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Brewers notes, 5/11

May 11, 2012

Plenty to like about Lucroy at the plate

By Jordan Schelling / Special to MLB.com

MILWAUKEE — There has not been much to like about the Brewers offensively through the first five weeks of the season. But one bright spot has been catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
Entering the series opener against the Cubs, Lucroy’s .321 batting average ranked first among National League catchers. He added to that Friday with a pinch-hit three-run double with two outs in the seventh inning to put the Brewers ahead in an eventual 8-7, 13-inning win.

“Luc’s a good hitter,” Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said before the game. “He sees the ball really well, he doesn’t chase a lot, and he can square up a baseball.

“He has whatever that hand-eye coordination is, along with a good mental approach.”

Lucroy extended his hit streak to eight games with the double, collecting 13 hits over that stretch and seven RBIs. On the season, Lucroy has a pair of home runs and has driven in 15 runs.

In his third year with the Brewers and first as the Opening Day catcher, Lucroy has become one of the club’s best and most versatile hitters.

“I’m just trying to have good at-bats and hit the ball hard somewhere, no matter what situation it is,” Lucroy said. “Anything I can do to help the team win. Whatever side of the ball it’s on.”

Axford’s save streak ends at 49

MILWAUKEE — Brewers closer John Axford finally blew a save. But his teammates picked him up.

After converting a club-record 49 in a row, Axford could not close out the 50th on Friday night. A one-out RBI triple by the Cubs’ David DeJesus tied the game at 5 and snapped Axford’s streak, which had stretched back to April 24, 2011.

Axford gave up three runs, but just one earned, and struck out three over two-thirds of an inning before being replaced by manager Ron Roenicke.

In the bottom of the ninth, a two-run blast by Corey Hart off Cubs closer Rafael Dolis tied the game at 7, taking Axford off the hook for the loss in an eventual 8-7 Milwaukee win in 13 innings.

Axford left immediately following the game, accompanying his wife to the hospital for the birth of their second child.

“The luck I’ve had in the past didn’t show up tonight,” Axford said in a note left for the media. “All I can do is begin another streak and keep my head up.”

Axford had not blown a save since April 18, 2011, in Philadelphia. The Brewers came back to win that game, 6-3, over the Phillies. His streak of 49 consecutive saves ranks as the fourth best in Major League history.

Only the Dodgers’ Eric Gagne (84), Boston’s Tom Gordon (54) and Detroit’s Jose Valverde (51) have recorded longer streaks. Valverde’s was snapped earlier this season on Opening Day, in a Tigers victory over the Red Sox.

The blown save added to a wild finish in a game that featured just one run through six innings. Over the next three frames, the Cubs and Brewers combined for 13 runs.

Despite slump, Weeks to remain in lineup

MILWAUKEE — Even as his season-opening slump continues, don’t expect to see Rickie Weeks come out of the Brewers’ lineup anytime soon.

A lot of players hitting the way Weeks has been — with a .164 average on the season and hitless in his last 13 at-bats — would get a day off for a break that’s as much mental as physical. But Weeks is not that type of player.

“We need Rickie to hit,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “So whatever way I can get him to start swinging like he did last year and the years before that. But he’s not going to do it when he’s sitting on the bench.

“Rickie’s mindset is, when he’s on the bench, it could be the day that he could get it going. And he really doesn’t want to take that chance on maybe that being the one day. So he’s going to be in there until he tells me otherwise.”

Entering Friday’s game, Weeks had just an .083 average over his last 10 games, with just three hits in 36 at-bats.

The biggest positive is that his approach has kept his on-base percentage well above the low batting average. With nine walks, Weeks has a .267 on-base over the last 10 games, nearly 200 points higher than his average during that time.

That approach, along with Weeks’ personality and mentality lead Roenicke to believe the club is better off with its starting second baseman in the lineup than on the bench.

“Sure he’s going to press like everybody does; he’s going to go out there and try a little harder,” Roenicke said. “But he doesn’t need — at least right now — to sit here on the bench and watch nine innings. … He doesn’t get worn out mentally.”

Roenicke honored at Wisconsin Sports Awards

MILWAUKEE — Ron Roenicke had an enjoyable, but busy off-day Thursday.

The Brewers manager made appearances at three events, including the Wisconsin Sports Awards, where he was named Coach of the Year in the state. The other two events honored Del Crandall, whom Roenicke played for in both the Minors and Major Leagues.

“I have a lot of respect for him, and we’ve become good friends,” Roenicke said.

Along with Hall of Fame slugger Henry Aaron, Crandall was named to the Milwaukee Braves’ Honor Roll at Miller Park. Crandall played the first 13 years of his career with the Braves, including two in Boston before the club moved to Milwaukee.

Crandall also managed the Brewers for four years from 1972-75 and the Mariners for two years in ’83 and ’84. Between those two stints in the Majors, Crandall managed Roenicke and the Albuquerque Dukes, the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate.

“I liked when I played for him, he taught me a lot about just playing,” Roenicke said. “He’s got a great baseball mind, but he’s got a way of making it come across really simple. Which is huge when you’re talking to players and trying to get them to understand something.”

Brewers lending hand to Habitat for Humanity

MILWAUKEE — Over the course of five days next week, Brewers Community Foundation, along with Ryan Braun and Habitat for Humanity, will build 10 new homes for Milwaukee families.

Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity’s 2012 Build-A-Thon begins Monday, and a crew of approximately 250 volunteers contributing 8,000 volunteer hours will help build the new homes. Braun has lent his support to the cause through a $50,000 donation.

“The Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity Build-A-Thon is an excellent way for Brewers Community Foundation to carry out our mission,” Cecelia Gore, executive director of Brewers Community Foundation, said in a press release. “We are proud to be involved in such an impactful week of hard work and tangible accomplishments.”

Members of the Brewers’ organization, including the Klement’s Racing Sausages, and wives of several players and coaches, will be making special appearances at the build sites throughout the week,

As the build week draws to a close next Friday, there will be a “Brewers-style” tailgate at Hephatha Lutheran Church in Milwaukee’s Amani neighborhood, where the houses also will be built. Braun also will participate in an on-field check presentation before the game that night against the Twins.

“We are thrilled about our new partnership with Ryan Braun and Brewers Community Foundation,” said Brian Sonderman, MHFH executive director. “They are MHFH veterans and an important addition to our team of AmeriCorps members and local volunteers. As always, their support will be a significant help in serving our community and making this Build-A-Thon a success.”

Jordan Schelling is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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