Feeling a little panicky yet?
After watching baseballs fly out of Chase Field by the Diamondbacks over the past few days, I can't blame any Brewers fan for thinking the worst.
What seemed like a sure thing on Monday seems like the most daunting of tasks by Friday. How could the Brewers go out to Phoenix and just throw batting practice when a trip to the NLCS was on the line?
How could the Brewers get so thoroughly dominated by a pair of mediocre pitches named Collmenter and Saunders?
How could Ron Roenicke get out-managed by Kirk Gibson in Phoenix, when Roenicke had dominated the same chess game in Milwaukee?
How could every possible break go for the Brewers at Miller Park and against the Brewers at Chase Field?
As I've said for years, the answer is simple: it's because baseball is a funny game sometimes. There are times everything makes sense and there are times nothing makes sense. Arizona's entire season makes no sense. Players no one had ever heard before this season of all having career years at the same time doesn't make any sense, either, yet here we are.
I think this is where I'm supposed to try to calm the nerves of Brewers fans everywhere and say that it will all be okay and the Brewers will do what they always done and come home and roll, right?
Nope. If you have a panic button, feel free to go ahead and hit that sucker.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are on a mission. As Gibson said after Game 4, "we didn't come here to win two games and not win the series."
The Diamondbacks have been coming back all season long. No one thought they would do anything after 2010's last-place, 65-97 campaign that saw in-over-his-head manager A.J. Hinch fired in July.
This season, as the game's best ironically gathered at Chase Field for the All Star Game, Arizona was surprisingly good – but still no one really thought there would be baseball played in that venue come October. At the Midsummer classic, the Diamondbacks trailed the World Champion San Francisco Giants by three games in the National League West. That Arizona deficit one week later was 4 ½.
And then they went on a tear.
At first, progress was slow and steady with a pair of back-to-back four game winning streaks. By Aug. 10, the Diamondbacks overtook the injury-plagued Giants for first place in the division – a lead they never surrendered. Eventually, Arizona won the West by 8 games, and nearly overtook the Brewers or the No. 2 seed in the National League playoffs.
After the Brewers had everything click for them this past weekend at Miller Park, there seemed to be an air of confidence bordering on cockiness among Milwaukeeans. What none of us counted on, however, was the fight that Kirk Gibson's club had.
"We're not going to give up, even when we're down 2-0," Arizona's Chris Young says. Young has blistered Brewers pitching in the entire series, hitting two home runs on Wednesday night. "In the clubhouse, we still believed we could do it. At the time our goal was to get back to Milwaukee. We've reached that, so it's a toss-up now. We're going to be ready to go."
One misnomer is that the Brewers pitching was the one and only thing plaguing them while in Phoenix. Not true. Wednesday's Game 4 saw the Brewers go a horrid 1-13 with runners in scoring position. Rickie Weeks has been a putrid 1-15 in the series, and even the dynamic duo of Braun and Fielder has just three hits between them in the last two games. Counting on Yuniesky Betancourt to carry you offensively will not lead to success.
But the Brewers are coming home, though, right?
That's the rallying cry that we have all been hearing; and while it is true that the Brewers had the best home record in baseball this season, Ian Kennedy is no slouch away from cavernous Chase Field.
This year, the Arizona ace was almost as dominant away from Phoenix as he was in the desert. On the road, Kennedy went 10-2 with a 3.19 ERA, as compared to 11-2 with a 2.64 ERA at home. Furthermore, Kennedy only got stronger as the season wore on, posting a 12-1 record with a 2.11 ERA after the All-Star break. When you consider that includes a perfect 4-0 September record with a 2.11 ERA, his Game 1 performance looks like an aberration.
In other words, just because the Brewers are at home does not automatically mean anything.
My point to all of this is not to make you as pessimistic as to thinking that the Brewers don't have a chance Friday evening. Quite the contrary, actually. The Brewers didn't have to spend all of their chips in Game 4 because their backs were not against the wall, unlike Arizona. Milwaukee's bullpen is fresh, while Arizona's has some wear on the tread.
My point is to brace you for a game that is the most meaningful postseason contest for this franchise since Game 7 back you-know-when. The expectation for this Brewers team was to at least get to the National League Championship Series. Fans are all too aware that this will likely be Prince Fielder's final few games in a Brewers uniform, which only amps up the urgency. Sorry to say, but this is the best the Milwaukee Brewers will be in some time.
When game time rolls around, the Brewers just have to be the Brewers. If they get behind early, while that's never a good sign, they have to still use all 27 outs. Don't mimic the example of the Yankees in their Game 5 loss to Detroit Thursday night. New York got behind early and then went to sleep, losing 3-2.
The strategy isn't much of a strategy at all. It's quite pedestrian as a matter of fact. Weeks simply must produce something. Braun and Fielder have to recapture the magic they had in the first two games. Gallardo has to be on his "A" game, and if he isn't, Ron Roenicke can't be afraid to give him the hook.
To put it simply, the Brewers have to play like there is no tomorrow.
Because there isn't.
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