These past two weeks have been quiet the reality check for Wisconsin sports fans. Was it just really just a few weeks ago where the Brewers were talking World Series, the Badgers were legit National Championship contenders, and the Bucks were primed for a breakout season? Ok, maybe that last one wasn't true, but we may never know. It all seems long ago.
The biggest fall from grace has happened to the Badgers. Two weeks, two heart-breaking losses. Saturday's loss to some Ohio State University followed a very familiarly nauseating script to the previous week's loss to Michigan State - take early lead, offense gets stagnant, defense can't get a third down stop, other team back in the game, blocked punt, momentum lost, other team increases lead, late 4th quarter comeback - making it actually look easy (where was this the entire game?), extraordinary (ok this week was just bad defense, but still abnormal) touchdown pass in the closing seconds for the loss, Badgers stunned, fans angry. This week was a bit different because the Badgers took the lead unlike just tying it against MSU. I really thought we had it after we converted the 2-point conversion, but a big kickoff return and a weird lob/hail mary pass combined with poor, poor defense doomed Wisconsin. That was another tough one to take. Ohio State was ok. Wisconsin didn't have as many self inflicted wounds as last week, but the offense lacked a spark until the final 4 minutes. Russell Wilson looked great on those last two drives, but overall the offense had its worst game of the season.
So now a season that looked like it could be one that dreams are made of for Badger fans, becomes something much less. I won't say it's a disappointing one, yet. One more loss will make that, though. Now instead of scoreboard watching LSU, Alabama, Boise State, Oklahoma State, and Stanford, we're left to scoreboard watch Penn State, Purdue, and one of those Ohio State schools. Instead of lamenting about our low rank in the computer polls, we'll have to let our destiny lie in the hands of others. Instead of being at the top of the BCS we are left to sneak into a BCS bowl like Cincinnati or West Virginia It's not what we wanted, but thanks to the Big Ten Championship, we still have something to watch for. I'm not one for making predictions, but I think Wisconsin will still make the Rose Bowl. Penn State will lose. Ohio State will lose and I don't think Wisconsin will. As heart wrenching these past two games were and as average as Wisconsin looked at times, they were so, so close to still being undefeated. If the ball had literally bounced differently on a few plays, we'd be talking something totally different.
So don't give up yet Badger fans. There is still a lot to play for. And if this Russell Wilson year does not bring the Championship we hoped for, hey we still got one more year of Jordan Taylor!
|Is that a Walkie-Talkie?|
The team has two division wins under it's belt...a championship belt, at that...and this week off comes in a pretty advantageous time. It's almost in the middle of the season and allows for reflection on a good chunk of a season. It also should allow the coaching staff to survey what went well and what needs to be improved upon as they head out on the remainder of the regular season and into another playoff run.
This latest win over the Vikings was one that left more than a few fans scratching their heads. With Christian Ponder taking the reins from an ineffective Donovan McNabb, it seemed that fans were licking their chops and expecting another blow out win for the Packers in the Humpy Dome. "Christian Ponder was picked WAY too high!" Yep, I said that too but now I'm not so sure. Don't get me wrong...it's one game and he's not a Pro Bowler but he looked like he knew what he was doing for the most part. Aside from pondering the obvious, let's look at a few things from the game from a Packers perspective.
- Putting away a game - This is something that the Packers haven't really been the best at doing however, they ran the ball down the Vikings throat and salted away the clock when they needed to. James Starks ran hard and secured two first downs in that final drive which allowed the Packers to assume the victory formation. This was a great sign going into the bye as it's hopefully something the team, and more importantly, James Starks, can build on during the bye.
- Chuck - Yeah, he hates being called Chuck, but CWood is still a beast and a tremendous leader. He got two interceptions and almost had a third (which ended up being caught for a touchdown). He's having another great year and with the loss of Nick Collins and the pass defense being torched at times, this team needs his steady hand back there to guide them through the tough times. To see their leader playing as well as he is can hopefully propel this defensive backfield to play a little more inspired in the second half of the season.
- Mason Crosby - Love for the kicker? Absolutely! THIS GUY has been great this season and it's another win for Ted Thompson as he has secured his services with a five-year deal in the off-season. He's been perfect on all of his kicks and added to it with another 4 field goals (including a 58-yarder!) and three PAT's. With a final score of 33-27, his field goals were crucial to this latest win and you can be guaranteed that he'll be depended upon down the stretch.
- Randall Cobb - Yes, he brings excitement and a presence the team needed on special teams but he had a bad game. With a dropped pass (that would have assuredly been a first down) and a muffed punt he struggled on Sunday. Additionally, he's been bringing the ball out of the end zone on kick-offs a lot more than expected which is has me holding my breath at times. Sure, he had the 108 yard kick-off return for a touchdown against the Saints but unless you get past the 20 yard line, it's not worth it. Plus, with the Packers offense playing as well as they are, why risk a fumble or injury?
- Pass Defense - These guys are still giving up a lot of passing yards and the Ponder was able to continue that trend on Sunday. It was disappointing to see a rookie putting up the numbers he did against the reigning Super Bowl champions. The loss of Nick Collins was rough...devastating even...but these struggles can't be completely attributed to his injury. Tramon Williams has been banged up and will hopefully be able to recover during the bye and Morgan Burnett broke his hand in practice leading up to the game. With his hand in a cast, there's no way he'll be able to snare any interceptions. Peprah needs to play inspired defense and the rest of the team needs to join him if this team is going to make another Super Bowl run.
- Nick Collins - This isn't something that came out of the game but in his first comments following his neck surgery, Collins eluded to the possibility that his career may be over. He's got a long way to go before anything can be determined but he mentioned that it's been discussed. As fans we always assume that if a guy can play, he'll play but Collins has three small children and another due shortly. He'll do what's best for his himself and his family but if that means he has to retire, then we can be disappointed but happy that his kids will have a father instead of him gutting it out and tragedy striking.
