August 2011

McGehee on lookout for lucky charm

UPDATE: Found! Two local news outlets identified the young fan as Clayton Wollner, 7, of Sussex, Wis. Old friend of MLB.com JR Radcliffe (you can follow him on Twitter) ran a photo of Casey and Clayton at LivingLakeCountry.com. We’ll see where this goes…

Casey McGehee was nearly finished discussing his big day and the Brewers’ big win Wednesday when he released the all points bulletin.

“I’ve got to tell you guys a story before you go,” McGehee told reporters. “It was pretty cool.”

Hey, the guy had just delivered three homers in a 10-5 win over the Cardinals that grew the Brewers’ National League Central lead to 3 1/2 games. You stick around and listen.

“This morning, I got to meet a little kid. His name’s Clayton,” McGehee said. “Clayton was being pretty shy and I kept asking him, ‘Do you have any questions for me?’ He wouldn’t ask me anything. Finally, jokingly, his dad asks me, ‘Why don’t you hit a home run for him?’”

McGehee scoffed. He’d hit five home runs all season, none since July 6 and one in his last 63 games.

“It it was that easy, I would have had one by now,” McGehee answered. “How about we just go for I don’t screw anything up for the kid today? That was good enough for him.”

But wouldn’t you know it? McGehee hit a go-ahead, two-run home run off Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson in the first inning. McGehee hit another go-ahead, two-run homer off Jackson in the third for his second career multi-homer game, and a solo shot in the seventh for what McGehee believes is the first three-homer game of his life.

So, if you’re the young Brewers fan named Clayton, seven years old or so, and you chatted with McGehee on Wednesday morning, he’d like to see you again.

“I want to bring him to Houston with me, and then we’re going to go to St. Louis,” said McGehee, perhaps joking, perhaps not, about the team’s upcoming road trip. “I want to get him a locker — we have a little space right here. Hopefully, we’re going to track Clayton down.”

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Braun’s take on La Russa rant

Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun said he had turned the page Wednesday morning after absorbing the Cardinals’ purpose pitch the previous night.

But he disputed Cardinals manager Tony La Russa’s spirited and lecture about the ethics of pitching inside. La Russa argued that the Takashi Saito pitch that struck St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols in the left hand in the seventh inning Tuesday night required a “message” be sent to the Brewers and Braun. So Cardinals reliever Jason Motte fired consecutive fastballs inside on Braun, the second of which struck Braun in the back.

“I get it,” Braun said. “I certainly understand where [La Russa] is coming from. But at the same time, any good hitter in this league has to be pitched up and in at times. I get it. Prince [Fielder] gets it. You have to throw Albert that way, you have to throw Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman. You can’t allow guys to be comfortable. Occasionally, you have to make that pitch.

“Nobody ever wants to hit anybody. Clearly, we weren’t trying to hit Albert [with runners] at first and third, nobody out and Holliday and Berkman coming up next.”

That hit batsman helped the Cardinals tie the game at 7, and what really burned Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is that the Brewers failed to answer in their half of the inning. Milwaukee loaded the bases with nobody out after Braun’s plunking gave the Brewers a free baserunner, but Cardinals rookie reliever Lance Lynn managed to escape the inning with the tie intact.

The Cardinals finally won four innings later, in the 11th, when Holliday reached on an infield single, stole his first base of the season and scored on Berkman’s bloop hit to left field.

Both Pujols and Braun were in the lineups for Wednesday’s series finale. Braun said he was “fine” because Motte’s pitch did not deliver a direct hit. It instead deflected off Braun’s left arm and got him on the left side of his back.

“It”s over and done with,” Braun said, who actually enjoys the tension between the teams. “From a competition standpoint, it makes it more enjoyable. They have a good team, we have a good team, we expect them to be in it until the end. It just makes the competition that much more fun.

“You don’t want to get hit, but yesterday’s over. Whatever. They did what they felt they needed to do, and in my opinion, you move on. You don’t want to get in a beanball war. That’s not fun and it’s not safe.”

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Will tempers invade Cards-Crew finale?

The Cardinals and Brewers are back at it this afternoon, seemingly a few hours after the most heated game of the season, an 8-7 Cardinals win that included a couple of notable plunkings, one wild ejection and then a pair of well-placed Cardinals hits. And don’t forget that the day began with the Cardinals essentially accusing the Brewers of being cheaters, for toying with the ribbon boards that circle Miller Park.

Which brings us to Wednesday, a key game for both teams. The series is on the line, for one, and so is a two-game swing in the National League Central. If the Brewers win, their lead in the division is 3 1/2 games. If they lose, it’s only 1 1/2 games.

Do you think there will be carryover from last night, when the Cardinals exacted revenge for the pitch that struck Albert Pujols in the left hand by plunking Ryan Braun in the back? No Cardinals lineup as of 10:20 a.m. CT, so I don’t know yet whether he’ll play.

But here is the Brewers lineup:

Corey Hart RF
Nyjer Morgan CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Felips Lopez 2B
George Kottaras C
Randy Wolf LHP

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Fielder: ‘Fighting stuff is for the birds’

Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy was downright furious about the Cardinals’ decision to go way inside against Ryan Braun in the seventh inning Tuesday night. It was obvious retaliation, the Brewers said, for the Takashi Saito pitch that had struck Albert Pujols one half-inning earlier.

