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Brewers beat 7/24

July 24, 2010 Comments off

Hart happy to find out wrist isn’t broken

MILWAUKEE — A day after slamming his wrist into the wall in right field, Corey Hart said he felt a little sore. The good news, though, is that an MRI on Friday revealed no fracture.

Hart said the exam was a relief: “Especially the way it’s going, I didn’t want to miss too much. I might miss a few days. I’ll take treatment until it stops hurting. I’m lucky I didn’t break anything. It could have been a lot worse.”

Hart injured his wrist Friday in the top of the third inning during the Brewers’ 7-5 victory over the Nationals. As he attempted to catch a long foul ball off the bat of Cristian Guzman, Hart slid and hit his right hand against the concrete wall below the padding.

Hart injured his wrist in a similar region of the ballpark where Braves outfielder Matt Diaz slid into the concrete wall and suffered a knee injury two years ago, which cost him much of the season.

Now it’s just a waiting game for Hart and the Brewers.

Hart was out of the lineup Saturday night, and Joe Inglett got the start in right field. Before the game, Hart sported a compression sleeve on his right wrist, which is intended to keep the swelling down.

Once he feels well enough to play again, Hart expects to return to the field. The Brewers have an off-day Thursday, which could give him an extra day of rest before returning.

But that’s not exactly his plan.

“I’d like to be in before then,” Hart said. “I’m probably not going to play these next two. Hopefully I’ll get at least a couple games against the Reds.”

Lucroy gets another shot at catching Parra

MILWAUKEE — Brewers manager Ken Macha shook up his catching rotation Saturday night, putting rookie Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate with lefty starter Manny Parra.

Over his past three outings, Parra had been paired with backup catcher George Kottaras. Lucroy struggled with stopping Parra’s splitter, which resulted in several wild pitches.

“I had that because of balls getting back to the screen on the split,” Macha said. “I just feel that we’re going to try this fit because of results we can get with Manny, so we’ll try somebody else back there.”

In three starts this month with Kottaras behind the plate, Parra has a 1-2 record with a 10.89 ERA, allowing 19 earned runs over 16 innings on 28 hits, including five home runs.

Conversely, in five starts with Lucroy catching during the month of June, the Brewers left-hander went 1-2 with a 4.18 ERA, allowing 13 runs on 29 hits (four homers) over 29 innings.

Parra had 36 strikeouts against 13 walks in June, compared with 12 against seven this month.

So does Macha think having Lucroy behind the plate is going to result in a better outing for Parra?

“I don’t know, we’ll see,” Macha said. “How did he do last time out? Sometimes catchers and pitchers get on the same page and it happens.”

Hawkins set for another rehab outing Monday

MILWAUKEE — Veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins will rejoin the Brewers soon, but not before Tuesday at the earliest.

Manager Ken Macha said before Saturday’s game that Hawkins would pitch for Triple-A Nashville again Monday as he continues to rehab from right shoulder weakness.

“We’re just going to evaluate his Monday outing,” Macha said. “We’ll go from there.”

Hawkins pitched for the second straight night Friday, tossing 16 pitches over two innings while allowing just one hit as he earned the save.

Macha was hesitant to confirm that Hawkins would rejoin the club after his outing Monday, based on Hawkins’ own evaluation of his rehab outings, which Macha received from Brewers trainer Roger Caplinger.

“One of his other outings he kind of indicated he wasn’t really on top of his game quite yet,” Macha said. “I just got that report from Roger. I didn’t talk to [Nashville pitching coach] Rich Gale or anyone like that. Rick Peterson, our pitching coach, will talk to Rich Gale sometime.”

Worth noting

The Brewers’ comeback on Friday night, after being down 5-1 to win 7-5, marked their largest comeback victory of the season. They had previously come back from three-run deficits five times. … Milwaukee had homered in 12 straight games entering Saturday’s contest, going 8-4 during that stretch. It marks the longest streak for the Brewers since they homered for a franchise-record 20 straight games from July 1-24, 2008. … Prince Fielder entered Saturday’s game just one RBI shy of 500 for his career. He would become the 12th player in franchise history with at least 500 RBIs. … Rickie Weeks is on pace for 102 RBIs this season, all coming from the leadoff spot. Weeks would be just the second leadoff hitter in MLB history to eclipse the 100 RBI mark, joining Darin Erstad, who did it in 2000 with the Angels.

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.

Brewers beat 7/23

July 23, 2010 Comments off

Hart day-to-day after injuring right wrist

MILWAUKEE — Corey Hart’s trade value may have taken a hit on Friday when the Brewers right fielder injured his right wrist attempting to catch a fly ball in the third inning of the 7-5 win over the Nationals.