There they were, at Minnesota down 7-0 after the Vikings score on 3 plays. The Packers take the kickoff, and start at their own 9 yard line. Most teams buckle at this point, and go three and out. It appeared things would start that way when the Packers ran the first play to Grant for no gain. "Oh no, this is just an awful start," you think, until you remember we have a guy named Aaron Rodgers. The next play was an 11 yard dart to Finley followed by a 14 yard strike to Nelson. Grant rips off two straight runs one for 8 yards, and another for 7 yards. Rodgers than hits Jennings for 26 yards, Jones for 16 yards, Cobb for 7 yards, and last but not least Kuhn for a 2 yard touchdown. Unreal.
As for the rest of the game I just want to point out a few things I saw:
*** Randall Cobb had his first rough game of the year. He muffed a punt at the 50 yard line trying to call for a fair catch. He also had that drop I talked about with Rodgers first incomplete pass. He was wide open across the middle on third down. If he catches I think there was a 90% chance he gets the first down, and he might have even scored.
*** How about Mason Crosby? Another guy that is playing really awesome, but no one is really seeing it. 4-4 on field goals (39, 45, 24, 58) and also making all of his extra points. He is also good at kicking off the ball to where the guys are catching it about 3 yards deep. It seems to be that other teams are starting inside the 20 more than in past years.
*** Nine different players caught ball from Rodgers with Jennings leading the way with 7 grabs. Greg Jennings is another guy that just keeps making play after play. The guy has crazy hands, and has the moves to make a play after the catch. I still can't believe the Vikings left him open for a free 79 yard touchdown.
*** The big three on D each made plays. Raji and Matthews each had sacks, and Woodson had two INT's. We gave up a lot of yards, but Ponder only completed 40.6% of his passes. Ponder was 13-32 which means we had pressure on him. The negative is getting burned by the big play.
*** Talking about big plays, and good players, I have to bring up Adrian Peterson. He had 175 yards under the radar also Sunday. They kept showing Ponder and McNabb on the sidelines. I don't care who your quarterback is, but Peterson is the work horse of this team. He finished with 24 carries for 175 yards, so again he kept his team in this game.
*** Is this James Starks now the James Starks of last years playoffs? On 3rd and 7 just short of mid field Starks busted a 13 yard run to seal the game for the Pack. He finished with 13 rushes for 75 yards. So hopefully after the bye week he can start running hard again.
For more Packer coverage, head over to CheeseheadTV.com for Bart's weekly postgame wrap-up with Brian Carriveau.
I hate that it took a loss like the Badgers 38-31 defeat to Michigan State to get me to do a post about how frustrated I am with the structure of college football, but I'm pretty sure this is an argument I've taken up before. Here's the meat and potatoes of what happened on Saturday night: The Badgers played a conference foe on the road, a team that was ranked number 16 in the nation. Their quarterback struggled with turnovers and badly thrown incompletions, yet he still lead them to a 31-point output. They were on the bad end of two blocked kicks, and lost on a last second Hail Mary pass that was so close it had to be reviewed. Michigan State earned their victory and played a hell of a game, yet so did the Wisconsin Badgers. But the fact that the game counts as a loss in the standings means that the Badgers national title hopes are over. One loss, you're done. It's a system that is debated every year, yet one that seemingly will never be changed.
Again, I know my position may be taken with a little less than a grain of salt because I am the fan of a team that just was eliminated from the chase, and that's fine. The thing is, the position I'm taking is something that I'd say at least 90 percent of the fans of college football agree with. One loss, and that's it? The Green Bay Packers had six losses out of sixteen games, yet they were able to play for their championship. The St. Louis Cardinals had more than 70 losses and now are two wins away from the World Series (which pisses me off to no end, mind you). You may think I'm comparing apples to oranges but in what other landscape does one mistake end your chances at success? I don't know... maybe a battlefield in the middle of a war? Seriously, one mistake, one fluke play, one tough road loss at any point in the season, and it's over. Doesn't seem right.
You'll get your proponents of the current college football season, with their biggest argument being that there is no need for a playoff because the season is essentially one long playoff structure. But why is that okay in college football when it would be preposterous in any other sports format? College basketball recently added more teams to it's postseason format, and Major League Baseball is looking to do so. The wild card format has given teams in the NBA, NFL, and NHL the chance to stay competitive through the end of the season. Even in the World Cup you have the chance to advance from group play if you lose one game, and each team only plays three games in that stage of the tournament. Yet in college football, this format is accepted? Because it's always been that way? I just don't get it, especially after last night.
Something you probably know about me by now is that I'm pretty reactionary, although I think it's something I've been able to temper over the years. Yet I thought that as a whole, Wisconsin fans were pretty reactionary to each Brewers loss in the playoffs, as after every defeat the claim that "our season is over" was echoed across America's Dairyland, especially on social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. If the Packers were to lose this weekend, I'm sure at least a handful of people would be writing 2011 off for them as well. But I can't blame you if you think that the Badgers football season is over, because when it comes to any National Championship hopes - it is.
So in true reactionary form on Saturday, I proclaimed that "I am never watching college football again until they have a playoff!" And you know what, I might actually stick with that claim. Let's say best case scenario for the Badgers is that they run the table, beat Sparty in the Big Ten title game, and earn a Rose Bowl berth. That's okay with everybody? Who honestly still gets excited for the Rose Bowl? Remember, this is not 1994 anymore. The Badgers were a legit National Championship contender this season. Russell Wilson was a legit Heisman candidate this year. All that however is washed away because of a single, last-second fluke play, and that's supposed to be fine?
Seriously, spare me the argument that Wisconsin doesn't deserve to be in the National Championship because the season is like a playoff, and the Badgers couldn't get through their season undefeated. My argument is that the system needs to be changed. There are more than 120 teams in Division I-A, but because of their schedule or what conference they are in, many don't have a shot at the National Championship right off the bat. And then many of the teams that could win it all won't, because of one loss along the way. Hell, after Saturday night, they should be in the National Championship debate, right? Oh wait, they lost to Notre Dame at the beginning of the season. Sorry. Disqualified.
I am writing this post pre-Packer game as well, because I can't imagine what words I'd come up with if Green Bay lost. But remember a few weeks ago, when the Badgers beat Nebraska, the Brewers won a couple of playoff games, and the Packers destroyed Denver? That weekend was so great, but you had to know that the lamely framed "WINsconsin" couldn't last forever. And with the crushing Badger loss, coupled with the St. Louis Cardinals and Albert Pujols pouring heavy amounts of salt into that wound, I think karma is coming back around. Wisconsin fans, as a whole, need to learn that championships aren't won in the regular season, or in the first days of the playoffs for that matter. Because judging from the Twitter and Facebook statuses of the last couple of days, not to mention my tone in this article, "WINsconsin" has quickly become "WHINEsconsin". And I can't say that we don't deserve it.
