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No fun in the sun again for the Brewers

June 30, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Blame it on the shadows. Or the mistakes on the basepaths.

Whatever it was, the Brewers had another poor showing on Wednesday in a day game at Miller Park, which is starting to become a trend.

Offensive struggles in home day games continued for the Brewers, as Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez quieted Milwaukee, which lost, 5-1, to drop its first series of the homestand.

“We had just a couple chances to score,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “And we didn’t get it done. We had first and second, one out in the third inning, then we had a leadoff double in the sixth down by one and wound up having two outs on the bases there.”

Part of the problem offensively for Milwaukee was those outs on the basepaths. In the second, McGehee was caught off third on a grounder to third baseman Chris Johnson. As he returned, he tried to step over Johnson, but was called out.

Four innings later, McGehee doubled to lead off the sixth. Rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy followed by bouncing one to Rodriguez, who faked to first before getting McGehee at third. During the next at-bat, Lucroy compounded the problem, as he was caught stealing second.

As strong as the Brewers have been overall offensively this season, they have struggled to hit well at home during day games. Through 15 home day games, the Brewers have just a .236 (123-for-521) team batting average, with just 52 runs scored and 15 home runs.

The offense looked good early in the second and third, but the Brewers only scored the one run in the second, combining to leave four runners on base in the two innings. Over the final six innings, the Crew was unable to put much together.

Rodriguez (5-10) tossed seven strong innings, giving up just one run on seven hits as he walked one and recorded six strikeouts.

“I thought his curveball was real good,” Macha said of Rodriguez. “When he got some guys on he went to that curveball, Rodriguez did, and it was very good.”

The Astros’ lefty outdueled Brewers starter Dave Bush, who went six innings, allowing two runs on five hits while walking five with three strikeouts.

Just as the Brewers have struggled at Miller Park during the day, the Astros knew coming in what kind of effect the shadows could have in the late innings of afternoon contests. With that in mind, they were happy to plate a pair against Bush.

“Playing in this ballpark, and when the shadows creep in, it was kind of nice to get those hits early in the game,” Astros shortstop Geoff Blum said. “You’ve got to be patient with Bush. He’s got four quality pitches, and fortunately for myself, he left a couple up and I was able to find some holes.”

Blum went 2-for-3 on the day with three runs scored, a double and two walks. In the fourth, Blum’s double sparked a two-hit, two-walk inning for the Astros that led to Houston tying the game at 1 on a wild pitch.

In the sixth, Blum’s leadoff walk resulted in the eventual winning run, which he scored on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze by Rodriguez.

Despite his third straight quality start, Bush (3-6) took the loss.

“It’s a disappointing game to lose,” Bush said. “But Rodriguez pitched really well. And he pitched a little bit better than I did. So good job for him, and he earned it for sure.”

It was reliever Carlos Villanueva, though, who let the Astros take control of the ballgame. Villanueva surrendered three runs on three hits in just two-thirds of an inning.

After taking the lead in the sixth, the Astros plated three runs in the seventh on three doubles off Villanueva.

“My job there is to keep the game the same way it is when I come in,” Villanueva said. “They hit my mistakes. I thought I made a couple [of] good pitches, but when I needed an out pitch there, I left the ball up and they put pretty good swings on them.”

With the loss, the Brewers finished 3-3 over the final six games of the homestand after sweeping the first-place Minnesota Twins to open the nine-game stretch at Miller Park.

While the end result, a 6-3 homestand, was good for the Brewers, the way they got there — especially in losing two of three to the fifth-place Astros — was not.

“We’ve got to go to St. Louis, and we’re going to have to play a little better than this [losing] two out of the three here,” Macha said. “Six and three on the homestand. [You] just look at it and say, before the homestand, you’d have taken that. But after the start we had, it’s a little disappointing.”

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 6/30

June 30, 2010 Comments off

Fielder puts slow start behind him

MILWAUKEE — Prince Fielder has quickly made his slow start a thing of the past.

Fielder is just trying to do what works best for him, and it’s working pretty well right now. On the Brewers’ current homestand, Fielder has four home runs and eight RBIs, increasing his season totals to 17 homers and 35 RBIs.

With his recent power barrage, including a pair of long balls Tuesday night, Fielder leads the Majors with 10 home runs in the month of June. The key, according to Fielder, is just doing what he’s always done.

“I’m just trying to swing like I swing,” Fielder said. “I’ve never been a guy to swing easy. When you’re not getting results people want you to do different things.

