MILWAUKEE _ Always good to be in Beer Town, and with the way the Brewers are going, Miller Park should be jumping this weekend. The first-place Brewers are 78-54 overall and 47-16 at home. They take a 9.5-game lead ver the Cardinals into tonight’s game against the Cubs. Barring a total collapse, the Brewers and their opening-day payroll of about $85 million should finish first and get homefield advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Cubs and their $125 million payroll arein fifth place.
We’ll talk a little Brewers here, and we’ll talk 2011 draft picks in the minor-league roundup. For the paper tomorrow, we visit with old friend Rick Kranitz, the Milwaukee pitching coach and a guy who came up through the Cubs system as a coach and instructor and spending some time on the big-league staff.
Cubs lineup vs. lefty Randy Wolf:
Baker is 8-for-19 against Wolf. Soto is 8-for-25. Ramirez is 5-for-30, and Soriano is 7-for-29.
Cubs manager Mike Quade says he feels the Brewers’ success boils down to pitching.
“What’s different?” Quade asked. “The game is so much about pitching. They fortified themselves with (Shaun) Marcum. They’ve helped the bullpen. (Yovani) Gallardo’s still been good. I didn’t want to see them, but the numbers over the last month are really good. So not only have they fortified the bullpen, but they’re getting good starting pitching. Zack Greinke. Prince (first baseman Fielder) and Braunie (left fielder Ryan Braun) and all these guys that have been here…those guys have been in place for years. I saw them all in the minor leagues at Triple-A. The offense is still intact. What they’ve done is continue to keep their offense going. They got Nyjer (Morgan). They’ve done a very good job adding pitching, and they’re pitching very well.
“The development of their closer (John Axford) has been huge, but they add K-Rod (Francisco Rodriguez). Sometimes it’s adding someone. Sometimes it’s development. I look at the way (the Cubs’ Sean) Marshall has come on. He’s a great piece to the puzzle. Axford is a much better guy than we saw last year. He’s come of age. I was an offensive player, but the game is about pitching whether you like it or not.”
Quade was then asked about the notion of the Cub adding to their rotation for next year with a couple of good pitchers.
“You’d like to think it would be great, but with the changes that are going to be made, the new GM, whoever that is, I’ve said it from Day 1, it’s not rocket science and it’s not something profound. Pitching is it.”
On the Cubs’ front, Quade says there is nothing definitive yet on minor-league call-ups. I’m still not anticipating Brett Jackson getting a call-up. Had the Cubs been able to move Marlon Byrd, that most likely would have been a different story.
Andrew Cashner started tonight for Class AA Tennessee in his second rehab start. Cashner worked 1 inning, getting 1 strikeout. he threw 15 pitches, 10 strikes.
Let's start from the bottom today, as Mesa (Rookie) lost a 17-15 slugfest to the Giants. Dan Vogelbach, the Cubs' second-round pick this year, hit his first professional home run. Vogelbach, who was the DH yesterday, reached four times, going 3-for-5 with a walk, a double, the homer and 3 RBI. Kyung-Min Na was 3-for-6 with a walk. Ninth-rounder this year Garrett Schlecht was 1-for-3 with 3 walks and three runs.
Back up at Class AAA Iowa, the I-Cubs lost 7-6 in 10 at Oklahoma City. Nick Struck worked 5 innings, giving up 11 hits and 6 runs. Brad Snyder and DJ LeMahieu homered. LeMahieu was 2-for-5, with his solo homer coming in the ninth. Scott Moore was 3-for-5.
Class AA Tennessee lost 10-4 to Chattanooga. Larry Suarez took the loss, working 2.2 innings and giving up 5 hits and 5 runs, 4 earned. Jae-Hoon Ha was 2-for-4 with a walk and his third homer. Rebel Ridling extended a hit streak to 10, going 2-for-4 with 2 doubles. Jim Adduci and Junior Lake were 2-for-5 each.
Class A Daytona beat Tampa 3-2 in 10. Dae-Eun Rhee got a no-decision, working 6.1 innings and giving up 6 hits and 1 run while walking one and striking out eight. Justin Bour hit his 23rd homer as he went 2-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base. Logan Watkins was 2-for-5.
Class A Peoria lost its sixth straight, 6-1 to Quad Cities. Dallas Beeler worked 2 innings, giving up 1 hit and no runs. Richard Jones (.312) extended a hitting streak to eight games, going 1-for-4 with his 91st RBI.
Boise (A) beat Salem Keizer 7-4. Jose Rosario got the win, working 6 innings and giving up 8 hits and 4 runs. He walked none and struck out six. Zeke DeVoss (.333) went 3-for-5 with 2 runs and two RBI. Wes Darvill (.266) went 3-for-4 with 2 doubles. Ryan Cuneo (.364) extended his hitting streak to nine games, going 1-for-3 with a walk and two RBI. Bryce Shafer converted his 11th save.