Anger. Joy. Sloppiness. Heroics. All interchangeable words that emcompassed last night into early Sunday morning for Wisconsin sports fans. Lucky for us, in the prime-time California twinbill for the Brewers and Packers, the game that actually meant something was a success. While the Packers stumbled around in Candlestick Park, the Brewers held off the resilient Dodgers, backed by 53,000 fans, in dramatic fashion 380 miles southeast at old Chavez Ravine. Here are some positive and negative observations from both teams’ performances:
1) Defensive clinic. What else can you say? Mike Cameron has shown that he is deserving of his fourth Gold-Glove every night. He was so convincing to Matt Kemp after his first two great catches that Kemp froze at first on a booming shot by Andre Ethier in the tenth, and was only able to advance to second; a game changing play. The catch by Gabe Kapler is without a doubt the greatest catch I’ve ever seen on live television. Simply amazing-another game changing boost for the Crew.
2) Braunny’s back. In his return from intercostal muscle spasms, Ryan hit a pinch-hit bloop single in the eighth and had the good sense to keep on chugging to second with a hustle double. He later struck-out on a 97 MPH heater in his second at-bat against fireballer Jonathan Broxton in the tenth. Overall a great sign to see Braun back healthy.
3) Snappin’ out of it. If you thought you were going to have a heart-attack in the later innings of the game, just think what J.J. Hardy must be feeling. He snapped out of a 2-23 drought at the plate dating back to August 10th with a 3-5 effort including a go-ahead, two-run homer in the eighth, followed by another go-ahead base hit to score Ray Durham in the tenth to seal the win. Unfortunately, they were sandwiched by an ugly error in the Brewers’ rough ninth, which he completely misplayed. J.J. came through though. Whew!
4) Gagne sharp; Riske not so risky. In his return to Dodgers Stadium, Eric Gagne had a efficient 12-pitch 1-2-3 inning with some help from his outfielders. Gagne reached a season-high in velocity, lighting up the gun at 95 MPH. Good to see. David Riske, who entered the tenth in relief of Salomon Torres, also had good command, striking out Manny Ramirez to end the wild 5-4 contest.
1) Managing. A couple more horrible decisions by Ned Yost tonight. First of all relying on Ray Durham to hit Braun over to third base. Ned, lay a bunt down please. Braun saved Yost from that embarrassment with his speed. But as always, bad managing eventually hurt the Brewers in the ninth inning. Clutching his precious match-up cards, Ned elected to start the inning with Brian Shouse against the lefty Ethier. Of course, Shouse walks him, and the weight of the world is put on the real closer Torres with no outs and a man on first. It was a miracle he only gave up one run.
This was by far the best win of the season for the Brewers. A huge momentum shift into tomorrow’s game with a chance for a 4-2 West Coast road trip heading back home (how big would that be?). If I had to pick a defining game for this season this would be it. Hopefully they can string together some wins and slowly reel in the Cubs.
1) Return game revitalized? It has been 12 years since the Packers had the likes of Desmond Howard returning kicks, but could the next great one at last be here? Jordy Nelson was the only statistical bright spot for the Packers against the 49ers, returning two kicks for 57 and 58 yards, respectively. He has all but solidified his spot as a returner for Mike Stock, the team’s special teams coordinator, and Mike McCarthy.
1) Incohesive offense. The offense didn’t click all night long. Completely out of sync. The team gained an abysmal 182 total yards to the 49ers’ 355, an astounding differential to the team who ranked dead last in the NFL in total yards per game last season. The offensive-line looked particularly vulnerable, allowing six sacks.
Look for Mike McCarthy to whip his team into serious shape at practice Monday after the pathetic 34-6 showing against his old team. The Packers are now 0-2 this preseason.
And how can I forget about American Michael Phelps, who is now the greatest Olympian of all-time obtaining his eighth gold medal in the Beijing games, surpassing fellow U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz’s mark of seven golds in the 1972 Munich games. Congratulations to Mr. Phelps.