Archive for May, 2010

Brewers recap 5/30

May 30, 2010 Comments off

Rickie fine, but pitching problematic for Crew

MILWAUKEE — So much positive energy had been built up over the first five days of the homestand, but it didn’t take long for the Brewers to lose it on Sunday.

With the game tied in the sixth, reliever Jeff Suppan gave up four runs on six hits in just 1 2/3 innings of work, walking three and striking out two.

Suppan (0-2) simply couldn’t execute, and it cost the Brewers the game, as they lost, 10-4, to the Mets.

“It’s as simple as making quality pitches,” pitching coach Rick Peterson said. “Any time a pitcher struggles, you’d like to say something really profound. But it was just an inability to consistently make quality pitches.”

Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey overcame some early struggles of his own to pick up the win. Dickey (2-0) pitched seven innings, giving up four runs on nine hits while striking out three.

But while Dickey gave up just two hits in keeping the Brewers off the board over a four-inning stretch from the third to the sixth, the Brewers saw an early one-run lead turn into a four-run deficit in the seventh.

After struggling early in the season and pitching his way out of the rotation, Suppan had been mostly relegated to working when a game was out of reach. But with four relievers having been used in Saturday’s 8-6 victory, manager Ken Macha called on Suppan with the score tied.

Afterward, Macha and Peterson both said they were confident in Suppan’s chances to succeed in that situation. With that in mind, it only made things more frustrating for Suppan when he was unable to get out of the seventh inning.

“I actually felt pretty good today,” Suppan said. “It was a matter of execution, I was just up in the zone. … It becomes frustrating, because I feel good, and I feel like I take a lot of steps forward. Then, in a game like this, it’s a situation where it’s my job to come in and keep it close, and I wasn’t able to do it.”

Suppan was called to pitch in the sixth inning after starter Randy Wolf needed 114 pitches to get through the first five.

Wolf did not want to point the finger at rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy, but the two had communication issues with the signs for the second straight outing. The last time, the two battled through a similar problem but the left-hander had his best performance of the season, tossing eight scoreless innings against the Astros.

This time, however, the issues were coupled with a few pitches that just missed the zone and helped lead to Wolf’s high pitch count.

“They just couldn’t get on the same page with signs, and it was a constant battle,” Peterson said. “It’s hard to consistently make quality pitches when that happens. And then, when he did, he was just missing and had some calls that could have gone either way not go his way.”

Wolf allowed just two runs on five hits, but he walked five while striking out just three. Still, Macha was pleased with his starter’s performance.

“Wolfie wasn’t on his game,” Macha said. “[He was] missing a little bit with his fastball [and] wound up with some walks, yet he still had us in the game at the end of five.”

Suppan’s rough outing was even more frustrating for the club after the way the Brewers had begun the game against Dickey.

On a 1-2 knuckleball in the first, second baseman Rickie Weeks belted his 15th career leadoff home run, tying the score at 1.

After Alcides Escobar’s single plated another run in the second, Dickey cruised until the seventh, when Weeks hit another knuckleball out to left for a two-run blast, giving him his fourth career multi-homer game.

“Seems like Weeks likes that knuckleball a little bit,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said.

But after Weeks’ two-run homer put the Brewers right back in the game, the Mets’ four-run ninth off lefty Zach Braddock put away the game.

Just as it was with Suppan, it was a matter of execution for Braddock.

“I left the ball up, and they hit the ball,” Braddock said. “But I had it toward the end, so I had it the whole time, I just didn’t execute early on. I wanted to come in and keep the team in the game as much as possible, but I just couldn’t get it done.”

But even after all that went wrong for the Brewers, they remained focused on the positives after their first winning homestand of the season.

“It just feels good to go out there and get two wins from a good team like that,” Weeks said. “All we can do is go out on the road and try to get some more wins out there. … We let one get away from us today, but I think tomorrow will be a good day for us.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brewers beat 5/30

May 30, 2010 Comments off

Powerful Hart winning back fan’s hearts

MILWAUKEE — It’s no surprise to see the Brewers among the top three in the National League in nearly every offensive category — not with Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and NL RBI leader Casey McGehee in the lineup.

