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Capuano’s solid start undone by late homers

September 21, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — With every start, Chris Capuano continues to make progress in his return from a second Tommy John surgery. On Monday, the 100-pitch mark was his latest milestone.

Capuano delivered an impressive performance for his third straight quality start, but back-to-back Reds home runs in the eighth made the difference as the Brewers lost their second straight game, 5-2.

Tossing six innings, Capuano gave up two runs on four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. Reaching the century mark for the first time this season, Capuano’s pitch count of 105 was his highest since throwing 113 pitches on Aug. 19, 2007.

“This was a huge step for him,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “Not only getting past 100 pitches, but the game pretty much on the line [in the sixth inning]. First and second with one out, he winds up getting two big outs there.”

Since his rough return to the rotation on Aug. 28 against the Pirates, Capuano has excelled, posting a 1-2 record with a 2.58 ERA in four September starts. Over that stretch, Capuano has allowed just seven earned runs on 17 hits in 24 1/3 innings of work.

In each of his five late-season starts, Capuano has progressed with his pitch count, going from 75 pitches to 80, 83, 90 and 105 on Monday. His best outing came Sept. 8 against the Cardinals when he tossed seven innings while giving up one run on four hits.

While he wasn’t quite as sharp against the Reds, he said he felt even better.

“Physically, this was the best I’ve felt,” Capuano said. “I really felt good out there physically, and got the pitch count up there close to 100. It felt good.”

But did Capuano feel the effects of tossing 100 pitches for the first time in three years?

“No, I feel good,” Capuano answered. “Like I said, I think this is the best I’ve felt so far.”

Unfortunately for Capuano and the Brewers, they were unable to keep the Reds from reducing their magic number even further. After their win Monday, coupled with a Cardinals loss, the number was down to six.

After leaving with the game tied at 2, Capuano handed the ball off to reliever Kameron Loe, who delivered a scoreless 1 1/3 innings before letting things get away from him. With one out in the eighth, Loe (3-5) surrendered a single and back-to-back home runs as the Reds took a 5-2 lead.

Following an Orlando Cabrera single, Joey Votto belted a 2-2 fastball into the second deck in left-center field, putting the Reds on top, 4-2. Afterward, Macha was asked if he considered anyone other than Loe against Votto.

“You’ve got a way to go yet in the game,” Macha said. “[Zach] Braddock really hasn’t been on his game, and [Manny] Parra needed a day off, he had 20-some pitches.”

With no left-handers available and apparently not wanting to use closer John Axford, Macha stuck with Loe, who he viewed as his best option at the time.

Votto had struggled through his first three at-bats, going 0-for-3 against Capuano while being called out on strikes twice. His night went from bad to great with one swing of the bat in the eighth.

“The more times you face him, the better chance he has,” said Reds manager Dusty Baker. “I always say you hate to see a good hitter cold. Sooner or later the law of averages is on his side and he’s going to get somebody. That was as long of a home run to the opposite field I’ve seen.”

Added Votto: “I try not to take previous at-bats into following at-bats. I didn’t have a very good game going into that point. That’s why we play all nine innings.”

Even after the two-run homer, Loe stayed in, and Scott Rolen drove his very next pitch over the fence in right. It was the Reds’ 11th set of back-to-back home runs this season.

Loe made himself unavailable for comment after the Brewers’ 5-2 loss.

With the loss, the Brewers dropped to 36-39 at Miller Park this season. As only six home games remain on the schedule, they’ll need to win four of six to finish at .500 on the year and five of six to secure a winning home record in 2010.

Milwaukee finished 40-41 at home last year after posting four consecutive winning home records. Lately, the bright spot has been the Brewers’ ability to compete with some of the league’s best — or hottest — teams in the Reds, Phillies, Cardinals, Giants and Astros.

Offensively, Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks provided the only bright spots for the Brewers. Weeks went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored, while Braun drove in a pair of runs and doubled. Braun’s two RBIs moved him one behind third baseman Casey McGehee, who leads the Brewers with 94 runs batted in.

As it has been most of the season, the problem for the offense was delivering hits with runners in scoring position. The most obvious example came in the second inning, when Carlos Gomez led off with an infield single and reached third on a throwing error with none out. With three straight strikeouts, the Brewers left Gomez stranded at third.

