Archive

Archive for July, 2010

Sixth-inning struggles send Brewers to loss

July 28, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — After a thrilling series-opening win Monday, the Brewers’ hopes of making a run toward getting back into the playoff race were high. Two days later, a pair of blowout losses have taken a toll on such a positive outlook.

What a difference a couple days can make.

Like it has many times this season, the sixth inning loomed large for the Brewers on Wednesday. Over 103 games, the Brewers have given up 69 earned runs in the frame, good for a 6.03 ERA, which is tied with the first inning for the worst this season for the Crew.

Left-handed starter Chris Narveson combined with Kameron Loe to surrender five runs on five hits and two walks in the sixth, as the Brewers lost their second straight game to the Reds, 10-2, to drop the series and fall back to seven games under .500.

After tossing five scoreless innings and entering the top of the sixth with a two-run lead, Narveson (8-7) did not record an out, while loading the bases on a pair of singles and a walk.

“It was tough, because you had two ground balls in that inning, both where if they’re hit at somebody, you can get an out. One ball, you could get a double play on,” Narveson said. “It’s funny how the game is.

“It just kind of snowballed from there for us.”

Manager Ken Macha said he made the decision to remove Narveson because the Brewers had a rested bullpen after limiting the number of relievers needed a night earlier.

First out of the ‘pen was Loe, who entered the game with a 1.44 ERA over 25 appearances. He gave up two hits and walked a batter before getting the first out of the inning.

Tagged for two runs on three hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning, Loe also allowed all three inherited runners to score. Entering the game, Loe had stranded 18 of 23 inherited runners.

While Loe was able to get the Reds to hit it on the ground as intended, their grounders did not work out the way he would have liked.

“They hit them too hard. I want soft ground balls, feeble contact,” Loe said. “They might have been ground balls, but not the kind I would have liked. They hit good pitches, too, so give them credit.

“They’ve got a good lineup, man. All series, I didn’t see too many bad swings.”

Loe’s ERA jumped to 1.97, but his performance in the sixth paled in comparison to the rough eighth inning for Carlos Villanueva.

With the Brewers hanging around down just three runs, Villanueva entered in the eighth to hold the Reds in check and give the top of the Brewers’ order a chance to turn the game around in the bottom half of the frame.

Instead, after playing plenty of small ball over the first seven innings, the Reds showed off the power stroke in the eighth.

Villanueva gave up a pair of singles and walked pinch-hitter Mike Leake, before surrendering a towering grand slam to deep left field off the bat of Brandon Phillips. Two batters later, Joey Votto put another out to left, making it 10-2 and putting the game out of reach.

“That grand slam just opened the game wide open,” Macha said. “The first rally, the first five runs, they put the ball in play, they give you good at-bats with two strikes, they’re not afraid to hit the ball the other way.

“Starting the second rally, we got bunts for a base hit, they got the hit-and-run there, the squeeze play, they stole some bases on us here. They’ve got a lot of ways to score.”

Offensively for the Brewers, left fielder Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy each drove in a run as the Crew took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth.

While the game was still in reach in the seventh, center fielder Carlos Gomez led off with a double to the corner in left. He tried to stretch it to a triple, though, and was thrown out a third by Reds left fielder Jonny Gomes.

“I got him on the hop all the way from the wall. It was good,” Gomes said. “It was only 5-2 at the time. A leadoff triple might turn the game around. It was a big out for us.”

Afterward, Gomez shared a similar mindset with Gomes as he defended his mistake.

“In a situation like this, you want to make something happen and wake up the team,” Gomez said.

Milwaukee was unable to put anything together the rest of the way, as second baseman Rickie Weeks’ leadoff single in the eighth would be the last hit of the game for the Crew.

Adding insult to injury, first baseman Prince Fielder was ejected by home-plate umpire Mike DiMuro after he was called out on strikes to end the eighth inning.

After putting together a Miller Park-best seven-game home win streak and winning five in a row overall, the Brewers head to Houston having lost two in a row and dropping back to nine games out of first place in the National League Central.

“I think we just look up to the next series,” Narveson said. “We leave this behind us and try to go into Houston and get right back on that winning streak.

“It’s all about winning games.”

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

Weeks won’t be limited by leadoff label

July 28, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Looking at his statistics, you would probably never guess Rickie Weeks was the Brewers’ leadoff hitter.

