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Gut call: Kotsay in center for Brewers; Morgan and Gomez sit

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke got to thinkin' and made a big change in his team's lineup for Game 3 of the NLCS. Instead of Nyjer Morgan or Carlos Gomez starting in center field, the Brewers are sending Mark Kotsay out there and batting him second Wednesday night. Really.

So, unless Roenickle changes his mind between now and the first pitch, this means we'll be spared the big public reunion everyone was expecting between Morgan and St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter. (The two are so close, the last time they saw each other, Morgan offered to share some of his tobacco.)

So, what's Roenicke thinkin'? Well, there's not much statistical data to support such a move, so it seems he's mostly going on gut instinct.

"I always feel good when Kotsay's in the lineup. Especially when we spot-start him, he always seems to have big day"

Here's what the 35-year-old Kotsay offers: {YSP:MORE}

• Success, in an extremely limited number of at-bats, against Carpenter.

• Lots of playoff experience — 78 plate appearances over two-plus seasons and six individual series — but with a relative lack of success at bat.

And there you go.

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Used mostly off the bench in the second half of the season, Kotsay is 0 for 2 as a pinch hitter in this series. But, except for the game-ending single that sent the Brewers to the NLCS — oh, yes, that —  Morgan hasn't been hitting at all in the playoffs, going 3 for 20 (.461 OPS) with nine strikeouts in six games. Further, Morgan is 4 for 23 in his career against Carpenter, giving him a sickly .174 batting average and .469 OPS. Morgan was a little better against Carp this season, going 3 for 13 with two doubles.

Roenicke also has alluded to plays on defense that Morgan didn't make in Game 2 — on a bloop single by Edwin Jackson and a long double by Albert Pujols in the same inning — that helped St. Louis crush the Brewers 12-3.

During the regular season, Kotsay hit .270/.329/.373 in 255 plate appearances, not nearly as effective as Morgan, whose adjusted OPS of 111 was fifth-best on the team. Kotsay also isn't as reputable with the glove as Gomez, whose outfield metrics are among the best in the majors. Gomez's presence might be useful for run prevention on a potentially wet field at Busch Stadium, too. Just because Kotsay plays center field doesn't mean he actually can anymore. The problem with Gomez: His offensive contributions are limited to the occasional home run. Otherwise, he's the worst hitter of the three.

Kotsay — in a really small sample size — has been successful against Carpenter. In his career, Kotsay is 4 for 11 with a double and a walk — good for a batting line of .364/.417/.455. Breaking it down even more, Kotsay is 3 for 4 (with the double and walk) this season against Carpenter, those appearances coming in one start in August and one pinch-hitting appearance. His other at-bats against Carpenter came in 1999 and 2000.

So, basically, Roenicke is playing a hunch based on what happened Aug. 11 — which happens to be Kotsay's only start against the Cardinals since June. He wants a guy in Kotsay who might crack open a couple of singles, instead of a guy (Morgan) who'll probably be pressing and go 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.

And he doesn't really care about defense, otherwise Gomez would start.

This is all on Roenicke's gut.

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