But it’s the resurgence of another big bat that has the Brewers on a three-game winning streak, with four wins in their past six games and a 6-4 record over their past 10.

Corey Hart, who on Saturday became the first Brewers hitter since 2003 to homer in three consecutive at-bats, has given his team a fourth power hitter in the middle of the lineup.

“The more guys you can stack in there, it makes it tougher for them to pitch around people,” manager Ken Macha said. “That makes the lineup pretty solid there.”

Hart’s popularity among fans has soared over the past week after taking a couple of big hits in the offseason. Fans were not happy with Hart after he won his arbitration case despite a down year in 2009. Then, with a poor Spring Training performance coming shortly thereafter, Hart was far from popular in Milwaukee.

But keeping his past performances in mind, including an All-Star appearance in 2008, Hart’s coaches and teammates never doubted him.

“I’ve been saying it from the beginning of the year — he’s the kind of guy that when he gets going, he’s the kind of player that can carry a team for an extended period of time, not just a day or two,” McGehee said. “He’s certainly shown that the last day or two. When he’s going well, he’s a game-changer.”

Macha’s machinations with lineup continue

MILWAUKEE — As the Brewers continue to excel on the field, manager Ken Macha continues to tweak the club’s lineup.

After batting George Kottaras second on Saturday because of the catcher’s high on-base percentage, Macha made another move on Sunday to get more guys on base. Macha moved his entire batting order up one spot after Rickie Weeks with the exception of shortstop Alcides Escobar, who was in the ninth spot, behind pitcher Randy Wolf.

“We’ll try this out,” Macha said. “We tried something out yesterday, and I think that had some fruits to it. I think it’s just an interesting look. I thought about putting Kottaras there, and I thought about this a little bit, too.”

As a result, left fielder Ryan Braun became the ninth Brewers hitter this season to bat second. It’s just the third time Braun has hit second and the first since he was a rookie.

Behind Braun, Prince Fielder batted third for the third time this season, Casey McGehee became the team’s third cleanup hitter this season and Corey Hart batted fifth for the second time this year.

McGehee is the first Brewers hitter other than Braun or Fielder to bat cleanup since Hart did so on July 1, 2008. The Brewers won that game, 8-6, in Arizona.

Wolf is the first pitcher this season to be in the lineup anywhere other than in the No. 9 spot. The only time a position player batted ninth was during the three-game Interleague series with the Twins at Target Field.

With Escobar batting ninth, Macha and McGehee were quick to point out, the lineup looks a bit different after the first time through. In fact, it looks a lot more like the team’s usual lineup.

“Looking at the lineup, at the beginning of the game, it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re batting cleanup,’ ” McGehee said. “But it’s really the same. I’m still hitting in front of and behind the same guy. Then, hopefully, you get Escobar on base, and all of a sudden, Rickie’s basically hitting second after the first go-round. So I think it’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.”

As with the Kottaras move on Saturday, the thought process behind Macha’s decision came down to on-base percentage.

Fielder (.402) and Braun (.393) rank fifth and ninth, respectively, in the National League in on-base percentage.

“If we score first, we’ve got a high percentage of wins,” Macha said. “In the first inning, they’re going to have to face Prince and Brauny. That gives us a chance to score early. I just want those guys to get on base. Corey’s hot right now, McGehee’s up in the league leaders in driving in runs — I just want the guys to get on base.”

Axford adds depth to Brewers’ bullpen

MILWAUKEE — With John Axford getting the call in the ninth inning of the Brewers’ 8-6 victory on Saturday, many assumed it meant he is the team’s closer.

Not so fast, manager Ken Macha said in his postgame news conference.

“I’m not eliminating Trevor,” said Macha, referring to all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman. “I want to give [Hoffman] a few more innings, but it’s going to be nice if we have coverage like that.”

Axford, a flame-throwing 27-year-old right-hander, is 2-for-2 in save opportunities this season. Add those to his save at the end of the 2009 season, and he is a perfect 3-for-3 in his short big league career as a closer.

Though his career total is still 593 behind that of Hoffman, Axford doesn’t let the pressure of the situation get to him.