“The only thing I’ve been trying to do different is swing the way I swing. I’ve never been a guy that hits singles to left field. That just happens.”

Fielder remains fifth on the team in RBIs with 35, but it has more to do with timing than with Fielder’s production. While he has 10 homers this month, he also has just 16 RBIs.

Including a two-run shot in the third inning on Tuesday, only four of Fielder’s 17 home runs this season have come with runners on base. None of them has been with more than one runner on base.

By comparison, out of Fielder’s 46 home runs in 2009, nearly half (24) came with runners on base, including nine with two or more runners on base.

Still, with Fielder hitting home runs, the Brewers’ offense, which leads the National League in home runs, total bases and extra-base hits entering Wednesday’s game, is only going to get better.

“His RBI total has gone up, too,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “However he wants to knock them in — solo homers, base hits — it’s OK with me.”

Milwaukee pitchers providing some offense

MILWAUKEE — Facing the Brewers, the No. 9 spot in the batting order is hardly an easy out. Yovani Gallardo reaffirmed that on Tuesday night, going 1-for-1 with a solo homer and a walk.

With a .219 batting average, Brewers pitchers lead the National League. Milwaukee’s pitching staff is tied for first with 33 hits and 14 runs. Brewers pitchers also rank first in home runs (3), RBIs (14), doubles (8), on-base percentage (.261), slugging percentage (.331), and OPS (.592).

Along with their success, the Brewers staff has even coined a phrase to describe it.

“These guys have got a quote in here in the dugout,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “They say, ‘Pitchers rake.'”

While the hurlers’ ability to swing that bat has come in handy quite a bit of late, Macha would like to see them improve on another aspect of the game at the plate: bunting.

The Brewers rank last in the NL with just eight sacrifice bunts, while they have more than four times as many hits.

“We’ve been working on our bunting,” Macha said. “We’ve got more hits than we do sacrifice bunts. So we’ve been putting some time in on the bunting, because eventually we’re going to need to move [a runner] up.”

Still, on the current homestand, Brewers pitchers have been even better at the plate than their season average of .219. More than double that even.

With eight hits in 18 at-bats, the pitching staff had posted a .444 batting average entering Wednesday’s final game of the homestand. Along with that .444 mark, the Brewers have gotten two RBIs, five runs, a walk and a home run out of the pitcher’s spot.

Each of the Brewers’ five starters — Gallardo, Randy Wolf, Dave Bush, Chris Narveson and Manny Parra — has contributed at least one hit, while all of them except Bush have either scored a run, driven in a run, or both.

“We have some pretty good [hitting] pitchers,” Gallardo said. “We have a lot of fun up their hitting. [Wolf], [Bush], Narveson and Manny, we take it serious. For certain situations, you can only help yourself out. I think that’s what we try to do.

“We joke around out there when we hit BP, but you never know when it’s going to come in handy.”

Offense struggles with shadows at home

MILWAUKEE — The shadows aren’t going anywhere, deal with it.

That quote, from Rickie Weeks in 2009 about the shadows during Miller Park day games, was recalled by manager Ken Macha on Wednesday when asked about the effect they’ve had on the Brewers’ offense.

Even so, the Brewers have not hit well during the day at home.

In 14 home day games, the Brewers have just a .238 team batting average, with just 51 runs scored and 15 home runs.

“Get it out of your mind and go up there and bear down the best you can,” Macha suggested before Wednesday’s game. “I hate the saying, but it is what it is. The other teams play in the same thing.

“Does it make it tougher? Yes, it does. But there are shadows in Anaheim, there are shadows in Boston, almost every stadium’s got the shadows.”

On the season, the Brewers have been nearly 30 points better overall than in home day games, with a .267 batting average. With 96 home runs in 77 games, the Brewers average 1.24 homers per game.

That rate goes up slightly at night, as they hit 1.29 per game. During the day, however, it dips to just 1.07 homers per game.

Some hitters, however, perform even better during home day games. Weeks and Casey McGehee are hitting .320 and .308, respectively, during home game days. Even more impressive is Carlos Gomez at home during the day, with a .303 average, compared to just .239 overall this season.

Most affected by the shadows seems to be left fielder Ryan Braun. In 53 at-bats during home day games, Braun has just eight hits, good for a .151 batting average.

