WISCONSIN SPORTS ROUND-UP: Garza will try to stop Brewers' slide
CHICAGO - Matt Garza will make his first start in a month, when the Milwaukee Brewers close out their series against the Chicago Cubs tonight at Wrigley Field.
The Brewers have lost seven straight games. While their offensive struggles have been well-chronicled, the starting pitchers have not been great-shakes either. They've had a combined ERA of 6.21 during the team's current skid. Garza, a veteran right-hander, is 7-7 with a 3.58 ERA. He's coming off a strained oblique muscle. The Cubs will put up rookie right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who's 5-1 with a 1.91 ERA. Hendricks has given up just eight earned runs in his last 50-and-two-thirds innings. He got a no-decision in a Cubs' victory over Saint Louis last Friday. It's been ten years since the Brewers have been swept at Wrigley Field -- and if the Crew loses tonight, they'll have their first eight-game overall losing string since May of 2010. Right now, Milwaukee is two games behind first-place Saint Louis in the National League Central. The Brewers also have a game-and-a-half lead for the final NL Wild Card spot. Outfielder Ryan Braun is back in Milwaukee with his wife Larisa, as the couple expects the birth of their first child.
Brewers' prospect Zach Hirsch of Helena was named the pitcher-of-the-week in the Pioneer Rookie League. Hirsch, a left-hander, struck out eleven in six scoreless innings against Great Falls, while giving up just three hits. He had not fanned more than three batters in his previous 13 appearances, although just three of those were starts. Milwaukee drafted Hirsch in the 19th round this year, out of the University of Nebraska.
Milwaukee Brewers' amateur scouting director Bruce Seid is dead. The Brewers said he passed away unexpectedly yesterday, while visiting relatives in Las Vegas. He was 53. Seid was with the Milwaukee organization for 17 years. He took charge of the Brewers' scouting and draft operations in 2008, when he replaced Jack Zduriencik who became the general manager of the Seattle Mariners. Brewers' GM Doug Melvin said his organization is "stunned and devastated" by Seid's death. Melvin said very few people had his passion and dedication -- and Seid gave a number of players on the Milwaukee roster a chance to play Major League Baseball. Melvin said Seid was proud of all of them. Pitcher Mike Fiers was drafted under Seid's watch -- as were Khris Davis, Scooter Gennett, and Jimmy Nelson, among others. Arrangements for Seid's memorial service are pending.
Brewers' manager Ron Roenicke says nobody on his team is crushing the ball right now. And that's why Ryan Braun stays in the Number-three spot in the batting order, despite a long slump since the All-Star break. Before last night's loss at Wrigley Field, the Milwaukee right-fielder was only hitting .229 since mid-July with seven homers and 24 RBI's. His on-base plus slugging percentage was .863 before the break, and .694 afterward. Braun has been bugged by a constant nerve problem in his right thumb, but neither he nor Roenicke have talked about that lately. The skipper says there are times when the thumb is bad, and his swing is not what it normally is. Then, there are times when it feels good -- and he can tell that during batting practice. Lately, Roenicke says Braun's been trying to adjust each day -- and it's easier for him to get out of kilter. The Brewers' offense has only scored 14 runs in its last seven games -- all losses. The Crew will try to salvage a win over the Cubs in Chicago tonight. Right-hander Matt Garza will start for the first time in almost a month, facing Cubs' rookie right-hander Kyle Hendricks.
The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers will begin their Midwest League playoff run tonight. The Rattlers will host the Kane County Cougars in the opener of a best-of-three series. The Cougars won 13 straight games down the stretch, despite losing eleven players who were promoted to the next rungs in the minors. Kane County still managed to have the best season record in all of Minor League Baseball at 91-and-46, winning their division titles in both halves of the year. That allowed Wisconsin to make the playoffs, despite placing third in the West in the second half. Rattlers' catcher Clint Coulter shared the Midwest League lead with 22 homers in the regular season, with 89 RBI's and a league-topping .410 on-base percentage. Kane County catcher Will Remillard hit .571 against the Timber Rattlers, with 13 RBI's in seven contests. Kane County went 12-6 against Wisconsin in the regular season. Games Two-and-Three are set for tomorrow and Friday nights at Kane County. The winner of the series will face either Burlington or Cedar Rapids in the second round, the Western Division Finals.
As the Green Bay Packers open the NFL season at Seattle tomorrow night, replacement referee Lance Easley is getting more negative attention. Cheese-heads have been filling Easley's Twitter account, asking if he plans to make any more negative calls against the Packers tomorrow. Easley, of course, was the one who called the "Fail Mary" play almost two years ago. That was the game-ending pass that former Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings caught in the end zone, with receiver Golden Tate all over him. Easley ruled that Tate caught the pass for a touchdown, and a couple Packers were tweeting obscenities on the plane ride home following their 14-12 loss. Two days after that call, the NFL ended its lockout with the regular referees, and they came back for Week-Three of the season. Tate, who's now with the Detroit Lions, said the play made him a household name -- and it's been both good and bad for him.
Head coach Bob Nielson hopes to accomplish at Western Illinois what he did at UW-Eau Claire. That's where he took over a struggling Blugolds' team in 1996, and made the national Division III semifinals in just three years. Nielson is now in his second year at Western Illinois, which plays the University of Wisconsin in Madison on Saturday. The Leathernecks of the Football Championship Subdivision went 4-8 a year ago. They won their season opener over Valparaiso 45-6 last weekend while the Badgers lost to LSU. Western Illinois quarterback Trenton Norvell completed 20-of-28 passes last Saturday for 320 and four touchdowns. Junior running back J.C. Baker is back, after he ran for 1,149 yards a year ago while catching 32 passes.
Sarabeth Haworth of Milwaukee School of Engineering has been named the women's volleyball player of the week in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference. Haworth, a sophomore outside hitter, had 75 kills and 120 digs in four matches at the Buc Blast Tournament last weekend. She had 34 digs and 21 kills in an MSOE win over UW-Superior. Haworth hit .351 for the weekend, as Milwaukee Engineering went 3-1. The NACC also gave weekly honors to Ellyn Mortell of Wisconsin Lutheran in women's golf, Bruce Cards of Madison Edgewood in men's golf, and Chase Robles of Wisconsin Lutheran in men's cross country.
UW-Stevens Point will induct eight people into its Athletic Hall-of-Fame. They include three-time All-American football defensive end Paul Schmitt, and 12-time All-American cross country and track athlete Jenna Mitchler. Also to be inducted are Josh Iserloth in men's basketball, Noel Eschenbauch in men's track, Cody Koenig in wrestling, and Karen Guckenberger Mulligan in softball. Sheila Miech, who coached women's soccer for 25 years, will also go into the UWSP Hall-of-Fame along with administrator Dennis Tierney. They'll be introduced at a Pointers' football game September 27th, and will be inducted in a ceremony that evening during the school's homecoming.\
The state Volleyball Coaches' Association has released its first girls' high school poll of the season. Burlington is the Division 1 leader, followed by Milwaukee Divine Savior Holy Angels and Hartland Arrowhead. Waukesha Catholic Memorial tops Division 2. Defending champion East Troy is second, and Kettle Moraine Lutheran is third. Marathon is atop Division 3, with Howards Grove and Cameron in the two-and-three slots. Defending champion Wausau Newman leads Division 4, followed by Hilbert and Burlington Catholic Central.