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Wolf, Brewers done in by home run balls

June 26, 2010

MILWAUKEE — In baseball, momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher.

It’s a quote that’s been used several times this season by manager Ken Macha and it came true on Saturday for the Brewers as they lost, 5-4, to the Mariners at Miller Park.

Entering the game riding a season-high five-game winning streak, the Brewers looked to veteran lefty Randy Wolf to help guide them to a sixth consecutive win. Unfortunately for Wolf and the Brewers, the lefty fell victim to something that has plagued him much of the season.

“It was the home run ball again today for Wolfie,” Macha said. “Both those home runs were legit anywhere.”

Wolf (5-7) gave up a solo home run in the third to left fielder Milton Bradley, which put the Mariners on top 2-0 going into the bottom half of the frame.

Wolf answered with a one-out double, which sparked a four-run rally for the Brewers.

After Wolf, second baseman Rickie Weeks drew a walk and right fielder Corey Hart doubled to left, plating both Wolf and Weeks. It was after Weeks scored, though, when things got interesting.

Weeks leveled Mariners catcher Rob Johnson as Bradley’s throw reached the plate, allowing the ball to get away. On the throw, Hart advanced to third, forcing a throw from Mariners starter Doug Fister.

As Fister’s throw got away from third baseman Jose Lopez, an alert Hart scampered home just ahead of the throw, giving Milwaukee a 3-2 lead.

“I’m still tired; I wish there wouldn’t have been that many mistakes so I could’ve stayed there [at second],” Hart joked after the game. “I think my legs were giving out [approaching home plate] and I was going to fall down no matter what, so I just tried to look a little better than it would have been.

“[The ball] kicked back, but I think the third baseman was looking for the outfielder. So I took off because he was kind of in la la land.”

First baseman Prince Fielder followed with a blast deep to right-center field, making it 4-2 in the Brewers’ favor. With that, it appeared as though for the second consecutive game the offense had quickly turned around what looked like was headed for a Brewers loss.

Unfortunately for them, any momentum was quickly lost in the top of the fourth.

Wolf gave up a one-out walk to Chone Figgins, who scored one batter later on a Franklin Gutierrez double. Lopez came up next and belted a 1-0 fastball to left, putting the Mariners back on top, 5-4.

Afterward, the lefty saw a common theme with the two home runs.

“The first was a changeup I threw to Milton Bradley that just got too much of the plate,” Wolf said. “The next one was a fastball that got too much of the plate.”

Making matters worse for the Brewers was the Mariners’ ability to silence the bats of the home team from the fourth inning on. After putting up four runs on three hits in the third, the Crew managed just one hit and zero runs over the final five frames.

Much of the credit for that belonged to reliever Brian Sweeney, who was lights out in his first Major League appearance since Sept. 29, 2006. Sweeney (1-0) tossed four scoreless innings, giving up just the one hit while striking out four.

“It’s been a while,” Sweeney said with a smile. “This is what you grow up as a kid dreaming about. You want to pitch in the big leagues. To get back here again feels just as good as the first time around. It’s always satisfying, no matter what. Being here, being a part of this team. I felt today just as I did in 2003 when I got that call.”

Wolf’s performance was especially disappointing because both he and the Brewers pitching staff as a whole had been performing so well of late.

Entering the game, Milwaukee had gotten nine quality starts over its last 13 games with the starters posting a 3.06 ERA during the same stretch. Brewers starters had gone 7-4 over that period while the team was 8-5.

With Wolf’s performance included, Brewers starters have a 3.29 ERA, having given up 32 earned runs over their last 14 games.

Wolf personally had posted back-to-back quality starts, going seven strong innings in each while giving up a combined three runs on six hits with four strikeouts and seven walks. Perhaps more importantly, Wolf surrendered just one home run in his last two outings.

On Saturday, struggles with his fastball cost Wolf a third straight quality start.

“I didn’t locate my fastball as well as I have my last two starts,” Wolf said. “Pretty much everything rides off your fastball, and when you don’t have good fastball command it’s hard to be successful. That was the story today.”

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