Braun entered Wednesday having not hit a home run at home during the day, while collecting just three doubles for a .208 slugging percentage. With a .207 on-base percentage — boosted by three walks — Braun has just a .415 OPS in home day games.

Of all hitters with at least 25 at-bats in home day games, Braun’s average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and OPS rank last.

With that in mind, day games at Miller Park may seem like a good time for a rare day off for the Brewers’ left fielder. For Macha and the Brewers, however, the current roster situation and recent pitching matchups have not allowed for such a move.

“At a later date I might give him a day off when we have a day game,” Macha said. “Today, we’ve got a lefty going. The last day game, they had a lefty going.

“My roster is what it is, too.”

Davis has successful rehab outing

MILWAUKEE — He was not as dominant as in his last rehab start, but Doug Davis was effective on Wednesday as he took the mound for Class A Wisconsin in Appleton.

Davis tossed seven strong innings, surrendering just one run on six hits. He hit a batter, walked three and recorded four strikeouts. The lefty tossed 96 pitches — four shy of his targeted total of 100 — with 63 going for strikes.

Following the start — Davis’ last rehab outing — he will meet the Brewers in St. Louis. Davis is expected to pitch again during the Brewers’ four-game home series with the Giants next week. On normal rest, his next start would coincide with that of right-hander Dave Bush.

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 go airborne to soar past Astros

June 29, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Yovani Gallardo stole a page out of Prince Fielder’s book on Tuesday night. According to Fielder, it’s the other way around.

Gallardo didn’t have his best stuff on the mound, but he sure made up for it at the plate on Tuesday, sparking the Brewers’ offensive outburst in a series-evening 7-5 victory over the Astros at Miller Park.

On the mound, Gallardo (8-3) gave up four runs on seven hits over six innings while striking out five and walking two. It was just the fourth time in 17 starts this season that Gallardo has given up four or more earned runs.

But he belted a solo homer in the second inning to put the Brewers on the board. Gallardo did his best Fielder impression, belting the first pitch he saw from Astros starter Brett Myers off the bullpen wall in left-center field.

Gallardo’s home run was his third this season, which gives him — by himself — more than any other pitching staff in the Majors. It was the seventh of Gallardo’s career, which extended his franchise record for home runs by a pitcher.

Three batters later, Fielder crushed a two-run home run to right.

“No, I’m taking one out of his,” the first baseman said when asked if Gallardo was taking a page out of his book. “He’s pitching good and hitting homers. He’s locked in all the way around.”

Fielder added his 17th homer of the season, a solo shot to lead off the fifth, for his 19th career multi-homer game. It was also Fielder’s 177th career home run, moving him ahead of Ben Oglivie for fifth on the Brewers’ all-time leaderboard.

After a slow start, Fielder now has 10 home runs in the month of June, including four on Milwaukee’s homestand.

“When I see the ball and I take my swing at it, good things usually happen,” Fielder said. “It’s just how baseball is. The only thing I’ve been trying to do different is to swing the way I swing. I’ve never been a guy to hit singles to left field.”

Rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy got in on the act in the sixth, leading off with his second career home run. With Lucroy’s blast, the Brewers matched a season high with four homers in a game — the fifth time they accomplished the feat.

Myers (5-6) surrendered all four homers — a career high — as he gave up a season-worst seven earned runs on nine hits with two walks and five strikeouts over six innings pitched. The veteran entered the game having allowed just two home runs all season.

“I think we just hit the mistakes, I guess,” Fielder said. “I don’t know the exact formula we used. But I think we were able to just hit the mistakes and hit them hard.”

In the fifth inning, though, Brewers manager Ken Macha started to get a feeling of déjà vu.

With a 5-0 lead through four, Gallardo opened the fifth by giving up a leadoff double to catcher Jason Castro and followed with a walk to shortstop Oswaldo Navarro.

After a sacrifice by Myers, center fielder Michael Bourn ripped a two-run single to center on a 1-0 curveball.

“The game started to look eerily similar to last night,” Macha said, referencing Houston’s 9-5 comeback victory. “We got off to a big lead, and they got their first two guys on in the fifth inning and they got three hits, all of them on a breaking ball off of Yo.”

Following Bourn, a grounder to short got Gallardo within an out of escaping the inning, but a Lance Berkman single plated another run, putting the Astros within two.

Gallardo finally got out of it, coaxing Hunter Pence into a fielder’s choice to end the inning. Leading off the sixth, though, Gallardo gave up a leadoff home run to Pedro Feliz on a 2-0 fastball.

