The Milwaukee Brewers officially pulled the plug on the life-support system which kept alive their faint hopes for the postseason.
It happened at approximately 4:05 p.m. CST on Thursday at Miller Park. The Reds, an NL Central rival with no business of sweeping the Brewers, did just that. Cincinnati dusted off Milwaukee in three straight games with an 8-5 victory.
To toss a little extra dash of salt onto the Brewers' wounds, it was Francisco Cordero, a former Brewers closer who left Milwaukee to join the Reds for a fatter contract, who picked up the save.
As a Brewer fan, you have to be wondering: how did it get to this point?
The Brewers began the season with aspirations of returning to the postseason. And, for a portion of the season, reaching the playoffs seemed like a possibility. But now, at 61-66, the Brewers are 12 games back from first-place St. Louis in the NL Central.
Who's to blame for Milwaukee's downward spiral?
Well, you could start with the club's porous pitching staff. Sure, there were questions about the Brewers' staff before the first pitch was even thrown to start the 2009 campaign. How would the club fare with losing CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets? Are Yovani Gallardo and Manny Parra too young and inexperienced to lead the starting rotation?
For the most part, Gallardo has performed like an ace. Sure, his 12-10 record isn't mind-blowing, but his 179 strikeouts is among the best in the National League. He carries a solid 3.51 earned-run average and has only allowed 18 homers.
The homers-allowed total isn't stellar, but it's not bad considering the Brewers' staff has been rocked by the long ball this season. As of Aug. 28, Milwaukee's pitchers have allowed a whopping 174 home runs, by far the most in the NL (Philadelphia is second with 153). The Brewers' hurlers have grown accustomed to throwing a pitch, hearing the crack of the bat, and then performing a sharp 180 degree turn to watch the ball sail over the fence.
Starter Braden Looper is truely an enigma. Looper will have outings where he's cruising along for three, four innings, striking out batters and leaving the mound unscathed. Then, around maybe the fifth or sixth inning, Looper will walk a hitter or two and promptly allow a two or three-run blast. Yet, his record is a respectable 11-6 with a 4.88 ERA.
Milwaukee's starters have been plagued by injury and inconsistency. Jeff Suppan (5-8) and Dave Bush (3-5), are just now coming back after lengthy periods on the disabled list. Manny Parra (8-10), has pitched well recently after struggling mightily in the first half of the season.
The bullpen, which was perfoming yeoman's work during the season's first two months, has become shaky and unreliable. Right now, there's only two men whom manager Ken Macha can give the ball to and feel confident in: middle reliever Todd Coffey and closer Trevor Hoffman.
Coffey has replaced Seth McClung as the staff's most-feared red head. The hefty hurler has compiled a 4-3 record with an impressive 2.66 ERA in 67.2 innings of work. More importantly, he's allowed only six dingers.
As for Hoffman, could the Brewers have expected more out of a 41-year-old thought to be in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career? Hoff is 27-for-29 in save opportunities, with a minuscule 1.85 ERA. In 40 appearances, he has given up only one homer.
Yes, Milwaukee's pitching was somewhat of a mystery heading into the season, but I don't think anyone envisioned the club's staff performing this poorly. The Brewers' currently have the second-worst pitching production in the NL. Only the lowly Washington Nationals are worse.
With Bush and Suppan back and Parra working hard to salvage his season, maybe the starters can end the year on a high note. As for the bullpen... is Coffey available everyday?