Visit to McCarthy's Hometown...........Kenny Mayne

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Crew Crush the Astros with a 9 run 6th Inning

If hitting indeed is contagious, the shell-shocked Houston Astros were in need of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the bottom of the sixth inning Tuesday night at Miller Park. With catcher Johnny Estrada capping a nine-run outburst with his first career grand slam, the Brewers roared from behind to pummel the Astros, 11-5.
Stop us if you've heard this before, but the Brewers (45-32) have been on a rampage since being no-hit in Detroit by Justin Verlander on June 12. They are 11-2 since that debacle, scoring a total of 90 runs to average almost seven per game.

"Even before that, in Texas, we started swinging the bats well," noted Graffanino, referring to a three-game series in which the Brewers scored 18 runs yet lost twice.

Should the Brewers win today and sweep the Astros, they will match their high-water mark of 14 games above .500 reached on May 9. They were 24-10 that day after beating Washington, 3-1, a glorious start tarnished by their downward spiral over the next 30 games.

But those tough times are in the rear-view mirror now for the Brewers, who maintained their 7½-game lead over the surging Chicago Cubs in the NL Central.

"Guys were searching; guys were pressing," hitting coach Jim Skaalen said. "But they never panicked. It's been the status quo right now. These guys know they can swing the bats."

Add Houston pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Rick White to the list of converts. Thanks to a two-run homer in the top of the sixth by former Brewers leftfielder Carlos Lee off Claudio Vargas, Rodriguez took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the inning.

Rodriguez started his downfall by walking the first two hitters, Bill Hall and Estrada. Rodriguez got ahead in the count, 0-2, to unwalkable Kevin Mench (one walk, intentional, in 160 plate appearances) before Mench reached down and punched a low breaking ball into shallow left for a single that loaded the bases.

Rickie Weeks ripped an RBI single to right so sharply that it skipped past Luke Scott for a two-run error, a play that put a damper on Scott's two-homer performance.

"He hit that ball so hard that it skimmed past the rightfielder," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "That set up a big inning for us."

Astros manager Phil Garner replaced Rodriguez with White, who needed only one pitch to find more trouble. Hitting for reliever Matt Wise, who escaped a two-on, no-out jam in the top of the inning after replacing Vargas, Graffanino hit White's first offering for a two-run homer to left.
After batting .169 in May with one homer and three RBI, Graffanino is on a .388 tear in June with five homers and 11 RBI.

"I'm seeing the ball pretty good right now," said Graffanino, who took countless hours of extra batting practice when he was struggling. "I've made some adjustments that are working for me, spreading out, trusting my hands."

And the Brewers weren't through. With one down, J.J. Hardy walked and Ryan Braun, who slugged a two-run homer in the first inning, smacked his second double. White intentionally walked Prince Fielder to load the bases and get to Hall, who took a called third strike.

White bounced two curveballs in the dirt to Estrada, who waved at both and missed. But, inexplicably, White followed with a fastball down the middle that Estrada parked in the second deck in right for the Brewers' fifth grand slam of the season.

Read more here from Tom Haudricourt's article in today's Journal Sentinel:

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Brewers Farmhand Pitches Perfect Game

ROUND ROCK, Texas (AP) - Milwaukee Brewers farmhand Manny Parra pitched a perfect game Monday night, leading the Nashville Sounds to a 3-0 victory over Round Rock in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.

Making his second start at Triple-A, Parra struck out 11 and threw 77 of his 107 pitches for strikes against the Express, a Houston Astros affiliate. It was the eighth perfect game in the PCL's 104-year history — but only the third in a nine-inning game. The others came in seven-inning games.

The last pitcher to throw a nine-inning perfect game in the PCL also was a member of the Sounds. John Wasdin, now with the Pittsburgh Pirates, accomplished the feat on April 7, 2003, against Albuquerque. Tacoma's John Halama did it in July 2001.

The most recent perfect game in the PCL came when three Portland pitchers combined for a seven-inning gem in the second game of a doubleheader last June.

The 24-year-old Parra was picked by the Brewers in the 26th round of the 2001 draft. The left-hander went 11-2 with a 2.73 ERA for Class-A Beloit in 2003, but had season-ending rotator cuff surgery in August 2005.

He was 4-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 21 games, including 20 starts, last year with Class-A Brevard County and Double-A Huntsville.

Parra attended American River Junior College in Sacramento, Calif., and was chosen the 2002 National Junior College Player of the Year by Baseball America.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Packers Season Outlook

Larry Weisman of USA Today writes a good article on the outlook for the Packers this season. Projections have us no better than 2nd in the division and no worse than 3rd. There are a lot of question marks this year at TE, S, FB and RB espeically. The short breakdown on positions is:

Quarterback: Favre, the future Hall of Famer, returns for his 17th season. He had surgery on his ankle but should be fully operational by training camp. Backup Aaron Rodgers, coming off a foot injury, is a question mark for camp.