“It just got out of hand there for a little bit,” Gallardo said. “That one to Feliz, falling behind in the count, it’s a fastball situation. You’ve almost got to be perfect with the fastball, and I just left it up over the zone.”

But just as Gallardo let the Astros back in the game, Fielder and Lucroy gave the Brewers some extra breathing room with home runs leading off the fifth and sixth.

Like Gallardo, closer John Axford didn’t appear to have his best stuff in the ninth, surrendering a run and putting two runners on for Pence with two outs, but he shut the door and converted his eighth save in as many chances. The win gave the Brewers the chance to win their third consecutive series, and a win Wednesday would make it a 7-2 homestand.

“It would mean a lot,” Gallardo said. “It’s very important these last couple weeks before the All-Star break. We have a bunch of games here at home and we’re going to take advantage of it.

“All the guys are out their playing hard doing everything they can. So hopefully we just continue this, enjoy the win today and show up tomorrow and win the series.”

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 6/29

June 29, 2010 Comments off

Crew must alter rotation for Davis’ return

MILWAUKEE — At least one Brewers pitcher likely will not make their regularly scheduled start in the next homestand, manager Ken Macha said Tuesday.

If everything goes according to plan in his rehab start Wednesday for Class A Wisconsin, lefty Doug Davis will return to the rotation sometime during the Brewers’ four-game series with the Giants.

Macha does not expect to use a six-man rotation, which means one Brewers starter — not Yovani Gallardo — will be bumped from a start in the San Francisco series.

“Unless we have two guys throwing at the same time,” Macha said. “Six, I don’t think that’s going to happen. If we do six, then that pops somebody out at the other end over the last three days there.”

Without Davis’ return, the Brewers’ probable pitchers for the Giants series would be Dave Bush, Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson and Manny Parra. As Davis’ rehab start falls on Wednesday, his next outing on regular rest would coincide with Bush’s scheduled appearnace.

While Davis is anxious to return to the rotation, he understands it will force out another starter, something he is not pleased to do.

“They’re going to have to cut ties with somebody with me coming back,” Davis said. “I hate to see anybody leave and get sent down, or whatever it is, because of me.

“I know it’s part of the game, but if we’re winning I have no reason to say, ‘I can come in and do better than this guy.’ With the way we’ve been playing and the way they’ve been pitching, I can’t.”

At the same time, the success of the rest of the pitching staff only makes Davis want to get out on the mound that much sooner.

“There’s only so much you can do on the DL to help your team win,” Davis said. “Just to get back out there and get on the mound and actually contribute to a winning ballclub is something that you really can’t replace on the DL.”

Hawkins shows progress in bullpen session

MILWAUKEE — With another day came another step forward for reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who is finally seeing some progress with his right shoulder weakness.

Hawkins threw off the mound in a bullpen session Monday for the first time since going on the disabled list. By all accounts, things went as well as could have been expected.

“All reports were good,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “[Pitching coach] Rick [Peterson] was very pleased. I asked [bullpen catcher] Marcus [Hanel], who caught him, and he said he had some late life, he had pretty good velocity, free and easy. A lot of positive things.”

Macha said he planned to announce what the next step would be for the veteran right-hander after an upcoming bullpen session.

“We’ll wait until after Thursday,” Macha said, “and then I’ll do that update.”

Coffey working out arm angle issues

MILWAUKEE — Another reliever appears to be having arm angle issues for the Brewers.

Todd Coffey has struggled in his three appearances since returning from the disabled list on June 20. The right-hander has relinquished four runs — two earned — in one total inning of work. According to manager Ken Macha, the angle of his pitches is the issue.

“Flat. Everything’s flat in the zone,” Macha said. “Guys that he normally gets out — I think [Hunter] Pence was 2-for-11 off him and [Pedro] Feliz was 1-for-11 off him — they whacked him pretty good.”

While Coffey’s arm angle may be the cause of the flatness of his pitches, Macha said something else is causing him to have those issues.

The Brewers’ hope now is that Coffey will do what needs to be done to fix it. On Tuesday, the first step was early work for Coffey in the bullpen.

“He pulls off the ball, his front side opens early and his arm drops down,” Macha said. “He went into ruts like that last year at times, and he got it straightened out.”

Riske unconcerned with rare rough inning

MILWAUKEE — He was bound to give up a run eventually.

