ANAHEIM — Coming into Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, Brewers fans had a simple request: Take it easy on us this time, Crew.
Enough of the theatrics. We get it, you’re an exciting team. No further need to convince anyone. You like to come back from huge deficits to add a little spice into life’s mixing bowl.
The opening game against the Angels, unfortunately, brought back memories of the opening game in the regular season-ending series with the Orioles. The Brewers lost that opening game against the Orioles, 8-3.
Tonight? The Brewers again lost a critical opening game by the score of 8-3. Here we go again…
Unlike the opening Orioles game, the Brewers were in this one early, despite some defensive jitters. A first inning errant throw and wild pitch by Mike Caldwell led to an unearned run and a 1-0 Angels lead. But the Brewers came right back in the top of the second, scoring two on a home run by Gorman Thomas.
The Brewers extended their lead to 3-1 in the third on an RBI ground out by Cecil Cooper, and suddenly it appeared the Brew Crew was going to win this critical opening game.
Then, in the bottom of the third, the Angels’ offense struck. Caldwell allowed four runs on four hits and a walk, and California retook the lead, 5-3. It was all downhill from there, as the Angels tacked on three more runs while the Brewers’ bats went silent.
Angels DH Don Baylor benefited from Caldwell’s poor outing to the tune of five RBI, tying a playoff record. You may recall that Baylor becomes a free agent at year’s end. A strong postseason can only help his cause.
It’s time to wonder whether Mike Caldwell is gassed. He finished fourth in the AL in innings pitched with 258 and led the Brewers in complete games with 12. Durability is nice, but rest can help as well. In today’s preview, we talked about how Caldwell had gone 14 consecutive games of seven innings or more. That streak ended abruptly today after the third inning. It was Caldwell’s second consecutive disastrous start, so it’s not a positive trend for the veteran hurler.
Of course, we can’t pin this loss entirely on Caldwell when the offense could only muster three runs off of 39-year-old lefty Tommy John, who pitched a complete game for the win.
“When he gets a lead,” Ted Simmons explained, “he’s very difficult to catch. He makes hitters get too aggressive and you end up swinging at bad pitches.”
Swing at bad pitches, they did. The inconsistent offensive output has become far too common of late — almost to the point where this team is consistently inconsistent.
Granted, this was far from a must win game. It would have been a very nice gift to win Game 1 on the road against the Angels’ best pitcher. Such a scenario would have granted Brewers fans a temporary breather. But once again, our team’s collective backs are up against the wall.
On the injury front, second baseman Jim Gantner played through a rib injury that has flared up of late and went 0-for-4. It looks like something that will bother him for the duration of the playoffs, but he’ll play through it.
“It’s not going to get much better,” said Gantner, “so why wait until it does?”
Hopefully this injury won’t become an issue to the point where it’s costing the team outs, runs and wins. Right now, the Brewers need to win.
Is Game 2 a must win? Maybe not. But close. If the Brewers lose an advantageous match-up of Pete Vuckovich vs. Bruce Kison, they’ll need to string off three consecutive wins. Not impossible, but I don’t like the odds.
What do you think? Is Game 2 a must win?