Weeks is tied with teammate Corey Hart for eighth in the National League with 22 home runs, while also ranking sixth in the NL with 67 RBIs and fourth with 204 total bases. Among his teammates, Weeks is tied with Hart for second in home runs and is second behind Hart in RBIs.

But with the personnel that makes up the Brewers’ offense, Weeks remains in the leadoff spot.

“That’s just the way things fit here right now,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “Could it change? Yeah, if we had someone else to lead off. But not at this moment.”

Although his numbers might not look like those of a typical leadoff hitter, Weeks gets on base more than anyone in the Major Leagues. Entering Wednesday’s game, Weeks led the Majors with 483 plate appearances and 182 times on base.

Weeks’ production has him on pace for 35 home runs and 106 RBIs on the season. The latter would make Weeks just the second player to drive in 100 or more runs from the leadoff spot, and the first in the National League.

In 2000, Darin Erstad collected 100 RBIs for the Angels batting at the top of the order. What would make Weeks’ feat even more impressive is the lack of a designated hitter in the NL.

“I don’t think he cares where he hits,” Macha said. “He takes every at-bat as a challenge in itself. I don’t think where guys are on base or any of that will affect anything he’s doing.

“I said once, ‘I’m going to drop you to two here. I’m thinking of leading [Joe] Inglett off someday.’ He said, ‘No problem. As long as I’m in the lineup.'”

Inglett’s instructions on mound: Go slow

July 28, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — When called upon to pitch the ninth inning Tuesday, utility man Joe Inglett was instructed not to try to light up the radar gun.

In the past, Brewers manager Ken Macha has seen less than stellar results from position players who can reach the 90-mph range on the mound.

“I remember one back in Houston where Davey Martinez, who’s the bench coach now for Tampa, center fielder, great arm — he wanted to pitch,” Macha said. “It was kind of like [Paul] Janish last year in Cincinnati, the guy’s throwing 90-plus and just getting raked.

“We had to take him out. We brought in Junior Noboa. He was throwing 60 and went 1-2-3. It’s below hitting speed.”

Another reason for Inglett to throw in the 50-mph range has more to do with health than his performance on the mound.

Earlier this season, Cardinals infielder Felipe Lopez hit the disabled list with an elbow injury just days after he pitched a scoreless 18th inning in a 20-inning game against the Mets. It’s unclear whether the injury was related to Lopez’ appearance on the mound, but it certainly couldn’t have helped.

While throwing slow could have helped prevent an injury to Inglett, choosing the utility man to pitch prevented another Brewers position player from developing an arm injury.

“You’ve got to have somebody that isn’t going to want to try to air it out,” third baseman Casey McGehee said. “You put [Alcides Escobar] up there, he might hit 100. But you’ve got to put somebody in that’s not going to try to light up the radar gun.

“The worst thing you can do is have somebody go out there like that and get hurt.”

Utility man Inglett throws scoreless inning

July 28, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Brewers manager Ken Macha does not like to use position players as pitchers. A week ago, Macha went so far as to call it “embarrassing.”

Yet with the Brewers trailing the Reds, 12-4, on Tuesday, Macha asked utility man Joe Inglett to pitch the ninth.

Inglett was the first Brewers position player to pitch since infielder Trent Durrington threw on April 17, 2004, in Houston. Five other position players have taken the mound so far this season, including Felipe Lopez and Joe Mather for the Cardinals on April 17 and Jonathan Van Every on May 8 for Boston. Former Brewers utility man Bill Hall also pitched for the Red Sox on May 28, and he was joined by Houston’s Kevin Cash the same day, who pitched for the Astros against the Reds.

“It’s really the first time I’ve ever used a position player, even when I managed in the Minor Leagues,” Macha said. “It was interesting. He was throwing 51 [mph] and got them out.”

Inglett was effective, retiring the top of the Reds’ lineup in order. Brandon Phillips, Orlando Cabrera and Joey Votto had combined to go 11-for-15 (.733) before facing Inglett, driving in four runs with seven runs scored.

Against Inglett, the top of the Reds’ order managed a popup to third, a groundout to second base and a long flyout to center field.

“One, two, three. That’s all I can say,” right-handed starter Yovani Gallardo said of Inglett. “I was pretty impressed. For him to go in there and get three outs, he made it seem easy.”

Inglett touched 56 mph on the radar gun once, with his average pitch speed at 54 mph.

While the pitches registered as knuckleballs on the pitch tracker, catcher Jonathan Lucroy said Inglett was just throwing the ball to the glove.

