Dogs Drop Pair to Milkmen in Chicago
By Jack Ankony, The Chicago Dogs
The 2020 American Association stolen base leader Michael Crouse swiped both second and third base in the fourth inning to up his 2021 stolen base total to 15.
Two pitches later, Dogs’ three-hitter Danny Mars belted a fly ball deep enough to Brett Vertigan in centerfield to score Crouse on a sacrifice fly. The Dogs took a 4-0 lead, and everything was looking bright for the squad that began Tuesday as the only team in the league with 31 wins.
But the Milwaukee Milkmen quickly responded with four runs in the fifth inning and one in the sixth. The Dogs were held hitless during the final four frames, which cemented a 5-4 loss.
This loss was compounded by failing to hold onto a 10-6 lead in 8th inning earlier in the day. The suspended July 1 contest between the Dogs and Milkmen was resumed on Tuesday, and Milwaukee scored seven unanswered runs to steal a 13-10 victory.
With these back-to-back losses from the Dogs, a one-and-a-half-game lead in the division turned into a half-game deficit behind the Milkmen. After winning nine of the last 10 games, the Dogs have now lost two games in a row for the first time since June 27 and June 29.
Days like Tuesday’s two losses can often define the game, according to Mars.
“That’s baseball and that’s why we play 100 of them,” Mars said. “We’ve got to bounce back and win tomorrow.”
As the Dogs prepare for two more crucial games with the Milkmen, it will be important to wash away the sting that might have been left behind on Tuesday. For Mars, this kind of mentality has been similar to his approach at the plate.
Mars was named the American Association Hitter of the Week on July 12, and said the key to his recent success has been throwing the mechanics out the window. Dogs hitting coach Joe Dominiak often tells Mars to ‘be an athlete’ at the plate and trust in himself.
This has led Mars to raise his batting average from .255 on July 4 to .289 on July 13. The athletic approach has also brought on more power, as Mars’ OPS has gone from .707 to .793 in that time frame.
Mars added another hit and an RBI on Tuesday to continue his hot streak. Mars has been a mainstay towards the top of the Dogs’ order, which features four outfielders who all have proven they deserve to see the field.
Between Mars, Crouse, Anfernee Grier and Brennan Metzger, the Dogs have one of the deepest outfield groups in the American Association. Compared to teams he has played for in the past, this amount of talent in the outfield is rare from Mars’ perspective.
Mars, Crouse, Grier and Metzger have been rotating through the outfield with one player as the designated hitter in most games. Mars said this has been important because it gives guys extra rest without sacrificing the level of play on the field.
“We’re always trying to make plays and all the outfielders swing it, too, so it’s fun,” Mars said. “We look at it like we’re one group of guys that can absolutely flat out go get it.”
While the Dogs suffered two tough losses in one day on Tuesday, Mars knows the Dogs will get up for tomorrow’s matchup when Jordan Kipper takes the mound at 7:05 p.m.
“When you see Milwaukee across the field, you get a bit of an adrenaline rush that maybe you don’t get when you face other guys,” Mars said. “But once the game starts, it’s all the same.”