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Game 44 Thoughts: Bullpen Future is Bright

Leaving Minnesota, the Brewers’ roster is a mess, but at least they didn’t come away empty handed.  Johnny Wholestaff kept the Twins at bay (stranding an incredible 14 runners on base), and Corey Hart continued his ridiculous hot streak as the Brewers managed to hang on for a win.

Hart has now hit 6 home runs in his last 9 games, and is 11 for 36 (.300) in that stretch.  His line for the season is now up to .264/.340/.552, and with the Brewers’ outfield situation in so much disarray it couldn’t have come at a better time.  I have no idea what’s caused the hot streak, but he hasn’t looked this confident up at the plate since the first half of 2008.

The real story here was the bullpen, though.  Marco Estrada managed to throw 3 strong innings despite pitching an inning yesterday, Manny Parra showed some great resolve by working out of a bases-loaded jam that typically would have seen the game get away from him, Zach Braddock baffled Twins hitters for two solid innings in his big league debut, Trevor Hoffman threw a flawless 8th inning, and John Axford nailed down a save after a small scare.

This was honestly the most encouraging thing I’ve seen from this team in awhile.  Parra’s been called a mental midget in the past, but he did a great job of working out of trouble.  Braddock showed those who don’t follow the minors all that much why some of us get so giddy when we talk about him.  Axford showed he has the ability to work through a rough patch and still come away with a save — surely, it’s the power of the mustache.

If Hoffman can get right again, we could see a return to the strong bullpen this team had early in the season before poor starts burnt them out.  The recent injection of youth and rested arms definitely gives me some hope for the rest of the season.  Even if the team is out of playoff contention already, I can at least rest easy knowing a late inning lead has a good chance of being safe. 

For those always criticizing the Brewers’ system for not being able to develop pitchers of any kind (starters or relievers), it may be time to relax for a little while.  Braddock and Axford will (hopefully) be with the team for a long time to come, and they will (hopefully) be as good as the Coffey-Hoffman combo was last season.

FanGraphs Win Probability

W: Manny Parra (1-3)
L: Carl Pavano (4-5)
SV: John Axford (1)

MIN HR: None
MIL HR: Corey Hart (9), Prince Fielder (7)