Go Pack Go.
That's more like it. There really has been too much success in Wisconsin Sports lately. Superbowl wins, undefeated teams, October baseball - I really don't know how to react to them, but heart breaking defeat, I am accustomed to. See 4th and 26, 2008 NFC Championship game, the TO catch, horrible NCAA defeats to Davidson, Butler, and Cornell just to name a few. Last night's Wisconsin Badger loss was the latest of these bitter pills to swallow. This one is so hard take not only because of the tough breaks and bad plays on the field - two ints, a blocked field goal, a blocked punt for a touchdown, a phantom fumble out of bounds, questionable timeouts at the end, fluke Hail Mary - but because this is the best Badger football team we have ever had. All the pieces are there. The Big Ten has no power teams and people (the polls) actually respect Wisconsin. I sent out a text last night saying I guess we'll have to settle for the Rose Bowl. I don't think that is hyperbole or shows signs of entitlement. I just think this team is that good. So instead of an amazingly electrifying season where every game matters, we're left with more "if onlys" and "what ifs". And that's what Wisconsin sports have almost always been about for me.
This one had an eerily similar feel to the Rose Bowl against TCU. Often times we thought, how are we losing this game? We are the better team. Why don't we keep running down the middle? If we get to OT, this game is ours. Arrgghh!
Another thing that really irks me about this game is now Michigan State will be under the illusion that they are a good team. Really Spartans? You won on a lucky, poorly defended heave. You had one nice reverse, a 4th down pass play with bad tackling, and a 3rd down pass play with bad tackling. It was much more a case of Wisconsin giving this one away. Now I guess I'll be rooting for Michigan State for the next 5 weeks only so we can play them in Indianapolis for the Big 10 Championship and rip them a new one.
Final Thought: It's tough to look only at that last play because, as said early, there were so many mistakes by Wisconsin, and it would have only brought overtime, but, NICELY TIMED JUMP Jared Abbrederis!
|Dammit, I love Rodger's photo-bombs!|
- This offense is fucking sexy - Let's face it, it we could have sex with this offense, the line for mustache rides would be unending. Teams get up on them by multiple scores and they're unfazed...it's incredible. Jermike has been a beast, Rodgers is playing lights-out, Jennings, Jordy, Driver, Jones, Grant, Starks, Cobb...they're all getting in on the action.
- Marshall Newhouse - This GUY! I kid, but he's been great. With Clifton's return undetermined and Sherrod not yet ready to take over at left tackle, Newhouse has been a great fill-in...if not future replacement? I heard some talk that he could be the guy over at that spot once Clifton calls it a career however it's a little early for talk like that since Sherrod hasn't had much of a shot with the abbreviated offseason to get acclimated to the NFL. But back to Newhouse...he comes in when Bulaga gets hurt, plays well then slides over to the left side when Cliffy goes down...that is one hell of an asset to have. There was some consternation when the Packers broke camp with fewer offensive linemen than was expected but with Newhouse stepping in and doing double duty admirably, I think there's a lot less to worry about. However, let's not get ahead of ourselves, the Packers face a tough front 7 in Minnesota this week and with Jared Allen playing well, ol' Marshall will have his hands full. If he comes through with another solid game, then it's time for fans to get excited.
- The Throwbacks - Say what you will but I think they're sweet. I agree with QB1 though when he says they could only be improved if everyone wore brown shoes to go with the helmets but these are MUCH better than the previous throwback outfits the Packers wore in 1994 with the yellow and blue jerseys, gold pants and yellow helmets...those were awful. It's a real switch and the first homage, that I know of, to the leather helmet which is what was worn in 1929.
- Keep the pedal down - If you watched Sunday's game, you had to notice how the offense seemed to coast through the second half. I love how Bret Bielema's Badgers stay on the throttle and keep their foot on their opponent's throat through four quarters...generally. Are you supposed to just give them the ball back if they're unable to score? Is it your fault if they can't stop you? This is a game and if the game is decided, then get the back-ups some PT. Don't throw the first-team out there to run a couple plays and punt. If they're on the field, get into the end zone.
- Pass Defense outside the Red Zone - It seems like teams are able to just chuck it around on these guys between the 20's. Yes, Collins is out and has been replaced by Charlie Peprah, but it's a bit disconcerting to see Sam Bradford completing passes seemingly at-will. As long as the defense stays stout on the compressed field that is the Red Zone, there's no reason for concern but if teams start popping the ball into the end zone, fans will have something to worry about.
- Offensive Tackle - Yes, we praised the bejesus out of Marshall Newhouse...deservedly so but let's look at the situation as a whole and be cynical. Rodgers bodyguard Clifton is out for an undetermined amount of time, his heir apparent, Derek Sherrod is not ready and the guy who has replaced him (Newhouse) was drafted in the 5th round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Newhouse has not faced a true test yet and the Viking's Jared Allen will give him the tough exam he's been missing. Yes, Rodgers says he's comfortable and while I believe him, the issue is not necessarily Marshall but Allen. Allen would have kept Clifton's hands full so why should it be any different for Newhouse, a guy who's never played left tackle in the NFL other than the previous 3 games. I hate Jared Allen, his stupid "roping the calf" sack dance and his ironic mullet (which is no longer ironic but just sad) but there's no denying that he's tallied nine and a half sacks so far this season. He's built up his confidence so far this season and will be tough for Newhouse to handle. Let's just hope he's got he's studied extra this week and is ready for that dope.
Due to the recent success of the sports teams in the Dairy Land, some clever Wisconsinites have coined the term WINsconsin. We wouldn't be surprised, though, if that term actually originated in Las Vegas.
The defending Super Bowl champion Packers are 5-1 against the spread, faltering only against Cam Newton and all his awesomeness.
Even more impressively, your beloved Badgers, behind Russell Winson, are an undefeated 5-0-1 against the spread.
We'll do the math for you: that's an incredible 10-1-1 record against the spread for the two football teams doing battle up north.