Prince Fielder agreed, but he took a more measured approach in his comments following the Brewers’ 8-7 loss.

“We’ve got a baseball game to win, and we don’t really have time for the suspense,” said Fielder, who has been part of a slew of tense Cardinals-Brewers games over the years. “I think we’re past that as a team. It happens and you move on, go try and win a ballgame.

“We’re here to  win, man. All that fighting stuff, that’s for the birds.”

The Brewers got the point, Fielder said. Too bad they couldn’t cash in on the free baserunner, loading the bases with nobody out after Jason Motte plunked Braun in the back.

Cardinals reliever Lance Lynn escaped with the tie intact, and St. Louis finally won in 11 innings.

Lucroy was still hot after the game about the pitch that struck Braun.

“That’s clearly intentional. That’s ridiculous,” Lucroy said. “There’s no way that we were trying to hit Pujols on purpose. Are you kidding me? In that situation? If we wanted to put him on base, we would have walked him. We were trying to pitch him inside and get a ground ball to third base, just like they did to me when I came up [in the bottom of the inning] with the bases loaded.

“I think it’s stupid. I don’t think anyone needs to pay for that. There’s no way we were trying to do that on purpose, and we shouldn’t get punished for something we weren’t trying to do on purpose. Look at the situation. If they were beating us by a lot, or we were beating them by a lot, and that happens, OK, maybe we did it on purpose. … Come on. We were trying to get a ground ball. It’s unbelievable.”

But that wasn’t the case, Lucroy said. And considering it took Motte two inside pitches to make his point, “he definitely should have been thrown out,” Lucroy argued. “We all thought that.”

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Cardinals, Brewers bicker over ribbon board

The Cardinals and Brewers engaged in a bit of off-the-field gamesmanship between the first two games of their National League Central showdown over the brightness of LED “ribbon” boards at Miller Park.

Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa brought the issue to third base umpire Bruce Dreckman’s attention several times during the Brewers’ 6-2 win on Monday night. According to sources in both clubhouses, the Cardinals contended that the long, thin board, which hangs on the façade of Miller Park’s club level, shone brighter while the Brewers were at-bat.

Crew chief Gary Darling told a pool reporter that he emailed a report late Monday to Major League Baseball’s vice president of baseball operations, Joe Garagiola Jr., who in turn spoke Tuesday with Brewers general manager Doug Melvin. But MLB did not request any changes to the Brewers’ game day entertainment.

Melvin declined to discuss the matter with reporters beyond saying it had been “handled.”

“There’s no cheating,” said Melvin, referring questions to Garagiola. “I’m not going to comment on it.”

MLB spokesperson Michael Teevan confirmed that Garagiola and Melvin spoke, and said the Commissioner’s Office was not anticipating further issues.

Asked to clarify what he meant by “handled,” Melvin said, “We didn’t change anything. There’s no reason to change anything. There was nothing to be changed.”

LaRussa would not publicly acknowledge his concerns about the lighting. At least one Cardinals player said that it seemed darker on the field while St. Louis was at bat than it was when Milwaukee was at bat.

“Like I told [LaRussa] last night, we just don’t pay that much attention to it,” Darling said. “Nothing really jumped out about it. I told him I would report it to the league, and that’s what I did. They just called me back that they had spoken to both general managers and they were handling it from that end.”

The series continued with another night game on Tuesday.

“We’ll pay attention to it, but there’s nothing there as far as we’re concerned,” Darling said.

So, add the Cardinals to the list of teams trying to answer a question that has dogged the Brewers themselves. How can a team with the second-most road losses in baseball (35) also have the second most home wins (40, entering Tuesday night)?

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was asked directly on Tuesday afternoon: Are the Brewers cheating?

“If we are, I know nothing about it,” he said. “I would think I would be [in the loop], yes.”

Said Melvin: “We’re happy with our home record. We’re not as happy with our road record. It’s got nothing to do with anything other than the game on the field.”

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Brewers working out deal with lefty Flores

The Brewers on Tuesday evening were still finalizing a Minor League contract for veteran reliever Randy Flores, a left-hander with the potential to fill one of Milwaukee’s needs left unfilled in the wake of Sunday’s nonwaiver Trade Deadline.

Flores, 36, asked for and was granted his release from the Yankees’ Triple-A club earlier Tuesday. He has pitched parts of eight Major League seasons but had not advanced past the Padres’ and Yankees’ Triple-A teams in 2011, posting a  3.00 ERA in 48 games. He held opponents to a .245 average in 29 games for New York’s top affiliate, though left-handers hit Flores a bit better (.259) than right-handers (.232) in a similar number of at-bats.

The Brewers have been without a left-handed reliever since July 15, when Zach Braddock was optioned to Triple-A Nashville. He was subsequently placed on the inactive list because of what Brewers official termed a “personal and private issue.”

Milwaukee’s interest in Flores was first reported by CBSSports.com.

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Hairston gets first Brewers start

With a left-hander (Jamie Garcia) on the mound for St. Louis tonight, the recently-acquired Jerry Hairston Jr. gets his first Brewers start in Game 2 of this three-game set. Hairston could also see action at second base, third base and even shortstop over the next two months, but he’ll probably see the most action in center field, filling the role previous held by Carlos Gomez.

Here’s the full lineup:

Corey Hart  RF
Jerry Hairston Jr.  CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Jonathan Lucroy C
Josh Wilson 2B
Shaun Marcum RHP

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