But the issue was not that Milwaukee reliever David Riske let Houston touch the scoreboard on Monday. The noticeable difference in his effectiveness was the cause for concern for some.

“Those hitters get paid, too, just like I do. It happens,” said Riske, who was not troubled by his outing. “You can’t be perfect every time.”

Riske, who had not allowed run in his first six appearances since coming off the disabled list June 8, surrendered two runs on two hits and a walk in one inning against the Astros.

According to Riske, his delivery may have been too fast, which caused his arm to drag a bit. He added that he wasn’t throwing as many strikes as he usually does. Manager Ken Macha said he thought Riske left some pitches up with a lack of movement.

“His split and changeup have been very good,” Macha said. “But when they were belt-high, they would up hitting them.”

Riske said he did not go back and watch his inning — and he does not plan to do so.

Instead, he just plans to move forward and try to get better results next time.

“I was just a little off, I had an off night,” Riske said. “I’m not worried about it. Not at all.”

Brewers add Jeffress to 40-man roster

MILWAUKEE — With an open spot available, the Brewers added right-handed reliever Jeremy Jeffress to the 40-man roster on Tuesday, optioning him to Class A Wisconsin.

Milwaukee designated Chris Smith for assignment when reliever Todd Coffey was activated from the disabled list, opening a spot on the 40-man roster. Smith eventually accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Nashville, but the open spot remained.

Jeffress, 22, was a first-round selection by the Brewers in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. His time with the club has been marred by separate 50- and 100-game suspensions for testing positive for “a drug of abuse.”

Since signing with the club in 2006, Jeffress has played for the Double-A Huntsville Stars, Class A Advanced Brevard County Manatees and the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

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’ early lead vanishes vs. Astros

June 29, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — For three innings, it was like the Brewers were back in May.

Just as they seemed to be rolling right along, leading by four runs early and by three through five innings, the Brewers had a stretch on Monday in which they looked more like the club that lost nine in a row in the middle of May than the one that had won six of seven.

Brewers pitchers Manny Parra, Carlos Villanueva, Todd Coffey and David Riske combined to give up seven runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to allow Houston to take the series opener, 9-5, at Miller Park.

“The bullpen, that has been doing very well, tonight didn’t get the job done,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said.

Coffey (2-2), who gave up two unearned runs, took the loss, though a defensive miscue by Casey McGehee at third base did not make things easy on him.

After Villanueva gave up an RBI single and a walk with two outs in the sixth, Coffey entered and promptly surrendered a two-run single to Hunter Pence, tying the game at 5.

“To their credit, they got some big two-out hits, and two-strike hits,” Macha said. “[Michael] Bourn, that was a big hit off of Villa, went the other way with it to left field. Then we brought in Coffey to get Pence and first-pitch swinging he got a hanging slider. So there were two big hits there in that inning.”

In the seventh, though, a fielding error by McGehee allowed the leadoff batter, Chris Johnson, to reach and contributed to a pair of unearned runs.

Immediately following the error, Coffey gave up a double on a 1-0 fastball to Pedro Feliz, which scored Johnson from first and gave the Astros their first lead.

According to Coffey, the error did not impact on his performance.

“It didn’t at all,” Coffey said. “I still can’t give up a double two pitches later. I’ve got to get it done. I didn’t get it done. I made [Zach] Braddock come in and clean up my mess.”

For Coffey, it was his third outing since returning from the 15-day disabled list. In those three outings, Coffey has given up four runs — two earned — in one inning while surrendering five hits and one walk with zero strikeouts.

After Braddock finished up the seventh, allowing an inherited runner to score on a single, David Riske, who had not allowed a run in six appearances entering the game, gave up two more. Riske opened the inning by allowing a walk, single and double, all but ending any hopes of a comeback.

It was an impressive offensive night for the Astros, who tallied 14 hits, including three doubles and a homer. With the solo blast in the third, Bourn snapped a streak of 542 at-bats without a homer, dating to July 10, 2009.

Bourn, Pence and Feliz each tallied three hits, while Bourn added a fourth, tying a career high.

“We had a good offensive night,” Pence said. “We found some holes and put the barrel on the ball quite a bit. It feels good. I think the way Bourn swung it today and Keppinger was on the base all the time and Carlos [Lee] had some big hits, all the way up and down we swung it well.”

After entering the game with the second-best ERA (2.33) in the Majors as a staff over the past seven days, Brewers pitchers seemed to do everything they hadn’t been doing over their recent stretch of strong performances.