So why are we bringing this to your attention? We'll, for those of you who don't know us (impossible since we post here at leeeeast once a year), we run a sports betting website called Stock Lemon, contributing occasionally to this fine website here.
And this week, both the Badgers (-7 1/2 over Michigan State) and the Packers (-9 over the Vikings) will be part of our Free NCAA Football Picks (58% YTD) and Free NFL Picks (65% YTD), respectively.
To see the rest of our picks for the weekend, you'll have to check us out over at stocklemonblog.com.
The better team won the series, there is no denying that. The NLCS for the Brewers was not the case of "if this one play was different" or "if this one thing would have went right". It is almost the case of every possible thing going wrong for the Brewers, almost. But since this is the first time in my lifetime that the Brewers have made it to a Championship series, let's take a further look at the NLCS - what went right and what went wrong.
I'll start with the much shorter category, things that went right. There aren't many of them, but if you told me these things would happen, I would have surly thought the Brewers would take the series.
Things that went right for the Brewers:
Jerry Hairston and Yuni Betancourt - Jerry Hairston batted .391 for the series with a .440 on base percentage and 6 runs. Betancourt batted .333 with 5 RBI. Like I said, if you told me before the series that these would be the numbers for our 6-7 hitters, I'd have though we'd take the series in 4-5 games. But alas, the things we presupposed - like Braun and Fielder being hot - did not happen.
Randy Wolf - Again, if you told be Randy Wolf would go 7 innings, giving up only 2 runs while winning game 4, I'd have thought this series would be ours.
Late relief - Hawkins, Saito, K-Rod, Axford - 13 innings pitched. 1 earned run.
5th inning Game 1 - Remember that? Braun and Fielder were hot. Has to be one of my favorite few minutes of sports that I can remember.
Ok, now on to the longer list
Things that went wrong for the Brewers:
- Braun and Fielder well runs dry. This has to be number 1. Over the years and especially in the NLDS, we've had an unhealthy reliance on Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Against the Cards with the exception of game 1, we saw what happens when they do not produce. They went a combined 1-16 in games 5 and 6. And it's not like they didn't have opportunities. They had men on base and came up with some absolutely awful at-bats.
- Starting pitching - Wow, there isn't really much I need to say about this. We just could not get out of the first inning without any damage. That is not the way to start a game, to instill confidence in your team and your fans. At least for Marcum, Narveson faired just as poorly.
- Lack of clutch hitting, lack of clutch pitching - In my keys to NLDS game 5 I cited getting out of the 1st inning unscathed (see above) and the importance of 2-out RBIs.
Stat of the series: 2-out RBIs, Brewers:1 Cardinals 13. Wow. That is ridiculous. It points to bad clutch hitting by the Brewers, but more importantly, the inability by Brewers pitching to get that final, key out. Just think how many of those big Cardinals innings could have been avoid by just getting out number 3.
- Lack of plate discipline - So being in DC and not having the MLB network, I did not get to see a lot of Brewers games this summer. I know they are a free swinging team, but have they always been undisciplined at the plate? The inconsistent strike zone did not help, but the Brewers swing at so many pitches out of the zone - high, low, inside, outside. Man. Contrast that with the Cardinals. They are able to go down 0-2 and still work the count back to 2-2 or 3-2 and get big hits. A lot of it has to do with Morgan, Braun, Fielder, Weeks, Hart, Gomez, Betancourt swinging for the fences, but there were many situations in this series where we just needed to make contact.
- Fielding - We saw the errors. They were pretty gross. But there were also several instances where we were just inches away from making a key catch. This happened at least twice with Hart and also with Morgan, Kotsay, and even Weeks. Again, a few inches could have made the difference between an average inning and a big inning for the Cards. Contrast that with John Jay and even Pujols and Berkman making nice defensive plays.
- Managers - I don't think Ron Roenicke really made too many bad decisions, but none of the decisions he made went the right way. Tony LaRussa on the other hand, wow, every decision he made turned out gold! Whether it be a pinch hitter, a pitching change, a intentional walk, nothing he did went wrong. I strongly dislike LaRussa, but he did a great managerial job this series.
- Game 3, inning 1 - I know I said so much went wrong in this series, that you can't really point to one at bat or one instance that decided the series. But if I did have one do over, it would be the first inning of game 3. I'm not talking about Kotsay's base running blunder, but about Gallardo's pitching. It was his one bad inning of the post season and it cost us dearly. If he is just a little bit more on his stuff in that first inning, who knows what will happen.
It was a fun post season.
Who would have thought that the state of Wisconsin could possibly find a way to be depressed the day after a Packer victory, much less one that improved them to 6-0 on the season. You can thank the Milwaukee Brewers for that one, a topic which I will have to address at some point this week (most surprising thing about the Brewers playoff run for me? I found out that I really, really, really hate Facebook). But the Packers aren't just playing second fiddle right now in Wisconsin, they're playing second fiddle to everything else going on in the NFL. You have Tebow, Schwartz vs. Harbaugh, Eagles' struggles, Patriots/Cowboys, McNabb, Raiders, and a thousand other stories that are getting more coverage than the Packers. And I am completely okay with that. Because as CheeseheadTV.com's Brian Carriveau and I discussed this morning on K107.1 out of Fond du Lac, what is there really to say about a team as dominant as the Packers that we haven't already said?
Click here for the audio.
Did anyone see this coming? After losing a close game Wednesday, heads were hanging a bit low in Brewer Land. How do we get back in the series? Why start Randy Wolf of course. Let me reiterate that Wolf game up 7 runs in 3 innings his last outing. That's an ERA of 21.00! Not the best. Wolf is our 4th best starting pitcher and in this series against the Cards, we have already seen our 1, 2, and 3 starters struggle, even get shelled at times. And to top it off, TBS puts a pretty nice stat out there at the beginning of the game, Randy Wolf has the most starts among active pitchers who have never won a playoff game. The good news, Cardinal's starter Kyle Lohse was 3rd on that list.
(A brief aside, TBS love the shit out of some stats! Has anyone else noticed this? Seriously, they must put a new stat out for every batter. Sometimes it's interesting, sometimes it's relevant, usually it is something random like "Most double plays with a Home Run Derby contestant on deck" or something like that. I'll try to make a meaningless stat graphic count tonight.)