“I put down fastball, but it wasn’t fast,” Lucroy said. “It’s just flipping them in there. That’s all it is. Just trying to save our pitching staff for tomorrow.”

Macha said that the status of his pitching staff was the reason he called for Inglett on the mound. After Gallardo went just 2 2/3 innings, Macha used Todd Coffey for one-third of an inning to close out the third.

Long-reliever Chris Capuano pitched three innings, followed by David Riske for the seventh and Trevor Hoffman for the eighth.

While Macha had four pitchers — Kameron Loe, John Axford, Carlos Villanueva and lefty Zach Braddock — remaining in the bullpen, none were available.

“Loe needed another day. I wasn’t going to use Axford. Capuano, I used him, so I needed a lefty [Braddock] for tomorrow,” Macha said. “I thought it would be ill-advised if I used Villa. But when your starter doesn’t get three innings in, that happens.”

Inglett, who did not want to talk about his Major League pitching debut after the game, was volunteered by his manager.

“I asked him if he’d pitched before,” Macha said. “He said, ‘I’ll go do that.'”

Brewers beat 7/27

July 28, 2010 Comments off

Hart likely to remain with Brewers

MILWAUKEE — Right fielder Corey Hart said all along that he wanted to remain with the Brewers. This isn’t exactly the scenario he had in mind.

Hart missed his fourth consecutive start on Tuesday with a sore right thumb and said he’s hoping to return to Milwaukee’s lineup on Friday in Houston.

“I felt better throwing today than I did yesterday,” Hart said. “I took some dry swings today because it was feeling better. I’m not quite ready, but it’s a lot of progress from the past couple days.

“I probably still won’t play tomorrow, but I might be able to hit tomorrow. … Then I’m sure I’ll do stuff on the off-day in Houston, and then I’d imagine I can do everything on Friday. I think I’ll be ready on Friday.”

The ill-timed injury has likely cost the Brewers any chance to shop their All-Star right fielder in trade talks ahead of Saturday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Before he was hurt in a collision with the outfield wall last weekend against the Nationals, Hart was reportedly drawing some interest from a number of teams, including the Giants, Padres, Braves and Rays, all of whom possess the kind of young pitching that Brewers general manager Doug Melvin would seek in return for one of his established hitters.

But as the Brewers continue to win, carrying a five-game winning streak into Tuesday night’s contest, manager Ken Macha and the club would like to get Hart back on the field as soon as they can, provided he remains in a Brewers uniform.

“I spoke with him today. He still has some discomfort, but he says it’s getting better every day,” Macha said. “I asked him about the Houston series and he’s feeling good about that.

“He’s still a ways off. I asked him about Houston, he said he hopes so.”

Hawkins eyeing weekend return

MILWAUKEE — After more than 2 1/2 months on the disabled list, veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins finally has a set date for his expected return to the Brewers.

“He’ll probably be activated during the Houston series,” manager Ken Macha said.

Hawkins, who went on the DL with right shoulder weakness on May 9, pitched two scoreless innings on Monday night for the Nashville Sounds, allowing just two hits, while tossing 21 strikes in 28 pitches.

Most important for Hawkins, a 37-year-old right-hander, he has not had any setbacks since beginning his rehab assignment, and he felt as good on Monday night as he has since going on the DL.

“When you’re injured, you always have to think about, ‘Am I ever going to feel like I felt before I got injured?'” Hawkins said.

Since starting his rehab assignment on July 15, Hawkins has pitched for the Brewers’ Rookie League team in Arizona, as well as the club’s Triple-A affiliate in Nashville.

Hawkins, who is in his 16th season in the Major Leagues, learned a lot during his time away from the field.

“You kind of find yourself when you’re on the DL. You’ve got a lot of time to think and reflect and do a lot of other things that make you not take this game for granted,” Hawkins said. “Going back to the Minor Leagues is definitely a humbling experience, seeing those guys and how hard they work.

“It makes you appreciate where you are and what you have.”

With his return expected this weekend in Houston, Hawkins will be joining the club on the road trip, something that hasn’t happened in quite a while.

How does Hawkins feel to be getting back on the road with the club?

“Good,” Hawkins said, “especially going on the road in the big leagues.”

Brewers take part in community work

MILWAUKEE — The Brewers Community Foundation gave itself a well-deserved pat on the back Tuesday and announced it had raised $1.5 million so far in 2010 for nonprofit groups in Wisconsin.

Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Craig Counsell and Doug Davis attended a press conference at Rainbow Park in West Allis, Wis., to highlight the contributions of 15 Brewers players to various community causes. Those players then took part in mini-clinics with kids at Harvey Kuenn Field, which received assistance from the Brewers’ charitable arm last summer after sustaining flood damage.

Other Brewers were active in the community on Tuesday, too. John Axford, Zach Braddock, Chris Capuano, Kameron Loe and Dave Riske joined a group of former big leaguers that included Jim Gantner and Larry Hisle for a clinic hosted by the Major League Baseball Players Association Players’ Trust. More than 250 local Little Leaguers and members of the Boys and Girls Club took part.

A few hours later, Capuano, Counsell, Weeks, Corey Hart and Trevor Hoffman hosted the Players Association’s “Buses for Baseball” event. The players welcomed 50 students from Our Next Generation, an organization that provides academic support and other services to urban children.

Worth noting

Brewers prospects will be part of the Surprise Rafters in this year’s Arizona Fall League, and Double-A Huntsville manager Mike Guerrero will serve as the team’s skipper. The league announced its club and staff assignments on Tuesday, and the Brewers were paired with the Tigers, Royals, Cardinals and Rangers at Surprise Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Royals and Rangers. Rosters are typically finalized in late August and play begins this year on Oct. 12.

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

Wolf, Crew hope fortunes turn around after 5th straight win

July 27, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — If the series opener against the Reds is any indication, the Brewers could make a major move this week toward getting back in the National League playoff race.

To do so, they’ll need more of what they got on Monday night: strong pitching and clutch hitting, which led to a thrilling victory, 3-2, over the Reds at Miller Park.

The winning formula has been pretty simple lately: Good pitching and big late-inning hits have delivered wins in each of the first four games of the Brewers’ current six-game homestand, and they’ve won seven in a row overall at home.

On Monday night, the stars of the show were Randy Wolf, Rickie Weeks and Jim Edmonds, the latter two playing big roles throughout a five-game winning streak.

Wolf bounced back in a big way from a rough outing in Pittsburgh to battle with Cincinnati right-hander Bronson Arroyo in what turned out to be an excellent pitchers’ duel. After giving up 12 runs on 13 hits last time out, Wolf went seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits while walking one and striking out five.

In his previous outing, Wolf kept himself in the game to help preserve the Brewers’ tired bullpen.

“It was a nightmare game,” Wolf said. “Those are the kind of games you try to put behind you. They’re the kind of games where you could go out there and tell [the hitters] what was coming, and it would be better than it was. You can’t lose sight of that.”

Wolf struggled a bit early again Monday, loading the bases with none out in the second, but he managed to escape with just two runs on the board for the Reds.

After giving up a two-run single that inning, Wolf retired 17 of the final 20 batters he faced.

“Those guys get us out of a lot of jams, and I understand that’s a tough job. … In my last game I said, ‘Put me back out there. I don’t care how many runs I give up. I can take the abuse today. I’ve already taken enough,’ ” Wolf said. “Today, I had a lot of pitches early, so I just tried to get deep enough in the game to where [the relievers] didn’t have to throw a lot of innings.”

In the third, following a Wolf single for the Brewers’ first hit, Weeks belted an 0-1 slider from Arroyo to dead center field.

The blast, which hit off the batters’ eye, was estimated at 447 feet.

“Rickie continues to be amazing,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “Coming into the game tonight, I think he was 2-for-20 against Arroyo. He got a ball up, I think it was a slider, and I haven’t seen too many balls hit that far here.”

Weeks’ homer allowed the Brewers to extend another streak, giving them at least one home run in 15 straight games, five shy of the franchise record set in 2008.

Arroyo did not allow another hit until the eighth, but the Brewers’ third hit proved costly for him.

After Edmonds crushed a 1-2 fastball home run distance but just foul down the right-field line, Arroyo came back with another fastball. Edmonds hit the second one even farther, and kept it fair for the eventual game-winning home run.

“The end of the game, I play a mental chess match,” Arroyo said. “That’s how I win ballgames. I threw the ball right where I wanted to. I didn’t think he could even swing at the pitch. He hits it out of the park. You tip your hat to somebody that comes off the bench and does that. They closed it out.”

While he might be thinking about retirement, the 40-year-old Edmonds has shown over the past few days that he can still play. What’s more, he can still lead his team to a win, even if he’s coming off the bench.

Having been a part of playoff races in the past with the Cardinals, the veteran center fielder offered his perspective on the significance of the Brewers’ current win streak and what they need to do if they’re going to make an improbable run at the playoffs.

