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No fun in the sun again for the Brewers

June 30, 2010

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.

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