So what does Randy do? Goes out and pitches a gem! This has to be the game of his life. He gave up 2 solo home runs, the first of which I'm pretty sure everyone watching on TV, everyone at the stadium, everyone in both dugouts, the pitcher and the batter thought was a routine pop-up. The rest of his 4 hits and one walk given up over 7 innings were nicely scattered. 6 K's and just overall control and confidence. Thank you for stepping up Randy Wolf. It was a performance worthy of the return of the Bucky Channel Player of the Game.
BCPOTG: Randy Wolf
A few other notes on Game 4:
- It finally was not just the Ryan Braun/Price Fielder Show. The Brewers got 4 RBI from 4 different players and 4 runs from 4 different players. We're gonna need this 1-9 contribution to continue.
- K-Rod and Axford both actually pitched uneventful innings. Both gave up one hit, but were never in danger. When is the last time that happened?
- What was up with that inconsistent strike zone? The home plate ump was all over the place and of course, this does not favor the free swinging Brewers.
- Pujols just 1-4 last night, and no walks, just smart pitching. I like that. Make Holliday beat you.
- Anyone else notice that Pujols and Fielder seemed to be best buds? Do we have more free agent collusion on our hands? The next Wade, Lebron, and Bosh? Pujols and Fielder to the same American League team? Ok, maybe I'm reading too much into this.
- How about that slide by Jerry Hairston? Wow.
Alright Brewers fans, it's a 3 game series now. If you weren't already on the edge of your seats, you've got to be there these next 3 games. I'm certain that each game going forward in this will be the Biggest Brewers game I have ever seen. October baseball, love it.
Tonight we got Greinke vs. Garcia. Let's keep it up Crew!
When the Brewers made the playoffs in 2008, I was dirt broke. Not broke like I am now, but literally living paycheck to paycheck, only I wasn't receiving paychecks at the time. Still, when I was told that I could possibly get tickets to the Brewers playoff series against Philadelphia, I jumped at the chance, bought the whole postseason, and never looked back.
Miller Park only would host two games those playoffs, but the win during game three of the NLDS will forever go down as one of my favorite games to attend in my life. Yeah, the next day was pretty lame, but that wasn't the point. The Brewers were in the playoffs, and I was lucky enough to be there.
In 2011, the Brewers have a much better team, and maybe it's for that reason that I haven't been as eager to buy ticket after ticket. Maybe it's because I live an hour away and have to work at 5am in the morning. Maybe it's because I'm a little more responsible with my money and I have more bills that need to be paid. Or maybe it's because I just keep figuring that the Brewers will play another game at Miller Park soon enough, and I'll just go to that game at that time. Most likely, it's a combination of all of those reasons and perhaps a few others.
But I was done playing the waiting game on Monday night, and I finally made it to a playoff game circa 2011. After four great wins at Miller Park already in these playoffs, I just wanted to have my own wild playoff experience and I didn't want to wait any longer. I sort of had a bad feeling before the game (my direct quote is that "I feel bad about this game, but good about the series") but I never envisioned Albert Pujols to come out and basically win the game by himself. Shaun Marcum struggled, the Brewers couldn't plate runners, and Milwaukee's pitching staff imploded yet again and the St. Louis Cardinals took game two of the series 12-3. Not what I expected for my first taste of the playoffs in 2011 (I am, by the way, saying twenty eleven, and not two thousand and eleven, and I hope you're all with me by now).
Despite my early start time the next day, there was no way I was going to leave this game early. Most people didn't make it to the sausage race. I can't blame them if that's their prerogative. I'm just not a person that is going to spend money on nine innings of baseball and not see it through. Potentially missing an epic comeback is a strong enough motivator to not want to beat the post-game traffic out of the ballpark (and if you stayed to the end last night, the post-game was probably when the traffic was flowing the smoothest).
So we stayed, got beat up on, and the Brewers were embarrassed at Miller Park for really the first time this season. What we may have saw however - the final at-bat by Prince Fielder in Miller Park as a Brewer. If it was his final one, he made it count. A solo shot to right field and a standing ovation to follow.
Why might it be his last at-bat? Because of the playoff format in Major League Baseball which really does not benefit the home club, in my opinion. With the series split at one, the Cardinals have a major advantage by playing the next three games in Busch Stadium. I get that both teams have to play at home during a series, but the 2-2-1-1-1 option would seem a little more fair to me. Sure, it's extra travel for everyone involved, but I'd rather the series be determined by play on the field instead of whose field we're playing on.
Ultimately, and I might be stupid for feeling this, but I feel that the Brewers are going to take 2-of-3 in St. Louis and then clinch in game six. I think they are going to win this series, and to do that, they have to win at least one on the road, obviously. But I've also seen the Brewers win in St. Louis when they had to, and it's something I think they can do despite their struggles on the road. My only concern is the pitching, which has really vanished this October.
Again, I'm glad I went to game two of the NLCS despite the outcome, as it was something that I certainly never thought I would attend as a Brewers fan. And while the series does look bleak as we enter this new best-of-five where the Cardinals have home-field, you still gotta play those games. I'm thinking that whoever wins game three wins this series, and I'm thinking it's going to be Milwaukee.
Or at least win one of these games, so the taste of a 12-3 loss doesn't rot in my mouth all offseason.
Where on Friday afternoon I thought that heartache was sure to bestow itself upon Brewer Nation, on Sunday I couldn't have been anymore positive that Milwaukee was in the middle of a healthy run through the postseason. To be honest, I was a nervous wreck on Friday for NLDS Game 5, so I figured the best way to watch this do or die game was to head to the same bar where we watched the Packers crazy run to the Super Bowl earlier this year. The game on Friday had the same kind of feel to each of those Packer games - where you were on edge for every play but trying to soak the moment in at the same time. A victory in that game and then a Cardinals victory meant that the Brewers now had home field advantage for the entire playoffs, World Series included. The thought crossed my mind, "What if this year not only the Packers won the Super Bowl but the Brewers win....", you know, I can't even finish the thought. I nearly start crying before I do.