“It’s a tough situation to be in, I guess,” Axford said. “I don’t hold a flame to Trevor Hoffman. So I’m not thinking about that, really. I’m just trying to get my job done.”

Though Macha has been impressed by Axford’s recent performance out of the bullpen, he sees greater value in having several pitchers who are comfortable with pressure situations in the late innings.

“There’s no problem having a couple,” Macha said. “My last year in Oakland, we had six guys with saves. I’d like to get Trevor back. … The more guys you can bring in pressure situations and they’re able to get outs, that makes your bullpen that much stronger.

“I’d like to get [LaTroy] Hawkins back, too. When all those pieces get back together, it starts to give you a lot of options. … I’m not selling any of those guys short.”

When asked about his bullpen in his morning session with the media, Macha said that he hoped to get Hoffman in the game on Sunday. He did not, however, specify an inning in which that might happen.

But with the way Axford has pitched lately, Macha admitted after Saturday’s game that “it’s hard not to bring him in.”

“He has the stuff,” Macha said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Worth noting

With 12 home runs, Corey Hart is tied with three others for the most in the National League. … The Brewers’ pitching staff gave up its first home run in nine games on Saturday after tying a 34-year-old franchise record. … Entering Sunday’s series finale with the Mets, no Brewers starter had allowed a home run in 13 consecutive games, a franchise record. The longest previous streak was 12 games, from May 7-21, 1976. … With nine home runs and 19 RBIs since May 15, Hart leads the NL in both categories over that stretch. … The Brewers’ three-game home winning streak is a season high. … David Riske, who is on the 60-day disabled list, picked up his second win for Triple-A Nashville on Saturday night, giving up two unearned runs with one strikeout in two innings pitched. Lefty Mitch Stetter also threw one shutout inning in relief, with two strikeouts.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brewers recap 5/29

May 29, 2010 Comments off

Hart pumps two more homers to beat Mets

MILWAUKEE — Less than 24 hours removed from his first career walk-off home run, Corey Hart picked up right where he left off on Saturday night.

With two home runs and six RBIs on the night, Hart carried the Brewers to an 8-6 victory over the Mets at Miller Park.

Hart crushed a 1-1 slider in the first from Mets starter Fernando Nieve (1-3), a no-doubter over the bullpen in left for his first career grand slam. Two innings later, Hart drove an 0-1 pitch from Oliver Perez out to left, a two-run shot, for his third homer in as many at-bats.

After hitting just three home runs over the first six weeks of the season, Hart has nine blasts and 19 RBIs in his last 14 games.

“I didn’t even want to sit down next to him, these uniforms are hot enough,” Brewers manager Ken Macha joked. “Guys kept telling me when he gets hot, he can carry the club. Well, he’s been doing that as of late.”

On Negro League Tribute Night at Miller Park, with the Brewers wearing the uniforms of the Milwaukee Bears and the Mets dressed as the New York Cubans, Hart became the 15th hitter in franchise history to belt homers in three consecutive at-bats and the first to do so since Geoff Jenkins’ three-homer game on May 21, 2003.

His six RBIs tied a career high for Hart, who leads the team with 12 home runs on the season. It was also his eighth career multi-homer game and second during his current hot streak.

“It’s all Dale,” said Hart, referring to Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum. “Dale’s worked really hard to change some things around for me and help my mindset. What he did is help me get the ball in the air.

“I’ve had stretches where I’ve hit balls hard, but now the ones I’m hitting are getting good backspin and they’re carrying. I keep doing what he’s telling me, and so far it’s working.”

Nieve (1-3) took the loss for the Mets, as he lasted just two innings, surrendering five runs on three hits with three walks and five strikeouts.

But after Hart put the Brewers up, 7-3, with his second homer in the third inning, the Brewers, too, had to go the rest of the way with the bullpen on the mound.

Starter Manny Parra lasted just three innings for the Brewers, giving up three runs on six hits with three walks — one intentional — and two strikeouts.

