Brewers manager Roenicke challenged by home field battle, lining up pitchers for postseason

Ron Roenicke. | Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Brewers manager Roenicke challenged by home field battle, lining up pitchers for postseason

By Jay Sorgi. CREATED Sep 27, 2011

MILWAUKEE - The final two regular season games for the Milwaukee Brewers give the team the opportunity to clinch home field for at least two of the three postseason series they potentially could play in October of 2011, but the process of accomplishing that feat means a mixed bag for Brewers manager Ron Roenicke in preparation for that postseason run.

Roenicke wishes he had the luxury of knowing where those games would be, who they'd be facing, and how to line up his pitching staff - but since his team doesn't know that yet, it makes that critical piece of managing for the postseason that much harder.

"It's really tough," admitted Roenicke on Newsradio 620 WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Morning News. 

"We need to try to get the home field advantage, and by doing that, we can't line them up the way we want to for the playoffs simply because we don't know whether we're home or road (for Game 1)."

Roenicke has three starters - Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum - who have been the best regular season performers for Milwaukee with a combined record of 45-23 (.662 winning percentage) and a combined ERA of 3.54.

Gallardo has been consistent no matter where he pitches, but Greinke is undefeated (10-0) with a 3.13 ERA at Miller Park and 5-6 with a 4.70 ERA on the road.

In contrast, Marcum has an 8-3 record and a dominating 2.21 ERA away from Milwaukee, and just a 5-4 record with a 4.39 ERA at the normally-friendly confines of his home stadium.

But as much as Roenicke may want to set them up to pitch where they perform better, the chase for home field in the National League Division Series and, possibly, World Series and the uncertainty as to when, or whether, they will clinch it means they may not have the luxury of establishing their starting pitching the way they wish.

"We have some starters that pitch better at home than they do on the road.  We're trying to work that out, and I don't know if we'll be able to."

Task one is challenging enough, though they only need a combination of two Brewers wins or Diamondbacks losses to get that second seed and a home date in Games 1, 2 and 5 of the NLDS.

"That would be real nice," said Roenicke.  "Arizona has got a great team.  They're playing really well.  We're both scuffling, trying to get in there."

If the Brewers don't get home field, there is a good possibility they could face the top-seeded Philadelphia Phillies in the first round of the playoffs, a five-game series.  The National League Championship Series is a seven-game challenge.

The Phillies boast four starters - Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Vance Worley - with a combined 60-26 record and 2.57 ERA, a formidable set of numbers for a group who could be nicknamed the "Formidable Four."

When asked about whether he would rather face Philadelphia in a five or seven game series, Roenicke seemed to non-committally lean toward a five-game series against the powerhouse Phillies.

"I think when you have that great pitching staff like they do, it's probably just as well to have them in a short series.  I don't know.  Their pitching staff is so good.  If you've only got, say, three good pitchers, you want to play that series in a longer one because then you have to see their fourth if he's not as good as the other three."

Roenicke, a first-year manager, said that winning a division title feels different than just being a bench coach, like he was with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

"It's different," he explained. 

"It's always great. but it's different when you're in charge, leading the guys, and you put a different kind of work into it.  It was fun to see."