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McDonald, Bucs fall to big Brewers rally

August 29, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Sometimes in baseball, one inning is all it takes to change a game. For the Pirates on Friday, that inning was the bottom of the seventh.

Entering the inning, they held a one-run lead over the Brewers and looked for starter James McDonald to deliver one final solid inning before handing it over to the bullpen. When the inning came to a close, the Pirates trailed by five runs — as they lost the series opener, 7-2, at Miller Park.

Within that seventh inning, the turning point came with two on and one out, as rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar drove a 1-1 fastball over the head of right fielder Lastings Milledge for a two-run, game-winning triple.

Off the bat, it looked like a routine line out to right field. As it reached Milledge, it was anything but.

“When I hit the ball, I thought, ‘He’s got it,'” Escobar said. “Then he turned around and lost the ball, and I ran.”

“I looked up at the last minute and the lights got in my face,” Milledge said. “That’s a play that I make every day of the week. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the play. It cost us big. I make that play in my back pocket every day of the week.”

Following Milledge’s misplay on the Escobar triple, the Brewers tacked on four more runs on a pair of singles and two doubles, sending 12 batters to the plate before the Pirates finally got out of the inning.

While an out on Escobar’s triple could have saved the game for the Pirates, things really got out of hand when starter James McDonald and reliever Chris Resop were unable to close out the inning over the next five batters.

“They’re one of the best hitting teams in all of baseball anyway. Just one play is all they need,” Milledge said. “We were still in the game, only one run down, and they just took it over the top. It’s what they do.”

Milwaukee’s six-run, six-hit rally in the seventh inning marred what had been a spectacular performance by McDonald.

Through five innings, the right-hander had allowed just one hit — a bunt single by Escobar — with zero walks and six strikeouts. In the sixth, McDonald made a big pitch to left fielder Ryan Braun to induce an inning-ending double play.

But in the seventh, Braun managed to put the exclamation point on the Brewers’ victory.

“I thought McDonald threw the ball very well,” said Pirates manager John Russell. “He just couldn’t get out of that inning. After that, he just couldn’t get back in the dugout. You can’t give up six runs in the seventh.”

McDonald finished with 6 1/3 innings pitched, surrendering six runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts and a pair of walks. The outing was McDonald’s second-longest this season — but it was also his worst in terms of runs allowed.

Before the game, Russell talked about focusing on the preparation and process, while ignoring the result. When asked about his start afterward, McDonald seemed to be following that mentality.

“It’s not frustrating, things happen. We played hard. Things didn’t fall our way,” McDonald said. “I felt like I had good stuff today. Sometimes I’ve had great stuff and I’m out in the fourth inning. I still went deep in the game. Things didn’t fall our way, but we’ll get them next time.”

Through five innings, though, things were falling the Pirates’ way.

Milledge got things started in the second, leading off with a double and coming around to score two batters later on an RBI single by Ronny Cedeno. In the fifth, catcher Chris Snyder added another run with a one-out solo homer off Brewers starter Chris Narveson.

But while Narveson (10-7) was not as sharp as McDonald through the first five innings, he benefited from the Brewers’ big seventh inning, picking up his first win since Aug. 3 and matching his second-longest outing of the season — going seven strong while allowing just two runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts.

It looked through five innings like the Pirates would finally snap yet another double-digit road losing skid. Instead, the streak climbs to 11 straight losses away from PNC Park.

For Milledge, though, the way the team has played in the last week far outweighs the Pirates’ 11-game road losing streak.

“You can say what you want to say about 11 straight, it doesn’t matter, we’ve still got a chance to win the series,” he said. “We’ve been playing good baseball here the last 4-5 days — it just got away from us today. We’re going to come back tomorrow and get it done.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Kid gloves come off, and Escobar, Cain excel

August 19, 2010 Comments off

ST. LOUIS — With right-hander Adam Wainwright on the mound Wednesday for the Cardinals, center fielder Lorenzo Cain didn’t expect to see his name in the Brewers’ lineup.

When the rookie saw his name in the lineup, his excitement for the series finale increased significantly.

“I saw I was in the lineup, and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m facing Wainwright,'” Cain said after Milwaukee’s 3-2 win. “I got excited for that and just tried to go up there and get the job done.

“My first ace, and I was able to put together a few good at-bats and get some hits.”

Entering the game, right-handed hitters had been hitting .202 off Wainwright, compared to a .214 mark for lefties. Cain went 2-for-3 on the day, with a leadoff double in the fifth and an RBI triple in the seventh inning.