It's just fun to be a Wisconsin sports fan right now, and this year will be looked back someday as the glory days in Wisconsin sports. I have heard of all the hardships of fans during the '70s and '80's and lived through some of my own in the '90's and 2000's. I am fully aware that the gettin' is good right now, and that I should savor every moment. And when you start to think that there could be more to come... that things could get better than where things are at right now? It's a little overwhelming.
You can draw similarities between these Brewer playoffs and the playoffs of '82 when we also faced the Cardinals. You can also draw comparisons to the Packers in that they played a division rival in their league championship game. But these 2011 Brewers seem to be content on making their own legacy. They continued with that notion on Sunday afternoon, using a six run fifth-inning to get past the Cardinals in a 9-6 victory. If I had to, I'd probably go along with most everyone else and say the Brewers win in seven, but I think that winning game one will prove to be very important. I'll be lucky enough to attend tonight (in the 400 level - but somebody's gotta sit there right?) yet I can't say I'm completely confident that they will win game two. I do still have good thoughts about the series and the playoffs in general, and it appears that the players do themselves as well.
I am going to be disappointed if the Brewers don't win this series, however, especially to St. Louis. But in a couple of months I will look back and be pleased with this season and all the joy that it brought us. You look at the team though, and you don't get that feeling. This team, these players, they want the championship. They want to win it all. And I can't wait to support that cause tonight.
Perhaps it was Jared J. Semexant throwing interceptions for the Eagles and Scott Comtois leading the Packers to a comeback victory on Sunday, because it sure does look like Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers are the two gentlemen in this Port Charlotte, Florida mug shot. The doppelgangers weren't as smart as the NFL signal callers, however, as two cops on foot patrol were watching the two men when they were trying to load the A/C unit into their vehicle.
They were arrested and charged with grand theft. No word yet from Roger Goodell's office on how many games the two might be suspended for behavior that is sure to violate the NFL's personal conduct policy.
Whereas you can tell in one at-bat that the Brewers and Cardinals are two teams that don't like each other, you're beginning to see a similar scenario between the Packers and Falcons. They're not in the same division, but they've matched up enough times in the past few years to foster a mutual dislike for one another. Thankfully, in the latest chapter, it was the Packers that took the victory. Listen to Winks and CheeseheadTV.com's Brian Carriveau recap all the action.
For the first time in my lifetime, the Milwaukee Brewers have won a playoff series. And, wow, was it intense. As we knew going in, the homefield advantage was huge! I've been watching highlights and interviews all day. Kudos to MLB.com for their extensive highlight and interview videos. Almost 24 hours later I still cannot compose a coherent post, still too excited, so we'll go to the blogger's best friend, bullet points.
Here are a few thoughts and observations about the amazing game:
- It was not easy tonight for the pitchers. Gallardo battled hard, bent but not broken. Nice work by Saito. K-Rod was usual K-Rod. Runners at the corners with one out in the 8th and he gets the HUGE strikeout. And I haven't heard much about Axford's great pitching in the 9th after blowing the save. 1st and 2nd with the score tied and nobody out. We had to keep it 2-2 there. Axford gets the strikeout then two groundouts. Then 1,2,3 in the 10th.
- Chris Young's catch on that drive by Hairston. Man, there is no way I thought he was going to get that. Gotta love Hairston's reaction.
- I know I'm probably saying this because I'm a Brewers fan, but I sensed a Diamondback bias from TBS. Anyone else notice this? Lots of Dbacks highlights and promising stats. Chris Young's homer in game 1, sure show that. Ryan Roberts grand slams, sure, show them. How about some Goldschmidt highlights? Thanks TBS. John Axford comes in for the 9th why not show his last blown save from April 18th! Way to find Justin Upton's Mom and focus on the 6 Dbacks fans in the entire stadium. I'm sure some Brewers players had family in the audience. Gosh. But we won, so I can't hate too much.
- Gotta love T-Plush. His two previous at bats before his game winning hit - 2 strikeouts, 1 bat broken over the knee, 1 bat flown down the 1st base line.
- Carlos Gomez was one of my keys to the game when I wrote on Thursday. I guess if you throw enough darts you're gonna hit the bullseye at some point. But Gomez was huge. Loved to see him jacked up when he got that single. He's got confidence, despite his bench role.
- On the same note, I will stop tweeting about the Brewers. I'm pretty sure I'm jinxing them and making myself look foolish. Case in point: "I don't know why, but I got a good feeling about Randy Wolf tonight" and "Rickie Weeks, starting the trending now cuz he's about to get BIG in a few hours!" Wow.
- Rickie Weeks, please show up for the NLCS!
- There was still a lack of clutch hitting for the Crew overall. We had good chances and didn't necessarily make the most of them. Thank you Betancourt bloop single!
- Can't get enough of that last play? Check it out here. My favorite part is Ed Sedar at about the 1:36 mark. Waive 'em in, waive 'em and celebrate! Also, watch the reaction of JJ Putz. What a bitch!
- My viewing environment was a bit interesting. I watched at 6 Nellie's in DC which is called the World's Best Gay Sports Bar. They definitely had the gay part right. My crew of 6 people were literally the only people watching the game. And we were VERY into the game. The bar was packed by the latter stages of the game, and there were lots of gay men watching us react to the game. Pretty funny stuff. And we went Beast Mode once Gomez crossed the plate. Great night.
- I have to admit I was worried that Lyle Overbay might comeback to haunt us, or even worse, Henry Blanco (how is he still in the league?).
- I kept mentioning to my friend that we needed someone to step up. This was a legend making game. It did not matter who it was. These players had a chance to be remembered forever in Milwaukee. Just look at Yount to Cooper to win the '82 ALCS. I saw that play countless times growing up in Milwaukee. We finally have a new one to add to the highlight reel. Nyjer Morgan, Milwaukee Legend!
- Gotta love this moment for the City of Milwaukee and the State of Wisconsin. Great crowd last night! I can't yet compare it to the Packers Superbowl win yet, but my connection to the Brewers makes this one so sweet, so satisfying. Growing up in Milwaukee you go to Brewers games. I remember sitting in those County Stadium bleachers with my family, bringing in jugs of Kool-Aid, grilling out in the parking lot, loving Rob Deer, sitting in Vaughn's Valley, watching Daryl Hamilton make amazing diving catches, thinking every April that this year was going to be "our year" only to endure 14 straight non-winning seasons. Still it was our team. New stadium, same results, but no matter what, Bob Uecker will always be on the radio. The Brewers are my team and represent my city. I love the Packers, and I have lots of memories of them, but not as personal as my Brewers memories. So take it in Milwaukee. We don't know what next year will bring, but right now that doesn't matter. We are in the National League Championship! We'll have home field advantage for as long as we keep it. 2011 Brewers, let's keep it rolling!