“Gomez is on third, nobody out, we didn’t put the ball in play,” Macha said. “Little things like that hurt you when you’ve got tight games.”

Cards can’t rally after Garcia’s rare off night

September 9, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — As dominant as Jaime Garcia had been lately, the Cardinals’ prospects of winning the series against the Brewers certainly looked good heading into the finale.

Add his 2-1 record with a 1.08 ERA against the Brewers this season with just three earned runs allowed on 20 hits and it would seem everything was in place for St. Louis to head out of town on a winning note as they looked to stay in the National League playoff hunt.

Instead, Garcia delivered the worst starting performance of his career, as the Cardinals lost, 8-1, on Wednesday for a tough road series loss after taking the series opener on Monday.

With their lineup, the Brewers were bound to rough up Garcia eventually. But with the way the rookie left-hander had shut them down in four previous starts, it would have been hard to predict they’d hand him his worst outing of the season.

“Obviously, they have a great lineup and good team,” Garcia said. “It was just one of those days that I tried to do too much.

“It was just me not having confidence tonight and being lost out there.”

Entering the game, the Brewers had scored just seven runs — three earned — on 20 hits in 25 innings against Garcia with 22 strikeouts against 10 walks. They doubled their run total on Wednesday, putting up seven runs on seven hits in just four innings.

“Tonight might have been the result of being more aggressive,” said left fielder Ryan Braun, who drove in four of the Brewers’ eight runs. “When you’re aggressive and putting pressure on the other team, it seems to be advantageous.

“He didn’t make too many mistakes, but the ones he did make, we were able to take advantage of.”

A couple of those mistakes — two walks — played integral roles in the Brewers’ big innings.

With one out in the third inning, Garcia walked Rickie Weeks, who stole second base. One strikeout later, Garcia surrendered three straight hits, an RBI single by Ryan Braun, a Prince Fielder ground-rule double and a two-run single by Casey McGehee.

An inning later, it was much the same story.

After shortstop Alcides Escobar led off with a single, Weeks walked again, with two outs this time, to spark the Brewers. Right fielder Corey Hart followed with a single, scoring Escobar, and Braun blasted a three-run homer just over the wall in center field.

“That was completely, 100 percent my fault,” Garcia said of the home run. “[Pitching coach Dave] Duncan went out there and told me we need to do something with sinkers and I threw a changeup.

“That happens when you try to do something else.”

Garcia’s line marked a career-worst outing for the rookie. Garcia had surrendered as many as eight runs in a game on Aug. 3, but only four were earned. His previous high in earned runs allowed was five.

“I think he was just in the middle of the plate,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. “He had good stuff through a lot of it, but if you look at the pitches that they hurt him on for runs, he just got the ball in the middle.

“That’s something he hasn’t done very often. It was one of those nights.”

The disappointing outing by Garcia only added to what has been a rough start to a crucial road trip for the Cardinals.

With the Reds losing to the Rockies on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Cardinals could potentially have gained two games in the division race with wins. Instead, they remain six games behind Cincinnati in the NL Central with 25 to play.

All eight of the Brewers’ runs on Wednesday and 16 of their 18 runs in the series scored with two outs. For Garcia, shutting down opposing hitters with two outs had been a strength before Wednesday’s rough outing.

“That’s been one of his real keys, he’s been really good putting hitters away,” La Russa said. “Mistakes with men in scoring position, you’ll get burnt.”

Garcia certainly deserved some blame for Wednesday’s loss, but his counterpart kept the Cardinals’ offense quiet for the second straight night. Left-hander Chris Capuano tossed seven strong innings, giving up just one run on four hits while not allowing a walk. Capuano (3-3) also struck out two batters.

The Cardinals’ only run on the night came from Albert Pujols, who went 2-for-3 with a solo homer and a double. Colby Rasmus and rookie Matt Pagnozzi were the only other Cardinals to reach safely against Capuano, with Pagnozzi picking up his first career hit.

It was yet another poor offensive night for the Cardinals against a soft-tossing lefty, which is starting to become a troubling theme.

“I think there’s something there,” La Russa said. “We’ve got better hitters against left-handed pitching than we’ve done here in the last couple weeks. Prior to this, we were getting our wins against left-handers, but we’re getting shut down pretty regularly now, so we’ve got to do something about it.”

