Saturday, May 31, 2014

BB&T Ballpark (Charlotte)

All photos of Charlotte and BB&T Ballpark available on Flickr.

My girlfriend Megan and I recently got back from a vacation in North Carolina.  We spent most of our time visiting friends in the Raleigh area, but the trip began with a ballgame at the brand new ballpark in Charlotte.  I have made it very clear to Megan that probably every vacation and free summer weekend I have for the rest of my life is going to involve a ballgame, and so far she has been almost as passionate about my hobby I am.  The friends we flew in to see, Phil and Josh, decided to meet us at the game, along with their wives.  Our plane touched down around 4:45 PM and Phil and his wife (also named Megan) were nice enough to pick us up at the airport.  We drove to our hotel for the night, which was a suite at the Marriott across the street from the ballpark that Phil booked with his government discount.  After meeting up with Josh and pounding a pre-game PBR silo, we headed off to the game.

The first thing you obviously notice about this ballpark is the view.  BB&T Ballpark is situated just west of downtown Charlotte (called “Uptown” for some reason) and boasts a stunning vista of the city skyline.  It's right up there with Davenport and Staten Island in terms of best view I've seen at a minor league park.  The view isn't just amazing for its beauty, but also for what it represents.  The plight of the Knights to build a proper ballpark has been a well-documented history, marred by political jockeying, outdated facilities, and a number of failed attempts to land a major league franchise.  This ballpark is the culmination of over a decade’s worth of efforts to move the team back to the city proper from the suburb of Fort Mill, SC.  I’m not trying to suggest that anybody should feel sorry for a sports team, or that a new stadium should be high on a municipality’s to-do list, but if there is any team that deserved a gorgeous new ballpark, it’s the Knights.

There’s no doubt just about anything that Charlotte built would be better than their old stadium, and residents now have a civic gem they can be proud of in BB&T Ballpark.  But the incredible view looms over the park so much to the point where I found myself asking, “would this place be any good without it?”  The answer I came up with objectively was “yes, but…”  Overall it’s a nice park but I did have some minor issues with the exterior, namely the lack of a prominent main gate and the material selection.  Yes I am an architect so of course I would say this, but given the amount of time that the owners had to brainstorm ideas about this park, I don’t see these things as insignificant oversights.  One of the most important things to me at any ballpark I visit is a clearly identifiable and sociopetal main entry point.  I would guess that the right field corner gate where we came in is probably the main gate by default due to higher traffic, but I think more attention could have been paid to this as a gateway because it faces the city.  The view in to the stadium should be just as important as the view out.  The façade behind home plate that one normally identifies as “the front” is about as uninviting as possible, and there is also a small gate in the left field corner that seems like it’s just there for code purposes.  This stadium is primarily clad in EIFS and brick, both of which seem out of place.  EIFS is always a sure sign of value engineering, and nothing else in the city is made of brick; the downtown is a sea of gray tones and glass.  It is a classic case of a ballpark being designed in the retro palette just for the sake of being retro.

Once inside, it was easy to get swept up in the experiential nature of this ballpark and disregard all of the nuances I found with the exterior.  Some ballparks just have that feeling about them, that energy you get in a great public space, and this one has it.  I’m definitely a victim of this blog sometimes when I focus so much on critiquing a stadium that I forget to just soak in the atmosphere and enjoy myself.  BB&T is really just a lovely and relaxing place to watch a ballgame, there’s no better way to put it.  Great sightlines, good local beer selection, a great set of group areas, and of course that view just slapping you in the face from everywhere in the ballpark.  I particularly liked how the concourses has little places to stand at the top of the seating bowl for people to enjoy the view, instead of not paying attention where you’re walking and running into people like I did.  These viewing areas along with a slew of standalone food carts also make the narrower concourse on the 3rd base side much more manageable.  At first glance, I was not a fan of the glass club area behind home plate at first because it interrupts the concourse, but when I thought about it more I realized how unique and awesome the experience must be from in there.  I just wish at least part of it was public so that I could have seen for myself.  This would have been a great area for a standing room bar.  Other than the nit-picky things I've outlined, and the absurd price of tickets, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the new home of the Knights.

