The future looks bright with up and coming stars like these three! Edwards’ twin brother Mike played in the A’s system, and younger brother Dave plays for the Twins. A bit of irony that the one Edwards brother who isn’t a twin plays for the Twins?
SEATTLE — There’s no way to know if switching managers after 47 games will make a difference over the long haul for the Milwaukee Brewers. We don’t have a time machine. But today, in Harvey Kuenn‘s managerial debut, it did.
It’s possible that whether Kuenn or Buck Rodgers managed this team today, the offense would have performed the same. The Brewers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI groundout by Ben Oglivie. They increased the lead to two when Marshall Edwards scored on a Little League home run, a triple that led to a run due to a Mariners error. Cecil Cooper made it 3-1 with an RBI single in the sixth, and after the Mariners pulled to within one Cooper added a two-run homer in the eighth.
That’s what you’ll see in the box score. You’ll also see that the Brewers didn’t commit an error in this game, a rarity under Rodgers. But what you won’t see — or might miss — is what happened to Mike Caldwell in the sixth. Or, more precisely, what didn’t happen to him.
Richie Zisk opened the frame with a double to left and Al Cowens followed with a single up the middle to put runners on first and third with no one out in a 3-1 game. Former manager Buck Rodgers was notorious for taking out pitchers early when they got into trouble, often prematurely. He earned the nickname “Captain Hook” as a result.
Caldwell pitched the rest of the game, throwing three hitless innings and retiring nine of 10 batters. He retired 11 of 12 since the two consecutive hits in the sixth.
It was Caldwell’s third complete game of the season and the first time he’s pitched into the ninth since May 8. Yesterday, Rodgers referred to two “cancers” on the team, and many believe one of those players is Caldwell. You cannot underestimate the emotional lift a change in leadership can have on a player like Caldwell.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a new season right now,” said Caldwell. “I’m going to be busting my tail and hoping I can add to what I think is a new team spirit.”
Is today’s game a sign that Harvey will go longer with the starters?
“I would say yes,” he said. “I would say they have to have confidence they can get somebody out in a tough situation. To me, if they’re throwing the ball as well in the eighth inning as when they started, there’s no reason they can’t get the guy out. To me it doesn’t make any difference than if you don’t get the guy out in the second in a tough situation. What difference does it make in the eighth? They wouldn’t be in that situation if they didn’t get them out in the second.”
Follow that? It could be brilliant or it could be gibberish. But today, it worked.
Kuenn continued: “I think Mike was throwing the ball exceptionally well. I think he was throwing as well in the eighth and ninth as he was early in the ball game.”
That’s tough to argue. Through yesterday, the Brewers were a team in disarray, lacking leadership and overflowing with discontent. They were a tight, excitable bunch that lacked execution and accountability. But they were talented.
Today, we saw a new team. We saw a confident team. We saw a team that was loose and able to execute. We saw a complete team.
Will it only last a day? Only time will tell. But this was a good start.
Game Notes: Gorman Thomas‘ shoulder is getting better, and he hit a couple of homers during batting practice. No decision yet on whether he’ll be put on the disabled list … Moose Haas’ elbow tendinitis is well enough to pitch in the June 4 series opener against the A’s … Pitching coach Cal McLish, who has been dealing with health problems, will rejoin the team next week.
ANAHEIM — After blowing three-run leads in back-to-back games, it was nice to flip the script on the Angels today.
Down 3-0 in the fifth, the Brewers busted out for four runs on starter Bruce Kison, highlighted by a two-out, two-run homer by first baseman Cecil Cooper. Knowing the team’s recent history of giving back leads, it was also comforting when the Crew tacked on three more runs via a single by Marshall Edwards and homers by Ted Simmons and Ben Oglivie.
Were the Brewers loose? Apparently. Closer Rollie Fingers walked out to the mound for the ninth, but Jamie Easterly, who had come on in the eighth, was already there. Fingers looked at Easterly with a straight face and said, “Hey, Rat. I’m the pitcher,” referring to Easterly’s nickname.
“Did Buck forget to tell me?” Easterly asked. Fingers laughed and trotted back to the dugout. It was all a set-up.
It was only one win, and only the sixth in their last 19 games. But that only makes you appreciate it more.
Game Notes: Gorman Thomas, who injured his shoulder diving for a ball on May 28, is unable to move his arm more than a few inches. Team says he could be out up to three weeks, though Thomas thinks he’ll be back in seven to 10 days … Since Charlie Moore is also out with a jammed thumb, the Brewers are without a reserve outfielder … If Thomas is put on the disabled list, the Brewers may call up Kevin Bass or make a trade for an outfielder … In the four games against the Angels, Cecil Cooper had seven hits, including three homers and six RBI.
MILWAUKEE — Nothing had been going right for the Brewers heading into yesterday’s game against the Angels. After losing three straight, rumors of manager Buck Rodgers‘ dismissal were reaching full steam.