In particular, the Brewers gave up six walks, after the club’s walk totals had been down during its recent run.

Additionally, after leading 4-0 in the second, the club tied a season high for the biggest blown lead of the season.

“We had a bunch of walks tonight and that hasn’t been happening,” Macha said. “[We gave up] a bunch of free bases, six free bases.”

Parra came up short of a quality start once again, by one inning and one run. Over the past 16 games, the Brewers have gotten 10 quality starts with a 3.23 ERA from their starters.

Once he got over the 100-pitch mark, however, Parra’s command — which was already a bit off as he gave up four walks — got away from him.

“It’s disappointing that we lost,” Parra said. “I just wasn’t sharp. [It was] kind of a battle. I didn’t really have any consistency with any pitches. … Nothing was really there. I was just battling and trying to get guys out with whatever I could.

“It didn’t work out for us.”

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 6/28

June 28, 2010 Comments off

Dutch heritage has Axford watching Cup

MILWAUKEE — Even with the United States and Mexico eliminated, at least one person in the Brewers’ clubhouse still has a rooting interest in the World Cup.

Closer John Axford, a native of Ontario, Canada, is pulling for The Netherlands, which beat Slovakia, 2-1, on Monday to advance to the quarterfinals against Brazil.

Axford is of Dutch heritage on his mother’s side of the family, and his grandparents immigrated to Canada before she was born, just after World War II.

“I remember being younger, we’d always get together for the games and watch them because my grandfather was really into it,” Axford said. “If he had his way, I’d definitely play soccer over baseball.

“I played soccer in elementary school. He actually taught me to kick with my left foot before I could learn with my right because he said, ‘Everyone kicks with their right, so you’ll learn with your left first.’ ”

Axford said his mother was either the first or second member of her family born in Canada, though he could not remember if she or his uncle was born first.

While Axford has not been able to keep up on the World Cup as much as he would like — he did not watch The Netherlands play on Monday — he knows the excitement will only grow if the team continues to advance.

“It’s a pretty big thing with our family,” Axford said. “I know if they continue going through [the tournament] everyone will be calling each other and talking with each other and trying to catch the last couple games.”

And what does Axford think of The Netherlands’ chances against Brazil in the quarterfinals?

“That’s going to be pretty tough,” Axford said. “I saw part of the Brazil game today, and they were doing pretty good. So it’ll be a tough game, but it should be a good game. Reading about it I think The Netherlands have got a pretty good shot.”

Capuano’s long wait to pitch again ends

MILWAUKEE — It took the bullpen’s worst outing in nearly a month, but lefty Chris Capuano finally got the opportunity he was waiting for on Monday.

With Brewers starters having delivered quality starts in 10 of the past 15 games and posting a 3.02 ERA over that stretch, Capuano entered Monday having not pitched in the team’s past 13 contests.

It seemed Capuano would continue to wait until a Brewers starter had a rough outing, though he tended to look at it a different way.

“I wouldn’t call it waiting for a bad start, that’s not really how we look at things,” Capuano said. “I’m waiting for my next opportunity and I’m ready every day when they need me.”

But on Monday, due to a bad three-inning stretch involving three relievers and the starter, Capuano finally got back on the mound, pitching a scoreless ninth, allowing one hit.

It was Capuano’s first scoreless outing since his return and just his third appearance overall since being called up a month ago and returning to the big leagues for the first time since the end of the 2007 season.

As the pitching staff has improved dramatically over the last two weeks, Capuano has been left on the outside looking in.

As a result, Capuano has had to put in some extra work to keep himself ready for when the Brewers finally needed him again.

“I’m throwing every day and when I’m not getting in there, I’ve been making sure I get on the mound every two or three days, keeping my pitch count up around the 50-pitch range,” Capuano said. “Sunday after the game, I went out and threw 50 pitches.”

Capuano, who is slotted in a long-relief role in the bullpen, had not pitched in 16 days before Monday.

In his two previous outings, a June 3 start in Florida and a June 12 relief appearance against the Rangers, Capuano tossed just 4 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on nine hits while walking one and recording five strikeouts.

With the experience of his long road to recovery under his belt, Capuano had little problem waiting two weeks for his next outing, especially when the team had been performing well.