Cain followed his double with a steal of third base, which proved crucial when he scored on a soft grounder back to the pitcher by George Kottaras. After the triple, Cain scored the eventual game-winning run on an Alcides Escobar sacrifice fly.

Even Cain’s second-inning out was hit hard, as Wainwright snagged a liner back to the mound before doubling off Prince Fielder at first to end the inning.

“He has got some talent. No doubt,” Wainwright said of Cain. “I thought I made a good pitch, and he drove it to the right-center gap. Put a good swing on it.

Along with Cain, fellow rookie Escobar was in the lineup for the Brewers on Wednesday, despite having struggled against Wainwright. Making the move more surprising was the success veteran infielder Craig Counsell had against Wainwright in his career.

Counsell entered Wednesday’s series finale at Busch Stadium with a .304 (7-for-23) batting average against the Cardinals right-hander. Escobar, on the other hand, was hitting just .167 (2-for-12) against Wainwright.

Escobar’s day didn’t go quite as well as it did for Cain, but was still successful, as the rookie shortstop finished 0-for-1 with a strikeout and the game-winning sacrifice fly. More significantly, though, Escobar left the game in the ninth with cramps in his hamstring.

After hustling to catch a throw from Corey Hart in right field, Escobar’s day was done.

“I walked to the mound, and I said, ‘Hey, [John] Axford, give me a minute, I can’t move my leg,'” Escobar said. “I’ll be OK. With the day off tomorrow, I’ll be OK on Friday.”

“I was just glad that [Escobar’s injury] wasn’t too bad,” Axford said. “When he came up to the mound then, I wasn’t too sure what was going on. I asked him if he was OK, and he said, ‘No,’ so I didn’t really know what was going on.”

According to manager Ken Macha, the idea of putting Cain and Escobar in the lineup had more to do with the future of the club and the development of the two rookies than trying to win the two-game series from the Cardinals.

Considering the two accounted for all three runs on the day against Wainwright, the initial results were promising for the Brewers.

“Sooner or later, if they’re going to be your everyday guys, they’re going to have to get in there,” Macha said. “You can’t protect them the whole time.”

Montero’s blast leads D-backs past Crew

August 12, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Early on in the 2010 season, pitching was the problem for the D-backs. Now, it’s been the biggest reason they’ve put together a hot streak over the past two weeks.

Solid pitching was the key Tuesday as the D-backs beat the Brewers, 2-1, at Miller Park for just their seventh win when scoring three or fewer runs.

On May 29, the team ERA peaked at 5.95, the worst it has been all season for the D-backs. Since then, it’s been on a steady decline.

Pitching continued to be key on Tuesday. Since losing seven straight to the Giants and Phillies, the pitching staff has posted a 3.96 ERA over 108 2/3 innings pitched, more than a run below their season mark, which was lowered to 5.15 following Tuesday’s game.

Despite the improvement since late May, however, the offense has frequently been burdened this season with overcoming large deficits. As a result, the key for the D-backs this season has been getting to four runs.

When scoring four or more, they’re 38-24. Three or fewer runs, on the other hand, and the D-backs had just a 6-45 record entering the second of four games with the Brewers.

“Those guys have been throwing the ball pretty good lately,” said catcher Miguel Montero. “Finally our bullpen is starting to put it all together.

“I think we’re going to have a good run the rest of the season.”

Montero, who has been hot himself lately, came up with the game-winner in the eighth, blasting a solo home run off the batter’s eye in center field.

Rookie right-hander Barry Enright was impressive once again, but settled for the no-decision as he tossed six strong innings, giving up just one run on three hits. He also walked two while recording a pair of strikeouts.

Making his eighth career start, Enright extended his streak of consecutive starts of five innings or more with three or fewer runs allowed.

Enright has reached that mark in each of his first eight Major League starts, joining the Angels’ Jared Weaver as the only active players to do so.

“Their pitcher, his command was tremendous,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha of Enright. “He got Strike 1, and I thought he was commanding the outside corner very well. After he got Strike 1, he didn’t give you many pitches to hit.”

After struggling a bit in the first two innings, Enright settled in, much like Ian Kennedy did on Monday night. Enright gave up a single to center fielder Lorenzo Cain to lead off the game before retiring five straight batters. With two out in the second, Alcides Escobar homered to left, accounting for the Brewers’ only run.

Enright retired 13 of the last 16 batters he faced after the Escobar home run, though, giving the 24-year-old rookie his fifth consecutive quality start.