Running back: Vernand Morency is the top candidate to replace the departed Ahman Green as the starter, but the Packers are high on second-round pick Brandon Jackson. Eight other inexperienced backs on the roster will also get a look. Fullback is wide open with William Henderson gone, and Brandon Miree the nominal No.1.

Wide receiver: Donald Driver and Favre enjoy a terrific rapport, but Driver's the only consistent threat. Robert Ferguson goes into his seventh season with career stats (116 catches for 1,577 yards, 12 TDs) often duplicated in one year by the best players. Greg Jennings showed great skills in his first season, and rookie David Clowney will get a look.

Tight end: Bubba Franks is a declining player coming off a poor season, and Donald Lee should start.

Offensive line: Once a formidable group, this unit is now so-so and young in the interior. Tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, both entering their eighth seasons, have size and savvy. Center Scott Wells keeps growing into the position and has good feet and the ability to lead running plays to the outside. Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz are the guards.

Defensive line: Left end Aaron Kampman is the best of the bunch. The right side features emerging Cullen Jenkins with Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila likely returning to a role as pass-rush specialist. Ryan Pickett and Corey Williams should start inside, but the Packers want to find a role for surprise No.1 pick Justin Harrell.

Linebacker: Probably the team's strength with starters A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett and Brady Poppinga. All of these guys can run and hit. Competition in training camp will be for the backup spots.

Secondary: Starting corners Al Harris and Charles Woodson are fine, but there are questions after that. Newcomer Frank Walker is the likely nickel back. Marquand Manuel played poorly at strong safety last year after coming over from Seattle but may hang on alongside Nick Collins.

Special teams: Kicking game — iffy. Returners — up for grabs. Kicker Dave Rayner will battle rookie Mason Crosby. Punter Jon Ryan will duel David Lonie. Feel the excitement. Neither Woodson (punts) nor Morency (kickoffs) will be in those roles again. Koren Robinson is a Pro Bowl-caliber return man but remains under NFL suspension.

Coaching staff: Mike McCarthy goes into his second season with much of the roster intact. Whether that's good or bad has been the subject of intense debate around Green Bay. With such a young team, this is a great teaching opportunity. But fans (and Favre) want to win now. Joe Philbin, who coached the offensive line last year and tight ends the year before that, is the offensive coordinator. He's a first-timer in this role. Bob Sanders runs the defense for a second year.

Read more on the Packers outlook here:

Packers Barnett in trouble after nightclub incident

The fourth-year veteran was arrested Sunday morning in Appleton on battery charges and posted $500 bond. He was not at practice on Monday or available for comment.
The Packers are not only upset about the incident, they are concerned about the consequences. On the day that Barnett signed his six-year, $34.85 million contract extension with the Packers on April 10, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell disclosed his new, tougher conduct policy.

So now Barnett will have to wait for his case to go through the Outagamie County court and see whether he faces additional punishment from the NFL for conduct detrimental to the league's image.

"Obviously we're not looking for our players or any employee of the Green Bay Packers to be involved in that type of situation," coach Mike McCarthy said.
Though the police report was not yet available Monday, more details have emerged from the incident at the Wet nightclub on College Ave. According to Appleton police Sgt. Pat DeWall, two foot patrol officers on duty at 2 a.m. Sunday came upon two people arguing outside the club. One was Barnett but the other has not yet been identified. There, the police uncovered another incident involving Barnett.

"The officers had learned that earlier a disturbance had occurred inside where Mr. Barnett had pushed down a female inside the bar," DeWall said. "Based upon that information, some witnesses and information we obtained from the victim, we arrested him for battery."

The confrontation created a stir in the entertainment district of Appleton, so about a dozen officers arrived at the scene to control the crowd.

Initially, Appleton police said they thought Barnett was arguing with the club's owner. But the owner, Kathy Peotter, denied that, saying she was working and bartending when she saw Barnett exit Wet. It is not clear with whom Barnett was arguing outside the club, but Peotter said Barnett looked unhappy when he left.

Peotter said several Packers were at her club Thursday, Friday and Saturday and she knew Barnett somewhat.

"He's always been a gentleman. I've never seen him drunk or crazy," Peotter said.
Barnett was placed in Outagamie County Jail, where he posted bond about an hour later and was released.
Read more here from Lori Nickel's article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Yovani Gallardo Shines in his Major League Debut not only with his arm but his bat too!!!!

