MILWAUKEE BREWERS: IT'S ALREADY A LONG SEASON
Things couldn't get worse, right?
Artie: Swept by Arizona after dropping two of three to Colorado. It's going to be a long season.
Frank: They made up a two-run deficit in the ninth and almost did it again in the 11th. But Ryan Braun's aching neck kept him out and Kyle Lohse, of all people, became a pinch-hitter for the final at-bat.
A: Braun's neck was on top of Aramis Ramirez's knee, which gave out on a slide Friday night and put him on the disabled list. Just when he was off to a better-than-usual start.
F: And on top of those things, Jean Segura's left leg got blasted on a slide by Arizona's Gerardo Parra and the young shortstop had to come out early.
A: Now Segura might miss some time this week. And in the first five games he was hot-hot-hot, hitting .500.
F: As usual you missed both your goals—a crisp game of 2 ½ hours and a bench-clearing brawl. You might have had that second one if Segura stayed down or the Brewers drilled Parra in retaliation. I agree with Segura that the slide was too aggressive, although technically Parra was within the “accepted” distance from the bag.
A: Ron Roenicke didn't think the play was dirty, but if I'd been managing things would have been different.
F: The good news was that they got some hits from Carlos Gomez, Alex Gonzalez and Jonathan Lucroy, who had started cold.
A: But the bad news continued on the mound. Yovani Gallardo was better than on Opening Day, making it through six innings, but nine hits and four runs? Not good from an alleged “ace.” And as usual he had a high pitch count and an annoyingly slow pace, ain’a?
F: Things he and we have mentioned as problems for years. So on this 1-5 home stand Gallardo and Marco Estrada were OK but hardly impressive, Wily Peralta and Mike Fiers were downright disappointing and only Lohse had a truly good game.
A: And that was the one night they got hardly any offense. Plus there's what could be the biggest worry of all—the return of the Incredible Disappearing Closer.
F: John Axford gave up four homers in a couple of innings' work, including the game-winner Sunday. Shades of his 2012 mid-season meltdown.
A: Have I mentioned that it's going to be a long season?
F: The rest of the bullpen had mixed results, but one thing was consistent. Roenicke was using four and five relievers way too often. Through the first six games, three relievers had four appearances and four more had three.
A: That's a recipe for the usual lament of “bullpen burnout” by May—even as they're carrying eight relievers instead of the usual seven!
F: Milwaukee pitching gave up 39 runs and 77 hits in the six games and entered this week 13th in the National League ERA— and dead last in hits and homers given up.
A: And with only 15 teams in the NL now, they can't count on Houston to be worse than them.
F: Maybe they can count on the Cubs, whom they play next, to help them get well.
A: But then come the Cardinals on the road and the champion Giants at home. You know, word on the street is that it's going to be a long season.
F: My prediction of a division title looks a little, um, optimistic.
A: Hell, the big question is whether they'll ever see .500 again.
F: Well, I thought the Brewers looked good Sunday in their alternate gold jerseys.
A: Those softball uniforms? I thought they were gonna put a keg out at second base.
F: What certainly didn't change at the stadium was the plodding pace of big-league baseball. This was the second extra-inning game in the first six, but even among the four nine-inning jobs only one was under 3 hours.
A: Way too much stalling between pitches, on the mound and at the plate. And it would have been even worse if Braun had played.
F: For a while, it seemed like the stadium entertainment people restrained themselves from filling those gaps with ridiculous eight-second clips of “Ice Ice Baby” or “Smoke on the Water.”
A: They made up for it during the late rallies. Cool it with the blaring music, already! Don't you think the fans know enough to make their own noise?
F: Too many pitching changes on top of the usual dawdling will mean nothing but long games.
A: And a long, long season. I'm worn out already.
A FEW SHORT HOPS
F: Your guy Trey Burke made only one field goal but Michigan still made it to the NCAA championship game—which our deadline will prevent us from discussing.
A: The Wolverines beat the supposedly unbeatable 2-3 zone.
F: I didn't see the game; how'd they do it?
A: Shooting well, for the most part, and moving the ball around well.
F: Doing what Marquette didn't, or couldn't. I'm sure you're rooting for them to take the title.
A: Even if Burke wasn't in the game I'd be rooting against Louisville because I'm sick of all the announcers massacring the name.
F: As you've said before, you don't want to hear any of that “Lull-vull” stuff.
A: It's “LEWIE-ville.” I don't care how the natives say it.
F: How about the other big Saturday news, the Bucks clinching a playoff spot?
A: Miami, here we come. But not for long.
F: With Boston winning Sunday night, the Bucks were still 2 ½ games away from the No. 7 spot.
A: And all that would get them is a thrashing from the Knicks instead of the Heat.
F: Well, turning to some good news, I know you must be happy about one of the big new contracts in sports.
A: Justin Verlander's? Buster Posey's?
F: Nope, the $108 million deal between the Cowboys and Tony Romo.
A: Have I ever mentioned that Romo is NOT a good quarterback?
F: About as often as you said, “It's going to be a long season” on Sunday. And one last thing in the world of football: How surprised were you at reports that Auburn violated all sorts of NCAA rules, including during their 2010 BCS championship season?
A: What a shock that an SEC program might do such things!
F: There was one new wrinkle. The idea of “pay for play” is one thing, but Auburn allegedly was doing “pay to stay,” offering money to keep guys from jumping to the NFL.
A: That was interesting. You'd think it might be tough to match what someone would make in the NFL, but with the SEC I'm sure it's quite doable.
Frank Clines covered sports for The Milwaukee Journal and the Journal Sentinel. Art Kumbalek has been on the disabled list for years.