“He did his job. Six innings, and he totally controlled the game,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “It’s obvious he was getting tired, but he found a way to get through it. Real good job.”

Arizona’s offense was limited much of the night, but the D-backs managed their first run in the fifth. The run was generated nearly completely by the speed of Chris Young, who doubled, stole third and scored on a shallow fly to second baseman Rickie Weeks.

Weeks’ throw easily beat Young, but catcher Jonathan Lucroy was up the first base line a bit when he caught it. As the rookie turned back to make the tag, Young slid in just ahead of Lucroy, tying the game at one run apiece.

“Right there, you take a chance,” Young said. “If the right fielder catches that ball, I probably don’t run. But it was the second baseman. He’s running back and if he catches it he still has to stop, pivot, turn around and make an accurate throw to get the out.

“It was pretty much a gamble. I could been out just as easily as I was safe, but it was definitely time to take a gamble.”

Behind Enright, who left after tossing 93 pitches, the bullpen was dominant for the second straight night, shutting the Brewers down over the final three frames. Entering in the seventh with the game tied, Blaine Boyer pitched two scoreless innings, giving up just one hit as he picked up his third win of the season.

In the ninth, Gibson handed the ball to Sam Demel, giving the rookie his first career save opportunity. One night after securing his first Major League win, Demel gave up two hits, but got a huge double play in the inning to pick up his first career save.

“It’s been kind of a whirlwind,” Demel said. “It’s been nice getting in those situations and coming through. … It’s still the same game, just a different inning.”

As the D-backs won for the fifth time in their last six games and the eighth time in 12 games, there’s a definite sense of optimism in the visitor’s clubhouse this week in Milwaukee.

While they’re well out of the playoff race, the D-backs look like a team that could put together an impressive run over the season’s final eight weeks.

“The pieces are here. We have great teammates and we have great guys around here,” Enright said. “It’s all trusting each other and we kind of have that team chemistry. We’re all starting to mesh with the new guys in the locker room.

“Having that come, it’s done a great job and it’s pretty exciting.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rocky start for Wright as Astros skid

August 8, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — What a difference a week made for the Astros and Wesley Wright.

Coming to Milwaukee, the Astros had hopes of building another winning streak and, with a sweep, moving into third place in the National League Central.

Three days later, Houston was the team that was swept, and with four straight losses, the Astros head home on a low note after an 11-6 defeat at the hands of the Brewers on Sunday.

Just a week removed from earning his first Major League win as a starter over the very same Brewers team, Wright had no such luck at Miller Park. Wright lasted just 2 1/3 innings, surrendering seven runs on five hits and four walks.

“Execution,” Wright said of the difference from his last start. “I really struggled from the first inning on to get on top of the ball and drive it down in the zone. I was behind from the start, and they were able to get some big hits with guys in scoring position.”

A week earlier, Wright went seven strong at Minute Maid Park, giving up just two runs on four hits with a walk and six strikeouts. Wright did not allow a run until the sixth and reached career highs in innings and strikeouts.

In that game, the Brewers seemed unable to make the necessary adjustments against the 25-year-old lefty. On Sunday, it was Wright who couldn’t adjust.

“He threw so well last week against them, and you’d always like to see a guy be able to build on a good performance,” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “They didn’t have to worry about adjustments. The ball seemed to be high arm side, and he was having trouble getting balls back down in. Those adjustments were tough.”

After the Astros opened with two runs on four hits in the first, Wright gave up four runs before recording a second out, as the Brewers’ first five batters reached base.

“Every game is different,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “You can’t just write one guy out there and figure he is going to do what he did in the game before.”

The Brewers had another four-run inning in the third, sparked by a trio of Brewers rookies, as Wright walked the first two batters of the inning before recording an out.

After a two-run double to left-center off the bat of Lorenzo Cain, the Brewers’ rookie center fielder, Wright’s day was done. Nelson Figueroa came on and surrendered a single and double to Alcides Escobar and Jonathan Lucroy, respectively, before ending the inning with a pair of strikeouts.

An inning later, a Casey McGehee three-run home run into the Brewers’ bullpen in left off Gustavo Chacin put an exclamation point on Milwaukee’s big day.

Most frustrating for Wright was the fact that Gallardo, like Wright, didn’t seem to have his best stuff in the series finale. But after tossing an impressive second inning, Wright said he “wasn’t able to get the ball rolling,” and keep the Astros in the game.

