Ned Yost out-foxed by Charlie

In baseball, it’s never too difficult to figure out when the manager is going to get fired. Sometimes you can feel it coming in very much the same way in which you sense a really bad rainstorm. Dark clouds usually follow around torrential rain and doomed managers.

As a result, no one really wants to hang around when they know a storm is coming. Instead, folks move somewhere indoors where it’s safe and hope the cable doesn’t get knocked out.

Anyone who saw the Milwaukee Brewers up close this weekend couldn’t ignore the signs that a storm was brewing. Nursing a four-game lead of the Phillies in the wild-card race when the weekend started, the Brewers slinked out of town with their tails between their legs after first-place had disappeared into thin air.

Worse, the players on the Brewers moved around as if they knew they were fighting a losing battle. One could hear footfalls when moving across the carpet in the visitors’ clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park because the room was so quiet. If we didn’t know better, it felt as if the walls were inching closer and closer by the minute to properly reflect the tightness emanating from the ballplayers.

Not only were they tight, but also the Brewers were tense, angry, helpless, confused and frustrated. They avoided eye contact with one another and spoke in whispers. When they walked they looked straight ahead and moved with stealth so as to not draw any attention as they attempted a silent getaway.

Indeed, it was a bad weekend for the Brewers.

“This series was a complete and total disaster,” outfielder Ryan Braun said. “It couldn’t have gone any worse. [The Phillies] couldn’t have played any better. We couldn’t have played any worse. We can only go in one direction from here. It’s not going to get worse.”

Braun is correct on that last point. It won’t get any worse for the Brewers, who have lost 11 of the 14 games they have played in September. However, with 12 games to go the Brewers still are tied with the Phillies for first place in the wild-card race. That’s the reason general manager Doug Melvin and owner Mark Attanasio decided manager Ned Yost had to go. Clearly the way the Phillies and Charlie Manuel ran circles around Yost’s Brewers led to his ouster.

Nevertheless, it was an unprecedented move by the Brewers. In moving former Phillie Dale Sveum from the third-base coaching box to the manager’s seat, the Brewers have conceded that if they are going to make it to the playoffs for the first time since 1982, they needed some big changes immediately.

“(Yost) didn’t have all the answers for what is going on the last two weeks and I’m not sure I have all the answers,” Melvin said during a news conference at a hotel in Chicago. “I’m not sure this is the right one, either.”

From this vantage point it seems like the right move. In fact, while walking through the corridor in the basement of Citizens Bank Park near the clubhouses, the sense of frustration from the Brewers as they walked silently to the bus that would take them to the airport and then to Chicago, was enough to knock a guy over. Desperation oozed from the confused faces so rich and thick that you could drizzle it over pancakes.

At the same time one could not mistake Manuel and the Phillies’ role in all of this. After all, it was Manuel who chose to use pitchers Jamie Moyer and Brett Myers on short rest during the series while Yost searched for excuses NOT to use the best pitcher in baseball in CC Sabathia on the similar amount of rest when his team was desperate for a win. It was also Manuel who signaled for a suicide squeeze bunt with catcher Carlos Ruiz at the plate because he had a hunch.

Meanwhile, Yost could not urge his hitters to be a little more patient at the plate against Myers, who tossed a complete-game shutout on just 95 pitches on just three-days rest. After the game even Myers could not understand why the Brewers’ hitters were so quick to swing the bats. Didn’t they realize he did not have his best stuff?

But the capper was when Yost chose to allow soft-tossing lefty Brian Shouse to pitch to the right-handed hitting Pat Burrell even though erratic but hard-throwing righty Eric Gagne was warmed up and ready to come into the game. Never mind the point that Burrell went to the plate hitting just .138 (4-for-29) during September and a .172 average since the end of July, and had an 0-for-3 mark with a strikeout against Gagne – Yost thought Shouse had a better chance at coaxing a ground ball from Burrell withtwo on and one out in the eighth inning of a tied game.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in Shousie to get a ground ball and a double play,” Yost said. “I thought Shousie could get the job done.”

What gave him that idea? According to the aptly named web site, “Fire Ned Yost,” the Brewers almost had a better chance of turning a triple play with Shouse on the mound than a double play.

In 2008, Brian Shouse has pitched to 132 batters with 0 or 1 outs in the inning. Of those 132 plate appearances, 77 have been with a man on first base, and 5 have resulted in double plays. While that’s not as low a percentage as the triple play he likes to avoid, it’s still hard to understand where Ned’s faith in Shousie’s GDP ability come from. Well, unless it’s just faith, of course.

Shouse did get Burrell to hit a ground ball, but it rolled into the outfield to send in the go-ahead run. To add insult to injury, Shane Victorino followed Burrell’s single with a three-run homer.

So as we walked past the Brewers as they hustled to get out of town, I couldn’t help but wonder out loud, “They aren’t going to let the manager get on the charter are they?”

Apparently they did, but at that point it was just for a ride home.

Ninth inning: All tied up

Let’s start with Brett Myers’ line:

9 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K – 95 pitches.

Look at that – 95 pitches in a complete game.

Now here’s what it means:

The Phillies and Brewers are tied for first place in the wild-card race with identical 83-67 records. The streaking Houston Astros rest two games off the pace after they lost to the Cubs at Wrigley Field tonight.

Meanwhile, the Phillies aren’t out of the mix in the NL East race, either. With 12 games to go in the season, the Phillies are just one game behind the Mets. Just like last season it seems as if the Phillies fate and fortunes change by the day.

And just like the past few seasons, this race is going to come down to the last day for the Phillies.

Buckle up.

Check back in a few… I’m heading down to the clubhouse.

Final: Phillies 6, Brewers 1