Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Opening Week 2009

All photos of Timber Rattlers home opener and Brewers home opener available on Flickr.

One of the things I love most about baseball is that it's always constant.  Poor economy, national tragedy, bad weather...you know there's always going to be another game the next day.  There's always tomorrow in baseball no matter how bad you lose or win, and it's about riding the wave and playing through streaks, moreso than the high or low of one game.  Because of this, at the end of the season, as a fan you can walk away knowing that statistics can be very misleading, and at any given point during the season every player on a team contributes something.  It's these intangibles and things that don't make the stat sheet that make baseball our greatest game.  Opening Day day is about new beginnings and overcoming adversity, and it is still the day that myself and Erik, and much of America, look forward to the most all year.

A quick update on Erik and myself: After being laid off in February, I am still searching for full-time employment, but my yearly goal of 50 ballgames remains in tact.  Erik has taken a job at a Five Guys here in town and is also working some weeknight games in the suites for the Brewers.  I look forward to being in the same city as Erik for an entire season.

The season had a long spring training and began a little bit late this year due to the World Baseball Classic.  Probably more than any other sport, baseball's preseason is no barometer at all for how the season will turn out.  Managers are trying to get a look at dozens of young players, figuring out lineups, and getting guys in shape more than anything.  So it's no surprise that rolling out of the gate that there were a few surprises, some welcome and some appalling.  It started Opening Night when Derek Lowe tossed 8 shutout innings for the Braves against the defending-champion Phillies in Philadelphia.  CC Sabathia got rocked in his first start en route to the Yankees losing their opening series to the Orioles, and Chien-Ming Wang's ERA through two starts is near 30.00, and of all players utility player Nick Swisher currently leads the Yankees both in homeruns and in ERA (he pitched an inning in a rout last night) - not any of the members of the $441 million offseason trio.  2008's 101-game loser Seattle leads the West, and the Pirates and Royals are both 4-3, prompting some reporters to jump on the bandwagon and make bold postseason predictions.  A very slim contingent picked the Rays to finish in front of the Yankees AND Red Sox this year, and an even smaller contingent probably picked that to be the case while they were in 3rd, behind the Orioles and Blue Jays - which is exactly how the AL East looks right now.  Manny Ramirez's home opener in LA was overshadowed by new free agent Orlando Hudson's cycle, the first Dodger to hit for the cycle in almost 40 years.  The Brewers' pitching staff has whimpered out of the gate, leading the league in both walks (35) and hit batsmen (7) through the first seven games, although as anticipated, the entire lineup is raking right now - except the one guy you expect to, Ryan Braun.  That's baseball folks - ups and downs, and trying to explain the unexplainable.  You just never know what you'll see at the ballpark on any given day.

Erik and I of course could not wait to actually attend a ballgame during Opening Week, and did so on Thursday as the Timber Rattlers opened their schedule against the Quad Cities River Bandits in Appleton, this year as a new member of the Brewers' farm system.  The Rattlers won 2-1 on Bernie & Fang Bobblehead Night.  T-Rats pitching looked excellent, as Cody Scarpetta struck out 8 batters over 4 innings, and the team as a whole getting 14 of its 27 outs via the K.  The two Brewers in the lineup we knew, Cutter Dykstra and Brett Lawrie, were lackluster, combining to go 1-8 out of the 1 & 3-holes - although, Cutter's at-bat song was "Cuts Like a Knife" by Bryan Adams, so that made up for his performance a little.  The cool weather was well worth the drive for Opening Night.  You know it's gonna be a busy season when we've already attended 7 ballgames before the Brewers' home opener.

The Brewers' home opener was ballgame #8 for me - Erik was not feeling too crisp from a little Hooters food poisoning and could not attend.  It was even colder today than up in Appleton, and it took us 90 minutes to drive the 3 blocks into the stadium, but we persevered for some tailgating before the 3:05 first pitch.  Another potential deterrent for our Opening Day festivities was that it was Good Friday, but Mom's crab dip and taco salad and Dad's mostly-fish frozen patties on the grill both came through in the clutch.  Walking into Miller Park for the first game after the first tailgate is always a great feeling.  This year, owner Mark Attanasio put a lot of the money from the Brewers' 2008 record attendance season back into the ballpark, creating a new Harley Davidson area, redoing the team store, and a few other small changes.  The Brewers also added 1981 and 2008 playoff banners to go along with their 1982 pennant.  The game itself was a gut-wrenching 4-3 victory for the Brewers.  We missed opening introductions and the National Anthem because the paper said the game was moved to a 3:25 start, but besides that disappointment it was an entertaining game, especially since we were playing the Cubs and it was actually mostly Brewers fans.  Free agent Braden Looper got the ball for the Crew and was serviceable, scattering 5 hits and 4 walks over 5, but only surrendering one run on a homerun by Milton Bradley.  The Brewers were down 3-2 in the 9th and won dramatically on an RBI double by Rickie Weeks, who later scored on an infield hit by Ryan Braun.  Rich Harden was dominant for the Cubs, striking out 10 over 6, giving up 2 runs (1 earned).  Enjoy it now while he's still healthy, Chicago.

Here's to another playoff run for the Brewers this season, let's go Crew!

Brewers 2-5, -3.5 (3 v. Reds, 3 @ Mets)
Reds 3-3, -2.0 (3 @ Brewers, 4 @ Astros)
Twins 3-5, -1.5 (4 v. Blue Jays, 3 v. Angels)

Erik - 7*
Peter - 8
*will keep separate "games worked" and "games attended" totals

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