It'd be easy enough to blame Jesse Chavez for this loss. After all, he did walk Craig Counsell, of the .227 batting average, on five pitches to load the bases with two outs in the tenth to get to Ryan Braun, who deposited a slider over the fence for a walk-off 5-1 win.
But this one has to go on the shoulders of John Russell. He said he'd play to win, and he didn't do that tonight. He took the only player he has that's hitting over .281 and his clean-up man, Ryan Doumit, out of the lineup.
He just wanted to give him a blow - with 4 games left in the season, against a team fighting for its post-season life. He did the same with Nate McLouth yesterday.
Do you think that if the tables were turned that Dale Sveum would sit Ryan Braun one night and Prince Fielder the next? Neither do we.
When Nyjer Morgan left the game in the first inning with a tweaked hammy, that left the Brewer staff to face a lineup that featured six players hitting under .230, and three of them under .200. To us, it's not just poor managing to bench your big gun in a match that counts, but utter disrespect of the game.
At least Zach Duke took it like a man, carrying the club on his back while pitching superbly. He threw in and out, using his fastball as his bread and butter pitch. The Zachster scattered seven hits over seven innings, and only two were squarely hit.
Tyler Yates struck out the side on 11 pitches in the eighth, and John Grabow mowed the Brew Crew down 1-2-3 in the ninth. The Pirates deserved better tonight. Maybe Russell is saving the big guns for that crucial San Diego series.
> The Colorado doc concurred with his Pittsburgh counterparts, and Brandon Moss will make a date with the chop shop to work on his knee. We'll see if he can make it back by the spring. It'll be iffy.
> Neil Huntington, after some hemming and hawing, told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com that Neil Walker may have a shot at unseating the bumbling, stumbling Andy LaRoche in 2009, although he didn't sound very enthused at the thought.
"We're still excited about Neil Walker's growth and development," Huntington said the day they went out and got LaRoche. "Truth of the matter is that Neil has put himself in a position this year with some offensive struggles that he wasn't ready to go, in our minds, Opening Day next year."
He backpedaled a bit today, saying that "We have some things that Andy needs to work on, and we're looking forward to him capitalizing on the opportunity to take the everyday third-base job. But it's not going to be handed to him. He's going to have to earn it."
"Andy has already done some things at Triple-A that we are anticipating Neil will do," Huntington said. "But if it's not Andy, then certainly Neil Walker becomes a candidate."
Translated, it sounds to us like LaRoche is a lock to start next year at third, but if hits like his big brother in April and May...
Huntington also brought up the possibility of "creatively exploring" other options through the free-agent market or the waiver wire this offseason to find an outside answer for third.
But with two of his top prospects already at the hot corner and Pedro in the fold, he'd certainly not look for anything more than a stopgap solution to plug a potential third base hole.
> Hey, it took us all season (GW is nothing if not persistent) but we finally decided to work Google and find out just why the Brew Crew pull out their jerseys after a win.
It's not an "in your face" thingie at all, just another goofy little baseball tradition. Mike Cameron started it this year, following in the footsteps of his dad, who untucked his shirt as soon as he came home from work. So it signifies nothing more than the end of a good day's job. We can live with that.
And boy, are we glad Mr. Cameron didn't take his shirt off when he hit the door. We shudder to think what Prince Fielder and CC Sabathia would look like, bouncing all over the field topless. Beach volleyball, it ain't.
> The Dodgers clinched the West today. It took a bold move by GM Ned Colletti, who put his job on the line by bringing in Manny. But it paid off, and after an adjustment period, LA put together a title run of 18 wins in the past 23 games to notch a spot in the playoffs.
> Mickey Vernon, one of baseball's class acts and a member of the 1960 Pirate World Series winners, died today at the age of 90 after suffering a stroke. His career spanned four decades, from 1939-1960, mostly spent with the Washington Senators.
He was a two-time AL batting champion and seven-time All-Star first baseman, with a career consisting of 2,409 games and a .286 average, with 2,495 hits, including 490 doubles and 120 triples, and 1,311 RBIs, missing two full seasons during the war. Vernon is up for the pre-WW2 veteran's HOF vote in 2009.
Known as one of the great glovemen of his era, he still holds the career record for DP's participated in, taking part in 2,044 twin killings. Vernon compiled a .990 fielding average over the years.
He coached for Danny Murtaugh in 1960, and the Bucs activated him in September for the stretch run. Vernon went 1-8 as a pinch hitter that month, at the age of 42, and earned his only Championship ring.