By Nathan Petrashek
The Brewers finally ended a three-game skid on Sunday, but not before recording a franchise-worst 32 scoreless innings. That’s right; before Ryan Braun’s 8th inning dinger, the Brewers hadn’t scored a run since the 2nd inning in Chicago on Tuesday. The Brewers (specifically, the much-maligned Yuniesky Betancourt) managed to tie the game in the 9th, and might have taken the lead if not for some (attempted) bunting foolishness. Still, Jonathan Lucroy hit his first home run of the season to put the Brewers ahead for good at the top of the 10th. The Brewers have their third win, and all is right with the world.
Well, not so much. For fans who like to see runs scored (basically, if you’re not Old Hoss Radbourn), there was plenty of bad news to accompany the victory. Aramis Ramirez, who jammed his knee sliding into second base early in the season, isn’t likely to come off the DL when he’s eligible for reinstatement. I know, it’s a little cringeworthy when Ron Roenicke uses a phrase like “play it safe.” After all, this is the manager who just days ago-down a run in extras, with men on, and no other position players due to Roenicke’s own poor roster construction-declared Ryan Braun unfit to appear as a pinch hitter, and batted Kyle Lohse(!) in his stead; Braun would go 3-for-4 the next day and play nearly the entire game. But given Ramirez’s age and the lack of any other suitable options defensively at third base, it’s probably a good thing that Ramirez take whatever time he needs to get right.
The good news is that, offensively, the team has been fairly productive, even with Braun, Ramirez, and 1B Corey Hart missing time. To date, the 2013 Brewers have scored 36 runs. That’s just 3 shy of the number they scored as of this time last year, when the Brewers showcased the National League’s best offense. That those runs have come with some of the team’s best hitters (Rickie Weeks, Jonathan Lucroy, and Carlos Gomez) enduring mini-slumps is a testament to the team’s offensive potential. With those players returning to form, and Ryan Braun healthy again, it’s not unreasonable to expect this team’s offensive output to increase significantly in the coming days, even with prolonged DL stints for Ramirez and Hart.
I don’t, of course, mean to suggest that this team couldn’t use Ramirez or Hart in the lineup. Even at 36 runs scored, the Brewers’ offense ranks as one of the worst in the National League, down there with the lowly Pirates and Marlins. Although I’m certain that having Ramirez and Hart in the lineup would make the Brewers more dangerous, it’s hard to quantify how much. I love Ramirez’s bat, but (even if not entirely true) the notion that he’s a slow starter persists, and last season provided ample evidence to support that theory. That same concern doesn’t exist for Hart, but some of his lost production has been offset by Jean Segura’s and Norichika Aoki’s stellar runs, and Hart can be prone to prolonged slumps.
Bottom line: we all know that when this offense is finally healthy, it will be great. But it is fully capable of treading water for the next month or so until that happens.