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McGehee finds power stroke in sweep

July 25, 2010

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.

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