After the Brewers exploded for eight runs in the bottom of the third inning I started believing I was watching the elusive easy victory. Though the victory proved to be anything but easy I witnessed something just as rare: the beginning of a winning streak. Keeping with the theme of positivity, here are three things from tonight's game I liked:
1) The bottom of the third was pure catharsis.
What made this inning especially sweet was that most of the runs were driven in from unexpected sources. Watching Ryan Braun come through with a big hit is like checking your bank account on payday. You expect a certain amount of money to appear and you feel good to see it does. Watching a struggling hitter or Yuniesky Betancourt do the same, on the other hand, is like finding a $20 bill while taking out the trash. Tonight was a rare occasion where you became $40 richer after a short trip outside.
Trailing 3-1, Rickie Weeks had the bases loaded with one out and 3-2 count. Every neuron in my brain expected Weeks to strike our swinging, so to see him rip a double down the left field line provided an extra dosage of satisfaction. A few batters later sac fly maestro Yuniesky Betancourt blasted a grand slam over the left field wall and the rout, ever so temporarily, was on.
2) John Axford pitched another clean frame.
Regardless of the situation, every outing Axford has for the next several months is a high-stakes affair. He's a 30-year old ex-closer with a 15.19 ERA and one year removed from leading the majors in blown saves. A bad outing at best will expose him to a chorus of boos and at worst lead to a Vaudeville hook yanking him from The Show. An additional challenge to his future as a major leaguer is that the other 29 teams have seemingly figured him out. As such, if Axford starts performing again you can assume he's in a good place mentally and his mechanics have been properly adjusted.
Though his clean 7th was of the cardiac variety, being an optimist I'll take warning track fly balls instead of 450-foot rockets as a tangible sign of progress. Looking ahead, I like him as a 7th inning guy. Hopefully this proves to be more than wishful thinking.
3) The Brewers scored 10 runs despite Ryan Braun going 0-5 with a Golden Sombrero.
Something ain't right with Braun. He's struck out at least three times in three of the past four games, leading you to believe his neck is still bothering them. It's either that or he forgot to play baseball, which seems unlikely.
Early offensive struggles aside, I remain bullish on this offense. Tonight's game was evidence as to why that is. Norichika Aoki reached base four times, Carlos Gomez collected three base hits, Jonathan Lucroy continued to heat up, and Jean Segura stayed hot by going 2-4 with a stolen base. The Brewers are a healthy Braun and Aramis Ramirez away from being a formidable offensive club. My faith in modern sports medicine leads me to believe this day is coming soon.
In my mind a true streak begins when you win three games in a row. Tomorrow it's the struggling Ryan Vogelsong versus the scorching Kyle Lohse. Dare I say I have a good feeling about this game.