Then they won consecutive games by a 4-1 score, yesterday against the Angels and today over the Mariners after a 96-minute rain delay in rain-soaked County Stadium. While Brewers players found reason to complain after yesterday’s win, the clubhouse could be classified as quiet satisfaction today.
Until recently, it was the Brewers who failed to hit. It was the Brewers whose pitchers were roughed up time and time again.
Not now. For the second consecutive game, Brewers’ pitchers allowed only a run. Bob McClure, who hadn’t pitched since May 9 due to an elbow injury, had possibly his finest outing of the season. For the first time in 1982, he pitched into the sixth inning, allowing only a run on four hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out six.
Bob McClure was only the opening act for Rollie Fingers. The reigning AL Cy Young and MVP retired all seven batters he faced, striking out five including the side in the ninth. There was a time this season when we were concerned about Rollie. Those days seem silly and primitive. He’s allowed only one hit in his last six innings of work, striking out nine and walking one.
At 20-17 and five games back in the AL East, it’s not time to declare a corner turned. It’s a good start, but much work needs to be done.
Game Notes: Ted Simmons his a two-run double on a 3-0 pitch from Gaylord Perry in the fourth for his first hit in 21 at bats and first RBI since May 7 … Pete Vuckovich, who would have taken his normal turn in the rotation today, will try to throw tomorrow. He may pitch in relief before making his next start … Marshall Edwards, still in Mount Sinai recovering from a bleeding ulcer, is expected to return on May 25 … Rock Arroyo, a local Bruce Springsteen impersonator, did not perform prior to the game because of the weather.
MILWAUKEE — Outfielder Marshall Edwards was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital this morning with a bleeding ulcer. Given the emotions stirring in the clubhouse, you’d think it would be manager Buck Rodgers dealing with a bout of indigestion.
You wouldn’t know that the Brewers scored as many runs in this game as they did the previous three.
You wouldn’t know that the Brewers snapped a three game losing streak when they topped the Angels 4-1 in Milwaukee today.
You wouldn’t know that Moose Haas pitched his first complete game of the season, throwing a gem in which he allowed only a run on six hits.
No, the focus remained on what is wrong with the team. And that focus is squarely on the manager. The rumor swirling around Milwaukee is that former team captain Sal Bando is ready to take over as soon as general manager Harry Dalton gives Rodgers his pink slip.
Want a vote of confidence from the players? You aren’t going to get one. Asked if Rodgers is respected as manager, Charlie Moore avoided the question: “I’d rather stay away from that.”
Don Money: “I don’t know. I can’t say anything.”
Gorman Thomas: “I have no comment on that.”
Their silence speaks volumes.
Bud Lea of the Milwaukee Sentinel summed it up nicely: “What this team may need is a den mother instead of a manager, someone who would stroke egos. Rodgers does not coddle anyone.”
Is Rodgers fighting for his job? “If we win, I stay. If we lose, I go,” he said succinctly.
True. But there hasn’t been much winning lately. And when your players don’t have your back, you might as well start packing.
Game Notes: The Brewers are now 19-17, five games behind the Tigers in the AL East … Paul Molitor returned to the lineup as the DH. He probably won’t return to the field for a few more days … Mark Brouhard, who had missed eight games with a tight calf, was back in right field … Marshall Edwards’ bleeding ulcer is expected to keep him out about a week … Ben Oglive drove in his 27th run but only the first since May 9.
MILWAUKEE — The Brewers collected three whole hits today. Angels starter Steve Renko retired the last 20 batters he faced.
Yeah, it was one of those games. The Angels scored a run in each of the first two innings, but even though the Brewers made it a one-run game in the third, the game seemed strangely out of reach.
If you’re looking for positives, Mike Caldwell recovered from an embarrassment last time on the mound to look passable as a starting pitcher. He allowed nine earned runs on 13 hits in five innings in a 13-2 loss to the White Sox May 13, and he allowed four runs (three earned) on 10 hits in 7 1/3 today. Not great, but better. Makes the last debacle seem more like a hiccup than an illness.
The only pitcher that mattered, though, was 37-year-old Steve Renko. It took him all of 93 pitches to finish this game. The Brewers were lucky to score one. Even luckier that it was light-hitting Marshall Edwards, who smacked his second homer since being called up from Vancouver a little over a week ago.
Are you worried? I’m worried. This team has won two of their last eight games. They’re still playing with a short bullpen, refusing to replace Bob McClure and Pete Vuckovich on the roster. While McClure appears close, Vuke isn’t. He tried throwing today and couldn’t land on his injured foot.
Paul Molitor left today’s game with an injured shoulder. He first hurt it making a throw on May 16. He is not a player the Brewers can stand to lose.
So the offense is down. Vuke and McClure are still hurt and the bullpen is scuffling. Now Paul Molitor is hurt. It’s bound to get better, right?
It needs to, and fast. Down four games in the AL East, the Brewers can’t stand to lose more ground.