With the Brewers about to start a three-game series against the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals, first-year manager Ron Roenicke gets his first real test tonight at Miller Park.
I can imagine that it’s not easy to get a ball club ready to play a 162-game season, and despite the Brewers’ rocky start, you have to give Roenicke credit on that account. The Brewers have had some stumbling blocks-the bottom of the batting order being the most prominent in my mind-but have nonetheless managed a 35-28 record, one of the best in the National League.
But I still don’t feel like we have a sense of Ron Roenicke’s management in high-pressure situations like the one the Brewers enter tonight. With first place on the line, and a hot Cardinals team no doubt ready to put some distance between their second-place challengers, will the Brewers elevate their game to the next level? If last night is any indication, it could be a rough ride; three errors and no offense against an inexperienced pitcher like Jon Niese does not a contender make.
Roenicke is definitely going to need to tweak the lineup in this series; with Casey McGehee in the worst slump of his career, he simply cannot be placed in the lineup with the likes of Carlos Gomez and Yuniesky Betancourt.
But in-game management matters too; you can’t leave guys like Kameron Loe out there to get shelled for five runs when it becomes apparent that he does not have his stuff. Normally I wouldn’t second-guess things like that, assuming that the manager is maybe playing a matchup or has some other sort of strategy, but the only thing Roenicke could come up with after the game was essentially, “We like Loe in that situation.” Not quite a good enough explanation.
In any event, this series presents a great opportunity to observe not only how the players handle a high-stakes matchup; it will give us our first glimpse of Roenicke’s management in such situations, too. And with the Central looking like it might come down to the wire, this series might not only be a crucial step in the playoff hunt, but also a preview of what is to come later in the season.