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Brewers unfazed as Cards get even closer

September 14, 2011

MILWAUKEE — In just nine days, the Brewers have seen their National League Central lead shrink five games. Even with their magic number to clinch the division at just eight, Brewers fans are getting restless.

Another ugly game against, a 6-2 loss to the Rockies on Wednesday, dropped their lead over the second-place Cardinals to just 5 1/2 games, the smallest it has been in a month. Even so, the Brewers don’t seem worried.

“You’ve got to just battle the adversity,” said right fielder Nyjer Morgan. “The game’s catching us a little bit. We were beating up people a little bit in August and everything, so it’s definitely no time for a panic or nothing like that. It’s just part of the game.”

A bad outing by Shaun Marcum, more sloppy defense and a lack of offense contributed to the loss as the two clubs split the two-game series and the Brewers lost for the sixth time in eight games.

With the Cardinals also winning earlier in the day, the Brewers’ lead dropped to less than six games for the first time since they pushed it from five to six on Aug. 15.

“We’ve been up-and-down all year,” said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. “We were up for a long time and now we’re just down here, and we need to get back up again.”

The current 2-6 stretch, in which the Brewers have been outscored 30-16, has seen Milwaukee go from a franchise-record divisional lead to a lead small enough to worry fans in a matter of just over a week.

The Brewers finished up a six-game homestand Wednesday with a 2-4 record, the club’s first losing homestand of the season.

“It’s just unexpected,” Marcum said. “These guys in here can score bunches of runs, and they can do it in a hurry. … Coming into today, I thought we’d come out and score a bunch of runs. We didn’t, but that’s pretty much my fault. It’s hard to battle back when you’re down 6-1.”

Marcum was in control through the first two frames, but a three-run third inning shifted the momentum to the Rockies. After Dexter Fowler reached on a fielder’s choice, Mark Ellis singled him home from second and Carlos Gonzalez belted his 26th home run of the season.

Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario added a homer with one out in the fourth, and Colorado tallied two more runs in the fifth on three hits and a sacrifice fly.

Marcum allowed six runs (five earned) on eight hits over five innings. He walked a batter while recording four strikeouts. It was just the sixth time this season Marcum lasted five of fewer innings and the fifth time the right-hander gave up five or more earned runs.

And it was the first time Marcum gave up five or more earned runs in five or fewer innings. Was it just one of those nights for Marcum?

“I guess so. Any time you lose, it’s one of those nights,” he said. “I gave up eight hits, two homers, so it was one of those days where we weren’t locating well and things were up in the zone.”

Rockies starter Kevin Millwood delivered a strong outing, giving up just two runs on four hits over six innings. Millwood had two walks along with a pair of strikeouts.

It was his first start against the Brewers since Aug. 19, 2003, when he was with the Phillies. Millwood has been solid in six starts for the Rockies over the last six weeks, going 3-2 with a 3.68 ERA.

“When I got the call that I was coming here, I knew right away it was probably a last chance for me,” he said. “To take advantage of it a little bit, it feels good.”

Corey Hart led off the first with a triple off Millwood, and scored a batter later on Morgan’s groundout. The Crew would not get another hit, though, until Yuniesky Betancourt’s single to lead off the fifth.

Morgan added the second Brewers run in the sixth, leading off with a single and scoring on a wild pitch four batters later.

It was the sixth time in the last eight games the Brewers scored two runs or fewer.

Brewers slugger Prince Fielder — who made headlines earlier in the evening by saying this season would “probably” be his last in Milwaukee — was asked about the mood in the clubhouse amid the cold snap, and what Roenicke has been saying to the team.

“This isn’t Hoosiers,” Fielder quipped. “There’s nothing really to say. You just have to come out and try to win. We still have a lead, and hopefully we just turn it around.”

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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