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

Cardinals beat 9/8

September 8, 2010 Comments off

Pagnozzi making first career start for Cards

MILWAUKEE — After being recalled from Triple-A Memphis a week ago, catcher Matt Pagnozzi got his first Major League start behind the plate on Wednesday against the Brewers.

“Pagnozzi knows [Jaime] Garcia, so that helps,” said manager Tony La Russa.

Pagnozzi, who is a nephew of former Cardinals Gold Glover Tom Pagnozzi, has spent each of the past two seasons with the Memphis Redbirds before being called up in September. In 2009, each of the final five games of the season saw Pagnozzi enter in the late innings.

In those five games, Pagnozzi did not record a hit in three at-bats, while walking once and reaching base on an error. In the season’s final game, Pagnozzi scored a run in the Cardinals’ 9-7 loss to the Brewers at Busch Stadium.

Pagnozzi recorded his first big league hit during the fifth inning on Wednesday.

In 68 games for Memphis this season, Pagnozzi batted .242 with a .338 on-base percentage and a .309 slugging percentage with one home run and 21 RBIs.

Not known for his offense, Pagnozzi is a better defensive catcher than fellow rookie Bryan Anderson. With better offensive numbers and improved defense, Anderson overtook Pagnozzi as the Cardinals’ top backup catcher.

“[Pagnozzi] knows the idea about working a pitcher [and has] a strong throwing arm,” La Russa said. “But that’s a good testament to Andy that Andy moved ahead of him because of the kind of year he had.”

La Russa’s lineup leans right vs. Capuano

MILWAUKEE — With left-handed starter Chris Capuano on the mound on Wednesday for the Brewers, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa went with a mostly right-handed lineup. The only left-handed hitters were Colby Rasmus and starting pitcher Jaime Garcia.

Included in it was Tyler Greene, who started at second base for the first time since July 3 and batted leadoff for the first time since May 4. The move was particularly interesting considering switch-hitter Felipe Lopez has a career .462 average against Capuano with one home run and two walks.

Greene, on the other hand, has never faced Capuano.

The decision came down to Lopez’s recent struggles outweighing past success against Capuano. In his past 75 at-bats, Lopez has recorded just eight hits.

On the season, Capuano has held lefties to a .220 batting average while right-handed hitters have posted a .290 mark against him. With Capuano’s splits and Lopez’s past numbers in mind, did La Russa consider starting his struggling second baseman?

“Yeah,” La Russa said. “[But] he’s just not himself at the plate.”

Anniversary of McGwire passing Maris

MILWAUKEE — It may be hard to believe, but Wednesday marked the 12th anniversary of Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire breaking Roger Maris’ home run record with homer No. 62 on Sept. 8, 1998.

With two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, McGwire blasted the first pitch he saw from Cubs starter Steve Traschel out to left field, where it barely cleared the fence. All that mattered was that it went out, though, as the homer sparked a memorable on-field celebration.

McGwire’s blast broke Roger Maris’ single-season record of 61 home runs, which had stood since the 1961 season. Over the final 18 games of the 1998 season, McGwire added eight more home runs, finishing with a then-record 70 homers.

In the 12 years since that thrilling season, McGwire has seen his record broken by Barry Bonds in 2001, admitted to steroid use during his career and assumed the role of hitting coach at the start of this season.

“I hadn’t thought about that,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa of how long it had been since McGwire’s record-breaking homer. “That’s a fast 12 years.”

Worth noting

Left-handed reliever Trever Miller underwent an MRI scan in St. Louis on Wednesday, which revealed a forearm strain. He is considered day-to-day. … Third baseman David Freese underwent a procedure today in Colorado for a debridement of his left ankle. He will begin therapy this week.

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

Capuano picks up Gallardo as Crew wins

August 21, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — As far as feel-good stories go, Chris Capuano’s comeback from a second Tommy John surgery ranks up there among the best of them. The Brewers lefty added another chapter on Friday night.

It was one of those nights at Miller Park, where nothing seems to go according to plan. It was also one of those starts for Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo, who was hurt by mistakes and struggled with his command.