For Gallardo, who improved to 11-5 on the season, after giving up four runs on eight hits and one walk against seven strikeouts, all that mattered was the victory.

“Any time I do what I was supposed to, which is get the team a win, it’s always a plus,” Gallardo said. “I gave up a couple of [runs] there in the first inning, but our hitters came back with a four-spot.

“After that, it’s about staying with the lead and not returning it the other way.”

Offensively, the Astros continued to swing the bats well, just not quite as well — or efficiently — as the Brewers. After sitting out Saturday due to a sore right foot, center fielder Michael Bourn put together a 3-for-5 game with two runs, two RBIs and a double.

A two-run single in the fourth by Bourn cut the Brewers’ lead to 8-4 at the time, and a pair of back-to-back doubles by Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee leading off the eighth gave the Astros their fifth run. Lee and second baseman Jeff Keppinger joined Bourn with two RBIs.

On a weekend when so many things didn’t go the Astros’ way, the six-run output was one of the few bright spots.

“There’s no doubt,” Mills said when asked whether the offense was nice to see. “[Bourn’s] three hits with some RBIs after sitting out last night — and he’s got that sore foot from when he was hit in St. Louis — that was nice to see. Carlos, it’s nice to see him get some hits as well.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Edmonds’ homer caps Crew comeback

July 23, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Jim Edmonds had quite the night off for the Brewers on Friday.

Edmonds, who has been slowed by an injured right Achilles tendon, was not in the starting lineup against Nationals right-hander Craig Stammen. But when All-Star right fielder Corey Hart went down with a right wrist injury in the third, Edmonds’ number was called.

With the Brewers not taking batting practice before Friday’s game due to their late travels home from Pittsburgh, Edmonds had not even thrown a ball or swung a bat prior to Hart’s injury.

Three at-bats later, Edmonds delivered a two-run, game-winning homer off Nationals lefty Sean Burnett, giving Milwaukee a 7-5 victory over Washington in the series opener.

“Considering I was sleeping on the couch about 20 minute … no, just kidding,” Edmonds joked of how great the night turned out for him. “But that’s kind of how this game is. It’s kind of wild.”

Edmonds’ home run capped a six-run rally over three innings by the Brewers that allowed the Crew to overcome a 5-1 deficit going into the bottom of the fifth inning.

Rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar got things started in the fifth with a single. Lefty starter Chris Narveson followed with one of his own — of the broken-bat variety — which scored Escobar from second after the shortstop advanced on defensive indifference.

After a Rickie Weeks walk advanced Narveson to second, a bloop single to left by Edmonds scored the Brewers’ starter, cutting the lead to 5-3.

An inning later, it was Escobar again, this time with a little help from speedy center fielder Carlos Gomez.

With two out and a runner on first, Gomez ripped a cutter into the gap in left-center field and raced around the bases to third for a triple.

“Every time I hit the ball to the gap, I’m not thinking it’s a double, I always think triple,” Gomez said. “I never look at anybody, I go straight to third, no matter what. They have to throw me out at third.”

Escobar followed the triple with a double to left, scoring Gomez and tying the game at 5. With the double, Escobar finished 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.

“I feel pretty good about the way Escobar’s swung the bat over the course of the year,” manager Ken Macha said. “Three hits tonight, all line drives and he didn’t overswing at all.”

With the offensive performances of Gomez, Escobar and Narveson, it was a pretty good night for the bottom of the Brewers’ batting order.

Batting seventh, eighth and ninth for, Gomez, Escobar and Narveson combined to go 5-for-10 with three runs scored, two RBIs, a double and a triple.

Conversely, the Brewers’ Nos. 3, 4 an 5 hitters — Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee — went 1-for-10 with an RBI and a run scored. More importantly, though, the bottom of the order delivered when Milwaukee trailed midway through the game.

For the Nationals, it was a tough loss to swallow after shutting down the Brewers’ sluggers.

“They really played. Milwaukee was down. The bottom of the order did a lot of damage,” said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. “Our guys played hard, we played clean. We just weren’t able to add on. Mike Morse had a great game for us.”

Morse, the Nationals’ right fielder, went 2-for-3 with a pair of home runs, two runs scored and a career-high four RBIs.

The multi-homer effort was a career first for Morse, on whom the Brewers did not have much of a scouting report.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t have much on him,” Narveson said of Morse. “I knew he was aggressive, but with guys on first and second [in the second inning], it’s a bad time to sit there and find that out after the first pitch.

“He’s a good hitter, he did what he was supposed to do.”