The Knights wound up losing the game 15-6, but the lopsided score was due to a 8-run 9th inning by the Indians.  This was a different type of minor league game than I’m used to watching in the Midwest League, which at that level is primarily made up of high-ceiling prospects and teenagers from the Dominican Academy.  AAA-baseball has for the most part become a conglomeration of has-beens and never-will-bes, and Friday night’s game was a perfect example of this.  Players including Felipe Paulino, Vance Worley, Chris Dickerson, Gorkys Hernandez, Jaff Decker, and Robert Andino littered the box score, all of whom have scratched around in the big leagues at some point in the past few years.  The Knights hit up Worley for a 6-spot in the 2nd, but the Indians quickly tied it with 3 in the 3rd and a 3-run homerun by Gregory Polanco in the 4th.  I had never heard of Polanco prior to this game, but he was clearly the best player on the field, hitting .368 with 43 RBI as of last Friday.  The game remained close after his homerun until the Knights brought in Donnie Veal.  He gave up 5 runs without recording an out in the 9th and sent the fans scurrying for the exits.  Despite this meltdown, Dylan Axelrod was credited with the tough-luck loss in 3.1 innings of solid relief.  The only real “prospects” I recognized were Matt Davidson on the Knights and Chris McGuiness on the Indians.  Davidson was acquired from the D-Backs in the Addison Reed deal this past offseason.  The White Sox are high on this kid as their franchise 3rd baseman but he is hitting below the Mendoza line so far this season.  McGuiness I recognized from a couple cups of coffee with the Rangers, not sure when he was traded to the Pirates organization.  He had 4 singles and 3 RBI out of the cleanup spot.

After the game we hit up a place called VBGB not too far from the ballpark.  I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting, not only because it was awesome and had $5 liters of PBR, but because downtown Charlotte was surprisingly disappointing and deserted.  I couldn't believe that with the arena and football stadiums nearby there wasn't even so much as a sports bar in sight.  Here’s hoping that new development pops up downtown faster than it took to approve the Knights ballpark. 

park rankings and statistics:
aesthetics - 5
views from park – 10 (uptown Charlotte)
view to field - 8
surrounding area – 4 (surprisingly lame)
food variety - 7
nachos - 7
beer - 9 ($9 for 24oz cans, variety of local brews)

vendor price - 7
ticket price - 1 ($18 by the foul pole!)
atmosphere - 9
walk to park – 6 (only walked from across the street)
parking price/proximity - 5 (team shares parking garage with Marriott for $5, kind of a hassle)
concourses - 7 (a little cramped in some areas)
team shop - 8

best food – Queen City Q
most unique stadium feature – the view
best jumbotron feature – crazy cap shuffle
best between-inning feature – Royalty Race

field dimensions – 330/400/315
starters – Vance Worley (IND) v. Felipe Paulino (CHA)
opponent – Indianapolis Indians
time of game – 3:27
attendance – 10,367
score – 15-6 L

Brewers score that day – 9-5 W

Brewers 32-22, +3.0, (3 v. Cubs, 2 v. Twins, 2 @ Twins)
Reds 23-29, -8.0 (4 @ Diamondbacks, 3 v. Giants)
Twins 24-27, -6.5 (3 @ Yankees, 2 @ Brewers, 2 v. Brewers)

Erik - 2 (+6 worked)

Peter - 16 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Four Winds Field

All photos of Four Winds Field available on Flickr.

With my spring and summer weekends already filling up rapidly, I took advantage of an open Saturday to make a semi-spontaneous ballpark excursion.  I checked the Midwest League schedule during the week and decided on South Bend, mainly because it is one of the few parks I have left to visit within a reasonable driving distance.  Dating a girl who actually likes baseball and wanted to come along validated my decision to drive 6 hours roundtrip.  We hit the road around 2pm for a 7:05 ET first pitch.

The freeway exit took us right through Notre Dame campus and brought back some good memories of when I took my mom to a Fighting Irish football game several years ago.  Several of the first few intersections had manually placed stop signs in middle of the road, and it dawned on me that it must be Notre Dame's graduation weekend.  After another 10 blocks of the stop signs in lieu of traffic lights, I knew something else was going on.  It turns out that there was an underground electrical fire the day before, and power had been knocked out to over 800 homes and businesses on the south side of the river, as well as the traffic lights obviously.  Many restaurants and bars were running on generators to accommodate the thousands of people flooding the city for the Notre Dame commencement, which I'm sure is the event that pretty much keeps the city afloat for the entire year.  Luckily also for us, baseball was still on.  I've learned from past mistakes to check the weather report before leaving for a game, but I now I suppose I need to start verifying that the stadium has power as well.  We heard all of this news from a team employee who graciously offered us a ride in his golf cart to the only ticket booth still functional, on the other side of the stadium.

