With Braun Out, Kotsay Helps Brewers Weather Storm
When Ryan Braun sat out the final game of the Minnesota Twins series on July 3rd with a calf injury, the entire state of Wisconsin held its collective breath. The face of the franchise after signing a contract earlier in the season to essentially remain a Brewer for life, Ryan Braun is the offensive spark plug that makes this team go.
Sporting a 45-39 record, the Brewers were tied with the Cardinals atop the NL Central at the time. With the Reds and Pirates looming close behind, the division race is the tightest it’s been in years. A dark cloud formed over Miller Park. A storm was brewing.
How would the Milwaukee Brewers deal with the loss of Braun, a three time All Star, three time silver sluggler, former rookier of the year and the National League’s leading All Star Vote getter in 2011?
Enter Mark Kotsay.
Mark Kotsay stepped in for Ryan Braun on July 3rd and went 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs in a heartbreaking loss to the Twins. It was, however, the beginning of a very solid run at the plate for the veteran outfielder who has been oft criticized by Brewers fans this year.
Following the Twins series, the Brewers were facing a home sweep after dropping the first two games to Arizona. Down 1-0 in the 7th in a pitching duel with 1 out, Mark Kotsay lined a single off of Joe Patterson. Following a Lucroy single, Casey McGehee delivered a pinch hit home run to put the Brewers ahead 3-1 and help them avoid the sweep.
Two days later, at home against the rival Reds, Kotsay delivered a solo shot in the 6th to break a 4-4 tie. Later in the game, trailing 7-6 in the 9th with two strikes and two outs, Kotsay delivered a clutch, game winning 2 run single to earn the Brewers and 8-7 walk off victory.
Fast forward two days. Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the 9th, the Brewers are looking at a loss and a two game deficit in the NL Central. The Reds send in closer and ex Brewer Francisco Cordero to the mound to slam the door. Cordero quickly retires Yuniesky Betancourt for the first out. Nyjer Morgan singles and George Kottaras draws a walk. The stage is set.
Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke sends in Mark Kotsay to pinch hit for pitcher Kameron Loe. Kotsay delivers, lining one up the middle off of Cordero’s glove, scoring Morgan from 2nd and tying the game. After Cordero drills Rickie Weeks to load the bases, Craig Counsell sacrifices Kottaras home to seal a 4-3 victory in walk off fashion, and a share of first place in the NL Central heading into the All Star break.
All told, Mark Kotsay is hitting .400 in the month of July (12 for 30) with 5 runs and 9 RBIs, a walk and 2 strikeouts as part of a 9 game hitting streak.
Ryan Braun hopes to return to action Thursday against the Colorado Rockies following the All Star break. Good news for the Brewers, who, thanks in part to Mark Kotsay, managed to finish their Braun-less streak with a 4-4 record and remain tied for first place with St. Louis atop the NL Central.
In Braun’s absence, Kotsay brought the thunder and the Brewers weathered the storm.