After struggling through the second, Narveson gave up runs in each of the third and fourth innings before retiring the final nine batters he faced in the fourth, fifth and sixth.

His ability to get to the sixth was crucial for the Brewers, whose bullpen has been overworked and is short with lefty Zach Braddock being unavailable over the weekend.

It also allowed Kameron Loe (1-1) to come in and pitch an impressive two innings, allowing just one hit and striking out a pair. Behind him was closer John Axford, who retired the Nationals in order to pick up his 14th save of the season.

Narveson’s rough second inning put the spotlight on the Brewers pitching staff once again Friday night.

When asked about it afterward, Macha did not express much concern about his staff.

“Talking to [GM Doug Melvin] today, we’ve won eight out of the last 12. So let’s not get so down on the pitching staff,” Macha said. “Chris is in his first full year in the big leagues and we’ve got a catcher [Jonathan Lucroy] that’s fresh out of Double-A. So there’s a lot of work to do to get that consistency.

“All things considered, it’s gone pretty well.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Struggling with glove, Escobar to sit 2 games

July 6, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — After three costly errors in two days, the Brewers hope a couple of days off will help rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar get back on track defensively.

Following Monday night’s 6-1 loss, Brewers manager Ken Macha said he planned to give Escobar two of the last six games off before the All-Star break. The Brewers manager confirmed Tuesday that those two would be Tuesday and Wednesday against the Giants.

With the days off for Escobar, the rookie got out early Tuesday afternoon, putting some extra defensive work in with bench coach Willie Randolph while also taking early batting practice with hitting coach Dale Sveum.

“I want to give him a couple days off here, let him clear his mind,” Macha said. “You’re breaking in these shortstops or second basemen. … The game goes real fast here and it’s a very extremely demanding and difficult position.

“You take a look at some of the great shortstops, they had a lot of errors in their rookie year. You’ve got to have patience with these guys.”

Escobar entered Tuesday ranked second in the Major Leagues with 14 errors, six behind fellow rookie shortstop Ian Desmond, who had 20 errors in 75 games for the Nationals.

By comparison, Derek Jeter committed 22 errors over 156 games in 1996, when he was named American League Rookie of the Year. Escobar’s fellow Venezuelan native, Omar Vizquel, committed 18 errors in 143 games as a rookie.

“You have to look at him and evaluate his hands, his arm and his range, and know that they’re going to have some plays that they’re going to screw up,” Macha said. “I don’t want it to get into his head that every play is like life and death.”

While Macha does not want his rookie shortstop to be worried about every individual play, he added that with the three errors over the last two days being so costly, it did have some educational value for Escobar.

“It just so happened that the couple plays in the last couple days have been big factors in the games,” Macha said. “That also lets him know what the gravity of that position is. There’s a high demand on good defense at the shortstop position.”

Brewers beat 5/30

May 30, 2010 Comments off

Powerful Hart winning back fan’s hearts

MILWAUKEE — It’s no surprise to see the Brewers among the top three in the National League in nearly every offensive category — not with Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and NL RBI leader Casey McGehee in the lineup.

But it’s the resurgence of another big bat that has the Brewers on a three-game winning streak, with four wins in their past six games and a 6-4 record over their past 10.

Corey Hart, who on Saturday became the first Brewers hitter since 2003 to homer in three consecutive at-bats, has given his team a fourth power hitter in the middle of the lineup.

“The more guys you can stack in there, it makes it tougher for them to pitch around people,” manager Ken Macha said. “That makes the lineup pretty solid there.”

Hart’s popularity among fans has soared over the past week after taking a couple of big hits in the offseason. Fans were not happy with Hart after he won his arbitration case despite a down year in 2009. Then, with a poor Spring Training performance coming shortly thereafter, Hart was far from popular in Milwaukee.

But keeping his past performances in mind, including an All-Star appearance in 2008, Hart’s coaches and teammates never doubted him.

“I’ve been saying it from the beginning of the year — he’s the kind of guy that when he gets going, he’s the kind of player that can carry a team for an extended period of time, not just a day or two,” McGehee said. “He’s certainly shown that the last day or two. When he’s going well, he’s a game-changer.”

Macha’s machinations with lineup continue

MILWAUKEE — As the Brewers continue to excel on the field, manager Ken Macha continues to tweak the club’s lineup.

After batting George Kottaras second on Saturday because of the catcher’s high on-base percentage, Macha made another move on Sunday to get more guys on base. Macha moved his entire batting order up one spot after Rickie Weeks with the exception of shortstop Alcides Escobar, who was in the ninth spot, behind pitcher Randy Wolf.

