Miller Park has evolved from Wrigley Field North to a house of horrors for the Cubs. Since 2011 the Cubs have won only three games in Milwaukee and this series did nothing to help their winning percentage in Wisconsin. The successful weekend came courtesy of good pitching, the Cubs making mistakes, and the Brewers taking advantage of those mistakes. With that in mind here are my three things from the sweep:
1) The starting pitching was highly encouraging
Marco Estrada was very Estrada-esque on Friday night, surrendering three runs on seven hits in six innings. The quality start neither raised not lowered his ERA, and that seems about what to expect from him. In addition to making an amazing defensive play, Estrada impressed by scrapping his way to a quality start despite struggling with his location, which is a good thing to see from your #3 starter. On the dark side, Estrada is now tied for second in the National League in home runs allowed (6) after serving up a pair. I'm not too concerned about this provided he keeps his walks down, but I'm not exactly hoping he pitches in Coors Field, either.
Saturday featured the ML debut of Hiram Burgos. He did what many pitchers making their debut have done to the Brewers, limiting the Cubs to one run over five innings. On Sunday Wily Peralta had a solid start reminiscent of his last outing versus the Cubs. Looking ahead I'm pretty excited about the upside of these two players. I'm not expecting them to develop into superstars, but I like their chances of becoming reliable members of the rotation.
2) The relief pitching was even more encouraging
Even better than three solid starts is the bullpen allowing one run in 9.1 innings. During today's broadcast it was mentioned that Roenicke wants Axford back in the closers role, but with the current late inning-set up looking formidable that seems like an unnecessary change. Jim Henderson has been nails in the closer role, Tom Gorzelanny is looking great as a set-up man, and Axford has been effective as a 7th inning holds guy. To put it another way, Roenicke should stick with what works.
3) The best days of Rickie Weeks may be behind him.
Weeks went 1-9 over the weekend, lowering his batting average to .182. This is coming after a season in which he was hitting below .200 into late July. He ended up with respectable stats after hitting .274/.354/.475 over his last 291 PA. Though late season hot streak gave reason for optimism headed into 2013 it did not cover the fact his cold streaks are getting longer and more severe. Given his slow start this season coupled with his proclivity to swing through pitches, the concern is growing that he's simply not a good hitter anymore.
The Ax Man had a pair of scoreless outings this weekend, though he still has a ways to go to lower his ERA to single digits. Staying true to form, both of the outings were unsafe for people with high blood pressure. On Friday he allowed the tying run to reach scoring position before escaping the jam with a pair of swinging strikeouts. Today he came in with the tying runs on base and promptly unleashed a wild pitch that advanced them to scoring position. Even so, I found myself with a hint of confidence that Axford would be able to successfully walk the tightrope. This is a stark contrast to how I felt just one week ago.
After four years of living in Seattle I've grown a bit weary of most Brewers games starting at 5:10 or earlier. One of life's simple pleasures is to get off work, take care of some errands, grab dinner, and then settle in for the first pitch. With the Crew playing in San Diego I'll have a rare opportunity to indulge in some regular time baseball.
This is a terrific opportunity to keep the streak alive and get Milwaukee thinking about free burgers. Starting things off will be the hot hand of Kyle Lohse versus Jason Marquis. Also of note is that Carlos Quentin will be out for the first two games due to his suspension for the Zack Greinke Incident?