Friday: Four and a half games
We're talking about the largest divisional lead of the young season and more in today's roundup of all things Brewers.
Some things to read while knocking on doors.
The Milwaukee Brewers were off on Thursday but got some good news from New York, where the Cardinals' 4-1 loss to the Mets allowed the Crew to gain another half game in the standings. The Brewers still have baseball's best record at 16-6, and their lead in the NL Central is now a season-high 4 1/2 games.
They may get an opportunity to expand on that lead this weekend, as they welcome the last-place Chicago Cubs to Miller Park for a three-game series. Matt Garza will take on former Brewer Carlos Villanueva at 7:10 p.m. tonight, and CBSSports.com has a preview.
As we've mentioned previously, reliever Brandon Kintzler is eligible to come off the disabled list today, and Alfredo Figaro had his bags packed in the Brewers clubhouse after Wednesday's game. Yesterday, the team made the move official (h/t @AdamMcCalvy), as Kintzler's sore shoulder passed its final examination and Figaro was returned to Triple-A Nashville.
Mark your calendar to meet Brewers relievers Jim Henderson and Brandon Kintzler at Legends of the Field's Greenfield location on Saturday from 11 a.m.-noon. Click here for more information on this and other upcoming events.
The Brewers are two games into Martin Maldonado's five-game suspension, and so far, Jonathan Lucroy has caught every inning during his absence. They're hoping to get through this weekend without needing him, but Andrew Gruman of FS Wisconsin has a story on Elian Herrera's efforts in preparation to serve as emergency catcher. Herrera has played six positions in the majors, but has never appeared behind the plate.
Herrera can also play shortstop in a pinch, but the Brewers have to be hoping Jean Segura is coming out of his slump there. His two-hit game on Wednesday raised his OPS (on-base plus slugging) to .614 on the season, but former Brewers executive Tony Blengino of FanGraphs says he's a hitter to worry about. It appears ESPN's Keith Law is less worried (Insider-only), as he ranked Segura as one of his top 25 players under 25 years old (h/t @joe_block).
Most fans likely aren't worried about the Brewers' bullpen performance, although some might be worried about their workload. Justin Schultz of Reviewing the Brew has a look at Will Smith's scoreless start to the season, and Adam McCalvy has a story on how Tyler Thornburg has transitioned from rotation candidate to late inning specialist.
Smith and Thornburg have each appeared in 12 of the Brewers' first 22 games, while rookie Wei-Chung Wang has pitched in just two. Bernie Pleskoff of MLB.com says Wang could be a Rule 5 gem, though.
Thursday was the Brewers' first day off in more than two weeks, as they hadn't had an open day on the calendar since getting rained out in Philadelphia on April 7. Richard Justice of MLB.com has a guide to enjoying the break for baseball's best team.
The Brewers may be one of baseball's best stories this spring, but that won't necessarily help them get national attention. @Joe_TOC notes that the Red Sox and Yankees will have nine and 10 games broadcast on MLB Network in May, respectively, while Milwaukee has just one.
In the minors:
Back in Milwaukee, two weeks from today, the Brewers open a three-game series with the Yankees at Miller Park, the first time the Bronx Bombers have come to Milwaukee since June of 2005. The first game of that series will also be special for another reason: The Brewers are planning on honoring the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team before the game.
- The affiliates went 1-3 yesterday, with the lone win coming from Huntsville, where outfielder D'Vontrey Richardson homered in the Stars' 3-1 win over Tennessee. You can read all the details in the Brewerfan.net Link Report.
- Marcus Young of Miller Park Prospects has a scouting report for Nashville outfielder Caleb Gindl.
Today in power rankings:
If you'd like more Brewers coverage today but you're sick of reading, I'll be making my weekly appearance on The Sports Den with Downtown Ollie Burrows on Sports Fan 100.5 in Wausau at 5:30 p.m. today. Follow that link to listen in live.
Cubs: Placed outfielder Justin Ruggiano on the DL with a hamstring strain.
Diamondbacks: Placed outfielder Mark Trumbo on the DL with a stress fracture in his left foot.
Padres: Placed third baseman Chase Headley on the DL with a calf strain.
Twins: Claimed outfielder Kenny Wilson off waivers from the Blue Jays.
Yankees: Pitcher Michael Pineda has been suspended for 10 games for possessing a foreign substance.
Let's go around the NL Central:
- As mentioned above, the Brewers gained another half game in the divisional race when the Mets beat the Cardinals 4-1 yesterday. Bartolo Colon held St. Louis to that single run on four hits over seven innings, walking none and striking out eight.
- The Reds got back to .500 with a 2-1 win over the Pirates. Outfielder Ryan Ludwick had a pair of hits and drove in both of Cincinnati's runs.
- The Cubs will have to settle for a four-game split with the Diamondbacks after their 5-2 loss yesterday. First baseman Anthony Rizzo's third home run of the season was not enough.
- The Brewers, as I've mentioned previously, were off yesterday.
Today in former Brewers:
Here are today's updated standings and probables:
||vs Cubs, 7:10 pm
||Matt Garza vs Carlos Villanueva
||vs Pirates, 7:15 pm
||Shelby Miller vs Gerrit Cole
||@ Braves, 6:35 pm
||Homer Bailey vs Ervin Santana
||@ Cardinals, 7:15 pm
||Gerrit Cole vs Shelby Miller.
||@ Brewers, 7:10 pm
||Carlos Villanueva vs Matt Garza
Today's best statistical note comes from Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal, who has a look at how teams have improved their stolen base success rates by being more selective when choosing their spots. The Brewers are bucking this trend, running 28 times in their first 22 games and getting caught 11 times for a success rate of just 61 percent. The National League as a whole has been successful on 73 percent of its attempts.
- Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors has John Axford and Corey Hart among a dozen candidates in his poll to determine the offseason's best midlevel, one-year free agent contract.
- There are four former Brewers among the correct answers on this Sporcle quiz asking you to name active pitchers with at least 100 career losses (h/t Lone Star Ball)
Before I wrap up for today, I wanted to take a moment to share the coolest infographic I've seen in quite some time. The New York Times has a map showing MLB team allegiances (via Facebook likes) by ZIP code across the United States. The Brewers' home turf extends about as far as you'd expect, reaching slightly into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and into northeast Iowa but losing a little ground to the Twins in northwest Wisconsin.
Finally, with help from Brewerfan.net and the Baseball Reference Play Index, we'd like to wish a happy birthday today to: