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Brewers beat 5/27

May 27, 2010 Comments off

Hart quietly heating up at the plate

MILWAUKEE — After batting .172 with a .221 on-base percentage and 18 strikeouts in Spring Training, right fielder Corey Hart did not start for the Brewers on Opening Day. Seven weeks later, Hart has quietly become one of the Brewers’ hottest hitters.

Over the past 11 games, Hart is batting .295 (13-for-44) with six home runs, 11 RBIs, eight runs scored, two doubles and a triple. With less than a week remaining in the month, Hart’s numbers in May have already eclipsed those of April in nearly every offensive category.

With six home runs this month, Hart has already doubled his April home run output.

“I’ve been trying to stay consistent, but for some reason lately the ball’s been getting in the air for me,” Hart said. “Sometimes I’ll find a swing that makes me hit the ball in the air a little farther than other times, but it kind of comes and goes. Right now the ones I hit good are going in the air, so I’ve been fortunate to have that streak go a bit longer than normal.”

For the season, Hart is batting .263 with nine home runs — which ties him with Casey McGehee for the team lead — and 23 RBIs, which puts him fourth on the team.

Last weekend in Minneapolis, he hit home runs in each of the Brewers’ last two games against the Twins at Target Field, a ballpark that is near the bottom of the league in terms of home runs per game.

But with the way Hart was swinging the bat, his home runs would have been out of any park. His second homer, which came in the Brewers’ 4-3 win on Sunday, was the first to ever reach the third deck at Target Field.

At an estimated 440 feet, it was the longest home run hit in the short history of the ballpark.

Since sitting out the series opener against the Braves on May 10, Hart has started 13 straight games for the Brewers.

“Looking back at it, he didn’t start Opening Day,” manager Ken Macha said of Hart. “A big deal was made about that and that he didn’t have a very good Spring Training. He’s come out here and worked with [hitting coach] Dale [Sveum] pretty hard and it’s nice to see the work paying off.”

To begin the season, Hart split time with veteran outfielder Jim Edmonds at right field in what, for the most part, amounted to a platoon. While Macha never wanted to call it such, Edmonds typically got the call against right-handed starters, while Hart mostly faced lefties.

The most surprising instance, though, was on Opening Day, when Edmonds got the start over Hart with righty Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound for the Rockies.

While Macha said Edmonds was starting because Jimenez fell into the category of “tough righty,” it was a surprising move with it being Opening Day and with Hart expected to be the club’s everyday right fielder.

Though he credits some of his success to the swing he’s had of late, Hart sees his more consistent playing time as the most important factor in his recent hot streak. Due to a handful of injuries to other outfielders, Hart has started far more of late than he had been early in the season.

“That was stupid, Spring Training doesn’t matter, but they decided it mattered this year for some reason,” Hart said of his preseason slump. “I’m just working to try to turn their minds around. Hopefully I can keep playing well so I can stay in the lineup.

“Coming into this season I think there was a question mark about how long I’d be in Milwaukee. But I want to be here, so hopefully they see me as an everyday guy again.”

Edmonds expected to return on Monday

MILWAUKEE — After speaking with Jim Edmonds before Thursday’s series finale, Brewers manager Ken Macha was optimistic about his veteran outfielder’s chances of returning on Monday when he is eligible to come off the disabled list.

Edmonds, who has been on the DL since May 18 with a left oblique strain, did some soft toss and took some swings in the batting cage before Thursday’s game. Macha also noted Edmonds will be out for early batting practice on Friday.

Edmonds’ return will likely mean the departure of a member of the bullpen, but Macha was not ready to speculate about the move just yet.

“We’ll wait for that when it gets there,” Macha said.

The news of Edmonds’ progress was particularly good for the Brewers considering the uncertainty regarding his return just a few days ago.

When asked about Edmonds during the Minnesota series over the past weekend, Macha said he thought there may be a chance Edmonds would not be back when he was eligible to return on May 31.

“That’s encouraging,” said Macha, referring to Edmonds’ progress. “He’s feeling optimistic, so I trust Jimmy because he let me know at the beginning of the year. He said, ‘I’ll be ready.'”

Inglett available; Gerut remains out

MILWAUKEE — Brewers manager Ken Macha expected to have just two pinch-hitters available for Thursday’s series finale against the Astros: Joe Inglett and Craig Counsell.

Inglett, who had been limited since Saturday with a sprained left ankle, will likely be the Brewers’ top option off the bench Thursday in an injury or pinch-hit situation. Macha said he wanted to get Counsell in the starting lineup, but did not want to lose a valuable bat off the bench.

“I talked to Inglett, he’s been getting a little bit better,” Macha said. “If we had a problem, [Inglett would] go out there and play.”