Once inside, we saw no indication that the stadium was affected by the power outage.  Four Winds Field, formerly Stanley Coveleski Regional Stadium or "The Cove," opened in 1987 and is relatively well known among ballpark enthusiasts as one of the first stadiums to introduce a concourse with a view to the field.  This is now common practice for all new stadiums, but prior to The Cove, generally fans were restricted to walking below and behind metal bleachers.  However, 20 years later, this trailblazing model was already becoming obsolete.  Fans today demand more interaction and more entertainment, and owners want more suites and more group areas.  The renovations completed in 2012 delivered this in spades.  The stadium now captures some land behind the outfield wall to complete a 360º concourse which includes a couple of party decks, a walk-up bar, and a kids zone, all of which are quickly becoming standard at new parks.  The outfield concourse also allows for a new public entry into the ballpark which points in the direction of downtown and I can see it tying in nice with future development.  Also included in the renovation were revamped and additional suites above the main concourse.  The park does still have the press box on ground level behind home plate (similar to the setup in Appleton) which is a design flaw remaining from the original construction.  A major overhaul to the concessions gives Fort Wayne a run for its money.  You can get everything from a gourmet hot dog to giant Philly cheesesteak nachos to an Asian-fusion cheeseburger, and wash it all down with a Miller Lite in a 20 oz souvenir cup that only costs $6.  My only real complaint about the stadium is that the seats all face the foul lines orthogonally instead of angling towards home plate, kind of like you would see at a multi-purpose stadium like the Metrodome.  We sat in the first row between 3rd base and the LF pole, and it was very difficult for me to see the batter without turning my body or leaning forward.  Others might complain about the field being entirely synthetic turf, but I've seen enough of these fields the last few years to just accept that this is the trend now.

One of the most unique parts of this or any other stadium is the team store.  It is housed inside South Bend's first synagogue, built in 1903, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  It had sat largely vacant since the congregation left in 2001 and fell into delinquency.  The city agreed to transfer the title to the Silver Hawks' new owner in 2011 - who happens to be Jewish - and he financed a $1 million renovation to save the synagogue and convert it into the team store, in addition to the $2.5 million he already put into the stadium renovations.  It comes off as kind of odd and sacrilegious when you first step inside building, because it still looks and feels like a place of worship.  But it's projects like this that are the reason adaptive reuse is my favorite type of architecture - instead of razing a beautiful building, the Jewish community and city of South Bend have a new project they can be proud of.

As for the game, the Silver Hawks recaptured the best record in the Eastern Division with a 4-2 win over the TinCaps.  Steve McQuail had the big hit in the game for the home team with a solo bomb to center in the 4th.  The starter for Fort Wayne all but gave the game away by recording 3 errors on throws to first and allowing 2 runs to score on wild pitches.  Fort Wayne had 4 errors in total and some pretty shotty defense on plays that weren't called errors.  Despite this embarrassment, they clearly had the best player on the field in 1B Fernando Perez.  He was a triple shy of the cycle and raised his average to .344 in the process.  He is an aggressive hitter, and all of the balls he put in play were line drives.  The South Bend starter, Blake Perry, notched his 2nd win for his effort of keeping all the hitters other than Perez at bay.

We spent the final inning warming up by the heat lamps at the tiki bar in left field.  Heading back to the car, the downtown was almost completely dark and devoid of life.  I'm hoping this was mostly due to the power outage, and not the lack of development around the stadium.  I didn't want to bother the crew of workers fervently trying to restore power with questions about what bars are nearby, so we drove through the ghost town and back home.  It was well worth the trip; Four Winds Field greatly exceeded my expectations and I highly recommend a visit.

park rankings and statistics:
aesthetics - 5
views from park - 4
view to field - 5 (seating bowl not angled properly down the lines)
surrounding area - 3 (hard to tell due to the blackout)
food variety - 9
nachos - 9
beer - 7 ($6 for 20 oz souvenir cup, decent variety)

vendor price - 7
ticket price - 7 (no GA - cheapest is $9)
atmosphere - 6
walk to park - 5 (nice promenade on north end)
parking price/proximity - 10 (free street parking across the street)
concourses - 7 (points deducted for blind spot behind home plate)
team shop - 10

best food - specialty dog stand
most unique stadium feature - team store in refurbished synagogue
best jumbotron feature - clips from "Tommy Boy"
best between-inning feature - Martin's Supermarket vegetable race

field dimensions - 336/405/336
starters - Erik Cabrera (FW) v. Blake Perry (SB)
opponent - Fort Wayne TinCaps
time of game - 2:32
attendance - 3,021
score - 4-2 W

