In Friday night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Brewers had only managed one hit over the first three innings against Wade Miley. Aoki began the bottom of the fourth with a strikeout. Segura followed by blasting a home run to straight away center to tie the game at 1-1. The home run was not only Segura’s first of the season, but also the first of his major league career. Weeks, batting third for the stiff-necked Ryan Braun, singled to center. Then, Aramis Ramirez dug into the batter’s box. A rally was brewing and Ramirez was who Brewers fans wanted at the plate.
The book on Ramirez says that he’s a slow starter. In a spring training interview with Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Ramirez talked about adjusting his spring training routine to help him get out of the gate faster. The increased spring training workload was working for Ramirez until a slide into second in a Cactus League game resulted in a knee injury that put a kibosh on the plan.
Yet, after taking two weeks off, Ramirez returned to start the season strong. He banged out doubles in the first three games of the year to become the first Brewer to do so since Carlos Lee in 2005. During an in-game interview, Doug Melvin was asked what the team had done to get Ramirez going. To paraphrase, Melvin joked that someone put a calendar in Ramirez’s locker saying that it was June 1.
So, when Ramirez stepped to the plate Friday night, no one was too surprised to see him shoot a ball down the third baseline. Ramirez raced around first base and looked like he was on his way to his fourth consecutive game with a double — until a funny thing happened. The ball caromed off the retaining wall harder than expected. Diamondback left fielder Jason Kubel gloved the ball and gunned it to second. Surprised by the quick relay, Ramirez slide awkwardly and stayed lying in a heap on the ground after being tagged out. From the Brewers’ record book to the 15-day DL with one hard bounce of the ball.
And so goes the start of the 2013 season. The Brewers are off to a 1-5 start, their worst since going 0-6 to start the 2003 season. There’s been a rash of injuries, lots of bad pitching, and a healthy dose of horrible luck. Yet, despite all the predictions made about the Brewers’ season. No one could have ever guessed that, in the sixth game of the year, the Brewers would have to resort to Kyle Lohse pinch-hitting with the game on the line. Sometimes the baseball takes a bad bounce off an infielder’s glove and rolls into the outfield. Right now, the baseball has taken a bad bounce and struck the Brewers squarely in the face.
You could blame the construction of the roster that includes a thirteen-player pitching staff. But you couldn’t have predicted Braun’s neck spasms or Segura’s upper-thigh contusion from taking a hard slide into second. You could have foreseen Axford’s continued struggles. But, even if you were sour on the pitching staff prior to the season, you would never have guessed they would have given up 13 home runs and have a combined ERA of 5.68 through the first six games. You could mock the “revamped” bullpen after Michael Gonzalez walked the first batter he faced in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s game against the Rockies. But you wouldn’t believe that the bunt and shattered bat that followed would result in two infield hits and spur on a three-run inning where the Rockies only got the ball out of the infield twice.
There are hundreds of data points, statistics, and metrics that are used to understand the game of baseball. It’s what makes the baseball fan a special breed amongst all other sport fans. You feel that all this data gives you insights not available in other sports. You think that, with some hard work and research, you can gain an edge on your opponent either on the field or in your fantasy league. But, even at the best of times, trying to predict baseball is no easier than trying to predict the stock market. At the worst of times, it feels more like you’re trying to herd cats.
And that’s where the Brewers are right now. They’re trying to herd cats and keep everything together, as best as possible, until the ball begins to bounce their way. And it will. Even the most jaded fan realizes that this can’t go on all season. Kyle Lohse won’t continue to be the go-to hitter off the bench. The Brewers won’t play most of the season with three natural shortstops starting in the infield. Players will get healthier. Line drives hit, while the bases are loaded, will find the outfield grass instead of the third baseman’s glove for an easy double play.
As last year showed, the tide will turn for this team. It’s not a matter of if but when. The success of the season simply hinges on how fast the Brewers can right the ship.