The other two members of his bench, outfielder Jody Gerut and catcher Jonathan Lucroy, were unavailable. Gerut for injury reasons and Lucroy in case of injury to starting catcher George Kottaras.

Gerut, like Inglett, has been limited since Saturday with a bruised right heel. Unlike Inglett, however, Gerut had not made enough progress to be available against the Astros.

“He’s still moving a little bit slow, it looks like,” Macha said of Gerut.

But Macha remains hesitant to move Gerut to the disabled list, in part due to Jim Edmonds’ recent progress.

“I tried to explain [Wednesday] that you [don’t] want to lose him for all those days,” Macha said. “Edmonds’ feeling was he probably could’ve been back by now, so now we’ve got to wait until a few more days.”

Worth noting

Brewers pitchers have not allowed a home run in the past seven games, their longest streak since August 11-18, 2000. The starting pitchers have not allowed a home run in 10 straight games, their longest streak since May 19-30, 1998. … Corey Hart leads the Majors in home runs since May 15 with six and is second in RBIs with 11. … Ryan Braun entered the day tied for the National League lead in hits with 59. … Casey McGehee ranks first or tied for first among third basemen in eight offensive categories, including batting average, hits and RBIs. … A win Thursday would give the Brewers their first series victory at home since taking two of three against Colorado to open the season.

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

Fielder note 5/26

May 26, 2010 Comments off

Fielder showing patience at the plate

MILWAUKEE — Prince Fielder has been more selective at the plate recently, which has helped the Brewers’ first baseman raise his on-base percentage 34 points from .367 to .401 over the past three games.

Entering Wednesday’s game, Fielder had walked eight times — including four in one game against the Twins — in the Brewers’ past three games and 15 times in the month of May.

Though his power numbers remain down from this point a year ago, Fielder’s patience may be an indicator that power is on its way.

“If you continue to swing at balls out of the strike zone, you may get hits here and there, but you’re not going to do what you’re capable of doing,” manager Ken Macha said. “Enlarge the strike zone and your production goes down and the amount of runs that the team scores goes down, because you’re not going to score unless you get guys on base.”

On the season, Fielder has a team-leading 27 walks. The eight he has drawn over the past three games represents about 30 percent of his total for the year. With 27 walks, Fielder ranks 10th in the National League and is just six behind the leader.

Fielder walked three times on Tuesday night, including one that extended a four-run seventh inning. Though he remains just fourth and fifth on the team in home runs and RBIs, respectively, Macha likes the direction in which his first baseman is heading.

“I’m very encouraged by what Prince is doing,” Macha said. “His patience is improving. He’s going to start making them get it in the strike zone, and I think it’s going to be very beneficial for him.”

Brewers recap 5/23

May 23, 2010 Comments off

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.

Brewers beat 5/23

May 23, 2010 Comments off

Weeks hoping to break out of slump

MINNEAPOLIS — If his two-run, ninth-inning double on Saturday is any indication, Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks may be primed to break out of a recent slump at the plate.

Including a 1-for-5 showing in yesterday’s 8-7 loss, Weeks is 6-for-47 over his last 11 games, all of which he batted leadoff for the Brewers.

That slump is part of the reason manager Ken Macha opted to sit Weeks for the series opener against the Twins on Friday. But after Weeks’ double Saturday night, Macha is encouraged by the approach of his second baseman.

“What I really liked is he hit it to right center,” Macha said. “He stayed on the ball. Hopefully, he’s going to start coming around. Everybody says how [Ryan] Braun and [Prince] Fielder go, so goes the Brewers, but Rickie’s got to get on base, and he hasn’t been doing that.”

Weeks, who Macha characterized as being quiet and hard on himself when things are not going well at the plate, said he is not one to change anything when struggling offensively.

“My whole thing is, if you keep swinging the bat, good things will happen,” Weeks said. “It’s still fairly young in the season, but I’m the type of person that I still want to do good. So I’ve just got to keep working hard.”

One thing that may help Weeks string together a few hits soon is the return of center fielder Carlos Gomez to the everyday lineup in the No. 2 spot. With the way Gomez has looked so far in his return, Weeks is likely to see better pitches to hit than if the Brewers continued to cycle hitters through that spot in the order.

Though he admitted it would be a common reaction to press a bit in order to break out of his recent slump, Weeks said he kept the same approach throughout. After 11 straight games with one hit or less, the second baseman likes his chances of turning it around.

“As a hitter, it’s up to you to turn it around,” Weeks said. “I feel good right now with the way I’ve played. Over the last couple games, I couldn’t catch any breaks, but for the most part, I feel good right now.”