Brewers score that day - 3-0 L

Brewers 27-19, +2.5, (3 @ Marlins, 3 v. Orioles)
Reds 20-24, -6.0 (3 v. Cardinals, 3 @ Dodgers)
Twins 21-21, -6.5 (3 @ Giants, 4 v. Rangers)

Erik - 2 (+4 worked)

Peter - 12 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Yankees Come to Milwaukee

All photos of Yankees-Brewers series available on Flickr.

For the first time since 2005, the Yankees played a series at Miller Park - and just like the last time, the Brewers managed to take 2 out of 3.  These two franchises were in very different places 9 years ago than they are now.  The 2005 Brewers were just beginning the slow climb back to relevance after a decade in the cellar and featured Ben Sheets at the top of the rotation.  Mark Attanasio had recently purchased the team and Rickie Weeks had yet to debut.  The Yankees were in the midst of a run of 6 trips the World Series in 10 years and still had Joe Torre and George Steinbrenner running the show.  Robinson Cano was a rookie that season.  Today, one could argue the roles have reversed.  The Brewers have put together a series of competitive seasons, and it is the Yankees who struggle to find consistency despite the obese payroll.  

One thing, however, has remained a constant these past 9 years, and that is Derek Jeter at shortstop.  I have never taken for granted all of the times I have gotten to see Jeter play, whether that was on the Tour in '07 while still in his prime, or this year on his Farewell Tour pushing 40 years of age.  Quite simply, he is one of the greatest Yankees of all-time, and one of the last great players of his era still in the league.  The game will not only be losing a great player, but a great ambassador, following his retirement after the season.  He has remained one of the last true role models and fan favorites of the sport the last 20 years, and I think that will be the hardest part to replace, even moreso than his talent.  Baseball more than any other sport places importance on statistics - and he has definitely put up amazing numbers - but beyond that, I have just always been in awe the intangible parts of his game.  Always hustling, always saying the right things, and doing all the little things right both on and off the field to put the team in front of himself.  I saw him give his pink Mother's Day bat to a little kid before an at-bat and then bust it out of the box on a routine grounder to SS on a bum ankle; I mean, this guy just exudes professionalism, and I hope the young Brewers players were paying attention.  Derek Jeter is one of the last players left that I grew up watching, and it will be sad when he is no longer a part of the game I love.  Jeter (along with Ken Griffey Jr.) was definitely the Mickey Mantle of my generation, and I was honored to see him play on his last trip ever to Milwaukee.  In honor of this final trip, the Brewers bestowed upon him a bronzed bat with all of his hits in Milwaukee engraved on it, as well as a check for $10,000 to his charity.  Very generous gifts, but I have to be honest, I was kind of hoping he would get a Harley and a case of brats.

There were 3 sellout crowds at Miller Park that weekend in the hopes of seeing Jeter play one last time, and he ended up playing in the Friday and Sunday affairs.  There were other storylines though besides Jeter that made the series very interesting.  This series marked the return of CC Sabathia for the first time since the playoffs-clinching game he pitched for the Brewers in September 2008.  He pitched on Saturday and got knocked around pretty hard, and ended up going on the DL with knee pain the following day.  He seems to be going through what Gallardo and Lincecum are going through right now - losing a lot of zip on his fastball as he ages and having to learn how to be a finesse pitcher.  I sincerely wish him all the best, and I would have to say that most Brewer fans do as well.  He got several warm ovations that day in recognition of his gritty 3 months of service helping the Crew get to the playoffs for the first time in 26 years.  Besides seeing Jeter, the main reason I made sure to have tickets to all 3 games of the series was so I had a better chance of seeing CC pitch, as well as Masahiro Tanaka.  Tanaka was the big free agent pitcher signed in the offseason who posted a career 99-35 record, 2.30 ERA, and over 1200 strikeouts in 7 seasons in the Japanese Pacific League.  Tanaka is 36-0 since the beginning of 2013, including 6-0 with the Yankees.  Not surprisingly, he dominated the Brewers Friday night with his assortment of junkballs and offspeed pitches.  The big question with Tanaka is if he will go the way of Yu Darvish and continue to dominate with high strikeout totals, or if he is going to flame out in 3 years like Dice-K.  Another story that got somewhat lost in the shuffle is the other Japanese guy on the team - Ichiro.  Like Jeter, this year is most likely Ichiro's farewell tour as well, as he is a 40-year old 5th outfielder in the final year of his contract.  Ichiro was the best and most exciting player of the 2000s without question, and I was glad I got to see him slap a couple of singles per the usual.