“I was just out of sync,” Parra said. “It made it really hard to command my fastball. … For me, my game is commanding my fastball. I do that and I’ll be just fine. But the days like today where I’m out of sync and struggling with the fastball command, it’s going to make for a tough day.”

Fortunately for the Brewers, three members of their bullpen delivered excellent performances on the night.

After Marco Estrada relieved Parra and proceeded to allow three runs on one hit and one walk in just 1 2/3 innings, Todd Coffey (2-1) came in and shut the Mets down. But things didn’t start so smoothly for the reliever.

Before he threw his first pitch, Coffey was forced to switch gloves because the color of the glove — which he’s been using all season — was too light, clashing with the Bears uniform. After being tipped off by Mets manager Jerry Manuel, the umpires approached Coffey and asked him to make the switch.

“It was light, a little bit too close to the colors of the uniform,” Manuel said. “I told [the umpires] before he came in. I saw him warming up in the ‘pen with it and thought it was a little light. I should have let him keep the other one though, right?”

As Manuel joked, the glove didn’t matter, as Coffey (2-1) threw 2 1/3 scoreless, striking out three while keeping the Mets off the basepaths.

Coffey entered with the bases loaded in the fifth. Upon getting Jason Bay to ground out to second to end the inning, Coffey started a string of 13 straight batters retired by Brewers relievers to close out the game.

Carlos Villanueva pitched a clean eighth with two strikeouts as the setup man on the night, and John Axford needed just 14 pitches in the ninth for his second save of the season.

“It’s huge,” Parra said of the bullpen’s performance. “It’s great to win this ballgame. We came out firing, scoring a lot of runs. So it was just great that we were able to win that game [and] put a lot of confidence in this clubhouse. I think we’re starting to play a lot better.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Capuano with Brewers for first time since ’07

May 29, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Three seasons since his last Major League appearance, lefty Chris Capuano rejoined the Brewers on Saturday at Miller Park.

Capuano — whose contract was purchased Friday night from Triple-A Nashville — hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since his last start of the 2007 season and has been rehabbing the second Tommy John surgery of his career. After seven Minor League starts, Capuano has finally made it back to the Majors.

“It feels good to be back,” Capuano said. “Last night, when they took me out of the game in the fourth inning there, I had a pretty good idea that I was getting called up. I called my wife, called my family, and everyone was pretty excited. It’s definitely been a good day.”

Before being called up Friday night, Capuano made his fourth start for the Nashville Sounds, throwing four scoreless innings while giving up just one hit.

When asked about it before Saturday’s game, manager Ken Macha explained the thought process behind removing Capuano from the game after throwing just 59 pitches.

“You’ve got to make a decision, if he goes 100 pitches then he’s not going to be available for quite a while,” Macha said. “With the [59] pitches, he probably just needs a couple days off and may be available out of the [bullpen].”

Brewers officials announced the move after Friday’s 2-0 victory over the Mets. With Capuano being called up, the club designated right-handed reliever Claudio Vargas for assignment, making a spot available for Capuano on both the 25- and 40-man rosters.

Capuano found out that he would be rejoining the Brewers shortly after being removed from Friday night’s game. Now that he’s arrived back in Milwaukee, Capuano found that he was more surprised by the lack of emotion involved with the end of his journey back to the big leagues.

“Maybe I thought that there was going to be more emotions than I think I actually feel,” Capuano said. “When you get here, you go through your routine, you’re out there playing catch, and it feels natural because this is what we do. It’s just good to be here and playing catch and getting back in touch with some of my old friends.”

When asked if he ever doubted he would return, Capuano admitted there were some “testing, trying times,” but credited his family, friends and all those who played a role in his return for keeping him on the right track.

Since making his last start for the Brewers on Sept. 28, 2007, Capuano said he has learned an important lesson about himself.

“I learned how much I actually like baseball,” Capuano said. “You get back to going through the grind of the rehab and then when you actually get back to playing, especially when you get back to ‘A’ ball and play with some of those younger guys, it’s just a different enthusiasm for the game. I think the longer I’m in the game, the more I appreciate it.

“Being away for two years and then stepping back on that field and playing again, a lot of stuff feels new again. I think it’s been a good thing for me.”

