BALTIMORE — This is it, Brewers fans. We can smell the playoffs. Four games on the slate with the Orioles to close out the season, and all we need is one game. Just one.
With a double header today, how about we take care of business right off the bat? Win that first one, chill out for the final three. It’s not that hard, right?
With Cy Young candidate Pete Vuckovich on the mound, this should have been a golden opportunity to close out the regular season. There were a couple of problems along the way: 1) Vuke was freaking awful, and 2) the Brewers were up against 15-game winner Dennis Martinez.
THAT’S IT! THE BREWERS ARE GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS!
In the bottom of the second, Vuckovich granted four consecutive batters residency to the bases, three on singles and one on a walk. Suddenly, the Brewers were in a 3-1 hole.
Vuke then surrendered single runs in both the third and fourth innings on a solo shot to Ken Singleton and double to Rich Dauer. When he was finally relieved of his duties during the fifth inning by Chuck Porter, Vuke’s final line was far from Cy Young-like: 4 1/3 innings pitched, five runs, four earned runs, nine hits and two walks.
But wait a minute. Did you notice a couple of words that did not belong in the above paragraph? I’ll give you a hint: It starts with “Chuck” and ends with “Porter.” What in the world was Chuck Porter doing in this game? It was his second appearance of the season and fifth of his career. In a pennant race? Really? Is it because Topps labeled him as a “Future Star?”
Maybe Chuck Porter is the new Jamie Easterly: the Grim Reaper of wins. When we see him on the mound, we know that the team has thrown in the towel. I don’t have any other explanation for it. Granted, the rest of the bullpen hasn’t been particularly reliable, but why now? Against the Orioles?
I give the Brewers’ offense some credit, however. Harvey Kuenn may have given up, but the bats weren’t ready to quit. Ted Simmons and Ben Oglivie led off the top of the sixth inning with back-to-back homers to make it a 5-3 game. Seemed like anything could happen.
But of course, the Brewers had Chuck Freaking Porter on the mound, the guy who relieved the leading Cy Young candidate. I don’t care how bad Vuke was, I’d rather have him out there on a bad day than Chuck Porter. Hell, I’d rather see Jamie Easterly or Jerry Aug… I’m sorry, I couldn’t get through that sentence without laughing. No, I wouldn’t rather see those guys. I guess Porter was fine.
Of course, Porter gave those two runs right back in the bottom of the sixth to make it a 7-3 game.
It was one of those games. A game, on paper, you’d expect the Brewers to win. Thankfully, the Brewers didn’t need this one. Now, they just need one of three. And with 17-game winner Mike Caldwell on the mound against the Orioles and Storm Davis in game 2 of today’s double header, you still have to like the Brewers’ odds.
Cy Young Race: One has to wonder if Vuke did some serious damage to his Cy Young hopes today. He may lead the AL in wins with 18, but pitchers such as Baltimore’s Jim Palmer, Toronto’s Dave Stieb, and Kansas City’s Dan Quisenberry all warrant mention. And let’s face it: with a 3.34 ERA and nearly as many walks (102) as strikeouts (105), it hasn’t been a runaway, dominating season for Vuke.
Typically, we may write off Quisenberry since he’s a reliever. But after Rollie Fingers won both the Cy Young and MVP awards last year, we know that he needs to be taken just as seriously as the starters.
So what do you think? Is Pete Vuckovich still the leading Cy Young candidate? Or did he throw away his chances along with today’s game?