninth inning.

 

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Feeling confident in the four run lead and wanting to save Hader for possible use in Game 5, Counsell left the LHP on the bench. Enter Jeremy Jeffress. While being absolutely dominant in the regular season with an 8-1 record, 15 saves and a 1.29 ERA, Jeffress has been anything but that in the playoffs. After blowing two saves (Game 1 NLDS/Game 2 NLCS), Counsell went to Jeffress out of the pen to boost his confidence. While being rattled right away from a single by Justin Turner up the middle, it got worse. Manny Machado would smash a double down the right field line, putting two RISP. Luckily, Jeffress would settle down and get an out from Cody Bellinger. Bellinger would pop up to the shortstop giving the Brewers one out. Jeffress would then walk Puig on four straight pitches leaving Counsell to call to the bullpen to start warming up Junior Guerra. However, Jeffress would get three straight strikes against guess who? Brewers NLCS MVP, Yasmani Grandal. (Love that guy). With the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning, all pressure was on JJ to perform. On a 1-2 count, Jeffress blew a 96 mph fastball passed Brian Dozier to lead the Brewers to a 4-0 victory over the Dodgers.

 

After Monday’s win, the Brewers take a 2-1 lead in the NLCS. This win secures the chance for the Brewers to come back to Milwaukee for Game 6, if needed. Game 4 will be held in Los Angeles at 8:09 CST. Gio Gonzalez will lead the Brewers into what seems to be another bullpen game.

Wade Miley: The Improbable Hero

The Milwaukee Brewers lost in heartbreaking fashion Saturday night, 4-3. A 2-run homerun in the 8th by Justin Turner off Jeremy Jeffress gave the Dodgers a lead that the Brew Crew couldn’t get back. I still don’t know why Counsell kept Jeffress in the game even after a shaky 7th inning, but I didn’t lead this Brewers team to 96 wins and the NLCS, so I’m not going to criticize one questionable move.

Milwaukee lost but you would not think so by the way starter, Wade Miley, pitched. He did everything he could to give the Brewers the win. Miley went 5.2 innings, gave up 2 hits, 0 runs, had 3 strikeouts, and 0 walks. He also helped himself out at the plate by getting 2 hits and scoring a run. After the game, manager Craig Counsell said, “Miley did great, he did his job. He did more than we expected.” Nobody on the Dodgers had solid contact against him except David Freese, a known Brewer killer, who had a homer taken away from him by Gold Glove candidate, Lorenzo Cain. A walk in the 6th inning with 2 outs is what forced Counsell to play his hand. You can bet if it was the regular season, Miley would’ve at least pitched through the 6th and maybe even the 7th. While he was walking off the field, Brewer fans gave him a standing ovation that Jesus Aguilar hilariously tipped his cap too. In 2 post season games, Miley has proved he can be depended on. He has pitched 10.1 innings, faced 37 batters, given up only 5 hits, struck out 5, only walked 1, and has given up 0 runs. This year is the only time Miley has ever pitched in the postseason.

Wade Miley after getting a hit in the NLCS. (Photo via Stacy Revere, Getty Images)

A former All-Star and Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2012, Wade Miley has fallen a long way in 6 years. He started this current season in Double-A because no team wanted to take a chance on him. This is because last year he was one of the worst qualified starting pitchers in all of baseball. He went 8-15 and had a horrendous 5.61 ERA. Yes, you read that right, over 5 RUNS A GAME. The Milwaukee Brewers picked him up mid-season for help at starting pitcher. For the Brewers this regular season he started 16 games, went 5-2 with a 2.57 ERA. Before this season, the best ERA he had ever posted was a 3.33 which was 6 years and 4 teams ago. Miley has come back time and time again after tough injuries like his right oblique strain in May. He has been incredible all season, surpassing any expectations fans had of him when he was first signed. Miley has become a fan-favorite thanks to his gritty play, high energy, and greasy look. Honestly, I don’t think I could identify Miley if I passed him on a busy street. We can all see ourselves in Wade Miley, a regular looking guy, living out his dream pitching for one of the best teams in the MLB.

Wade Miley’s career has been revived thanks to the Milwaukee Brewers and one particular pitch. Miley started throwing the cut fastball more and more this season, something he had not done previously in his career, and has become a very tough pitcher to time up. When thrown correctly, the cut fastball is one of the most effective pitches in all of baseball. I mean, just look at what Mariano Rivera did with the pitch. The Brewers are on an absolute tear right now so get excited to see more of Wade Miley and his cut fastball.

Wade Miley has been outstanding for the Brewers all season. (Photo via Jayne Kamin-Oncea, Getty Images)

Every Milwaukee playoff run I have witnessed in my lifetime, has always had an improbably hero. Whether it was Nyjer “T-Plush” Morgan, John Axford, CC Sabathia, or Corey Hart, Wade Miley will be a name Brewer fans associate with this playoff run for years to come.

 

*All stats according to baseball-reference.com”

These Brewers Have the “It” Factor

Some teams have “It”, others don’t. That magical spark that kicks in when things look bleak. That loud yet silent mojo which emanates from player to player, leading them from victory to victory. That energy which provides a glimmer of hope for the impossible to happen when you least expect it. A unifying synergy that makes a team greater than the sum of its parts, defying logic and intuition.

Congratulations, Milwaukee. Your Brewers have that ever-important “It” factor.

We’ve seen it all year. Want some evidence? Well, here you go.

