Game Diary: NLDS Game Two

Made the trip up from ND for Game Two, and I figured I'd share some notes on what I gathered from the game for the sake of varying the discussion a little, perhaps.

Left at 11:10 a.m. and got back at 12:40 a.m. - loooong day.  Depressing game outcome, but totally worth it. Milwaukee has a gorgeous park, and aside from a few particularly drunk idiots after the game and a particularly un-sarcastic-seeming lady a couple rows in front of me, the heckling was pretty light-hearted. Sat next to some great Brewers fans and we blabbered about each others teams for the entirety of the game, which was lovely. Apparently I was on tv too - I was wearing a D-backs jersey and a black Spring Training D-backs hat (doubt anybody saw the back, but that would have given it away - it says "Strittmatter"), and standing up clapping during each of the home runs amid a shower of boos both at the players and at me. All in good fun, though.

Thoughts on what transpired:

- I'm still encouraged that we could make this an interesting series. Despite being down 0-2, we've been clobbering the ball, hitting several more warning track shots on top of the three homers. Going back home to Chase Field should hopefully help that, and I'm confident in Collmenter continuing his success against the Brewers due to their swing-happy ways. His deception should keep them off-balance and prevent them from leaping on the first couple pitches they see, which they like to do. I'm shocked that Greinke got away with giving up just four runs in this one. Despite the strikeouts, he looked pretty bad to me.

- We pitched to Prince again with two outs, a runner on second, and first base open.

- Breaking story: Brad Ziegler did nothing right in his inning. Regardless of whether or not the balk was actually a balk, he sure made it seem suspicious by basically starting his normal submarine-style wind-up. Ziegler makes most of his non-pitch throws overhand, and he should have done what most right-handers do when making a pick-off throw to second: pivot counterclockwise, jumping off the bag and getting your momentum headed towards second. Hairston wasn't going anywhere - it wouldn't be worth it to run in a tie game with an old guy on second and the strong throwing Montero has displayed this year. Even a lazy pick-off throw works just fine.

The squeeze play... well, suffice it to say that I'll always remember the phrase "the Brad Ziegler Milwaukee squeeze play." Making it even worse for me was that this was all exactly one half-inning after I was talking with a Brewers fan in front of me about how it's always best to simply take the out at first on close plays like that after Saito made a motion as if he was going to go to third base on the Ryan Roberts grounder that moved CY up from second. To see that destroy us in the following half-inning was devastating.  If Ziegler goes to first and concedes the run at home, then Arizona can simply go to Paterson with Kotsay up, the inning likely ends with Arizona down just one run, and the game is entirely different.

Then, well, there's not much that can be said about the top-of-the-order hit parade....

- Part of me wonders if the Betancourt walk became "intentional" after Ziegler balked to move up Hairston. Before the balk, a pair of grounders ends the inning with no hassle, and Ziegler has shown that he can get grounders (against righties...). After the balk, a groundout to the right side - granted, that is not Betancourt's pull side - scores the runner, so Arizona may have been trying to prevent that by letting Betancourt on and setting up a double play that could have gotten Arizona out of the inning with no harm done.  And, of course, you never completely intentionally walk Yuni Betancourt because there's always the outside possibility that he swings at three straight terrible pitches...

- Of course, if that was Arizona's intent, it was rather short-sighted.  A right-handed-hitting 8-hole hitter was coming up against a submarine right-handed ground ball specialist with one out and runners on the corners.  Did anybody not expect a squeeze?  I know I saw it coming.  This, of course, defeats the purpose of putting Betancourt on first to begin with, unless you have Montero come out of his crouch early to try to nail the runner at second and set up a DP, which we didn't do (I don't know if Yuni was running on the play).  All that walk did - intentional or not - was give Milwaukee an extra man on second base after the inevitable bunt.  Then, with the pitcher's spot due up, the Brewers could put up another lefty against Ziegler and give them a strong chance of getting back to the top of the order.  Which, well, is exactly what happened.

- Which leads me to the ultimate question: Even if you make the probably-premature decision to pull Huddy for Ziegler, why walk Mark Kotsay?  We had already been bit in the rear because we had refused to take an out Milwaukee was giving us, and the lefty-hitting Kotsay against our killer LOOGY, Paterson, is practically begging for an out.  Kotsay is awful and Corey Hart is a star, yet we decided to pitch to Corey Hart.  Anytime you can walk someone hitting .270/.329/.373 on the year with one out to bring up someone hitting .285/.356/.510 on the year, you have to do that, right?  With so many guys on base already (i.e. runners on second and third), why take the chance that the ground ball you're hoping Ziegler gets finds its way into the hole and scores two more runs when you can just get Kotsay and go at Hart with a strikeout righty who has a better chance of actually ending the inning without any more damage being done - like Hernandez, your shutdown strikeout reliever who you used anyways - than Ziegler had by walking Kotsay and praying for a double play or miraculous strikeout of Hart.

Here's a suggestion for using Ziegler: put him in at any point in the game when Braun is up to bat and the starting pitcher is out.  Pull him immediately after Braun's plate appearance is over.  With how much Braun has destroyed us, that's how we would get the most value out of our ROOGY.

- I can kind of understand why Hernandez and K-Rod pitched in this one - it's the playoffs, and they both had Game One off.  Keep them working, make sure they're sharp in case they're needed later.  Of course, it would have been nice if Hernandez had come in when, y'know, the game was still close...  However, there's no reason that John Axford needed to work this game.  I doubt he's available for Game Three, particularly after he had to throw so many pitches due to his control issues.  This is good news, because Axford is freaking good.

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