MILWAUKEE -- On a gorgeous late-summer afternoon where the roof of Miller Park was partially closed on the right-field side to keep the entire infield in shadow, the Brewers beat the Cubs 2-0, preventing the Cubs from sweeping a series in which seven total runs were scored.
But to me, the most interesting thing about the game was the way manager Mike Quade approached the eighth inning with the Cubs trailing 1-0.
From previous posts here you know that I don't really think that Marcos Mateo is a major league pitcher and he won't be part of next year's bullpen. Nevertheless, today he faced four hitters and retired all of them easily, one on a strikeout. He threw 15 pitches, nine for strikes. But after he retired Ryan Braun on a groundout for the first out of the eighth inning, out came Quade to summon... well, at first I figured Sean Marshall would come in. But no, instead it was lefthander James Russell, to face Prince Fielder.
Russell struck out Fielder -- so far, so good. Out strode Quade again (and what a difference that purposeful stride seems from the morose trudging that seemed to befall Lou Piniella every time he came out to remove a pitcher); this time, he called in Thomas Diamond, because as we all know you can't possibly, ever, let a lefthanded pitcher face a righthanded hitter. So with Casey McGehee due up, in came Diamond.
Out went the baseball; McGehee smashed Diamond's first pitch into the left field bullpen to make the score 2-0.
And it occurred to me that Quade was auditioning pitchers -- while this game didn't mean anything, maybe a game next year would, and he wanted to see how Russell would do as a situational lefty against one of the league's better lefthanded hitters (answer: very well). Then he wanted to see Diamond against one of the better power hitters the Brewers have (answer: not so much).
Again, this was a game in which you have to give credit to the other guy: Yovani Gallardo has had the Cubs' number this year and he did it again today. Casey Coleman almost matched him, but it was Gallardo helping himself with a leadoff double in the sixth inning, where he scored when Braun's popup landed just out of reach of three Cubs fielders and just fair behind first base. Give Gallardo credit as a hitter, too: coming into today's game he was hitting .259/.333/.537 in 62 plate appearances with three doubles, four home runs and eight RBI. FWIW, no other pitcher this year has more than one home run and all other pitchers combined have 11.
The Brewers appear to have solved some of their bullpen problems, too; Kameron Loe and John Axford shut the Cubs down in the eighth and ninth. Axford has 21 saves and a 1.19 WHIP to go along with a 2.28 ERA.
The announced crowd of 37,317 appeared to be about 30,000 in the house, many of whom left after the seventh inning stretch -- likely to watch the Packers/Eagles game. As usual, there was a significant minority of Cubs fans. I ran into Bruce Miles before the game; he gave me a copy of the "Jim Hendry flyer", which I scanned and uploaded as a PDF so you can download it and look at it yourself (note: link opens .pdf). There is no doubt that it contains truth (you be the judge on whether you find it funny or not). If a fan had made these and handed them out in front of Miller Park or Wrigley Field -- no problem. If a blogger had written it and posted it on a blog or other personal website -- no problem. It just didn't belong in the Miller Park press box.
The Cubs will head to St. Louis to play games that are meaningful for a pennant race, at least for the Cardinals, who can creep back to within six games of the Reds if they defeat the Braves tonight. And for those, if James Russell is needed as a situational lefty -- now he's got some experience.