Brewers beat 5/22

May 22, 2010 Comments off

Twins not mad at ex-mate Gomez

MINNEAPOLIS — When center fielder Carlos Gomez stood and watched his three-run home run in the eighth inning Friday, which made it a 15-3 ballgame, the Twins were not too happy about it.

But after expressing their displeasure with his actions, they realized that it should not have been a surprise coming from Gomez, who played with Minnesota for two years before being traded to Milwaukee in the offseason.

“That’s the type of player he is. It made me mad, but I shouldn’t be getting mad about that,” said Twins pitcher Nick Blackburn, who surrendered the three-run blast. “We were winning the game by 15 runs, so I’m glad he kept it fair.

“That’s the type of guy he is. He gets so caught up in the moment. We all saw it for us last year, so I don’t have too bad feelings. I don’t want to fight the guy, but he hit a home run.”

After the game, Gomez was aware that his actions were inappropriate and was very apologetic about the entire situation.

He added that he was prepared for any sort of retaliation the next time up from the Twins. In his first at-bat, however, Gomez was not thrown at. Instead, he lined out to third base.

When asked about it before Saturday’s game, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire shared a similar opinion to that of Blackburn, while suggesting another player in a similar situation may not have been so lucky.

“Those are the moments we know Go-Go can have every once in a while,” Gardenhire said. “He was excited, and I think everyone in the clubhouse was a little fired up about it, but when all is said and done we like this kid a lot.

“If it were somebody else it might be a little different. But with Go-Go … you just live with it. He plays with a passion that not a lot of people do. He doesn’t have to apologize to me. I know what he’s all about, that’s him.”

Hawkins’ return from DL extended

MINNEAPOLIS — Though he was eligible to be activated from the disabled list on Saturday, it may be some time before Brewers reliever LaTroy Hawkins returns to the bullpen.

Hawkins, who has been out for two weeks with right shoulder weakness, is continuing to work to get back but is not expected to return any time in the next few days.

“From what I understand, it may be a while,” manager Ken Macha said. “It’s a strength issue. … So he’ll see the doctor when we get home.”

Despite the lack of progress with his shoulder, Hawkins did join the Brewers in Minnesota after missing the first two cities of the Brewers’ current three-city road trip.

Saturday morning, Hawkins and teammate Rickie Weeks joined a group of 24 fathers and their kids at a downtown Minneapolis hotel as part of the Fatherhood Initiative trip, sponsored by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and several other local business executives.

When asked about his shoulder, Hawkins confirmed he did not know when he would return and echoed his manager in discussing his plans.

“I’m still doing my strengthening program,” Hawkins said. “I’ll get re-evaluated when we get back to Milwaukee on Tuesday.”

Like Hawkins, outfielder Jim Edmonds, who is on the DL, with an oblique strain, may not be ready to return when he is eligible May 31.

Edmonds’ injury occurred on a check swing in the second inning of the Brewers’ second game against the Phillies last Saturday.

The veteran outfielder played another inning in the field — hoping the injury would subside — before being replaced by Jody Gerut in the top of the fourth.

Edmonds noted the next day that he thought the injury could be related to the back issues he dealt with earlier in the season. With oblique injuries often turning into lingering issues, Macha was not confident Edmonds would be ready by May 31.

“Just reading what we’ve got in here,” Macha said, referring to the Brewers’ daily injury report, “he may not be 15 [days] and off [the DL].”

Inglett exits game with sprained ankle

MINNEAPOLIS — A long injury report got longer Saturday as Joe Inglett, who started in left field, left the game with a sprained left ankle.

Starting for the second straight game, Inglett appeared to have injured his ankle sliding into home plate as he scored in the fifth inning on a single to center field by catcher George Kottaras.

Inglett was replaced in left field by Jody Gerut, who rejoined the team Saturday after going home for the birth of his child.

Worth noting

In Friday night’s 15-3 loss at Target Field, the Brewers set season highs for runs allowed in a game (15), runs allowed in an inning (seven) and largest margin of defeat. … Casey McGehee and Ryan Braun, with 37 and 30 RBIs, respectively, entered Saturday’s game tied for the Major League lead in combined RBI (67) this season. … Brewers outfielder Jody Gerut was expected at the ballpark just before game time on Saturday. He was home on Friday and Saturday for the birth of his daughter — Jody and Mary Gerut’s second child. … McGehee asked to play third base on Saturday, a day after he served as the designated hitter in the Brewers’ Interleague opener. Manager Ken Macha liked the idea of giving McGehee a chance to rest his surgically-repaired right-knee, but he honored the request and used Braun as the DH instead. McGehee could serve that role again on Sunday. … Reliever David Riske, who was moved to the 60-day disabled list Friday to free a 40-man roster spot, is eligible for reinstatement June 9 and could be an option for the big league club on that date. He had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow June 1.