Fortunately for Gallardo and the Brewers, they had a lefty in the bullpen ready to go. Capuano pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up just one walk while facing the minimum and retiring 10 of 11 batters faced as the Brewers defeated the Padres, 10-6.

With his stellar performance, Capuano made up for one of the shortest outings of the season for Gallardo. Capuano won at home for the first time since May 7, 2007, giving him the perfect belated birthday present, as the lefty celebrated his 32nd birthday on Thursday.

“It’s great to get a win anytime,” Capuano said. “We’ve been working on some stuff and today felt real good with the location and the different pitches. The arm strength feels like it’s starting to come back a little bit. It’s definitely a lot more fun out there pitching.”

On a wild night, the Brewers outslugged the Padres for their third straight win and fourth in five games. Third baseman Casey McGehee led the way, recording an RBI double and a three-run homer in his first two at-bats.

With the two hits, McGehee extended his franchise record streak to 11 hits in 11 straight home at-bats, shattering the previous mark of seven straight hits at home. After being unaware of the 9-for-9 against the Diamondbacks, was McGehee aware of the 11-for-11?

“Now I am,” McGehee answered. “That was nice for us to be able to have that kind of an offensive game, especially supporting Yovani, who’s pitched so well for us. For us to be able to pick him up one time, was really good.”

With a team ERA of 3.18, the Padres’ mark was 23 points lower than any other team in the Majors before Friday’s game. With that in mind, and Gallardo taking the hill for the Brewers, the formula for a pitchers’ duel certainly was there.

None of that seemed to matter, as from the outset, the game was nothing like anyone would have expected. Both starting pitchers, Gallardo and Wade LeBlanc, went just 3 1/3 innings, combining to allow 13 runs on 13 hits with six walks, four strikeouts and four home runs.

Recording just 10 outs to Capuano’s 11 outs, Gallardo surrendered six runs on six hits while walking five and recording just one strikeout.

In the first inning, Gallardo left two curveballs up, over the plate. Adrian Gonzalez and Chase Headley took advantage of those mistakes, sending them over the fence and giving the Padres an early 3-0 lead.

“He wasn’t as sharp as we have seen him before,” Headley said. “He wasn’t commanding his fastball and he left a few curveballs up. We did a good job coming out and getting on him early.”

After the Brewers answered with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the frame, Gallardo surrendered two more right back to the Padres. Milwaukee’s offense never gave up, though, as the Brewers scored in each of the next five innings.

In the third, it was McGehee’s three-run blast. An inning later, rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy added a two-run shot, which proved to be the eventual game winner.

“They picked me up,” Gallardo said. “It just was one of those days for me. It got out of hand. They put up some runs in the first inning for me after I gave up three, and they kept battling. I give them a lot of props.”

Todd Coffey and Zach Braddock joined Capuano in shutting down the Padres offense, which recorded just one hit over the final 5 2/3 innings on Friday night.

Even with that, the story of the day was Capuano, who continues to progress in his return to the Major Leagues.

With the bases loaded in the fourth following back-to-back one-out walks, Brewers manager Ken Macha had seen enough of Gallardo, calling for Capuano. Entering Friday’s game, Capuano had a 4.44 ERA, while opposing hitters had been batting .289 against him with three home runs.

Add five of seven inherited runners having scored in those 15 appearances, and Capuano didn’t exactly seem like the ideal choice in such a pressure situation as the Brewers trailed 6-5 at the time. He performed admirably, stranding all three runners with a strikeout and a groundout to end the inning.

“Big crossroads there,” Macha said.

“Unbelievable,” Lucroy said. “That’s all you can ask out of a middle reliever: Come in and do something like that. He’s getting back to [the way he pitched before his second Tommy John surgery]. He knows exactly what he wants to do out there. It’s real easy to catch somebody like that.”

After the bullpen nearly blew Randy Wolf’s dominating performance on Wednesday, it was encouraging for the Brewers to see a reliever pick up the slack on an off night for their ace.

While Capuano would still like to see his name in the starting rotation again someday, Friday night’s win will suffice for now.

“It’s just a blessing to be healthy and feel good every day coming to the park,” Capuano said. “I would like to be starting, [but] the main thing is that I’m feeling healthy, my arm’s getting stronger and everything is feeling good.

“I’m just enjoying the opportunities I get to pitch right now.”