Brewers beat 5/29

May 29, 2010 Comments off

No worries about Gallardo’s pitch count

MILWAUKEE — A day after he pitched his first career shutout, Yovani Gallardo remained a topic of conversation in manager Ken Macha’s pregame media session.

Gallardo, who kept the Mets off the board all night while scattering eight hits, impressed all those in attendance on Friday night, including his manager.

“Last night, that’s as good as I’ve seen him throw, ever,” Macha said.

One of the concerns brought up about Gallardo, though, was the high pitch total in the game. Gallardo threw 121 pitches over nine innings, marking his third game in May that he’s thrown 120 or more pitches.

It was the first of the three in which Gallardo has gone nine innings, however, with the other two outings being 121 pitches over seven innings in a win at San Diego and 120 deliveries over six innings in a no-decision at Cincinnati.

With the length of the outing in mind, and the fact that Gallardo had a chance at his first career shutout, Macha was not worried about letting his pitch count go over 120 for the third time in less than a month.

“If I’d have taken him out of the game, there were probably 31,000 people here that would have had me on the rail, tarred and feathered,” Macha said. “The 120 pitches, that was over nine innings, instead of being like seven. Those other ones were shorter.”

Kottaras moved up to second in order

MILWAUKEE — Upon learning he had been moved up to the No. 2 spot in the Brewers’ lineup, even George Kottaras was surprised by the decision.

“I did? They changed the lineup?” Kottaras asked. “I came in and they had me batting eighth.”

Kottaras, who has become the team’s No. 1 catcher since Gregg Zaun went on the disabled list a week ago, has just a .224 batting average. But his on-base percentage is more than 200 points higher, at an impressive .425.

Despite originally listing him eighth, manager Ken Macha, after further consideration, swapped Kottaras with center fielder Carlos Gomez, who batted seventh.

“His on-base percentage is .425,” Macha said, referring to Kottaras. “I think he’s done a great job in the eighth spot getting a lot of walks and turning the lineup over quite a bit. … So we’ll see how this works out. George’s got some power, maybe he’ll get some balls to hit and hit some home runs too.”

Kottaras hit a solo home run in the second inning on Saturday.

When asked about the last time he had batted as high as second in the lineup, Kottaras recalled the exact game.

“I had just gotten traded from San Diego to Boston [in September 2006],” Kottaras said. “We went to the Double-A playoffs and they batted me second. I went 2-for-4, I had a home run and I stole a base.”

Vargas designated for assignment

MILWAUKEE — While much of the pregame discussion centered around his replacement, right-handed reliever Claudio Vargas received some well wishes from Brewers manager Ken Macha.

Vargas, who re-signed with the Brewers during the offseason after being traded from the Dodgers before last year’s deadline, was designated for assignment on Saturday as the Brewers needed to make room on the roster for lefty Chris Capuano.

Through 17 appearances on the season, Vargas is 1-0 with a 7.32 ERA in 19 2/3 innings. Vargas struggled to keep opposing hitters off base, sporting a 1.932 WHIP.

With Vargas likely headed elsewhere, Macha was hopeful for his future.

“He’s a terrific person,” Macha said. “It’s a little bit of a sad day. If he wants to continue playing, I hope he winds up catching on with somebody.”

Worth noting

The Brewers and Mets honored the Negro Leagues on Saturday night by wearing uniforms worn by the Milwaukee Bears and New York Cubans. … The Brewers have won consecutive games in walk-off fashion for the first time since June 17-18, 2006, vs. Cleveland. … The last Brewers walk-off home run that resulted in a shutout victory also came that season when Geoff Jenkins hit a solo home run to to give the Brewers a 1-0 win over St. Louis on Sept. 20, 2006. … The shutout Friday by Yovani Gallardo was the Brewers’ first since Ben Sheets shut out San Diego on Sept 6, 2008, and the first complete game since Gallardo’s on April 24, 2009, at Houston. … Brewers pitchers tied a franchise record Friday with their ninth consecutive game without allowing a home run. The starting pitchers also tied a record for 12 games without allowing a homer in a season. Both records were established in 1976. … The Brewers are the only team in the Majors to have not given up a home run since May 19.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brewers recap 5/28

May 28, 2010 Comments off

Walk-off homer caps Gallardo’s shutout

MILWAUKEE — If ever there were a game that could turn the Brewers’ season around, Yovani Gallardo pitched it Friday night against the Mets.