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

Brewers recap 5/22

May 22, 2010 Comments off

Brewers’ five-run ninth all for naught

MINNEAPOLIS — For once, the Brewers were the ones that rallied from four down to take the lead in the ninth. That lead lasted all of four batters in the bottom half of the inning.

The Brewers batted around in the ninth and tagged a pair of Twins relievers, including closer Jon Rauch, for five runs on five hits to carry a one-run lead with three outs to go.

But it just wasn’t enough. The Twins tied it up in the bottom of the frame to send it to extra innings and added another run in the 12th inning to hand the Brewers a tough loss on Saturday, 8-7, at Target Field.

“We just can’t seem to get over the hump,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “This thing’s going to turn sooner or later.”

And it could have been even worse. Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo opened the game up much the same way Dave Bush did on Friday night, surrendering four runs with two outs and two runners on in the first inning.

Gallardo got out of the inning, however, retiring eight of the next nine batters he faced. But the Brewers’ offense struggled early as just three runners reached base through the first four innings.

They didn’t get a lot of help from the Twins’ defense, either.

Minnesota turned a double play in four of the last six innings, including three that ended the inning. Making it even more impressive was the fact that not one of the four double plays came easily for the Twins.

“They made some big plays that maybe at the time didn’t seem like they were that big but turned out to be huge,” said Milwaukee third baseman Casey McGehee, who drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth. “It’s kind of what they do — it’s Twins baseball. You know they’re going to pitch, you know they’re going to play defense, they’re going to run the bases well and when they throw some hitting in there, they’re pretty darn good.”

The first double play came with two on and one out in the seventh, on a hard hit ground ball by Carlos Gomez to third. Twins third baseman Nick Punto stepped on the bag at third and fired to first to retire Gomez and end the inning.

In the ninth, the Brewers finally strung together a few hits, as the first five batters reached base in the inning. Ryan Braun ripped a low liner to the opposite field. Alexi Casilla — who entered the game in the eighth for an injured Orlando Hudson — snagged Braun’s line drive and caught Gomez too far off first to record the first two outs of the inning.

With the Brewers trailing, 6-5, at the time, a single from Braun could have made an already big inning even bigger for the Brewers.

“Brauny comes up and absolutely tattoos one there [but] can’t get it through the hole,” Macha said. “It’s just the way things are going right now.”

After getting a runner on with one out in each of the next two innings, the Brewers grounded to first baseman Justin Morneau, who started and ended both double plays.

But the Brewers still had a chance. Despite yet another early deficit, they continued to battle into the 12th. Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn’t hold on long enough, something that has become all too familiar for the Brewers this month.

Reliever Marco Estrada was tagged for two runs in the seventh, which came just after the rally-killing double play in the top of the inning. In the ninth, Carlos Villanueva — who has assumed the closer’s role in Trevor Hoffman’s absence — allowed the Twins to tie it up at 7 before escaping.

Finally, in the 12th, lefty Manny Parra — who was originally scheduled to start Sunday’s series finale — was the reliever who took the loss. Parra (0-3) entered in the 11th with the Brewers out of options in the bullpen and promptly shut down the Twins in order.

His final inning, however, was a different story.

Parra sandwiched two walks around a Joe Mauer single, loading the bases with none out in the inning. After getting Michael Cuddyer to ground into a fielder’s choice, Parra allowed the winning run to score on a sacrifice fly to right field by designated hitter Jason Kubel.

“I put myself in that situation walking two guys,” Parra said. “That’s brutal. You just can’t walk two guys. I mean, I gave them [the game].”

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

Hoffman note 5/21

May 21, 2010 Comments off

Hoffman still out; role in limbo

MINNEAPOLIS — Brewers manager Ken Macha opened the door Friday to veteran closer Trevor Hoffman returning in a different role when he returns to game action, saying Hoffman is “open to anything that will help the club.”

Hoffman, Macha, and pitching coach Rick Peterson talked Friday afternoon about Hoffman’s progress in what Macha characterized as a “very constructive conversation.” Hoffman and Peterson will take part in another bullpen session on Saturday, Hoffman’s second such trip to what Macha referred to as “the repair shop.”

“[Hoffman] wants to make sure that it wasn’t just go out there and do one thing and say, ‘OK, I’m fixed,'” Macha said.

While Macha did not give any specific plans for the date or role in which Hoffman would pitch when he returns, he alluded to the fact that it could be as soon as this weekend in Minneapolis.

“We’ll see how things work out,” Macha said. “But he’s open to anything that will help the club. … If he says, ‘Yes, I’m OK,’ for Sunday, then we’ll see.”