After taking Game 1 of a highly-anticipated NLCS by a 9-6 mark, the Milwaukee Brewers looked to take their momentum into Game 2 against the streaky St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night. The determination of Ron Roenicke’s crew would prove to be all for naught, as Tony La Russa and company crushed Brewer pitching on their way to an 12-3 victory, evening the series at one game a piece heading into Game 3 in St. Louis, which is set for 8:05 PM ET on Wednesday.
Here are five observations from Monday night’s 12-3 Cardinals victory over the Brewers.
Shaun off the Mark
Shaun Marcum has transformed into the dependable starter the Brewers sought to attain in the offseason. Leading all Major League starters with a 2.21 ERA on the road, Milwaukee’s steady right-hander has been a huge success for Ron Roenicke and company. Yet, Marcum’s postseason falters have nearly undermined his regular-season accolades.
In two playoff starts for the Brewers thus far, Marcum has given up 12 earned runs, 14 hits and four walks in just 8.2 innings of work. The good news is, he’ll likely have at least another shot at redemption before this best-of-seven NLCS is over. The bad news is that he has lost the confidence of many Brewers fans, and potentially his own manager.
With the addition of Francisco Rodriguez, the Brewers’ bullpen ranked third in baseball with a 3.08 ERA. Monday night clearly showed Milwaukee’s flaws out of the ‘pen. Between Kameron Loe and Marco Estrada, the two combined to give up six earned runs in just 2.1 innings pitched. Granted, Extrada would go on to strike out three batters in two innings of work, however, Loe would allow six hits and four earned runs in just 0.1 innings pitched.
Milwaukee’s revamped bullpen has been a staple in their success all season long, but if their performance last night is anything of what’s to come in the near future, the Brewers are in serious trouble.
Pujols Pushes the Envelope…
After largely under-performing during his NLDS bout with the Philadelphia Phillies, Albert Pujols manifested his career successes at Miller Park by going 4-for-5 with a home run and a career postseason high 5 RBI against the Brewers.
But, in all fairness, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. In 79 career games at Miller Park, Pujols is batting .331 with 19 HR and 54 RBI, along with a 15 IBB (intentional walks) and .597 OPS. If the Cardinals are able to push this best-of-seven series back to Milwaukee for Games 6 and 7, the Brewers had better hope they don’t leave anything over the plate to the St. Louis slugger, because he might just power them into the World Series.
…While the Rest of St. Louis Does the Dirty Work
While St. Louis’ romping of Milwaukee on Monday night may go down as Albert Pujols’ best postseason effort to date, let us not forget what Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday and the rest of the Cardinals’ lineup was able to carry out.
Excluding Pujols’ extraordinary effort, Tony La Russa’s lineup managed eight runs on 13 hits against Brewers pitching, with 6 RBI to boot. Needless to say, Monday night was a exemplary illustration of just how lethal La Russa’s lineup can be when at full strength.
This Series Will Be Anything but Predictable
We’re just two games into this fervent series, and its clear that neither team has established any variety of consistency.
In Game 1, it was Milwaukee who slugged (Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Yuniesky Betancourt accounted for a home run) their way over the Cardinals, despite Jaime Garcia on the bump for St. Louis, who has traditionally been known for his road successes. On Monday night, it was St. Louis who broke out of its offensive shell in superficial fashion, scoring 11 runs on 16 hits against Brewer pitching, evening up this NLCS at one game a piece. If these first two contests are at all indicative of what’s to come, we may be in for a historically ludicrous series between these two bitter rivals.
Over the course of the club’s 42 years of existence, the Milwaukee Brewers have become one of the most successful organizations in developing young prospects through their minor league system. Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Jonathan Lucroy and John Axford are all quintessential models of drafting excellence in Milwaukee.
However, there is one player who stands out more so than any other prospect in the franchise’s framework: Ryan Braun.
Upon making his Major League debut back in 2007, Milwaukee’s most admired left-fielder has gone on to accomplish many noteworthy achievements, some of which have gone relatively unnoticed until recently. In fact, his rookie year alone (which would not start until nearly two months into the season) would bring about much national attention. Finishing his rookie campaign batting .324 with 34 HR and 97 RBI, Braun was named the NL Rookie of the Year.
In his next three seasons with the club (2008-2010), Braun averaged 31 HR, 107 RBI, a .303 BA and a .535 SLG. His outstanding production was enough for management to sign him to a $105 million contract extension that would make him a Brewer through 2020.
Fast forward to this season, where Braun finished just decimal points behind the Mets’ Jose Reyes for the NL batting title, with a .332 BA. He would also go on to complete his 2011 regular season with 33 HR and 111 RBI and a career-high 33 stolen bases—no doubt an MVP résumé.
He, along with Fielder, has led Milwaukee to just their second postseason appearance since 1982 and the club’s first ever NLCS appearance in impressive fashion. Through six postseason games, Braun has slugged his way to a .500 BA (11-for-22) with two home runs, five doubles, seven runs scored, eight RBI and is slugging 1.000.
Yet, somehow there’s still a debate as to who will be named the NL MVP at season’s end.
Should Braun continue to deliver the way he’s been able to so far in these playoffs, there’s no disputing he should be named NL MVP at the end of this season. It’s really that simple.