Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Cincinnati Reds’

Wolf flies under the radar in lopsided victory

September 22, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — On any other night, Randy Wolf’s performance would have been the story of the game. But with the way the Brewers hitters were swinging the bats in a 13-1 victory over the Reds, a quality start and a 2-for-4 performance at the plate got lost in the shuffle.

Making Wolf’s outing even more impressive was the way he responded after his club put up eight runs in the second and five more in the next three innings. Often with such long innings offensively, a team’s pitcher tends to struggle going back out on the mound.

Wolf just got better as the game went along.

“There were some long breaks, but the main thing is, when it’s that kind of score, you’ve got to go out there and feel like it’s 0-0,” Wolf said. “If you go out there and you see it’s 8-1, 13-1 … all of a sudden it’s four runs, five runs and they’re creeping their way back.

“As a pitcher, you’ve got to keep your focus and pitch the right way. You really don’t want to totally change your aggressiveness or change your whole philosophy just because of the score.”

Not only did Wolf pitch well as his team sent 34 hitters to the plate in the second through fifth innings, he did so after fighting through a rough first inning.

Wolf opened the game giving up three singles and a walk in the top of the first. Fortunately, the veteran lefty managed to hold the National League Central-leading Reds to just one run in the inning.

“Wolfy, another good outing for him,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “He got help with some defense in the first inning, a tremendous play by [Ryan] Braun getting the ball off the wall to get their leadoff hitter.”

With a fortunate out on his side, Wolf got the next batter to hit a grounder back to the mound. But with just one out to go in the inning, he walked Jay Bruce and surrendered back-to-back singles before striking out Yonder Alonso to end the inning.

That strikeout was the first of four in a row for Wolf and the beginning of a stretch of 11 consecutive batters retired. Wolf did not allow another hit until a leadoff double in the sixth off the bat of Paul Janish, who replaced Orlando Cabrera at shortstop.

“I didn’t really have the command I wanted early on,” Wolf said. “Luckily, as the game went on, I felt better and better and felt more comfortable out there and I was able to mix my pitches and work my fastball in and out.”

Tossing six strong innings while allowing just one run on four hits with seven strikeouts against two walks, Wolf posted his fourth straight quality start in September. This month, Wolf is 3-1 with a 1.21 ERA, allowing just four runs on 18 hits in 29 2/3 innings pitched.

Since his infamous 12-run outing in Pittsburgh, Wolf has gone 6-2 with a 2.57 ERA in his last 11 starts, giving up 21 earned runs over 73 2/3 innings pitched. In his 31 other starts not including that July 21 loss, Wolf is 13-10 with a 3.81 ERA.

“Randy was great again,” shortstop Craig Counsell said. “He’s been on quite a roll, and he’s put together a good season — a really good season.”

Brewers beat 9/22

September 22, 2010 Comments off

McClendon causes stir with quick pitch

MILWAUKEE — As manager Ken Macha sees it, what Brewers reliever Mike McClendon does with two strikes absolutely is not an illegal quick pitch. The four Reds batters McClendon struck out on Tuesday night would likely disagree.

After he struck out third baseman Scott Rolen to end the seventh, home-plate umpire Dan Bellino told Macha he thought it was a quick pitch, though he didn’t make the call.

“He said the hitter wasn’t looking,” Macha said. “Go back and look at the tape, the hitter was looking. But sometimes what happens is the umpire gets caught off guard.”

In the eighth, McClendon continued to work with a shorter, quicker delivery after two strikes, and he struck out the side doing so.

The last of McClendon’s four strikeout victims was catcher Ramon Hernandez, who was noticeably upset afterward, pleading his case with Bellino.

“I don’t think in McClendon’s situation that it should even be in the conversation,” Macha said. “He takes a step back, he does his drop step, and then after he gets to his balance point, either he’s slow or he goes fast. There should not even be a question for that.”

McClendon’s manner of pitching in such situations is acceptable, so long as no runners are on base. With the bases empty, the requirement of coming set before pitching is not in play.

As far as Macha is concerned, pitching quickly is no different than switching up between a fastball and an offspeed pitch. It’s all designed to do the same thing to the hitter.

“The idea of pitching is to disrupt the hitter’s timing,” Macha said. “You do that by throwing changeups and fastballs and all that stuff. This is just a little variation of it, and I see absolutely nothing wrong with it.”

Another National League Central pitcher, Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook, pitches with a similar style to McClendon’s. When facing him, Brewers hitters made a concerted effort to call timeout to prevent any potential quick pitch.

So who’s at fault in the quick pitch issue?

“Is it on the hitter? He’s in the box,” Macha said. “If he knows the pitcher is going to do that, it’s up to him to call time.”

