Details Make Brewers Devilish

In Friday’s game at Wrigley Field between the Brewers and Cubs, two rather benign plays stood out to me. Both involved a deeper dive into seemingly basic defense. These plays tell small stories in what wound up a 7-0 win for Milwaukee. Without detailed execution though, it could’ve been a much different ballgame.

Baez, and the Pop-Up Slide

In the bottom of the second, Javy Baez stood on first base following an infield single. Well known as an aggressive, talented baserunner, the Brewers needed to remain focused defensively. Willson Contreras punched a ground ball to shortstop Orlando Arcia, and Baez (who had been running on the play) executed a nice pop-up slide upon reaching the second bag. Sounds mundane, right? Wrong.

Baez is an excellent baserunner, as any Cub fan will incessantly remind a Brewer fan such as myself. Turns out, the Brewers are also aware of this fact. As Javy popped up from a hard slide into second, prepared to sprint to 3rd on the throw, Arcia patted his glove with the ball and waited. Standing directly between the 2nd and 3rd base bags, this put a pause on the play. Baez couldn’t risk a surprise take-off for third as he seemingly wanted. The delay from Arcia would put him at risk of running into a tag out. With Javy’s momentum curtailed, Arcia rifled the ball to first easily recording the first out of the inning.

Baez seemed to fire some frustration toward Contreras for not flying down the line to first forcing a quick throw, and thereby giving him at least an opportunity to take third base. This proved critical following a walk to David Bote.

Baez would soon follow Bote’s walk with an attempted steal of 3rd, only to be gunned down by Brewers catcher Yasmani Grandal. Preventing Javy from taking 3rd moments before turned into an out. With two away, and a runner on first, the Brewers would go on to escape what could’ve been a much deeper dilemma minus the paused throw from Arcia.

LoCain, the Wind and the Sun

The second notable play occurred (read could have occurred) in center field, involving Lorenzo Cain. Day games at Wrigley are a joy to watch when you’re not stuck at your day job. They also bring their own pitfalls for the teams in the field.

This day had a strong breeze blowing in for the majority of the contest. Day’s like this in Wrigley are always capable of wreaking havoc on even the best outfielders in the game. Cain is no exception.

In the bottom of the fourth, with Milwaukee up 1-0, Willson Contreras struck a routine fly ball to center. As Cain drifted over, it was apparent the sun was becoming an issue. Bringing up his glove to shield his eyes, he struggled to maintain his vision of the ball.

Now, most outfielders think inwardly at moments like these and focus in with all they have to regain visual on the target. They shut out the world in the hope of finding the ball. Cain goes above this, with something else appearing in the replays that impressed me. He waved to his left fielder for backup. He likely vocalized this as well, but as Lorenzo began to fall to the turf eventually hauling in the wind-blown ball, his outfield mate Ryan Braun sprinted into the scene.

What Could Have Happened

When I see these types of plays fail on highlights (more like lowlights), the second outfielder is usually several steps (if not two dozen) away from the play, often gifting the runner 3rd base in the case of a failed catch. In this situation, the gold glove snubbed Cain not only makes the grab, but has his backup there within steps to minimize whatever damage may be done.

Because of Braun’s expedited backup, if Cain were to drop the ball 3rd base would’ve been challenged instead of given away. In that case, if the runner were just jogging it out, 2nd may have been challenged too. In a one-run ball game at Wrigley, it doesn’t take much to put wind in the sails of the Cubs and change the entire storyline of the game. These are things you must do to beat good baseball teams.

Winning Big is in the Details

For me, these are the sexy plays. These are the attention to detail things that great ball clubs do. It’s a reminder this season’s Milwaukee Brewers are perfectly capable of competing at the top level of this game. Bring on game two.

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90 miles: the distance between Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, and Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers. Let the battle begin!

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