For as much grief as the Yankees get for "buying" championships and spending extravagantly on overpriced free agents, they are still the Packers of baseball, and always will be.  It's a team you can't help but root for with followers all over the country, and that could not have been more evident to me than this past weekend.  Seeing many, many people wearing Brewers hats with Jeter t-shirts and giving standing ovations to players on the other team was very cool, and I wish more opponents garnered that type of respect.  It was surely a nice change from being angry for 4 hours whenever the Cubs or Cards are in town.

Brewers 26-15, +5.0, (3 @ Cubs, 4 @ Braves)
Reds 18-21, -7.0 (3 @ Phillies, 3 @ Nationals)
Twins 19-20, -6.5 (3 v. Mariners, 2 @ Padres)

Erik - 2 (+2 worked)

Peter - 11

Thursday, May 8, 2014

30 Stadiums in 30 Days

(screenshot from

I quickly realized after Erik and I started this blog 7 years ago (holy crap has it been 7 years?) that there is a large fraternity of people who do ballpark roadtrips.  The overwhelming trend I see from blogs and such is that people try to do all 30 MLB stadiums as quickly as possible.  I think I might have mentioned in a post a year or two ago about a guy who did all 30 in like 23 or 24 days.  Baseball is a sport that is played every single day for 6 months, so I understand that unlike other sports, there is novelty in it because it is feasibly possible.  Beyond that, I can't imagine why anyone in their right mind would actually want to go through with that.  Erik and I completed our journey in 71 days.  We purposely included about 20 minor league parks and various other sights to break up some of the long drives.  Even so, by about Week 4 I was exhausted, stressed, and wanted to kill Erik, which made me realize that 71 days is still an insanely short period of time to do this trip.  Think about it - you're driving the length and width of the country twice, which for us was over 16,000 miles.  It's about 3,500 miles from Seattle to Miami to give you a frame of reference.  Again, I cannot even fathom how or why people try to complete this trip in a month.  Other than, you know, money and adult responsibilities.

While I may never understand the "why," there is now a pretty ingenious resource for the "how."  These two guys, Eric Brewster and Ben Blatt, recently did the 30-stadium trip and wrote a book about it.  Not that uncommon.  But the unique part was, one of the guys is a huge math nerd and developed an algorithm that would devise the shortest possible trip.  All you have to do is enter your starting stadium and date and it does all the planning for you in less than a minute.  You can click here for the link via, it's actually pretty fun to play around with.  Starting with Miller Park, the shortest I was able to get was about 18,000 miles in 29 days and 3 hours.  It says explicitly on the website that it is intended to give you the least risky drives with some leeway, not necessarily the shortest travel distance.  So you end up with some funky back-and-forth drives instead a logical loop around the country as we did.  One trip I plugged in had me going Milwaukee-Seattle-San Diego-Chicago-Boston in succession, and another proposed trip had me doing back-to-back doubleheaders in DC-Baltimore-New York.  Woof.  A good point that the article makes is that this algorithm boldly assumes no human error or unforeseen circumstances.  There were at least two times Erik and I took a detour off a freeway, at least 3 times my car wouldn't start, and a countless number of times we were delayed for hours in traffic.

What I really learned from this tool is that everybody's 30 stadium trip is different and everybody values something different, no matter how ridiculous I might think it is.  Erik and I made a point to see cool architecture, significant cultural attractions, breweries, and Hooters whenever possible, and we also wanted some days off to recharge and spend time with friends.  That was what was important to us, and we also thought hey let's just drag this out and see as much ball as possible.  Some people are just trying to do the 30 MLB stadiums in the shortest amount of time possible, with all of the planning done for them by a math program, and that's fine, but my own personal opinion is it takes the fun out of it.  One of the best parts of our whole experience together was the weekend we spent planning in my old bedroom at my parents' house cooped up with a road atlas, a giant desktop calendar,, and lots of beer.  When will you get the chance to see so much of the country at one time ever again?  It's best to do a lot of research and planning up front it and make the most out of your journey.