Cruz not seeing much playing time

MILWAUKEE — Since being recalled from Triple-A Nashville on Sept. 7, shortstop Luis Cruz has pinch-hit twice for the Brewers, once in Houston and again in San Francisco.

Cruz has yet to start a game for the Brewers, and though he started nearly 40 games in two years with the Pirates, his manager did not wish to start him against contenders like the Giants and Reds.

After playing in 129 games for the Sounds this year, sitting and watching from the bench is a new role for Cruz.

“I’m just working hard to see whenever they find a chance for me and let me play, that’s the only thing I can do,” Cruz said. “You want to play and help the team win, but the manager is the manager. He’s the one that sets the lineup, and he’s got to pick the guys that he thinks are going to help win games.”

With their official elimination from the playoff race on Sunday, though, the Brewers aren’t going anywhere, regardless of how many games they win. Add in the fact that they need to go 12-0 the rest of the way to finish at .500, and the need for winning games would not seem too high.

Learning what they can about September callups like Cruz, however, would seem like a priority. According to Macha, that’s likely to come in the next two series against the Marlins and Mets, both of whom are also on the outside looking in at the contenders.

“I had thrown a crazy idea out there this morning, I don’t know if I’ve got the nerve to do that,” Macha said without giving any additional details. “It’s a little further out of the box than playing Luis Cruz.”

Joining Cruz in watching from the dugout has been Mat Gamel, who also started one game at third base with Prince Fielder out of the lineup.

Any out-of-the-ordinary lineup against the Marlins would likely include Gamel as well, though what defensive position he would play is uncertain. Before Wednesday’s game, Macha had good things to say about Gamel’s outfield abilities.

“He was running them down in the outfield,” Macha said. “He was outstanding in right field. Watching him run balls down today, he was pretty good.”

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.”

Sixth-inning struggles send Brewers to loss

July 28, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — After a thrilling series-opening win Monday, the Brewers’ hopes of making a run toward getting back into the playoff race were high. Two days later, a pair of blowout losses have taken a toll on such a positive outlook.

What a difference a couple days can make.

Like it has many times this season, the sixth inning loomed large for the Brewers on Wednesday. Over 103 games, the Brewers have given up 69 earned runs in the frame, good for a 6.03 ERA, which is tied with the first inning for the worst this season for the Crew.

Left-handed starter Chris Narveson combined with Kameron Loe to surrender five runs on five hits and two walks in the sixth, as the Brewers lost their second straight game to the Reds, 10-2, to drop the series and fall back to seven games under .500.

After tossing five scoreless innings and entering the top of the sixth with a two-run lead, Narveson (8-7) did not record an out, while loading the bases on a pair of singles and a walk.

“It was tough, because you had two ground balls in that inning, both where if they’re hit at somebody, you can get an out. One ball, you could get a double play on,” Narveson said. “It’s funny how the game is.

“It just kind of snowballed from there for us.”

Manager Ken Macha said he made the decision to remove Narveson because the Brewers had a rested bullpen after limiting the number of relievers needed a night earlier.

First out of the ‘pen was Loe, who entered the game with a 1.44 ERA over 25 appearances. He gave up two hits and walked a batter before getting the first out of the inning.

Tagged for two runs on three hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning, Loe also allowed all three inherited runners to score. Entering the game, Loe had stranded 18 of 23 inherited runners.

While Loe was able to get the Reds to hit it on the ground as intended, their grounders did not work out the way he would have liked.

“They hit them too hard. I want soft ground balls, feeble contact,” Loe said. “They might have been ground balls, but not the kind I would have liked. They hit good pitches, too, so give them credit.

“They’ve got a good lineup, man. All series, I didn’t see too many bad swings.”

Loe’s ERA jumped to 1.97, but his performance in the sixth paled in comparison to the rough eighth inning for Carlos Villanueva.

With the Brewers hanging around down just three runs, Villanueva entered in the eighth to hold the Reds in check and give the top of the Brewers’ order a chance to turn the game around in the bottom half of the frame.

Instead, after playing plenty of small ball over the first seven innings, the Reds showed off the power stroke in the eighth.

Villanueva gave up a pair of singles and walked pinch-hitter Mike Leake, before surrendering a towering grand slam to deep left field off the bat of Brandon Phillips. Two batters later, Joey Votto put another out to left, making it 10-2 and putting the game out of reach.

“That grand slam just opened the game wide open,” Macha said. “The first rally, the first five runs, they put the ball in play, they give you good at-bats with two strikes, they’re not afraid to hit the ball the other way.