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

Brewers beat 6/28

June 28, 2010 Comments off

Dutch heritage has Axford watching Cup

MILWAUKEE — Even with the United States and Mexico eliminated, at least one person in the Brewers’ clubhouse still has a rooting interest in the World Cup.

Closer John Axford, a native of Ontario, Canada, is pulling for The Netherlands, which beat Slovakia, 2-1, on Monday to advance to the quarterfinals against Brazil.

Axford is of Dutch heritage on his mother’s side of the family, and his grandparents immigrated to Canada before she was born, just after World War II.

“I remember being younger, we’d always get together for the games and watch them because my grandfather was really into it,” Axford said. “If he had his way, I’d definitely play soccer over baseball.

“I played soccer in elementary school. He actually taught me to kick with my left foot before I could learn with my right because he said, ‘Everyone kicks with their right, so you’ll learn with your left first.’ ”

Axford said his mother was either the first or second member of her family born in Canada, though he could not remember if she or his uncle was born first.

While Axford has not been able to keep up on the World Cup as much as he would like — he did not watch The Netherlands play on Monday — he knows the excitement will only grow if the team continues to advance.

“It’s a pretty big thing with our family,” Axford said. “I know if they continue going through [the tournament] everyone will be calling each other and talking with each other and trying to catch the last couple games.”

And what does Axford think of The Netherlands’ chances against Brazil in the quarterfinals?

“That’s going to be pretty tough,” Axford said. “I saw part of the Brazil game today, and they were doing pretty good. So it’ll be a tough game, but it should be a good game. Reading about it I think The Netherlands have got a pretty good shot.”

Capuano’s long wait to pitch again ends

MILWAUKEE — It took the bullpen’s worst outing in nearly a month, but lefty Chris Capuano finally got the opportunity he was waiting for on Monday.

With Brewers starters having delivered quality starts in 10 of the past 15 games and posting a 3.02 ERA over that stretch, Capuano entered Monday having not pitched in the team’s past 13 contests.

It seemed Capuano would continue to wait until a Brewers starter had a rough outing, though he tended to look at it a different way.

“I wouldn’t call it waiting for a bad start, that’s not really how we look at things,” Capuano said. “I’m waiting for my next opportunity and I’m ready every day when they need me.”

But on Monday, due to a bad three-inning stretch involving three relievers and the starter, Capuano finally got back on the mound, pitching a scoreless ninth, allowing one hit.

It was Capuano’s first scoreless outing since his return and just his third appearance overall since being called up a month ago and returning to the big leagues for the first time since the end of the 2007 season.

As the pitching staff has improved dramatically over the last two weeks, Capuano has been left on the outside looking in.

As a result, Capuano has had to put in some extra work to keep himself ready for when the Brewers finally needed him again.

“I’m throwing every day and when I’m not getting in there, I’ve been making sure I get on the mound every two or three days, keeping my pitch count up around the 50-pitch range,” Capuano said. “Sunday after the game, I went out and threw 50 pitches.”

Capuano, who is slotted in a long-relief role in the bullpen, had not pitched in 16 days before Monday.

In his two previous outings, a June 3 start in Florida and a June 12 relief appearance against the Rangers, Capuano tossed just 4 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on nine hits while walking one and recording five strikeouts.

With the experience of his long road to recovery under his belt, Capuano had little problem waiting two weeks for his next outing, especially when the team had been performing well.

“Nothing is harder than the two years I spent getting my arm healthy and getting ready to pitch at the big league level again,” Capuano said. “After what I’ve been through over the past couple years, and with the fact that I’m healthy and I feel good every day, it’s hard to be too down.”

Worth noting

Third-base coach Brad Fischer celebrated his 54th birthday on Monday. … With his leadoff home run on Sunday, second baseman Rickie Weeks ranks first in home runs from the leadoff spot this season with 13. Weeks also leads the Majors in RBI from the leadoff spot with 44. … Reliver LaTroy Hawkins will throw off the mound in a bullpen session on Tuesday, manager Ken Macha said on Monday. … Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Monday, and one-hopped it to the plate.

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

Capuano with Brewers for first time since ’07

May 29, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Three seasons since his last Major League appearance, lefty Chris Capuano rejoined the Brewers on Saturday at Miller Park.

