Thursday, April 18, 2013

Game Fourteen: Brewers 7, Giants 2

Box Score

Sooner or later the Brewers were going to have a relaxing day at the ballpark. They just waited for a chance to put an exclamation point on a sweep of the defending work champions to do it. If I was optimistic after a 2-8 start you can believe today's win has me reserving a spot on Wisconsin Avenue for the World Series parade. But first thing's first, here are three things that came to mind after today's victory.

1) I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Yesterday I predicted a snowman of a start for Yovani Gallardo. All things considered I was about as wrong as you can possibly be. Not only did Yo allow one run in six innings, he also hit a two-run dinger which means he effectively held the Giants to -1 run. Gallardo did all you want from a starting pitcher and then some. This was great to see, especially after the incident on early Tuesday morning. This also reminds me of a very important fact.

Professional athletes exist on a different plane than the average sports fan. High-leverage situations have a noticeable physical effect on my body. For example, I could literally feel my heart beat with excitement after Vander Blue hit the game winning layup against Davidson in the NCAA Tournament. With this in mind I would be the last person on Earth you'd want playing in a clutch situation because I would be far too nervous to do anything other than curl into a ball and weep uncontrollably. But the professional athlete is different. Situations anathema to my condition are sought out by pros, and this leads me to Gallardo.

The resident ace of the Brewers' staff is off to a horrible start and made a high profile mistake. These two crippling facts did not faze him, and in fact immediately preceded one of the most impressive starts a starting pitcher can make (home run considered). The lesson here is there is when if comes to professional athletes there is no correlation between past results, personal mishaps, and future performance. That is, unless Ruben Quevedo is pitching and the prediction is the opposition will score lots of runs.

2) John Axford: Pitching scoreless innings and it feels so good

Axford is one of my favorite players. I love him because of the note he wrote after his consecutive save streak ended, his performance in a goofy and hilarious video, and that he otherwise seems like a cool dude. At his best his spits hot fire and strikes out well over a batter an inning. At his worst he blows lots and lots of saves, but this fact is not important to the point I'm making. Though the sample size is small he looks to be turning things around. My man crush is not high enough that I believe he should become closer any time in 2013, but I like his chances of being effective in late innings going forward.

Also of note: From here on out I'm going to implement 'Axford Watch' as a means of monitoring my favorite embattled reliever.

3) This four game winning streak is a psyche-saver

I mean this from the perspective of a fan that tends to overreact to things. Being a Brewers fan means my default assumption is the playoff hopes will effectively be dashed by June.* To be sitting at 6-8 with six upcoming games versus the Cubs and Padres is very acceptable. The Brewers simply need to hold serve until Hart and Ramirez come back, at which point they will hopefully mash their way into contention. Their immediate upcoming schedule is favorable towards this goals.

Enjoyment of baseball is heavily based on hope. You can always wait until next year or hold out for the hot prospects developing on the farm. Even so, when you get off to a horrible, horrible start it gets far too easy to think to yourself "I have 150 more games of this to look forward to?" Thus, a modest win streak here and there (like this one!) can make the season more palatable.

*Since the 2006 season this has rarely been the case. The 2010 season is the only case of the Brewers being hopelessly out of contention, and even then they were only a 2012-esque late-season hot streak from getting into the October mix. All that said, the 1993-2004 seasons etched expectations into my DNA that will last as long as I live.

Looking ahead...

Word on the street is that the days of Wrigley North are over. I hope this is true. More importantly I hope the Brewers show the Cubs what it is, and how it is done. With all of the junk that's happened to start the 2013 season the Crew can still escape April with a .500 record or better. Tomorrow it's the nasty Jeff Samardzija versus Steady Marco Estrada. Soon enough will find out if a five game winning streak is too much to ask for.

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