Monday, March 31, 2008
Brewers Open 2008 With a Win Over Rival Cubs
The Milwaukee Brewers kicked off the 2008 regular season vs their division rival, the Chicago Cubs. What started off as a dreary day for both teams, a unsung hero emerged from the Milwaukee clubhouse, and a new star was born for Chicago. Of course I'm talking about Chicago's Japanese import Kosuke Fukudome, who's name alone could almost get you in trouble with the FCC. The other star you might not have guessed, his name Tony Gwynn Jr., who's days as the Milwaukee Brewers center fielder are already numbered. Gwynn is filling the CF spot because of free agent signee Mike Cameron is serving his 25 game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance last fall.
In his first career opening day start, Gwynn had two squib singles to provide all the offense the Brewers could manage off Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano in the first six innings. His bunt helped set up the Brewers' three-run ninth off Cubs closer Kerry Wood. And his sacrifice fly off reliever Bob Howry scored Craig Counsell (leadoff pinch double) with the winning run.
Gwynn also caught Derrek Lee's short liner to center for the final out that gave Gagne an ignominious win and David Riske a squeaky-clean, nine-pitch save in his first appearance for the Brewers.
Pitching for the Brew Crew was their ace Ben Sheets and he did not disappoint. Sheets went 6.1 innings, allowed two hits and struck out seven, while also taking a 41 minute break due to a rain delay.
"I was going to start thinking about it strongly at the hour mark," manager Ned Yost said of the possibility of not letting Sheets return after the third-inning rain delay. "We never got there. He felt good, and I trust my pitchers."
Both the Brewers and the Cubs struggled with their closers. Kerry Wood plunked Rickie Weeks with his first pitch. Gwynn put down a two-strike sacrifice to get Weeks to second and set up an intentional walk to Prince Fielder. Ryan Braun followed with a single to left center to score Weeks and make it 1-0. Two hitters later, Corey Hart lined a double to the right-field corner that made it 3-0.
Eric Gagne sputtered in his Brewers' debut when Lee (single) and Aramis Ramirez (walk) reached with no outs. After falling behind 3-0 to Fukudome, Gagne finally threw a strike. But Fukudome struck the next offering just to the right of the 400-foot mark in center.
"We still don't have that kid figured out," Yost said of Fukudome, who doubled, walked and singled in three at-bats against Sheets. "Compared to the times we saw him in spring training, he was a different hitter today."
While Fukudome had his moments, so did Gwynn.
"It's early, but a game like that against the Cubs, it's huge for us," Gwynn said.
It is also too early to be concerned about Eric Gagne after 1 game but he was shaky at best on the mound. With Gagne, the Brewers are waiting to see what they have. For three years (2002–2004) he was statistically the most outstanding closer in the game, winning the Cy Young Award in 2003. During that period, he set a major league record of 84 straight converted save chances. With the Red Sox, his last team, Gagne allowed 14 earned runs in 14 innings (a 9.00 ERA) with three blown saves and an opponent batting average of over .350. For the Brewers sake, I hope he becomes the pitcher he was in 2003, or the $10 million per year he's being paid will be money down the drain.
Congrads to the Brewers on their win over the Cubs. Brewers are now undefeated and in 1st place.