But manager Ken Macha and the Brewers just want him in the lineup as soon as they can get him back.

As Washington second baseman Cristian Guzman drove a ball deep to right, Hart tracked it toward the right-field line and crashed into the wall as he attempted to catch the eventual foul ball.

Hart stayed in the game and finished out the top half of the inning, but was removed in favor of veteran outfielder Jim Edmonds, who pinch-hit for Hart in the bottom of the third and hit a decisive two-run homer in the seventh.

After leaving the game, Hart underwent X-rays and an MRI on his wrist, which revealed no fracture.

Brewers manager Ken Macha was unsure how long Hart would be out, but considering the way his right fielder has swung the bat since the middle of May, he certainly would like to have him in the lineup as soon as he can.

“He’s day-to-day, as we all are,” Macha said. “We’ve got other guys that can fill in. Edmonds won the game for us tonight. But [Hart] can have a sudden impact on the game at any time.”

With Hart being the subject of a number of trade rumors this month, the injury could not have come at a more inconvenient time for the club, since any ailment or significant time missed complicates any trade discussions.

From his vantage point, though, Macha did not think the injury looked too significant.

He added that with the way Hart jammed his hand into the wall, the location of the injury required precautionary measures to be taken.

“When they were doing all the tests out in right field on him, it didn’t look that bad,” Macha said. “Where it was located, they were concerned there may be a small bone fracture in there, so they did the MRI.”

Crew concerned with level of plunkings

MILWAUKEE — The Brewers are tired of being bruised.

Entering Friday’s game, they had been hit by pitches 50 times this season, most of any team. Rickie Weeks (18 times) and Prince Fielder (16 times) rank first and second in the Majors. The Cubs’ Marlon Byrd has also been struck 16 times.

“It’s happening far too often,” outfielder Ryan Braun said. “Look, we understand that we’re a team that hits for a lot of power and they have to pitch us inside. There’s just times that guys are missing by too much with their fastballs, too often, to both [Weeks and Fielder]. That’s not something we want to be a part of, and when it does happen, obviously, we have to do something about it.”

Weeks declined to talk Thursday night about the Ross Ohlendorf pitch that struck him in the fifth inning and sparked some tempers on both sides of the field at PNC Park. Fielder, who had words with the umpires when the teams were warned later in the game, did not make himself available to reporters.

“I haven’t seen the ball that Rickie got hit with,” manager Ken Macha said after Thursday’s game. “But from what I understand, it was in the middle of the batter’s box.”

After the incident Thursday night, Macha did his part to work on eliminating the problem.

“I had another conversation with people from Major League Baseball today,” Macha said. “They’re looking into it.”

As for what he thinks should be done about the issue, Macha made it clear he thinks some suspensions should be in order for the pitchers who are hitting his players.

“They’ve got to get the guys that perpetrate what goes on,” Macha said. “I don’t know people’s intent, but evidence is mounting. … Fining and suspending managers, I don’t think that’s going to get it done. Managers aren’t throwing the balls.”

Macha said he hopes by talking to MLB officials that he can eliminate the problem before it reaches a point where his players are required to retaliate in a significant way.

He added that he doesn’t think MLB would want such action to occur, either.

“That’s why I’m using the avenues that I am. I don’t think the alternative is what Major League Baseball wants, and that’s going out and having a brawl,” Macha said. “They don’t want that. I think that’s why they were trying to clean this up.”

Miller Park largely spared from flooding

MILWAUKEE — As up to eight inches of rain pounded the Milwaukee area on Thursday night, it seemed likely Miller Park would be affected by the flooding that impacted much of city. After all, the ballpark suffered extensive damage after a strong storm a year ago.

Thanks to a recently installed berm between Miller Parkway and the Brewers’ staff parking lot, however, the service level at Miller Park was not affected by the storms Thursday night.

According to Brewers spokesman Tyler Barnes, credit goes to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

“The DOT, in the spring, really did a phenomenal job building this berm,” Barnes said. “They put up a berm to prevent any sort of flooding coming into the south dock.

“The water got up on the berm pretty high, but they nailed it. If this was a once in a five-lifetime rain or whatever they’re saying it was, then it did its job.”

Last summer, a major rainstorm resulted in damage throughout the service level, which includes the home and visitors’ clubhouses as well as batting cages and a media interview room, among other things.

As a result, all the furniture and upholstery in the home clubhouse was required to be replaced — with temporary replacements last season and more permanent furniture and carpeting prior to the start of this season.

After the storm Thursday, the damage at Miller Park was no different than any other above-average rainstorm.

