October 15, 2011
Let's be honest: Apart from Randy Wolf's(notes) performance in Game 4, the Milwaukee Brewers are not playing well, at all, in any phase of the game. It's a wonder to me they're even in a position to go back home, win two games, and find themselves in the World Series. But there's exactly where they are, so credit to them.
Still, they aren't going to pull off those two victories, regardless of where they're playing, unless they step up as a team on every level. And the place for them to start is offensively.
Yes, the defense has been embarrassing, and the pitching has also faltered a bit, but this team's identity is scoring runs. Aside from ambushing Jaime Garcia(notes) for six runs in the fifth inning, helping them steal Game 1, the Brewers offense hasn't produced anywhere near its potential, and obviously not enough (2.75 runs a game) to cover their flaws elsewhere.
1. Come through with runners in scoring position: Runners in scoring position is the obvious place to look when an offense is struggling, and it's usually the right place. As a team they finished 1 for 8 with RISP in Game 5, and have gone only 6 for 28 (.214) since Game 1. Three of those six hits came in Game 4, and not surprisingly that's the game they eeked out their second victory. So it shows how important not only getting that big hit is for them, but they need to string them together. Otherwise you're counting on that hit to be a three-run bomb, and those are difficult to rely on.
Look back no further than the eighth inning of Game 5 for a prime example of missed opportunity. After Corey Hart(notes) and Jerry Hairston Jr.(notes) reached base to start, Ryan Braun(notes) grounded into a fielder's choice, Prince Fielder(notes) struck out and Rickie Weeks(notes) grounded out to kill the threat. No three-run homer. No hits with RISP. No runs.
That's 3-4-5 in a very potent offense failing to change the momentum of the game with one swing. That's not going to work in October.
2. Attempt a steal or two: I fully understand Milwaukee has faced the two most difficult teams to steal a base on in their first two series. That has limited them to three attempts (all successful vs. Arizona) in 10 postseason games. Still, why not try to catch St. Louis off guard in Game 6? Especially early.
Obviously you can't have a situation like Game 5 where Carlos Gomez(notes) was too aggressive and got picked off (pictured). That looks bad, feels bad, and is bad. But sometimes the best way to get a clutch hit is to create more opportunities for one to happen, and the only way to beat the odds is to face them head on. I say give it a couple shots to see how it plays out.
3. Pinch-hit early in the game: Tony La Russa has created favorable matchups the entire series by going to his bullpen early and often. Ron Roenicke might be able to work that in his favor and turn a matchup around on La Russa if he wants to get aggressive.
Roenicke pinch-hit Casey McGehee(notes) in the fourth inning of Game 2. It didn't work, and was done because Shaun Marcum(notes) was struggling, but that's the right idea. With Marcum on the mound in Game 6, be ready to try again. If you get three or four good innings from him, be happy with that and attempt to capitalize on a scoring chance.
4. Post a crooked number in the first: Despite Ryan Braun reaching base in the first inning of a record nine straight postseason games, Milwaukee has only scored in three of those innings (five total runs). He's the focal point of the offense, doing his job nine games in a row, but his teammates only cashing in 33 percent of the time. Those numbers scream missed opportunity to put an opposing starting pitcher on the ropes early.
The fact they won both games (NLDS Game 2 and NLCS Game 1) in which they scored multiple first inning runs also supports this. Often times it's your best opportunity to damage a starting pitcher, and it can change the entire dynamic of a game quickly, while taking pressure to be perfect away from the offense, pitching staff and defense.
Other popular stories on Yahoo! Sports:
• Another ALCS pennant has Texas raving about Rangers
• Aggies could challenge for league hoops title
• Charlotte wreck might destroy Johnson's Chase streak