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Clutch hits give Crew enough to get by Cubs

August 4, 2010

CHICAGO — A change in approach may have led to the reversal of fortunes for the Brewers over the first two games this week against the Cubs.

“Base hits up the middle,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “I think all the base hits were up the middle that we scored the four runs.

“It’s been nice the last couple nights.”

They didn’t have as many hits to show for it as the previous night, but the Brewers continued to swing hot bats in Tuesday’s 4-3 win against the Cubs at Wrigley Field which clinched the series victory.

Most importantly, the Crew delivered with runners in scoring position, going 3-for-7 in such situations. Milwaukee’s fourth and fifth hitters, Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee, combined to go 3-for-6 with three RBIs.

The biggest hit of the night, though, belonged to the Brewers’ starting pitcher.

With his hit in the fourth, lefty Chris Narveson put the Brewers up, 3-1, as he delivered a one-out single to center field that scored catcher Jonathan Lucroy from second base.

“That was huge,” Narveson said. “Helping yourself at the plate has always been a big competition here with the pitchers, and it’s proven helpful lately.”

Narveson (9-7) wasn’t as sharp as he might have liked, but like the Brewers’ offense, he came up big in big situations. The lefty went 5 2/3 innings, limiting the Cubs to just one run on six hits while walking one and recording six strikeouts.

Rather than score their runs in bunches as they did Monday with five runs in each of the fourth and fifth innings, the Brewers strung together hits to score one run in the first, third, fourth and seventh innings.

“We kind of scrapped for our runs tonight,” Macha said.

During the Brewers’ previous series in Houston, Macha expressed concern about the team’s hitting approach in back-to-back shutout losses. That prompted him to discuss the matter with hitting coach Dale Sveum.

Based on the early results, Milwaukee’s change in approach seems to have worked. Still, Sveum downplayed the idea of an up-the-middle-specific focus.

“It’s not that big a deal. You guys make way too much out of that,” he told a reporter. “It’s just taking what the pitcher gives you.”

McGehee agreed with Sveum, while noting the much-improved results of late.

“It’s not like we sat down and all decided, ‘We’re going to stay in the middle of the field,'” McGehee said. “But Dale and I talked in the cage about what pitches we’ve been swinging at. It’s something that I’ve been trying to take up to the plate with me, but I don’t know what the other guys have been thinking.

“I think we’ve had a really good approach against [the Cubs] so far this series. For whatever reason, we have been hitting balls the other way pretty consistently.”

While four runs on nine hits doesn’t exactly compare to the 18 runs on 26 hits Milwaukee posted Monday, the Brewers scored at least four runs in consecutive games for the first time since doing so in three straight in a sweep of the Nationals from July 23-25.

For the second straight night, Ryan Braun, Fielder and McGehee came up big for the Crew.

“Those guys are all great hitters,” said Cubs starter Thomas Diamond. “I’m not going to take anything away from those guys. They’re all big league hitters, they’ve got All-Stars. To me, a hitter is a hitter, and all the accolades they get, they deserve and I just need to find a way to get them out.”

In the first, Fielder and McGehee delivered back-to-back two-out singles, with McGehee’s scoring Braun and putting the Brewers on top early. Two innings later, Fielder’s one-out single scored Rickie Weeks from second, making it 2-1 in the Brewers’ favor.

Finally, in the seventh, McGehee drove a liner to center for a sacrifice fly, scoring Weeks from third for the eventual game-winning run. Had it not been for a spectacular catch by All-Star center fielder Marlon Byrd, McGehee may have broken the game open with a one-out, bases-loaded hit.

“[Byrd] goes and gets it just as well as anybody,” McGehee said. “He’s like a free safety out there. You have to work to get one away from him.”

Though the Brewers came out on top, Diamond was impressive.

Despite giving up seven hits in six innings, he struck out 10 batters, becoming the first Cubs pitcher to do so in his Major League debut since Mark Prior on May 22, 2002. Diamond (0-1) struck out three in the first — while also giving up a run on two hits and a walk — and added at least one strikeout in every inning but the fifth.

“I think he’s got a chance to be pretty good,” McGehee said. “He’s deceptive, he’s got a good split or changeup or whatever he wants to call it. He threw enough strikes to make you want to be aggressive, but he also was effectively wild at times.”

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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