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Mendez stung by long balls in loss

September 26, 2010

MILWAUKEE — Entering their series finale, the Marlins were tied with the Braves for the fewest home runs allowed in the Majors this season, while the Brewers’ offense was tied for second in the National League with 175 homers in 2010.

The Brewers were the clear winners in that battle Sunday, belting four home runs in the first three innings en route to an easy 7-1 victory over the Marlins in their home finale at Miller Park.

With the four long balls, the Brewers overtook the Reds for first place in the NL in home runs. Ryan Braun opened things up with a two-run blast in the first, and Lorenzo Cain added a no-doubt solo shot in the second, the first of his career.

It was clear at that point that Marlins starter Adalberto Mendez was in for a rough outing. For good measure, Braun added a second two-run homer in the third. Two pitches later, Prince Fielder belted his 32nd of the season, marking the end of Mendez’s start.

“They’ve been doing that pretty much all season,” said Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez. “From one to five — those guys — they know how to score runs.”

Lasting just two innings, Mendez’s start was by far his shortest since being called up earlier this month. In three previous September starts, Mendez was 1-1 with a 1.56 ERA, giving up just three runs on 15 hits over 17 1/3 innings pitched.

With his Sunday outing of two-plus innings and six runs on six hits, Mendez’s ERA jumped to 4.19 as he took his second loss of the season. The problem was an inability to be effective with his slider.

“He was relying on his fastball,” Rodriguez said. “When you face a lineup like the Brewers and you get behind in the count, they can make you pay for it. That fastball, even if it’s 94-96 [mph], they don’t care.”

Even with his slider not working, Mendez expected better results out of his fastball. Unfortunately, it was up more often than not and Mendez struggled to execute pitches against the Brewers.

“It’s about making pitches,” Mendez said. “If you make the pitch, you can throw whatever you want, but I couldn’t do it today.”

All the offense the Marlins could produce came in the first inning as three straight hitters reached base and Gaby Sanchez delivered Ozzie Martinez from third with a sacrifice fly. Beginning with Sanchez’s flyout, Brewers lefty Chris Capuano retired 16 of the final 18 Marlins batters he faced.

Capuano (4-4) left after just 72 pitches with a left groin strain, but not before delivering six strong innings and allowing just one run on four hits and a walk with a strikeout. His win came amid a celebratory atmosphere at Miller Park, which included several standing ovations from the home crowd.

Braun took a curtain call after his second home run, and Fielder had one of his own after being removed in the eighth after what may have been his final plate appearance in a Brewers uniform at home. Finally, all-time saves leader and former Marlins reliever Trevor Hoffman entered to his signature “Hells Bells,” closing out the Brewers’ 7-1 victory.

“As a team, we’re disappointed we’re not further along in a playoff run,” Capuano said. “That’s disappointing. But to have a game where you had some guys get some milestones, had Trevor Hoffman come in and even though it wasn’t a save situation they played ‘Hells Bells’ … it was great to finish at home with a win.”

Mendez’s poor outing also cost the Marlins a chance to split the four-game series with the Brewers, while also dropping them back below .500. Sitting at 77-78, the Marlins will need to win four of their final seven games to finish at an even .500 this season.

Their road record dropped back to 39-39 with three games remaining away from Sun Life Stadium. The Marlins will need to take two of three from the Braves to secure a winning road record for the 2010 season.

The highlight of the game for the Marlins turned out to be an impressive Major League debut for reliever Steve Cishek.

After being recalled on Tuesday, to bolster the Marlins bullpen, Cishek finally made his first big league appearance in relief Sunday. With his club trailing 7-1 in the sixth, Cishek pitched two perfect innings, inducing three ground ball outs, a popup and two fly outs.

“It was definitely a dream come true, that’s for sure,” Cishek said. “I just wanted to go right at them, fill up the strike zone as much as possible and whatever happens, happens. It turned out it worked pretty well.”

After needing only 18 pitches, 16 of which were strikes, to retire six batters, Cishek’s manager liked what he saw in his debut.

“I was impressed with Cishek,” Rodriguez said. “This is the first time I’ve seen his slider working that way. He was very tough on right-handed hitters. Going two innings, throwing strikes, I was impressed with him.”

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