Brewers 22-13, +4.0, (3 v. Yankees, 3 v. Pirates)
Reds 15-18, -6.0 (3 v. Rockies, 3 v. Padres)
Twins 15-18, -6.5 (3 @ Tigers, 3 v. Red Sox)

Erik - 2 (+2 worked)

Peter - 7

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Brewers Finish a Historic April

Despite their loss on April 30th, the Brewers still finished the month tied for the 2nd most wins by May 1st in MLB history, going 20-8 during that stretch including a 9-game winning streak and an 11-2 road record.  Only the 2003 Yankees have had more wins (21) by May 1st, and that team would go on to 101 wins and the AL pennant.  As of 4/30, the Brewers were 4th in the league in ERA, and 22 of their 28 games produced a quality start from the rotation.  This team is doing it with phenomenal pitching - 4 starters with an ERA under 3, bullpen ERA 2.47 - and timely hitting from role players.  With a healthy Ryan Braun and removing the 10 earned runs that 21-year old rookie reliever Wei-Chung Wang has surrendered, it's hard to even fathom what their record would be.  Keep in mind that this team took 2 out of 3 from the NL Champions this past week on the road with their 2-3-4 hitters out of the lineup.

Teams getting off to hot starts in April have historically had a great chance of making the playoffs, but you would never know that listening to the media talk about the Brewers.  It really sickens and disappoints me the degree to which not just the national media, but even the local media and the manager himself, seem to expect an imminent collapse, to the point where I find myself doubting if the Brewers are for real or if they are just an April fluke.  All you hear about in the Milwaukee news is how much the bullpen is overused and how they're playing with a short bench due to injuries.  Ron Roenicke has basically said, I don't expect us to keep this up, but hey let's enjoy it.  Meanwhile, the team just keeps racking up wins.  Listen, are the Brewers going to win 120 games?  No.  But are they going to go 6-22 like they did last May?  I doubt it.  This team is for real because they have a solid starting rotation, and for the first time in a long time, have good depth and matchups in the bullpen with a slew of power arms.  Tyler Thornburg has gone from a 1-9 record in AAA to barely making the team, to a lights-out setup guy in the span of less than a year.  This guy Will Smith they traded Nori Aoki for throws 95 from the left side with a filthy slider who can get both righties and lefties out.  Brandon Kintzler has an ERA under 1.00.  Wei-Chung Wang is a work in progress but projects as a dominant left-handed starter, and could prove to be a steal from the Rule 5 draft.  And the best part is, we have all of these guys under team control for at least 4 years yet.

I'm not going to be naive and say there aren't some areas for concern on this team.  They have a historically low OBP right now coupled with a high swing rate, and still struggle with RISP.  The Brewers already have 3 of the top 10 leaders in appearances in the pen - Kintzler, Thornburg, and K-Rod.  It's a lose-lose really - whether you are winning a lot or your starters are terrible, you're still going to use the bullpen a lot in today's game.  Braun's nagging injuries have me concerned not only for this year but in the future - he turned 30 this past offseason, certainly his injury tendencies will not go down.  I also think it is stupid that the team basically carries two guys in Wang and Rickie Weeks who rarely play and are very limited in what they can do.  I like both of them but at some point the Crew is going to need a more versatile 25-man roster to get through the season.  Doug Melvin will probably have to eat Weeks' $11 million salary and lose a good young prospect in Wang, it's just a matter of when.  However, what I ultimately think separates this team from being a contender and a fluke is the rotation and its depth.  Starting pitching is what wins ballgames and that has been proven in many close ballgames this year already.  The bullpen and the hitting are going to ebb and flow, but with your starters consistently giving you 6, 7, 8 solid innings, the Brewers will always be in the game.  I think that even through the injuries and the inevitable leveling off of the pen, Lohse, Yo, Garza, Estrada, Peralta, and even Jimmy Nelson and Mike Fiers down in AAA, will guide this team through the tough times.  Good starting pitching is what keeps your team from going on long losing streaks.  I'm not expecting another 20-win month but I do expect this team to be playing meaningful games in September.

Brewers 20-9, +5.0, (4 @ Reds, 3 v. Diamondbacks)
Reds 13-15, -6.5 (4 v. Brewers, 2 @ Red Sox)
Twins 12-13, -3.0 (3 v. Orioles, 4 @ Indians)

Erik - 2 (+2 worked)

Peter - 6