“We’re a long ways from being close to first place, but in order to get close to first place, you’ve got to beat the best teams,” Edmonds said. “They’re obviously the best team in the league right now, and we’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s nice to get a win.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle. It’s a good start for us, but I don’t expect this to be something where you just go out there and win games. It’s going to be a battle, and we’ve got to really concentrate each and every day.

“We’ve got to play better in the last two months than we did in the first four.”

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

McGehee finds power stroke in sweep

July 25, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Batting practice was optional on Sunday. But that didn’t stop Casey McGehee from getting out there and putting some work in with hitting coach Dale Sveum.

McGehee, who entered Sunday having hit just .234 with four home runs and 14 RBIs since June 1, was the only Brewers hitter to take batting practice on the field before the game.

Maybe his teammates should let him hit alone more often.

With a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning, McGehee put an exclamation point on the Brewers’ 8-3 victory, helping the team record a sweep over the Nationals.

“It was just me and Dale, we were just talking last night and had some ideas of some stuff that we might want to try, just to get a little better feel,” McGehee said. “Who knows if that had anything to do with it, but I’m just trying to get back to feeling like myself at the plate.”

For McGehee, the blast capped a 2-for-3 day that included a crucial first-inning walk, a double in the fifth, three RBIs and a run scored.

Along with McGehee, second baseman Rickie Weeks helped power the Brewers past the Nationals, belting a two-run homer deep to left in the fourth, which made it 5-0 in the Brewers’ favor.

Weeks’ 20th blast of the season extended the Brewers’ streak to 14 consecutive games with a homer. McGehee’s blast was his 14th this year and his first since July 1 in St. Louis.

“When your pitching is holding you in the games, and one swing of the bat with McGehee or Rickie or Prince [Fielder] or [Ryan Braun] can get you several runs,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha, “you feel like you have a chance to win every game.”

The Brewers got an excellent pitching performance from right-hander Dave Bush and were able to limit the damage of their two errors while taking advantage of two defensive miscues by the Nationals.

Thanks to errors in the first and fourth innings, Nationals starter Ross Detwiler was tagged for five runs on just three hits over 3 2/3 innings. Fortunately for Detwiler, his ERA went unharmed, as all five runs were unearned.

For the Brewers, taking advantage of an opponent’s errors made for a much different story than when the Crew was hurt by errors earlier this month in three losses to the Cardinals and Giants.

“We’ve been on the other side of that, and that’s what happens,” Macha said. “Look what happened in the game in St. Louis and back-to-back games here against San Francisco.

“We had an error and they capitalized and got a bunch of unearned runs. It happens to all the teams.”

Afterward, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman was not happy with his team’s defense.

“We did not have a good day defensively today,” Riggleman said. “Going into the series before the All-Star break and up to the current time, we played better defense. But we certainly didn’t get it done today.”

Bush (5-8) tossed six-plus strong innings, giving up just two earned runs on six hits. More importantly, though, Bush recorded seven strikeouts against zero walks.

Through the first five innings, Bush cruised, retiring 15 of 17 batters faced with just one hit. The key for Bush was his changeup, which he used more often than usual.

“[Jonathan Lucroy] called a couple in the first inning and I got a couple swings and misses on it. I had a decent feel for it today,” Bush said. “It’s typically my fourth pitch. It’s not something I’m going to necessarily use a whole lot, unless I feel like I can put it where I want to and get some outs out of it.

“Today, I felt like I could do that here and there. Lucroy figured that out, too and went to it more than usual.”

Bush ran into trouble in the sixth, leaving curveballs up to the first two hitters. It resulted in a pair of runs coming across on a Josh Willingham sacrifice fly and a single by Adam Dunn. Thanks to a nice defensive play by center fielder Carlos Gomez, though, Bush escaped the inning with the lead intact, stranding a pair.

“I didn’t locate all that well,” Bush said of the sixth. “It was mostly a matter of getting some pitches up and having guys on base.”

With the win, the Brewers picked up their second straight home sweep and improved to 10-4 since July 9.

Milwaukee has won four straight games dating back to the series finale in Pittsburgh on Thursday and six straight at home. Next up for the Crew will be the first-place Cincinnati Reds as it looks to continue its climb back into the race on Monday.

“Any time you can sweep a team, no matter who it is, obviously it is big,” McGehee said. “We’re going to have to do some more of that if we want to make things interesting.”

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