On Sunday afternoon, the Brewers and Cardinals game was getting hard to watch. The Brewers were down 3-0 and hadn’t scored a run in 32 consecutive innings, a franchise record. To distract myself, I found a YouTube clip of Guns N’ Roses blasting through a live version of “Paradise City” with the song’s lyrics plastered across the screen. I was working on new lyrics for the song to fit the Brewers’ current situation. So far, I had only figured out the chorus –
Brewers going down to Slump City
Where no runs are scored and the pitching ain’t pretty.
Can’t someone please cross home?
I paused the clip to watch Jean Segura bat in the bottom of the 8th. Amidst the Brewers’ slow start to the season, Segura has been one of the few hitters who refused to go to Slump City. He was hitting .416 with only six strikeouts to start the season. Also, he was the only Brewer to have a hit in both of the first two games of the St. Louis series. On the fifth pitch of the at bat, Segura slapped a slider up the middle. St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma raced behind the second base bag in pursuit of the ball. Only a perfect play could catch the speedy Segura, but with the way the series was going for the Crew, that’s exactly what I expected. I flashed back to John Jay’s great catch from Saturday’s game and waited for something similar to happen.
But this time was different. The ball bounced off second base and, instead of finding its way into Kozma’s outstretched hand, it flew over his head and into center field. For once, in what seemed like a long time, the ball had bounced the Brewers’ way.
Then Ryan Braun stepped to the plate. Mired in a 0 for 10 slump with six strikeouts (Segura’s total for the entire season!), Braun had looked out of rhythm all series. On Friday night, Shelby Miller pounded Braun up in the strike zone with four-seam fastballs that averaged 93 MPH.
Adam Wainwright spent Saturday peppering Braun with cut fastballs on the outer half of the plate and with curve balls down or out of the strike zone.
As the pitch trackers indicate, Miller and Wainwright both left balls in hittable locations for Braun. But during Braun’s visit to Slump City, he hadn’t been able to square up any of them. In fact, he put only one pitch in-play all of Friday and Saturday. So as St. Louis flamethrower Trevor Rosenthal pitched from the stretch, I wasn’t surprised to see Yadier Molina slide to the outside corner. Except Rosenthal’s 96 MPH four-seam fastball didn’t stay away from Braun. It drifted up and over the inner half of the plate, as was evident by Molina’s glove moving up and in on Braun. Braun kept his hands in, got the barrel to the ball, and punched it down the right field line. Cardinal right fielder, Allen Craig, chased after the ball but ran out of room. The ball drifted over the right field fence and, just like that, the scoreless innings streak slump was busted.
Not seeing a goose egg next to Milwaukee in the score bug felt like a victory on its own. With the way the Brewers had played in St. Louis, I was content with this small victory. Yet, the Brewers weren’t done. They wanted more than a moral victory. They wanted the win. But do to so, more than Braun would have to flee Slump City.
After starting the season 6 for 37 for a .162 AVG, Carlos Gomez used his Saturday off to regroup and refocus. On Sunday, Gomez went 3-for-5 – including a bloop single to right field that started the Brewers’ ninth-inning rally. Counting Sunday’s game, Gomez in now 7-for-23 over his last five games — a .304 AVG. After having a few hits fall, hopefully, the bloop single to right signals a more relaxed and patient approach at the plate from Gomez, who seemed to be pressing to start the season.
Jonathan Lucroy also unshackled himself from an early season slump on Sunday. He ended the day 3-for-5 and gave the Crew the big solo home run in the tenth inning that proved to be the difference in the game. Lucroy was 0-for-13 through the first four games of the season. Since then, he’s gotten at-bats in six games and gone 8-for-22 – a .364 AVG. Even though the hits have slowly starting falling for Gomez and Lucroy, it wasn’t until today that they landed exactly when needed. Now that they’re both free of Slump City, let’s hope they relax and contribute more regularly. With Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart out of the line-up for the foreseeable future, Gomez and Lucroy are essential to the Brewers’ run production for the next month.
Working in tandem with the Brewers’ awakened offense was a strong performance by the Brewers’ pitching staff. Marco Estrada delivered his second straight quality start – going six innings, allowing seven hits, three earned runs, and striking out seven to only one walk. In addition, five Brewer relievers pitched five innings of scoreless ball. Together the bullpen allowed only one hit and three walks (one of them intentional). It was an altogether solid performance from a pitching staff that has struggled mightily so far this season.
Escaping Slump City is never an easy task. If you’re a player, there are countless myths on how to shake a slump, including Mark Grace’s extremely unorthodox method of slump busting. But, as a team, it’s a much more complex story. When so many things are going wrong, a lot of little things suddenly need to go right. For the Brewers’, all it took was for Sunday’s game to be their first of the season where they played well on all three key fronts – offense, starting pitching, and relief pitching.
Now that the Brewers have escaped Slump City, let’s hope they won’t return anytime soon. Hopefully, they will end up someplace where the grass is green and the girls are pretty instead.