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Narveson twirls gem to give Brewers victory

June 27, 2010

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.

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