As Yovani Gallardo walked to the home dugout in the seventh inning Monday night to a thunderous ovation from the sellout crowd of 41,631 at Miller Park, manager Ned Yost stood on the mound, surrounded by his impressive young infield of Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy and Ryan Braun.Fielder, already the leader of the team at 23, offered an astute assessment of Gallardo's big-league debut.
"Prince said, 'Man, he's cool,'" Yost said. "'He's nice and calm and cool.'
"I said, 'Yep, he's just like you guys. He's a stud.' "
On what was surely the first of many stellar nights to come for the 21-year-old right-hander, Gallardo indeed was impressive in the Brewers' 5-4 victory over San Francisco. He didn't rattle when a shaky first inning lasted a bit longer than everyone hoped. He ripped a run-scoring double in his first big-league at-bat. He fielded his position with aplomb.
What more could you ask?

"Gallardo pitched a great game in his major-league debut," said closer Francisco Cordero, who made things more than a bit interesting with another high-wire act in the ninth.

Gallardo was making the most anticipated debut by a Brewers pitching prospect since Olympic hero Ben Sheets reported for duty in 2001. Finding his stride after the 31-pitch first inning, Gallardo navigated through 6 1/3 innings, allowing four hits, three walks and three runs, with four strikeouts.

As a tribute to Gallardo's Mexican heritage, equipment manager Tony Migliaccio issued him uniform No. 49, worn with distinction by Teddy Higuera in the late 1980s. Gallardo never met Higuera but had spoken with him on the telephone, and appreciated the gesture.

"I found out a couple of days afterward (that it was Higuera's number)," Gallardo said.
As might be expected from a young pitcher making his first start, Gallardo had some anxious moments in the first inning. Dave Roberts led off with a single to center and was on second base with two down when Barry Bonds drew a six-pitch walk, setting the stage for Bengie Molina's RBI hit to left on a 0-2 curveball.

Rather than cave in, Gallardo retired Pedro Feliz on a pop-up to short. That out began a stretch in which he set down 15 of 16 hitters.

"In the first inning I was a little nervous but I was able to settle down," said Gallardo, who threw 102 pitches.

It didn't take long for Gallardo's teammates to give him the lead. After Ryan Braun drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the first off lefty Noah Lowry, Prince Fielder launched an opposite-field homer to left, his 26th of the season.

Gallardo provided his own support in the second after Rickie Weeks, getting his first at-bat since returning from the disabled list, hammered a two-out double to left-center. Gallardo, an adept hitter who batted .250 at Class AAA Nashville with three doubles and a home run in 24 at-bats, laced a double into the left-field corner for his first hit and RBI.

"I was very excited about that," Gallardo said. "I love hitting. I look at that as a bonus for a pitcher."

Read more here from Tom Haudricourt's article in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Im Back

OK, so it's been awhile since my last post. I've been traveling with my company, spending time with the family, and mostly enjoying the warm Wisconsin Summer.

So lots to catch up about: Brewers are slumping, Packers started their OTA's, Bucks are looking to the off season and upcoming draft, Badgers are preparing to make a run at a BCS game. Lots to talk about and more post to come.


Friday, June 1, 2007

Rookie Playing Catch Up

Forced to travel to Los Angeles to do promotional work for the National Football League rather than attend the Green Bay Packers' minicamp two weeks ago, rookie Brandon Jackson did what he could to make his trip a productive one from a work standpoint.

So rather than hit the town with his fellow first- and second-round draft picks in their free time - which Jackson said they had plenty of - he instead spent the majority of time in his hotel room, poring over the portions of his playbook he brought with him.

Considering the Packers weren't installing anything new on offense at that point, Jackson wasn't missing much back in Green Bay. Nevertheless, he wasn't pleased with having to be away, considering he's fighting for the starting running-back job with Vernand Morency.

"I was real frustrated," he recounted Thursday, shortly after taking part in the second of 12 voluntary practices the Packers have scheduled in June. "But, knowing what you got to do, I really didn't care after that. I had to go, so I went, did that. That's done and over with. I'm back out here, I'm happy and I'm just ready to go."

It has been a hectic month or so for Jackson since being drafted in the second round, 63rd overall, by the Packers. He took part in a rookie orientation minicamp the weekend after the draft in early May, and aside from his trip to the West Coast has been in Green Bay most of the rest of the time.

Last week was a rookies-only, four-day series of workouts in the weight room, coupled with classroom work. Now Jackson's in the midst of a crucial stretch of practices that will give him his first taste of what the Packers will be running in the upcoming season.

Read more here from Todd Rosiak's article in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: