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Brewers beat 6/24

June 24, 2010

Weeks’ surge helps get Crew going

MILWAUKEE — With his three RBIs on Wednesday, Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks pushed his season total to 41 and took the Major League lead in RBIs from the leadoff spot.

Weeks’ 11 homers as the team’s leadoff hitter also ranks second behind Kelly Johnson of the D-backs, who has 12.

With right fielder Corey Hart batting behind Weeks, the Brewers have 29 home runs and 95 RBIs from their leadoff and No. 2 hitters, though much of Hart’s production has come from the No. 6 spot.

Brewers manager Ken Macha has said in the past that Weeks’ production is the true key to the club’s offensive success, even more so than sluggers Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. But like the club’s sluggers, Weeks struggles at times with consistency.

“He’s like all the other guys, they ride the roller coaster a little bit,” Macha said. “You try to avoid the big dips. He had a pretty big dip there for a while.”

Weeks’ performance over the past month has been an offensive resurgence from the Brewers second baseman, who had been struggling when the club faced the Twins at Target Field in Minnesota last month.

That slump for Weeks came after he opened the season with a career-high-tying 10-game hitting streak, making him only the fifth player in franchise history to begin the season with a hit streak of at least 10 games.

“At the beginning of the year, he was extremely hot,” Macha said. “If I remember right, we played a Pittsburgh series where they pitched him a little differently, and it kind of got him off his game. He was trying to make adjustments and it wasn’t working.”

Over the past five games entering Thursday, however, Weeks had a five-game hitting streak in which he’d collected seven hits in 17 at-bats while scoring five runs and driving in seven runs with two doubles and a home run.

“As of late, he’s done some real good things. The double with the bases loaded in Colorado was a huge hit,” Macha said. “I keep preaching this: Up the middle and opposite field always is a good way to go. That big hit last night went up the middle.”

Macha has confidence in Lucroy’s defense

MILWAUKEE — When rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy was called up a month ago, the Brewers were concerned with his ability to stop sharp breaking balls.

Though he let five wild pitches get by him on Wednesday night in a 5-3 win over the Twins, manager Ken Macha said he’s been satisfied with Lucroy’s defense since taking over the starting role.

“What were there, five wild pitches? He had a tough time with them,” Macha said. “But he’s been pretty good up until yesterday as far as stopping balls. He caught [Yovani Gallardo] up in Colorado and did a great job as Yo was throwing that hard breaking ball in the dirt.”

In addition to four wild pitches by left-handed starter Manny Parra, reliever Kameron Loe saw one get by Lucroy in the seventh. According to Lucroy, both Parra’s splitter and Loe’s two-seam fastball are plus pitches with a lot of break.

With that in mind, Lucroy was not worried about being unable to stop those five pitches.

“Sometimes those things happen. There’s not really anything I could do to stop them,” Lucroy said. “It’s hard, because they were on his splitter, and when he throws that thing you don’t know where it’s going. That’s why it’s so good, because it’s unpredictable.”

Macha acknowledged before Thursday’s game that he thought one of the wild pitches led to Parra being tentative with his splitter for a stretch, but Macha did not think it had a significant impact on the game.

“I think Manny just got a little streak, maybe three or four hitters where he got tentative,” Macha said. “He came back after that inning and threw the ball well.”

As for the Loe wild pitch, Lucroy said his two-seam fastball is even harder to stop than Parra’s splitter.

“His two-seamer is a hard, sinking fastball,” Lucroy said. “It just bit and went straight down to the ground. That happens. I can’t do anything about that and I can’t block a fastball. I can’t get down quick enough for that. All I can try to do is pick it, and I couldn’t grab that one.”

Braddock tends to have initial advantage

MILWAUKEE — One thing about the matchup between lefty reliever Zach Braddock and pinch-hitter Jim Thome in the Brewers’ 5-3 win over the Twins on Wednesday really stood out to manager Ken Macha: Thome had not previously faced Braddock.

Since calling Braddock up before the series finale at Target Field on May 23, the Brewers have seen the 22-year-old hard-throwing lefty enjoy plenty of success against hitters the first time he faces them.

“If you haven’t faced Braddock, you don’t realize how the ball jumps up on you,” Macha said. “The first time you face somebody like that … he hides the ball, it jumps on you.”

In Thome’s first at-bat against Braddock, the left-handed slugger went down swinging at a 1-2 slider.

After getting Thome to strike out to end the sixth, Braddock struck out another batter who had not previously faced him in center fielder Denard Span. Braddock followed that up with his third strikeout of the game, getting Orlando Hudson — who doubled off Braddock in Minnesota — to go down swinging.

Similar to Braddock has been reliever Kameron Loe, whose movement on his fastball has surprised even his manager at times.

“The movement of Loe’s fastball is off the charts,” Macha said. “I remember back to an at-bat somebody had in Florida and I thought they were all sliders — they were moving so much — but they were all fastballs.”

Loe saw some adjustments by hitters in his second inning on Tuesday night, but impressed by striking out third baseman Michael Cuddyer for the second straight night on Wednesday.

According to Macha, the key for Loe is to get the first-pitch strike.

“The at-bat against Cuddyer, strike one was very important,” Macha said. “That kind of forced Cuddyer to swing, because he took strike one. They know the ball’s sinking a lot, so strike one was very important for him.

“We’ll see how these guys progress as they get out there a little more in the scouting report.”

Worth noting

With a win Thursday, the Brewers would tie a season-long winning streak of four games. The club previously won four consecutive games from May 18-22. … A win would also give Milwaukee a sweep of the Minnesota, something the club has not done in a series of three or more games since May 17-20, 1996, at the Metrodome. … The Brewers’ last sweep of the Twins in Milwaukee came Aug. 24-27, 1995, when they took a four-game series at County Stadium. … The game on Saturday, July 3 at the St. Louis Cardinals has been changed to a 5:35 p.m. CT first pitch and has been added to the FS Wisconsin broadcast schedule. It was previously scheduled to begin at 3:10 p.m.

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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