MILWAUKEE — The last time the Brewers faced the Yankees was last week in the Bronx when Milwaukee lost three of four, including three of the toughest losses of the season. This time… was much different.
The Brewers jumped out to a 5-0 first inning lead on starter Stefan Wever when Robin Yount and Cecil Cooper doubled in a run before Gorman Thomas brought home three more with his league-leading 36th home run of the season.
It was a fun game for the Crew and their fans from that point forward. By the end of the third it was 9-0 and the Yankees were making no signs of putting up a fight.
Yount, putting together his closing arguments for AL MVP, went 4-for-5 with his career best 24th home run and four RBI. He now has 98 runs batted in on the season.
But while the offensive display was awesome, the story of the game — and possibly the season so far — was starting pitcher Mike Caldwell. Once seen as past his prime, a cancer on the team, and a pitcher who should be dumped for whatever they could get before Harvey Kuenn arrived, Caldwell now has 16 wins.
Caldwell’s won six in a row overall, but he’s also 12-3 lifetime against the Yankees. Not surprisingly, it is the highest winning percentage among any starting pitcher against these Yankees.
“My confidence is at an all-time high,” Caldwell said. “I am throwing good pitches, they are scoring runs and I am getting some breaks.”
After winning three of seven on the recent road trip, it was important to get off to a good start. But this?
“Everybody was starting to get down after the rough road trip,” Kuenn said. “By everybody I don’t mean the players but other people. I’ve said time and time again that these guys can come back. I think you’d have to say they came back in grand fashion.”
And it was good timing. The Baltimore Orioles, who are riding a 24-5 stretch to put pressure on the Brewers, finally lost today. It’s the first time the Brewers have picked up a game on the Orioles since September 8.
“I feel good about the way we’ve played lately,” Yount said. “If you look at the standings you would think we lost a big lead. I have to think the Orioles are frustrated after playing so well the last month and still being two games behind.”
So the Brewers get a little breathing room, even if temporarily. It won’t get any easier. After two games with the Yankees, the Brewers close out the season with 13 games against the second place Orioles and third place Red Sox, six at home and seven away.
The Brewers will need all of the room they can get. Not only is the schedule brutal, but Rollie Fingers revealed today that the soreness in his forearm may prevent him from pitching until the postseason.
Assuming, of course, that the Brewers get there.