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Brewers recap 5/23

May 23, 2010

Brewers’ staff pieces together win over Twins

MINNEAPOLIS — With the way things had been going, the Brewers needed a complete team effort from their pitching staff on Sunday against the Twins. That’s exactly what they got as five pitchers combined to lead the Brewers to a 4-3 win in the series finale at Target Field.

Before the series finale, manager Ken Macha worried that short pitching performances could leave his staff in a state of “total disarray.” That’s because after a one-third-of-an-inning outing by Dave Bush to open the series and a 12-inning game on Saturday, the Brewers had no starter available after using lefty Manny Parra in the 11th and 12th innings in the second game of the series.

Instead, the Brewers avoided that scenario and put together the best complete-team performance they’ve had since before losing 11 of their last 12 games.

“It was a total team effort today, and it’s been that way the whole way,” pitching coach Rick Peterson said. “Nobody has gone into bed and under the covers. Everybody realizes our struggles, but guys are making a concerted effort to improve themselves.”

With the Brewers down a run in the fourth, right fielder Corey Hart stayed hot, crushing a 1-0 pitch from Carl Pavano to the third deck in left, the first ball that has been hit there in Target Field. At an estimated 440 feet, Hart’s home run was the longest yet at the new stadium.

Hart’s blast was his ninth of the season and sixth in the last nine games. First baseman Prince Fielder added a solo shot to right in the sixth, which proved to be the eventual game-winning run.

But it was the Brewers’ pitching that stole the spotlight on Sunday.

Marco Estrada, who had thrown 21 pitches in relief less than 24 hours earlier, got the nod for the start and gave the Brewers three innings, in which he allowed two runs on four hits.

After Estrada was Parra, who remained available to pitch despite being unavailable to start. After being tagged with the loss the night before, Parra (1-3) got the win, throwing two scoreless innings while giving up three hits, walking two and striking out a pair.

With that, the Brewers led, 3-2, through five innings, despite having used two pitchers that had thrown in relief the previous night.

“That’s fighting right there,” Parra said. “We were trying any way we could to get nine innings. It was a good battle.”

But as impressive as the Brewers’ first two pitchers were, it’s the late innings that have been the biggest problem recently. Fortunately for them, the last three pitchers got the job done as well.

Lefty Zach Braddock, who was called up from Triple-A Nashville before the game, delivered two impressive innings, giving up just one hit and one walk while striking out a pair.

With the way Estrada and Parra started things off, Braddock said he didn’t want to disappoint.

“Everyone who pitched today pitched a great game,” Braddock said. “I just wanted to keep up with everyone else and do the job that was asked of me.”

Next up for the Brewers was veteran reliever Trevor Hoffman, making his 1,000th career appearance. In his first action since stepping out of the closer’s role to work with Peterson on his mechanics, Hoffman was dominant in the eighth.

He needed just 10 pitches, nine of which were strikes, to retire the Twins in order and set things up for John Axford to close it out in the ninth.

“He threw strikes, he was crisp [and] he was hitting the corners,” Macha said. “He threw a very good changeup to [Trevor Plouffe] for a strikeout. It’s encouraging.”

Axford, who got his first Major League save on the final day of the 2009 season, was sent out with a chance for his second in the ninth. In order to do so, however, he had to get through the heart of the Twins’ order.

After a leadoff double by Orlando Hudson to the gap in right, Axford got Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer each to strike out swinging with 96-mph fastballs. Axford still wasn’t done, though, as Jason Kubel singled in Hudson and the Twins loaded the bases two batters later.

But with a 1-2 curveball to Plouffe, Axford secured the win as they avoided what would have been the club’s fourth sweep in their last five series.

“It felt good; I just had to get it done,” Axford said. “It was great, it really was. A lot of emotion right there on the mound. That’s probably some of the most I’ll show really at the end. But I was excited. I wanted to get that save and go home with a win.”

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

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