“Starting the second rally, we got bunts for a base hit, they got the hit-and-run there, the squeeze play, they stole some bases on us here. They’ve got a lot of ways to score.”

Offensively for the Brewers, left fielder Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy each drove in a run as the Crew took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth.

While the game was still in reach in the seventh, center fielder Carlos Gomez led off with a double to the corner in left. He tried to stretch it to a triple, though, and was thrown out a third by Reds left fielder Jonny Gomes.

“I got him on the hop all the way from the wall. It was good,” Gomes said. “It was only 5-2 at the time. A leadoff triple might turn the game around. It was a big out for us.”

Afterward, Gomez shared a similar mindset with Gomes as he defended his mistake.

“In a situation like this, you want to make something happen and wake up the team,” Gomez said.

Milwaukee was unable to put anything together the rest of the way, as second baseman Rickie Weeks’ leadoff single in the eighth would be the last hit of the game for the Crew.

Adding insult to injury, first baseman Prince Fielder was ejected by home-plate umpire Mike DiMuro after he was called out on strikes to end the eighth inning.

After putting together a Miller Park-best seven-game home win streak and winning five in a row overall, the Brewers head to Houston having lost two in a row and dropping back to nine games out of first place in the National League Central.

“I think we just look up to the next series,” Narveson said. “We leave this behind us and try to go into Houston and get right back on that winning streak.

“It’s all about winning games.”

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

Inglett’s instructions on mound: Go slow

July 28, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — When called upon to pitch the ninth inning Tuesday, utility man Joe Inglett was instructed not to try to light up the radar gun.

In the past, Brewers manager Ken Macha has seen less than stellar results from position players who can reach the 90-mph range on the mound.

“I remember one back in Houston where Davey Martinez, who’s the bench coach now for Tampa, center fielder, great arm — he wanted to pitch,” Macha said. “It was kind of like [Paul] Janish last year in Cincinnati, the guy’s throwing 90-plus and just getting raked.

“We had to take him out. We brought in Junior Noboa. He was throwing 60 and went 1-2-3. It’s below hitting speed.”

Another reason for Inglett to throw in the 50-mph range has more to do with health than his performance on the mound.

Earlier this season, Cardinals infielder Felipe Lopez hit the disabled list with an elbow injury just days after he pitched a scoreless 18th inning in a 20-inning game against the Mets. It’s unclear whether the injury was related to Lopez’ appearance on the mound, but it certainly couldn’t have helped.

While throwing slow could have helped prevent an injury to Inglett, choosing the utility man to pitch prevented another Brewers position player from developing an arm injury.

“You’ve got to have somebody that isn’t going to want to try to air it out,” third baseman Casey McGehee said. “You put [Alcides Escobar] up there, he might hit 100. But you’ve got to put somebody in that’s not going to try to light up the radar gun.

“The worst thing you can do is have somebody go out there like that and get hurt.”

Utility man Inglett throws scoreless inning

July 28, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Brewers manager Ken Macha does not like to use position players as pitchers. A week ago, Macha went so far as to call it “embarrassing.”

Yet with the Brewers trailing the Reds, 12-4, on Tuesday, Macha asked utility man Joe Inglett to pitch the ninth.

Inglett was the first Brewers position player to pitch since infielder Trent Durrington threw on April 17, 2004, in Houston. Five other position players have taken the mound so far this season, including Felipe Lopez and Joe Mather for the Cardinals on April 17 and Jonathan Van Every on May 8 for Boston. Former Brewers utility man Bill Hall also pitched for the Red Sox on May 28, and he was joined by Houston’s Kevin Cash the same day, who pitched for the Astros against the Reds.

“It’s really the first time I’ve ever used a position player, even when I managed in the Minor Leagues,” Macha said. “It was interesting. He was throwing 51 [mph] and got them out.”

Inglett was effective, retiring the top of the Reds’ lineup in order. Brandon Phillips, Orlando Cabrera and Joey Votto had combined to go 11-for-15 (.733) before facing Inglett, driving in four runs with seven runs scored.

Against Inglett, the top of the Reds’ order managed a popup to third, a groundout to second base and a long flyout to center field.

“One, two, three. That’s all I can say,” right-handed starter Yovani Gallardo said of Inglett. “I was pretty impressed. For him to go in there and get three outs, he made it seem easy.”

Inglett touched 56 mph on the radar gun once, with his average pitch speed at 54 mph.

While the pitches registered as knuckleballs on the pitch tracker, catcher Jonathan Lucroy said Inglett was just throwing the ball to the glove.

“I put down fastball, but it wasn’t fast,” Lucroy said. “It’s just flipping them in there. That’s all it is. Just trying to save our pitching staff for tomorrow.”