The title of this post refers to a somewhat obscure Simpsons quote. Homer received a football team from Hank Scorpio after helping him move one step closer towards world domination, but unfortunately, it is the Denver Broncos. "Awww, the Denver Broncos?" (Here's the audio for you non-Simpsons fans. Unfortunately The Simpsons is very strict with their copy write laws). The short quote just contains all the question, dislike, and disgust I have felt for the Arizona Diamondbacks these past few days. My most frequent thought is "Really, the Arizona Diamondbacks? We are losing like this to the D'Backs". It just doesn't make sense to me.
The D'Backs are really moving up my dislike list very fast. I don't hate them. It would be a waste of energy to hate them. But that could change if things go wrong tonight. I could see the Brewers being a love 'em or hate 'em team with all their antics and personalities, but the D'Backs are a hate 'em or ignore 'em team. Even there own fans don't love them.
Let's take a look at just why the Arizona Diamondbacks are so unlikable.
- It all started for me in the second to last game of the regular season. Arizona won on a walk off Grand Slam by Ryan Roberts (Tatman? Really Arizona fans?) and celebrated like they won the f-ing World Series. Roberts did his tacky Gibson thing and then Arizona called out Milwaukee, only to lose badly the next day and not have a chance for home field.
-Who are these guys? Willie Blooomquist? Paul Goldschmidt? Ryan Roberts? Kelly Johnson? I'm not a huge baseball fan, but I follow the Brewers pretty closely and play some fantasy baseball, but I have never heard of these guys who killed us in Arizona. The only players I knew going into this series were Upton, Young, Saunders, and Ian Kennedy (solely from ESPN highlights over the last couple months.) Oh, and their regular season stats are a model of mediocrity. Bloomquist - .266, Goldschmidt - .250, Roberts - .249, Chris Young - .236. The Arizona Diamondbacks are on the brink of knocking out the Brewers? Really?
- Kirk Gibson - The media has a love affair with Kirk Gibson. They love talking about his cavalier, aggressive approach. Ok, we get, he makes bad decisions and sometimes gets away with them. Great.
- "The Fang" - I want to call it a poor man's "Beast Mode", but that would be an insult to poor men and beasts everywhere. Arizona fans are jealous and uncreative and are somehow trying to latch on to the excitement and effervescence the Brewers bring to the table.
- db snake logo - The thing on the sleeves of the D'Backs jerseys is just awful. Again, it's like they tried to bastardize the old Brewers mb logo and came up with this monstrosity. My friend always says the Washington Wizards have the worst logo in sports, but I have to say this one, though just a secondary logo, takes the prize. Horrible!
- Fans - Up until now I have avoided the inevitable D'Backs/D'bags comparison, but I can avoid it no longer. Did you see shots of their fans? It was a stadium full of meatheads or people totally uninterested in the game. Not only could they not sellout their stadium for a playoff game, they lie about it and say they did sell out. Man. They continually boo Prince Fielder, which I somewhat understand, but now they just boo every player no matter what the situation. These fans did not deserve the All-Star game. Justin Upton did not deserve to be in the Home Run Derby. This team does not deserve to be in the NLCS.
Alright, I got my hating out. Let's do it on the field Brewers. Show your dominance.
I have to start off by saying I'm pretty worried about tomorrow's game. The Brewers did not look good in Arizona. I don't subscribe to the "momentum" theory, especially in a 5 game series, but the Crew, aside from Braun and Gallardo and that 6th inning in game 2, has been a bit disjointed the entire series. I won't go into Marcum's weird interplay with Lucroy on the Grand Slam or the fact that Marco Estrada was our best pitcher yesterday. Instead, let's look toward Friday's game.
Despite the fact that we did not look good in Arizona and are now 1 game away from elimination, things are looking good for us on paper. Most importantly, we are at home. That is what we fought for an earned this season. We all know we have the best record in the league at home. We all saw how important the home field has been in this series. We have our best pitcher going (being caught by our best catcher). And, we must win - and we saw what that did for the Diamondbacks.
Here's the keys to winning tomorrow
- Get out of the 1st inning unscathed. After watching the last two games, we see how important it is go get a clean first inning. Gallardo, though dominate in Game 1, was a bit shakey in the 1st. This cannot happen tomorrow. Keep that crowd hype. Give our bats some confidence. I'll even take 0-0 after 1.
- Ricky Weeks -Can we get a Ricky Weeks sighting please? Please! 1-15, 12 left on base. Ugh. We need you man. With Hart, Prince, Braun, and Morgan in front of you, those runners are going to be on base. They will not pitch to Prince if they can avoid it in game 5. C'mon Ricky.
- Clutch hits - The LOB number is pretty high, but an even bigger indicator of success is 2 out RBIs. The Brewers had 5 in games 1 and 2 and 0 in games 3 and 4. We have had guys on base a lot and need to convert our chances. This becomes even more clutch tomorrow because Ian Kennedy will not put guys on base like Joe Saunders. This goes for our pitchers too. You have to get that last out. The D-backs had 7 two out RBIs in game 3 and 7 two out RBIs in game 4. Those are pretty staggering numbers.
- Bullpens - Frankly, and I know this is pretty obvious, we need to get to the D-Backs bullpen early and get to our bullpen with a lead. I would like to see 3 pitchers maximum tomorrow for the Crew. 7 innings for Yovanni, 1 for K-Rod, 1 for Axford. Yes, please.
- Carlos Gomez - It looked like this guy had a point to prove last night. I'm not saying he gets the start tomorrow, but you will certainly see him at some point tomorrow. I'm hoping it's for defensive purposes and not pitch-hitting purposes.