“Sort of ironically, the service level is bone dry, and then in some of the areas of offices on the field level we had a few areas that got some water in them,” Barnes said. “Brewers enterprises, the ticket offices and the administrative office entrance had some water in them.

“I wouldn’t call it standing water, it was more of a nuisance. So we’re having to make some repairs there, but quite honestly, we’ve had some water come in there a couple times already this year.”

Brewers bussed home from Chicago

MILWAUKEE — While the Brewers were in Pittsburgh throughout much of Thursday night’s storm, they certainly were among those who felt its effects.

Rather than fly as regularly scheduled from Pittsburgh to Milwaukee, the club was forced to fly into Chicago as General Mitchell International Airport was closed due to flooding on the runways.

From there, the Brewers bussed from Chicago to Milwaukee. According to Brewers broadcaster Cory Provus, the team’s flight landed in Chicago at 1:30 a.m. CT, while the bus arrived in Milwaukee just before 3 a.m.

“I think I was in bed by 3:30, I’d say,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “It’s no big deal. It’s just like playing a night game in Boston and then going to Kansas City.”

Worth noting

Veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins threw 11 pitches for Triple-A Nashville on Thursday night. According to Brewers manager Ken Macha, Hawkins was scheduled to pitch another inning Friday for the “back-to-back days” part of his rehab assignment. … Left-hander Zach Braddock was unavailable once again for the Brewers on Friday. Macha said that Braddock was undergoing treatment and would likely miss a couple more days. … This weekend, the Brewers will celebrate their teams of the 1990s. Friday night, they wore reproductions of the Brewers uniforms from 1997-99 while welcoming Greg Vaughn and Jeff Cirillo back as part of the celebration.

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

Hart’s walk-off HR lifts Brewers to sweep

July 11, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — It was the perfect ending to a great week for Corey Hart.

A week after being named to his second All-Star Game, the Brewers right fielder capped the first half of the season with his second walk-off home run on Sunday.

Hart, who had struggled through his first four at-bats of the game, crushed a 1-0 slider out to left off Pirates closer Octavio Dotel, giving the Brewers the 6-5 victory at Miller Park.

“I was trying to see something and get a hit,” Hart said. “When I hit it, I didn’t want to be one of those guys that put my hand way up in the air, so I gave it the half finger because I thought I got it.

“I knew it was going to be over his head, so I knew the run would score.”

Hart’s blast put an exclamation point on what is sure to be a memorable day for him, as he was named to the starting lineup of the National League All-Star squad as a replacement for injured Braves outfielder Jason Heyward.

Afterward, Hart was all smiles after his team-leading 21st home run saved the day for Milwaukee and sent the Brewers into the All-Star break on a positive note.

“They were giving Corey a lot of breaking balls,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “He finally got one up and didn’t miss it. That’s a nice ending to the first half.

“The climate in [the clubhouse] is a 180 [degrees different] from the end of the [previous] series.”

Not only did Hart give the Brewers the win, but the two-time All-Star also picked up the slack of closer John Axford.

With the Brewers having tied the score at 4 in the eighth on a pair of singles by Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez, the game was placed in Axford’s hands with the expectation that he would give the home team a chance to win in the bottom half of the ninth.

Axford (5-1), who was pitching for the third straight game, gave up a pair of singles to open the inning, which was followed by a sacrifice fly to right, putting the Pirates ahead by a run.

The first single, which came on a bunt by Ronny Cedeno in which he narrowly avoided a tag by first baseman Prince Fielder, was a call which Axford did not agree with afterward.

“I thought Prince got him right on the heel, so did Prince,” Axford said. “I’m sure if you ask the umpires, they’ll say, ‘No,’ but if you ask them without a paper and pen and maybe a recorder, they might say that he was tagged.

“It was right there. I was standing right in front of it, and it looked pretty good. I even thought I heard it.”

Axford escaped the inning when he snagged a ball hit back through the middle and started a crucial inning-ending double play.

Though he was frustrated when he returned to the dugout, Axford reminded himself that his club was certainly capable of coming back again.

Three batters later, he was right.

Lefty starter Randy Wolf was not as sharp as he might have liked to have been, but he did just enough to keep the Brewers in the game. Wolf allowed four runs on seven hits over six innings while walking three and recording five strikeouts.

For the second straight outing, Wolf had a solid start except for one bad inning — a three-run second frame. The only other blemish was a solo homer in the sixth by rookie third baseman Pedro Alvarez.

“One rough inning,” Wolf said. “I left some balls over the plate, and they had a three-run inning. That last run. … I was successful all day with fastballs to Alvarez and he just finally caught up to one and he barreled it.