Macha said that the status of his pitching staff was the reason he called for Inglett on the mound. After Gallardo went just 2 2/3 innings, Macha used Todd Coffey for one-third of an inning to close out the third.

Long-reliever Chris Capuano pitched three innings, followed by David Riske for the seventh and Trevor Hoffman for the eighth.

While Macha had four pitchers — Kameron Loe, John Axford, Carlos Villanueva and lefty Zach Braddock — remaining in the bullpen, none were available.

“Loe needed another day. I wasn’t going to use Axford. Capuano, I used him, so I needed a lefty [Braddock] for tomorrow,” Macha said. “I thought it would be ill-advised if I used Villa. But when your starter doesn’t get three innings in, that happens.”

Inglett, who did not want to talk about his Major League pitching debut after the game, was volunteered by his manager.

“I asked him if he’d pitched before,” Macha said. “He said, ‘I’ll go do that.'”

Wolf, Crew hope fortunes turn around after 5th straight win

July 27, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — If the series opener against the Reds is any indication, the Brewers could make a major move this week toward getting back in the National League playoff race.

To do so, they’ll need more of what they got on Monday night: strong pitching and clutch hitting, which led to a thrilling victory, 3-2, over the Reds at Miller Park.

The winning formula has been pretty simple lately: Good pitching and big late-inning hits have delivered wins in each of the first four games of the Brewers’ current six-game homestand, and they’ve won seven in a row overall at home.

On Monday night, the stars of the show were Randy Wolf, Rickie Weeks and Jim Edmonds, the latter two playing big roles throughout a five-game winning streak.

Wolf bounced back in a big way from a rough outing in Pittsburgh to battle with Cincinnati right-hander Bronson Arroyo in what turned out to be an excellent pitchers’ duel. After giving up 12 runs on 13 hits last time out, Wolf went seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits while walking one and striking out five.

In his previous outing, Wolf kept himself in the game to help preserve the Brewers’ tired bullpen.

“It was a nightmare game,” Wolf said. “Those are the kind of games you try to put behind you. They’re the kind of games where you could go out there and tell [the hitters] what was coming, and it would be better than it was. You can’t lose sight of that.”

Wolf struggled a bit early again Monday, loading the bases with none out in the second, but he managed to escape with just two runs on the board for the Reds.

After giving up a two-run single that inning, Wolf retired 17 of the final 20 batters he faced.

“Those guys get us out of a lot of jams, and I understand that’s a tough job. … In my last game I said, ‘Put me back out there. I don’t care how many runs I give up. I can take the abuse today. I’ve already taken enough,’ ” Wolf said. “Today, I had a lot of pitches early, so I just tried to get deep enough in the game to where [the relievers] didn’t have to throw a lot of innings.”

In the third, following a Wolf single for the Brewers’ first hit, Weeks belted an 0-1 slider from Arroyo to dead center field.

The blast, which hit off the batters’ eye, was estimated at 447 feet.

“Rickie continues to be amazing,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “Coming into the game tonight, I think he was 2-for-20 against Arroyo. He got a ball up, I think it was a slider, and I haven’t seen too many balls hit that far here.”

Weeks’ homer allowed the Brewers to extend another streak, giving them at least one home run in 15 straight games, five shy of the franchise record set in 2008.

Arroyo did not allow another hit until the eighth, but the Brewers’ third hit proved costly for him.

After Edmonds crushed a 1-2 fastball home run distance but just foul down the right-field line, Arroyo came back with another fastball. Edmonds hit the second one even farther, and kept it fair for the eventual game-winning home run.

“The end of the game, I play a mental chess match,” Arroyo said. “That’s how I win ballgames. I threw the ball right where I wanted to. I didn’t think he could even swing at the pitch. He hits it out of the park. You tip your hat to somebody that comes off the bench and does that. They closed it out.”

While he might be thinking about retirement, the 40-year-old Edmonds has shown over the past few days that he can still play. What’s more, he can still lead his team to a win, even if he’s coming off the bench.

Having been a part of playoff races in the past with the Cardinals, the veteran center fielder offered his perspective on the significance of the Brewers’ current win streak and what they need to do if they’re going to make an improbable run at the playoffs.

“We’re a long ways from being close to first place, but in order to get close to first place, you’ve got to beat the best teams,” Edmonds said. “They’re obviously the best team in the league right now, and we’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s nice to get a win.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle. It’s a good start for us, but I don’t expect this to be something where you just go out there and win games. It’s going to be a battle, and we’ve got to really concentrate each and every day.

“We’ve got to play better in the last two months than we did in the first four.”

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