“We’ll try this out,” Macha said. “We tried something out yesterday, and I think that had some fruits to it. I think it’s just an interesting look. I thought about putting Kottaras there, and I thought about this a little bit, too.”

As a result, left fielder Ryan Braun became the ninth Brewers hitter this season to bat second. It’s just the third time Braun has hit second and the first since he was a rookie.

Behind Braun, Prince Fielder batted third for the third time this season, Casey McGehee became the team’s third cleanup hitter this season and Corey Hart batted fifth for the second time this year.

McGehee is the first Brewers hitter other than Braun or Fielder to bat cleanup since Hart did so on July 1, 2008. The Brewers won that game, 8-6, in Arizona.

Wolf is the first pitcher this season to be in the lineup anywhere other than in the No. 9 spot. The only time a position player batted ninth was during the three-game Interleague series with the Twins at Target Field.

With Escobar batting ninth, Macha and McGehee were quick to point out, the lineup looks a bit different after the first time through. In fact, it looks a lot more like the team’s usual lineup.

“Looking at the lineup, at the beginning of the game, it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re batting cleanup,’ ” McGehee said. “But it’s really the same. I’m still hitting in front of and behind the same guy. Then, hopefully, you get Escobar on base, and all of a sudden, Rickie’s basically hitting second after the first go-round. So I think it’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.”

As with the Kottaras move on Saturday, the thought process behind Macha’s decision came down to on-base percentage.

Fielder (.402) and Braun (.393) rank fifth and ninth, respectively, in the National League in on-base percentage.

“If we score first, we’ve got a high percentage of wins,” Macha said. “In the first inning, they’re going to have to face Prince and Brauny. That gives us a chance to score early. I just want those guys to get on base. Corey’s hot right now, McGehee’s up in the league leaders in driving in runs — I just want the guys to get on base.”

Axford adds depth to Brewers’ bullpen

MILWAUKEE — With John Axford getting the call in the ninth inning of the Brewers’ 8-6 victory on Saturday, many assumed it meant he is the team’s closer.

Not so fast, manager Ken Macha said in his postgame news conference.

“I’m not eliminating Trevor,” said Macha, referring to all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman. “I want to give [Hoffman] a few more innings, but it’s going to be nice if we have coverage like that.”

Axford, a flame-throwing 27-year-old right-hander, is 2-for-2 in save opportunities this season. Add those to his save at the end of the 2009 season, and he is a perfect 3-for-3 in his short big league career as a closer.

Though his career total is still 593 behind that of Hoffman, Axford doesn’t let the pressure of the situation get to him.

“It’s a tough situation to be in, I guess,” Axford said. “I don’t hold a flame to Trevor Hoffman. So I’m not thinking about that, really. I’m just trying to get my job done.”

Though Macha has been impressed by Axford’s recent performance out of the bullpen, he sees greater value in having several pitchers who are comfortable with pressure situations in the late innings.

“There’s no problem having a couple,” Macha said. “My last year in Oakland, we had six guys with saves. I’d like to get Trevor back. … The more guys you can bring in pressure situations and they’re able to get outs, that makes your bullpen that much stronger.

“I’d like to get [LaTroy] Hawkins back, too. When all those pieces get back together, it starts to give you a lot of options. … I’m not selling any of those guys short.”

When asked about his bullpen in his morning session with the media, Macha said that he hoped to get Hoffman in the game on Sunday. He did not, however, specify an inning in which that might happen.

But with the way Axford has pitched lately, Macha admitted after Saturday’s game that “it’s hard not to bring him in.”

“He has the stuff,” Macha said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Worth noting

With 12 home runs, Corey Hart is tied with three others for the most in the National League. … The Brewers’ pitching staff gave up its first home run in nine games on Saturday after tying a 34-year-old franchise record. … Entering Sunday’s series finale with the Mets, no Brewers starter had allowed a home run in 13 consecutive games, a franchise record. The longest previous streak was 12 games, from May 7-21, 1976. … With nine home runs and 19 RBIs since May 15, Hart leads the NL in both categories over that stretch. … The Brewers’ three-game home winning streak is a season high. … David Riske, who is on the 60-day disabled list, picked up his second win for Triple-A Nashville on Saturday night, giving up two unearned runs with one strikeout in two innings pitched. Lefty Mitch Stetter also threw one shutout inning in relief, with two strikeouts.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.