You know things are going poorly when you lose a series and still improve your record for the month. Ryan Braun said what we are all thinking after today's game when he opined "It's been pretty terrible...this year is miserable." Following this team will become a punishing task if the last 20 games (4-16) are a sign of things to come,* but just as there was a wisp of good left in Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi, there is enough hope left in 2013 for me to still enjoy watching. And who am I kidding? I'll always be happy watching a Brewers game. With that sunny perspective in mind, here are some cloudy thoughts from the series versus the Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles.
*They probably are.
1) The bullpen is good...for now
Another series, another strong performance from the relievers as they allowed three measly earned runs against the Dodgers. Relevant: Brewers relievers pitched 17 innings this series. Even John Axford is joining the bullpen party, having lowed his ERA below 7.00 for the first time this season thanks to two scoreless outings. I have a lot of confidence in their ability to hold leads, but this is speculation at this point because there have not been many leads to hold. However, with the starting pitchers struggling to complete five innings with consistency you have to wonder when they'll reach their breaking point. When that happens things will get ugly and we'll drown our sorrows like it's 2002. On the subject of pitching...
2) Wily Peralta and Hiram Burgos are not ready for the majors
All things considered, Burgos had one of the best disaster starts you will ever see. Yes, he only pitched 3.1 innings. Yes, he allowed 10 baserunners. Yes, he was pulled with the bases loaded in the 4th. But he was enough of a Houdini to escape trouble and only get charged with 2 ER (with an assist from Mike Fiers). When he left the game the Brewers at least had a chance to win. Conversely, Wily Peralta had a more conventional disaster start.
Peralta failed to advance past the second inning while allowing 9 baserunners and 6 runs, 4 earned. The defense did him no favors, but they didn't walk in two runs, either.
Peralta and Burgos belong in the minors where they can develop their stuff and at least avoid having their confidence crushed in the world's most popular baseball league. They do not give the Brewers a good chance to winning their starts and their inability to eat innings is destructive long term. Without a doubt they belong in the minors, but where you belong is not always where you are needed. The Brewers do not have anyone to immediately take their place.
The rotation will get a boost when Chris Narveson comes back and Alfredo Figaro i8s an option as he started in the minors and Japan. Of course, who knows when (or if) this will happen.
3) The Brewers win when Zack Greinke pitches at Miller Park
I was slightly conflicted when Greinke took the mound on Tuesday. He contributed to the funnest summer of Brewers baseball I've ever seen and I love his brutally honest personality. I hope he pitches well for the Dodgers and earns his contract. That said, I was happy to see him suffer his first loss at Miller Park.
I doubt baseball has as more quirky coincidences or unlikely occurrences than other sports, but I will argue until I'm out of breath that these things are infinitely more compelling in baseball. Everything with baseball is clearly defined, which makes the anomalies extremely satisfying. That a pitcher with an undefeated record in a ballpark suffered his first loss to that ballpark's home team is one such example.
4) Carlos Gomez is the Brett Favre of baserunning
Few things matched the thrill of watching Favre throw a pass down the field. You held your breath as the ball left his hand for a destination out of the TV frame because you did not know how the play would end. Sometimes he would complete a pass between a football-sized window created by two defenders, other times he would throw a bone-headed pick. Good or bad, he always kept things interesting. This is how I feel when Carlos Gomez is on the bases.
Gomez has accomplished amazing things with his speed, most notably his stolen base and game-winning run in Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS. He also makes blunders you expect to see in Little League. On Tuesday he got picked off third base for the second out and today he made the first out of the second inning trying to advance from first to third on a single. With the Brewers trailing 6-0 at the time, one could argue that was a bad idea.
After 7 years in the majors you get what you get from Gomez. Even so, these mental lapses seem easy enough to correct.
The Pirates are coming to town and the Brewers will be without their best starting pitcher. Scheduled in place of Kyle Lohse is Mike Fiers, so there's that. Considering a series versus the Pirates at Miller Park is usually worth at least two wins, we will soon find out how hopeless the season really is.