Capuano — whose contract was purchased Friday night from Triple-A Nashville — hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since his last start of the 2007 season and has been rehabbing the second Tommy John surgery of his career. After seven Minor League starts, Capuano has finally made it back to the Majors.

“It feels good to be back,” Capuano said. “Last night, when they took me out of the game in the fourth inning there, I had a pretty good idea that I was getting called up. I called my wife, called my family, and everyone was pretty excited. It’s definitely been a good day.”

Before being called up Friday night, Capuano made his fourth start for the Nashville Sounds, throwing four scoreless innings while giving up just one hit.

When asked about it before Saturday’s game, manager Ken Macha explained the thought process behind removing Capuano from the game after throwing just 59 pitches.

“You’ve got to make a decision, if he goes 100 pitches then he’s not going to be available for quite a while,” Macha said. “With the [59] pitches, he probably just needs a couple days off and may be available out of the [bullpen].”

Brewers officials announced the move after Friday’s 2-0 victory over the Mets. With Capuano being called up, the club designated right-handed reliever Claudio Vargas for assignment, making a spot available for Capuano on both the 25- and 40-man rosters.

Capuano found out that he would be rejoining the Brewers shortly after being removed from Friday night’s game. Now that he’s arrived back in Milwaukee, Capuano found that he was more surprised by the lack of emotion involved with the end of his journey back to the big leagues.

“Maybe I thought that there was going to be more emotions than I think I actually feel,” Capuano said. “When you get here, you go through your routine, you’re out there playing catch, and it feels natural because this is what we do. It’s just good to be here and playing catch and getting back in touch with some of my old friends.”

When asked if he ever doubted he would return, Capuano admitted there were some “testing, trying times,” but credited his family, friends and all those who played a role in his return for keeping him on the right track.

Since making his last start for the Brewers on Sept. 28, 2007, Capuano said he has learned an important lesson about himself.

“I learned how much I actually like baseball,” Capuano said. “You get back to going through the grind of the rehab and then when you actually get back to playing, especially when you get back to ‘A’ ball and play with some of those younger guys, it’s just a different enthusiasm for the game. I think the longer I’m in the game, the more I appreciate it.

“Being away for two years and then stepping back on that field and playing again, a lot of stuff feels new again. I think it’s been a good thing for me.”

Brewers beat 5/14

May 15, 2010 Comments off

Brewers being cautious with Capuano

MILWAUKEE — Chris Capuano dazzled in his Triple-A debut, but the Brewers are taking a cautious approach with their rehabbing left-hander.

After being promoted to Triple-A earlier in the week, Capuano pitched eight scoreless innings on Thursday night in the Nashville Sounds’ 8-0 home win over the Tacoma Rainiers. He is looking to work his way back to the big leagues after his second Tommy John surgery.

“It’s an intriguing story, but he’s going to come back when he’s going to come back,” assistant general manager Gord Ash said. “He’s been a marvelous worker, and his results so far have been tremendous — but one Triple-A start does not a season make.”

In four Minor League starts, Capuano is 3-0 with a 0.79 ERA, allowing only two earned runs in 22 1/3 innings. In eight innings against the Rainiers, he scattered three hits while walking a pair and striking out five.

Capuano’s fastball velocity has gradually worked back to normal, though Ash cautioned against putting any focus on that, saying, “Velocity is not part of Chris Capuano’s game.”

Manager Ken Macha liked Capuano’s efficiency.

“[He had 84] pitches in eight innings; that’s amazing,” Macha said. “Let’s see how he holds up to the workload. I think we’ve all — the organization as a whole — had our fingers crossed, and we’re hoping that he is [an option for the big leagues at some point].”

One of Capuano’s closest friends on the Major League club is fellow left-hander Doug Davis. The two have not had a chance to talk since Capuano started working his way back through the Minors, but Davis is thrilled for the success of his friend and groomsman.

“He’s been pitching lights-out, hasn’t he? He’s getting back to the old Chris,” Davis said. “He knows he has the talent and that he’s capable of doing it. It’s just a matter of him being healthy. Because when he’s healthy, he’s good. He’s a big league pitcher.”

Macha not worried about sign-stealing

MILWAUKEE — Manager Ken Macha is not worried about the Phillies stealing his team’s signs.

