- By Ollie Walden
Welcome to the beginning of the 2011 baseball season for the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers have become the sexy pick to win the National league’s Central division this season. The Brewers have a nice nucleus of returning players and new additions, and with new manager, Ron Roenicke taking the reigns, the franchise was looking for the start to a banner season in Milwaukee.
The fans in Milwaukee were expecting good things from their Brewers this year also. The only problem was that for anyone watching the Brewers play the Reds on opening day in Cincinnati you couldn’t tell any difference from this years team and last years. The Brewers pitched solidly to start the game and pounded the ball for two, back to back, home runs and led the Reds 6-3 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. That’s when, just like last year, the wheels would begin falling off the bus and the Brewers would crash and burn against the Reds. Cincinnati catcher Ramon Hernandez hammered a two out, three run opposite-field home run to give the Reds a 7-6 walk off victory.
The Brewers have picked right back up where they left off at last season with a loss against the Cincinnati Reds. In fact, this opening day defeat was all too familiar to Milwaukee as they were burnt over and over by the Reds last season in this same late game fashion while finishing the season 77-85 and fourteen games back of National League Central Champ Cincinnati. The Brewers played the Reds fourteen times last season and compiled a terrible 3-11 record against them with four of the losses coming by one run and losing seven of them while either leading or being tied going into the seventh inning.
The Reds stormed through the majors last season to win the Central division with a 91-71 record behind a dazzling 45 come from behind victories, seven from which they took from their division rival Brewers. The sixth, seventh and eighth innings were disaster time for the Brewers when they played the Reds last year. The Brew Crew were outscored 38-11 in those three innings when they faced the Redlegs last season. The Reds seemed to have the Brewers number last season. They got big innings off Brewers starters late in some games. In others, they got to Brewers middle relievers and twice they beat Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman, the Major Leagues all-time career leader in saves, for victories.
This season the Brewers were determined to make changes and make a serious push to win the Central division. They cut ties with manager Ken Macha and brought in 54-year old Ron Roenicke, a long time bench coach for the Angels, a breath of fresh air for the franchise after two years of Macha not getting the team past 80 wins. The Brewers made a huge off-season splash when they brought in former American League Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke to add some fire power to the starting rotation. Out was retired closer Trevor Hoffman and in was young hurler John Axford, who saved a major league rookie record 24 of 27 save chances he had last year.
The Brewers brought in shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt to help the defense and were ready to test themselves against the returning division champs. Manager Ron Roenicke had what he wanted on opening day. The team played great and put the Reds in a hole early and got to the ninth inning with a three run lead. They had who they wanted on the mound in closer John Axford. All the pieces seem to fit and the team seemed ready to start the season off in first place with a win, but the Reds had other plans. They won’t let go of that title so easy.
Manager Dusty Baker worked his magic and his players worked counts and got key hits and got on base and then Hernandez sent the ball to the stands and all his teammates celebrated with him at home plate as the Brewers could only stand and watch. Brewers fans remember this feeling all to well. They endured this heartburn from the Reds all last year and until this team can gel together and figure a way to finish games against these Reds then Brewers fans might want to keep a bottle of antacids nearby.