On March 30th, at the San Diego Padres, the Brewers trailed 6-3 entering the top of the ninth. It looked like the Brewers would suffer their first loss of the year… until they didn’t. They put up 5 runs capped by a mammoth home run by Ryan Braun with two strikes and two outs to take the lead, resulting in an improbable 8-6 victory by the Crew.

On April 3rd, the Brewers trailed the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3 in Miller Park entering the bottom of the ninth. With two outs, Christian Yelich strode to the plate. Down to his last strike, Yelich launched his first Brewers’ home run to deep right center to tie the game, sending the home crowd into a frenzy. Hardly a minute later, and exactly one pitch later, vintage Ryan Braun made an appearance and absolutely wrecked a Dominic Leone fastball over the Brewers bullpen to walk-off those pesky birds from Missouri.

On April 21st, the Brewers were in yet another late inning battle at home, this time against the Miami Marlins. Tied 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth, Craig Counsell inserted Jesus Aguilar as a pinch hitter. Aguilar quickly fell down 0-2 in the count, until he proceeded to take three balls and foul off seven pitches before hitting a moon shot on the 13th pitch for the walk-off. It was potentially one of the best at bats of the year in the MLB, and it kick-started Aguilar’s breakout 2018 campaign that led to an all-star appearance.

The list of improbable moments and achievements goes on and on. Josh Hader striking out 8 in 2 and 2/3 innings of work on April 30th. Jeremy Jeffress re-emerging as a dominant force out of the ‘pen and earning his first all-star nod. The Brewers’ 3-run comeback in the bottom of the 15th against the Pittsburgh Pirates, with PITCHER JORDAN LYLES DRAWING A KEY WALK AND SCORING THE GAME-WINNING RUN. Christian Yelich’s two cycles in a span of two weeks. Jonathan Schoop’s grand slam against Madison Bumgarner. Taking the division after trailing the Cubs by as many as 6 games near the end of August. This team just doesn’t stop.

All of this wouldn’t be possible without one thing however – the “It” factor. These Brewers have an aura about them that exudes confidence and accomplishment. Every team that does anything special needs it. It breeds success, and leads to improbable outcomes like the many listed above. Could that lead to an NLCS series win and Milwaukee’s first World Series berth since 1982? It’s certainly in the realm of possibility.

Derek Jeter’s world championship Yankee teams had “It”. The 2016 Chicago Cubs had “It”. And I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers truly do have “It”.

Man, how can you not be romantic about baseball. Go Crew.

Who Will Be the NLCS X-Factor?

As is often the case in October baseball, a certain individual, often an unexpected one, steps up for his team in a huge way and carries the load or perhaps delivers *the* hit that results in a series win. Sometimes it is the superstar of a team, like Madison Bumgarner who put the Giants on his back in the 2014 World Series, and other times it is a largely unexpected hero. For example, who would have predicted that Nyjer Morgan would be the star for the Brewers in the 2011 NLDS? or even Erik Kratz, the 38-year-old catcher making his major league debut for the Brewers in the sweep of Colorado? It’s difficult to predict who this X-factor will be, but looking at matchups as well as other factors gives me a few hints as to who it could be.

 

Broadly speaking, Craig Counsell’s unorthodox methods of managing his pitching staff will be a key determining factor in how this series is decided, as well as how those pitchers execute the plan in place, which they were able to accomplish beautifully in the NLDS against Colorado.

In terms of specific players, let’s take a look at who may be poised to have a big-time series against Los Angeles’ lefty-heavy rotation. One name that sticks out is Lorenzo Cain. As a right-handed batter, Cain naturally performs well offensively against left-handed pitching. The always-smiling Brewers center fielder has a tremendous on-base percentage of .451 this season against left-handed pitching, which will prove to be critical because he typically is followed by Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun in the batting order, both of whom are driving in runs at a very high clip of late.

Matchup factors aside, Cain is due for a big series for more reasons than one. Cain’s presence as a clubhouse leader is just as important as his presence on the field. Being one of two players on the roster with a World Series title, the moment is never too big for LoCain. With a roster comprised of many young and inexperienced players, pitchers and position players alike, Cain’s postseason experience and success are invaluable to the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers.

An additional reason why Cain will have a breakout series is that he is due for some big hits and to once again find his stride at the plate. He had just one hit in the Divisional Round, and if we know anything about Lorenzo, it’s that his slumps don’t last long. Cain is aware of his recent struggles at the plate. After game two against the Rockies, Cain told reporters: “I’ve been playing like (bleep)… I’ve definitely got to get it going.” A slew of left-handed pitchers should help him bust out of it and be the dynamic, base-stealing, offensively and defensively gifted stud of a center fielder. And while it is a good thing that the Brewers have been able to win game after game despite their All-Star center fielder having success who was among league leaders in WAR (6.9), his emergence will make the Brewers lineup that much more formidable.

Another name to watch as potential X-factors are second baseman Jonathan Schoop who, as a right-handed batter with power, may see more plate appearances this series than he did in the previous one. Travis Shaw’s struggles against left-handed pitching have been well-documented, and Craig Counsell stated in a presser earlier this week that he will not hesitate to shake his lineup more against the Dodgers than he did against the Rockies. Schoop didn’t get a start in the Divisional Round, and my gut says he will get one at the very least in the upcoming Championship series.

Clearly, the quest for the franchise’s first World Series appearance in 36 years will have to be a complete team effort. The Crew faces an uphill battle against a much larger market team with what most consider to be a deeper pitching staff, but they don’t seem like the type of group to not step up when the lights are shining the brightest. As Ryan Braun said during the Brewers’ most recent champagne celebration, in their eyes, they have three celebrations down and two more to go.

Let’s do this, Milwaukee.