Even if it happens, Macha believes the blame should be placed on the Brewers for letting it happen rather than on the Phillies for doing so.

“We want all of our pitchers to have a number of sets of signs,” Macha said. “My thought is, if they’re stealing your signs, it’s almost your fault. You should have a complicated enough set of signs and be able to change them enough so that they’re not getting [them].”

As for the specific incident that has been in the news, Macha doesn’t believe Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer was using his binoculars to steal signs against the Rockies.

Macha, who was with the Angels organization during the same time as Billmeyer, noted the distance between the bullpens and home plate in Colorado.

“It’s about 500 feet out there,” he said. “You might need a spotting scope from out there.”

Macha added that the Brewers are no strangers to being on the same side of the issue.

Following the Brewers’ series sweep in Pittsburgh earlier this season, the Pirates were concerned that their signs may have been stolen. As a result, they made an effort to keep the Brewers from doing so when the teams squared off again in Milwaukee less than a week later.

“When they came in here to play us, after we played in Pittsburgh, that catcher was going out there like every other trip,” Macha said. “They were changing the signs. They thought we were stealing their signs.”

Lefty Chris Narveson knew all about the binoculars flap because he used the Rockies’ television feed to scout Phillies hitters this week. He will probably use multiple signs on Saturday, just in case.

“Talking to some of the other guys, Philadelphia has always been very conscious of helping the hitter out any way they can,” Narveson said. “You don’t change your approach. You just have to be smart, and that’s what the game comes down to. Everyone wants the advantage.”

How prevalent is sign-stealing today?

“A lot more than people think,” Narveson said. “The thing is, some [hitters] want to know, and some guys don’t. You have to negate the ones who want to know. It’s like a chess game.”

In regard to the Phillies’ incident, the use of binoculars was cited by many as the deciding factor as to whether it was acceptable. Though many believe it is OK to steal signs, they did not approve of using any additional “equipment” to do so.

Again, Macha does not see things quite the same way.

“When we played the Cubs a long time ago, I was with the Expos then, they’d just go in and look at the monitors,” he said. “We’ve got monitors everywhere here. Everybody’s got a video thing in the back there. You can find out what the signs are.

“So it’s your job to disguise the signs. If you don’t disguise the signs, then it’s like putting free candy out on the dinner table for your kids. What do you think is going to happen?” —Jordan Schelling

Braun back in action for Brewers

MILWAUKEE — After sitting out the final two games of the previous series, left fielder Ryan Braun was back in the lineup on Friday against the Phillies.

Braun was hit near his left elbow by a pitch from Braves starter Tommy Hanson on Monday.

“He said that he’s fine,” manager Ken Macha said.

With veteran lefty Jamie Moyer starting for the Phillies, it made for a favorable matchup for Braun in his return. In 10 career at-bats against the 47-year-old left-hander entering the game, Braun had six hits, including two home runs and a double, and four RBIs.

After being swept by the Braves with Braun on the bench for the majority of the series, Macha and the Brewers hope Braun’s return could help spark the struggling offense.

“The matchups, really — him hitting against those guys — he had favorable matchups. So maybe it would have had an impact on the game,” said Macha, referring to the potential outcomes had Braun faced Braves starters Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe. “Hopefully, it’ll give us a lift.”

Aaron’s final blast top moment of 1970s

MILWAUKEE — It was close, but Hank Aaron’s final home run, in 1976, narrowly edged the Major League debut of an 18-year-old Robin Yount in 1975 as the top Brewers’ moment of the 1970s.

In a vote open to both fans and the media, Aaron’s 755th home run received 27.8 percent of the ballots, 1.2 percent more than Yount’s debut. At 22 percent, Opening Day in 1970 — the Brewers’ first game back in Milwaukee — finished in third place.

The top three moments, which were chosen as a part of the Brewers’ 40th anniversary celebration, were revealed on Friday night at Miller Park and on Fox Sports Wisconsin.

Next month the same process will take place for the 1980s. In July and August, fans and media will vote for the 1990s and 2000s, respectively.

After the top three moments from each decade have been chosen, a fifth poll will choose the top moments in Brewers history. The top 12 will be announced, in reverse order, during the final homestand of the season, beginning Sept. 20.