One sharp double and fence-clearing fly at a time, the hum on the concourses softened and the specks of green seats in the far reaches of the Miller Park upper deck slowly grew to wide swaths that mirrored the manicured grass below.
This Opening Day was unlike any other in recent Brewers history, with many of the announced 46,032 in attendance – the third largest number of tickets sold in the stadium’s history – literally looking forward to being somewhere else later in the day with the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team playing in the NCAA championship game in Indianapolis later in the evening.
Perhaps that led to the smattering of boos Kyle Lohse received after allowing four first inning runs and contributed to a heavier dose two innings later when the lead was extended to 6-0, as the Brewers fell 10-0 to the Colorado Rockies Monday night.
"Opening Day you certainly don’t want to play this way," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I don’t know if it’s harder (than another loss) – you don’t want to play this way anytime – but Opening Day, it’s disappointing. I thought we had done a nice job in spring training getting ready for this, so that’s disappointing."
Ryan Braun was pulled after just two at-bats (a strikeout looking and a foul out) in the bottom of the fifth inning due to a muscle strain suffered in the outfield, giving many other fans the final reason to begin their second tailgate of the day in the parking lots or secure a seat in the bars in Downtown Milwaukee.
As Michael Blazek, Neal Cotts, Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress finished out the game in relief of Lohse and the offense couldn’t manage more than seven scattered hits off Colorado starter Kyle Kendrick through seven innings, the feel inside Miller Park felt more like a mid-summer contest than an event that marked the start of a new championship season.
Lohse was pulled after 3 1/3 innings and 73 pitches, as the Rockies battered the 36-year-old right-hander from the outset with back-to-back doubles from Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, which opened the scoring in the top of the first.
Making his third career Opening Day start, the 14-year-veteran threw two wild pitches on top of allowing eight earned runs on 10 hits.
"I kind of got outside my normal (pitch) sequences and you saw the result," Lohse said. "I couldn’t get it back going. Usually I’m able to grind through and salvage something after the first inning like that, but it just didn’t happen today."
Offensively, manager Ron Roenicke said pregame that his club came in swinging hot bats – the lineup of Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Adam Lind, Khris Davis, Scooter Gennett and Jean Segura hit a combined .340 in the spring – but were neutralized by Kendrick, with only a threat of offense appearing in the second inning when the Brewers stranded Ramirez at third on a Segura double play.
"We had an opportunity," Ramirez said. "‘Seggy’ hit the ball hard. But it was right at (him). You can’t control that. Everything went their way today."
"Somewhere in there you hope your offense gets going and you get a little closer and then it changes, the feeling changes when you start getting closer," Roenicke said.
Unfortunately for the Brewers, because they weren’t able to stem the tide or create momentum of their own, they were never able to make this Opening Day truly their own.
"It happens. You don’t like to have it happen, but it’s going to happen. I just gotta bounce back. We got a good team in here. Obviously disappointed to start it off like that but it’s just one of many games that we’re going to be playing and you just turn the page on that one. It was all around, just not a good one."
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.