There you go, just a few of my keys. I'm not one for making predictions, mostly because I'm worried about the jinx. I'm nervous and worried, but glad we are at home. I'll be on the edge of my seat, but hopefully not holding my breath on every pitch like when Randy Wolf was out there.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a anti-Diamondbacks post. You know what I'm talking about Brewers fans.
One too many people have asked me in the last couple of days, "Hey, did you hear what Favre said?" As in, one was too many people to be asking me. Isn't this whole saga over with yet? I mean sure, I used to write nearly exclusively about Favre on this site due to my intense hatred of all things Brett, but I figured that our success post-Favre would deem all talk on the man irrelevant. I thought when we won the Super Bowl, people would stop hanging on his every word. Nope. I thought now that the Pack are 4-0 and playing great ball in a Super Bowl title defense in a season where Favre is out of the league, that would seal the deal that the Dongslinger Era was over.
Make no mistake about it, I still can't stand the guy. But it's for that reason coupled with the insane about of success that the Packers have had lately that it doesn't matter what the guy says. The CheeseheadTV headline from Favre's recent comments say it best: Favre Speaks. People Record It. We Blog. You Freak Out. I mean, yeah, pretty much. Favre said something that could be taken as insulting to Aaron Rodgers, and was of course number twelve was asked about it today by reporters. He gave his normal political non-answer as he always does, because he has moved on (credit goes to KFIZ's Wade Bates for asking as a follow up if Rodgers was surprised Favre waited three years to acknowledge Rodgers publicly, a question which caused Rodgers to laugh and blow off the question at the same time). Aaron Rodgers made it clear though again today, as he always has - he doesn't give a shit about Brett Favre.
I still can't believe we all haven't joined him yet.
(Hey Winks, where the hell have your recaps been? Um, how about my chat with Brian Carriveau instead? Please?)
Brewers 9, Diamondbacks 4
* It was nice having the two TV's set up - one for the Brewers, one for the Packers - but I applaud the Brewers for waiting until the Packer game was over before they really went on their offensive attack.
* Not the best performance from Zach Greinke in his playoff debut, but not the worst either. Hard to follow the near virtuoso performance that Yovani Gallardo delivered on Saturday however.
* Miller Park, you are crushing it these playoffs!
* Takashi Saito, FTW!
* Playing Jerry Hairston Jr. at third rather than Casey McGehee seems to be a good decision. Except it to be a decision that Ron Roenicke keeps making for awhile.
* Ryan Braun is batting .750 in these playoffs. Short sample size, yes, but a hell of a lot better than he was performing the last time Milwaukee made the postseason.
* Still not sure who to root for between Philadelphia and St. Louis. I find the Cardinals more beatable, however. I can't say I'd be confident against the Phillies. They seem to be the biggest possible obstacle from this being a real magical season.
* Things are starting to feel a bit magical, aren't they?
* Hard to believe John Axford was selling phones at a Walmart a few years back.
* I miss BA and Rock.
* Late game on Tuesday - start time not until 8:30pm. Good for me (coaching soccer at 7pm), bad for me (wake up at 5am next day). Hey, we all have to make sacrifices sometimes, don't we?
Wisconsin 47, Nebraska 17
* Nebraska was able to get a couple of touchdowns early, but credit the Badger defense for hanging tough and forcing turnovers to keep the Cornhuskers at bay.
* Russell Wilson is the best quarterback that the Badgers have ever had.
* Montee Ball. 150 plus yards and 4 TDs. And I'd still give Wilson player of the game honors. The Badgers offense was that good tonight.
* I like these Quick Thought posts that I can do on my phone. But I know I'd get more feedback if I tweeted these things instead. And that pisses the hell out of me!
* Madison is going to be like Halloween and Mifflin combined and multiplied. Hopefully Bear makes it home alive.
* I agree that Wisconsin will need help to make it to the National Championship Game, but I don't see who is going to beat them at this point.
* Sorry, Walsh.
* And welcome to the Big Ten, Nebraska. The crowd chanting "Big Ten Football" was my favorite moment of the night.
Brewers 4, Diamondbacks 1
* Miller Park seemed every bit as loud as three years back. Got to make sure I get back there this year.
* Amazing how much better the Brewers look in the playoffs when Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder show up.
* That being said, even I think Milwaukee will contend without him next year, its clear how much the Brewers will miss Prince Fielder.
* Likewise, this last week has made me change my MVP vote from Braun to Fielder. As long as Kemp doesn't win it, really.
* Gallardo made one mistake today. That's it. He's rarely looked better.
* The more we can preserve our bullpen, the farther we will go.
* Guys with no playoff experience - Lucroy, Axford - looked right at home.
* Yuniesky Betancourt is going to both win us and lose us a game this postseason.
* I'm feeling scary confident in this team right now. This is nothing like 2008.
* Can we do this every weekend?
|I just love the Rodgers photo bombs|
- Morgan Burnett - This guy needs to step-up in the absence of Nick "The Pick" Collins and if his two interceptions last week are any indication of what's to come then I think this team is still in a good position moving forward.
- Run Defense - Matt Forte had two (2) yards rushing last week. Jarius Wynn has really filled in nicely for the injured Mike Neal and the departed Cullen Jenkins. Hopefully Neal and Vic So'oto will return soon to give much-needed depth to the front seven.
- Jermike - This Guy...THIS GUY! I bet John Gruden loves THIS GUY!!! Three touchdowns for Mr. Finley. It was only a matter of time before Rodgers sync'd up with this "match-up nightmare" and it's bound to be a deadly combination as we saw briefly last season.
- Pass Rush - After seeing the Falcons sack Cutler five times in week one and the Saints getting to him six times in week two, many assumed the Packers would crush the guy in week three. This did not happen which could be attributed to the Bears and/or Cutler focusing on getting rid of the ball quicker. However, the Packers haven't seen a huge pass rush in the previous two games either. Last season, the pass rush was the story for this team early on and hopefully Dom can make the proper adjustments to get these guys going.
- Penalties - Sounds like the story from the first Bears Packers game last year. At least the Packers won this year. The Packers went on to be one of the least penalized teams in the NFL in 2010 so there shouldn't be too much concern at this point.
- Charlie Peprah - Cutler was able to pick on him a little bit last week. Hopefully, he can step-up in Collins place because Burnett can't be the only one at the safety position making plays.
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