“Nothing is harder than the two years I spent getting my arm healthy and getting ready to pitch at the big league level again,” Capuano said. “After what I’ve been through over the past couple years, and with the fact that I’m healthy and I feel good every day, it’s hard to be too down.”

Worth noting

Third-base coach Brad Fischer celebrated his 54th birthday on Monday. … With his leadoff home run on Sunday, second baseman Rickie Weeks ranks first in home runs from the leadoff spot this season with 13. Weeks also leads the Majors in RBI from the leadoff spot with 44. … Reliver LaTroy Hawkins will throw off the mound in a bullpen session on Tuesday, manager Ken Macha said on Monday. … Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Monday, and one-hopped it to the plate.

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

Narveson twirls gem to give Brewers victory

June 27, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Chris Narveson may not need to find a clubhouse assistant to pitch the first inning for him after all.

Instead, Narveson just pitched the first inning in the bullpen.

After taking his initial warmup easy before Sunday’s 3-0 victory over the Mariners, Narveson and catcher Jonathan Lucroy simulated the first two batters he would face in the bullpen before heading out to the mound. The idea was to shake the struggles that accounted for a 12.27 first-frame ERA this season.

And it worked. Narveson responded by going out and turning in a career-best performance for his seventh win of the season.

The southpaw tossed eight scoreless innings, allowing just five baserunners on four hits and one walk while recording seven strikeouts as the Brewers took the rubber match at Miller Park.

“Just mentally being prepared for them to play my game rather than seeing how they would react to my stuff,” said Narveson, referring to what he changed in his approach on the mound.

“I wanted to put the pressure on them and try to command the strike zone so they were hitting my pitch, instead of falling behind and have to maybe come into their pitch.”

After a two-out double in the first by left fielder Milton Bradley, the Brewers lefty responded quickly by getting third baseman Jose Lopez to fly out. That began a stretch of nine consecutive retired batters.

Through three innings, Narveson — who entered the game with a 5.76 ERA — had retired nine of the 10 batters he faced. He extended that streak to 11 of 12 before giving up a single to Lopez in the fourth.

“He did a nice job of getting ahead of our hitters,” said Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu. “After that, I thought we helped him out quite a bit with pitches outside of the zone.”

Before a sixth-inning single by second baseman Chone Figgins, Narveson had retired 17 of 19. Through seven innings, Narveson sent down 21 of the 24 batters he faced.

To complete the deviation from the norm, Narveson’s last inning was his worst, as he allowed two Seattle batsmen to reach base — on a leadoff single by shortstop Jack Wilson and a walk to Ryan Langerhans. Thanks to an inning-ending double play, though, Narveson escaped with his scoreless outing intact.

“He was awesome. He mixed his pitches well and threw his strengths to the hitters’ weaknesses,” Lucroy said. “He’s just keeping the ball down. All of his pitches were working today. Whenever the pitcher has that ability to mix all of his pitches and locate them and keep them down, it’s very rare that a guy gets beat doing that.”

A leadoff home run by Rickie Weeks provided all the offense Narveson and the Brewers needed.

Weeks was not done, however, as he finished the day 4-for-5, adding a double in the third and a pair of singles in the fifth and seventh. After opening the game with a homer, double and single, Weeks came up a triple shy of the cycle.

The four hits tied a career high, and it was Weeks’ fourth-career four-hit game. He last recorded four hits in a game on Sept. 2, 2008, against the Mets.

“It feels good,” Weeks said. “It’s just another day for me I guess. For the most part, you just try to get on base and you try to score runs to help the ballclub win.

“That’s my job — to get on base and try to score some runs.”

The Brewers added a pair in the fifth as Alcides Escobar scored on a Corey Hart double and Hart came around one batter later on a sharply hit Prince Fielder single to right.

With the RBI, Fielder made it four consecutive games in which he’s driven in a run.

While his numbers are still down from a year ago, the Brewers first baseman now sits second on the team with 15 home runs and fifth with 31 RBIs.

The Brewers improved to 5-1 on their current homestand with three games remaining against the Astros. Milwaukee is seven games under .500 at 34-41, and the Brewers sit 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Cincinnati Reds.

According to skipper Ken Macha, the Brewers are doing what they need to if they want to get out of their self-dug hole.

“What I put a lot of stock in is winning series,” Macha said. “That’s a step in the right direction, winning the series. The sweep [against the Twins] was a big plus, because that takes a couple other series out of the way that you have to win.

“If we had lost today, it would have been a step backwards. We want to just keep moving forward.”

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