Spring work helps Brewers on key DP

Spring work helps Brewers on key DP

SAN DIEGO -- The Brewers were still buzzing Monday afternoon about the defensive stop that saved Sunday's win over the Cardinals.

It was a "strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out-the-hard-way" double play, engineered by catcher Jonathan Lucroy and executed by shortstop Alex Gonzalez that gave closer John Axford his 48th consecutive save and spared the Brewers from a three-game sweep in St. Louis.

"It was awesome," said Brewers first-base coach Garth Iorg, who instructs the club's infielders.

The inning began poorly for Axford, who was in a tight jam with runners at first and third, nobody out and the Brewers clinging to a 3-2 lead. Axford struck out the dangerous David Freese, then had to face the equally dangerous Yadier Molina.

Knowing the Cardinals could put a running play on, Lucroy stepped in front of the plate and signaled the plan to the Brewers' defenders, who'd worked on a series of plays in the early days of Spring Training.

"He can be signaling a throw to second, a throw to third, an arm fake, or, 'We're holding.' There's so many variations of what can happen on that play," Iorg said. "It's one of those plays where, if you don't do it right, you can look silly."

"When [Lucroy] was giving the signs, I remember not looking at him," Axford said. "I didn't want to know. I just wanted to focus on the hitter to make sure I threw the pitches where I needed to." On an 0-2 pitch, the Cardinals put their play in motion. Molina swung at a pitch up and away for a strikeout. Lucroy fired to Gonzalez at second base, who ran Carlos Beltran back toward first base while keeping an eye on the runner at third, Tyler Greene. When Greene broke for home, Gonzalez threw back to Lucroy, who applied the game-ending tag.

"As a defense, you're reacting to the offense," Iorg said. "Whenever Alex Gonzalez has the ball in his hand, you feel very confident. He's a pretty special guy."

The Brewers signed Gonzalez in December to man shortstop. He's been better than advertised on defense, manager Ron Roenicke said. "Great hands, great arm, great head," Roenicke said. "He's really good. [My appreciation of Gonzalez] has increased. When you see somebody on the other side, you don't see the whole picture. ... When you're around him more, you appreciate him."