But it wouldn’t have happened without right fielder Corey Hart, who crushed a 1-1 offering from Ryota Igarashi into the bullpen in left for the 2-0 victory and the Brewers’ second walk-off win in two nights at Miller Park.

Gallardo (5-2) delivered an absolute gem of a performance, pitching his first career shutout and second career complete game. As he scattered eight hits and struck out seven while walking one, Gallardo outlasted one of the best lefties in the game in Johan Santana.

Gallardo dialed up the velocity as high as 94 mph in the ninth, but he credited his ability to stay relaxed on the mound for getting him through a 121-pitch complete game.

“Not trying to overthrow is the main thing for me,” Gallardo said. “We all know I have that tendency to try to do a little bit too much in certain situations. But I was able to stay under control and make pitches whenever I needed.”

In his last three outings, Gallardo settled for no-decisions, despite going six innings in each and giving up an average of just over two runs per game.

But Gallardo was not the only one who pitched well on the night. Santana threw eight scoreless innings for the Mets, giving up just three hits and two walks while walking five.

After throwing 105 pitches, Santana was pulled in the ninth in favor of the Mets’ bullpen.

“Once he had doubled, [and] fought through the eighth, I didn’t think it would be a good move,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said of leaving Santana in for the ninth, with Prince Fielder up to bat. “Fielder, I thought he was seeing it pretty good, anyway. I didn’t want to chance him losing that ballgame after the way he had performed.”

For the Brewers’ hitters, the end of Santana’s night was a welcome sight.

“Obviously he’s been known to throw upwards of 120 pitches, and I don’t think he was that high,” Hart said. “For us, it was a little comforting to get a few new guys in there to see if we could handle those guys.”

Hart’s home run was his team-leading 10th of the season, but much like Gallardo would not have gotten the shutout victory without his homer, Hart wouldn’t have even batted in the ninth had it not been for the hustle of Ryan Braun two batters earlier.

Braun grounded a ball up the middle and beat it out for a one-out infield single. Following him was third baseman Casey McGehee, who popped out to the first baseman for the second out of the inning.

“Give Brauny some credit,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “He hits that ball up the middle and runs it out. Otherwise, it’d have been our third out [and] it would’ve turned the inning over. [But] then Corey gets a pitch to win the game.”

Gallardo’s last complete game, a 5-2 win for the Brewers over the Astros, came on April 24, 2009. Its significance is much higher, however, when considering no Brewers pitcher had gone the distance since.

According to Macha, it was Gallardo’s command of his fastball that helped him last all nine innings, as it got him out of several tough situations.

In the fourth, sixth, eighth and ninth innings, Gallardo ended the inning with a strikeout, with the last three looking. Each time, Gallardo ended the inning with a fastball.

“He was throwing everything for strikes,” catcher George Kottaras said. “Throwing that velocity in the late innings is impressive as well, but … it’s also how he got to those pitches in those sequences. He was throwing his breaking ball and his changeup for strikes … and just kept them guessing.”

A few times in the Brewers’ recent slump, Macha has talked about not being able to get over the hump. In doing so, he referenced that when one thing went right, another went wrong.

Friday night, despite the lack of offense, the Brewers played as well as they have all season.

As great as Gallardo’s pitching was, the defense behind him bailed him out in a few tough spots, turning double plays in the third and the eighth innings. The first, which started with second baseman Rickie Weeks, ended the inning after the Mets had the bases loaded with none out one batter earlier.

In the eighth, the Brewers went around the horn to get the first two outs of the inning and save a run, as Santana batted next and crushed a double to the gap in right.

With so much going right in a thrilling win, they may have finally gotten over the hump.

“Those guys are pretty excited in there,” Macha said, referring to his players in the clubhouse. “It should do a lot of things as far as getting people over the hump.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.