“I’m not happy with it, but I’m glad we ended up winning in the end.”

Despite his lack of success early on — Alvarez was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts going into the at-bat — he stuck with it and gave his team the 4-3 lead.

“You never know when you can get a big hit,” he said. “It’s a matter of not giving up, and I just kept with it. I was fortunate enough to put a good swing on the ball.”

Along with Hart’s big blast, the Brewers got two more homers, solo shots by Braun and George Kottaras.

For Braun, who continues to break out of a prolonged slump, the home run was his second in as many games as he went 5-for-8 with two home runs, five runs and three RBIs in the three-game sweep.

After dropping five straight with some of their worst performances of the season, the Brewers head into the All-Star break riding a wave of momentum.

“We feel better about ourselves, that’s a good thing,” Braun said. “It’s irrelevant to think about whether we’ve won four or five games in a row or lost four or five in a row.

“We just need to focus on the task at hand, go inning to inning, at-bat to at-bat, pitch to pitch and try to put ourselves in the best position to be successful.”

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 7/11

July 11, 2010 Comments off

Hart joins Braun as All-Start starter

MILWAUKEE — What a week it has been for Corey Hart.

A week ago, Hart was named to the All-Star Game for the second time as a reserve outfielder for the National League.

One week later, he has been added to the starting lineup.

Hart, who will participate in Monday’s Home Run Derby, was announced Sunday as the replacement for injured Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, joining teammate Ryan Braun in the starting outfield for the NL.

“I was excited, then I got really excited when Brauny came in and kind of like jumped on me,” said Hart, who hit a two-run walk-off homer, his 21st, to cap the Brewers’ 6-5 victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday. “We haven’t had two position players in the starting lineup for I don’t know how long. So it’s a pretty good moment for us.”

It’s the first time in 27 years that the Brewers will have two position players in the starting lineup as Braun and Hart share the outfield in Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Anaheim.

The last pair of Brewers position players to start together in the All-Star Game were catcher Ted Simmons and shortstop Robin Yount for the American League in 1983.

Braun, who is the first Brewers player to start in the All-Star Game three straight years, joined Ben Sheets in the starting lineup in 2008, as Sheets was the starting pitcher for the NL.

For Hart, the starting nod just adds to an already impressive first half of the season.

After struggling for much of the 2009 season, Hart had a poor Spring Training, leading to his benching on Opening Day.

Hart expressed his displeasure with being taken out of the Opening Day starting lineup but used that move as the motivation behind his surprising resurgence.

It has paid off so far as he has moved from the No. 7 spot in the batting order to No. 2, becoming one of manager Ken Macha’s most reliable hitters.

More importantly, though, Hart earned the respect of the rest of the league, as he was voted into the All-Star Game by his peers.

“It’s pretty nice,” Hart said of being added to the starting lineup after all he has been through this season. “It’s an extra stamp on the, ‘I told you so,’ I guess. I love it here, and I wanted to prove to them that I could be the guy again.

“I’ve always told them I wanted to be here and I want to stay here as long as they’ll let me. Obviously they were down on me, so I wanted to prove them wrong so they could get a good feeling about me again.”

Hawkins’ rehab stint starts Thursday

MILWAUKEE — After two months on the disabled list, LaTroy Hawkins finally will return to game action on Thursday, for the Brewers’ rookie league team in Arizona.

Hawkins is scheduled to pitch one inning in Arizona against the Cubs’ rookie league squad. If all goes according to plan in that outing for Hawkins, the veteran reliever will go to Nashville to continue his rehab with the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate.

“I don’t know exactly what the schedule is, but he’s going to get back-to-back days and he’s going to get a two-inning stint also,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “Hopes are that he may be back around the Cincinnati series [on July 26-28].”

The true test over the next two weeks for Hawkins will be the back-to-back days he pitches with Nashville, Macha said based on his conversation with pitching coach Rick Peterson.

“It’s broken up into back-to-back days and then a two-inning stint, and I think the back-to-back days are right before the Cincinnati series,” Macha said. “Rick’s feeling is if he’s fine after the back-to-back days he should be ready to join us.”

No slowing Axford’s surprising rise

MILWAUKEE — If anyone said they saw this coming from John Axford, they’d be lying.

Since being called up on May 15, Axford has emerged as the Brewers’ closer, something no one would have expected in Spring Training with the all-time saves leader, Trevor Hoffman, on the roster.

Axford, a 27-year-old native of Ontario, Canada, hasn’t just taken hold of the closer’s role for the Brewers either. He’s been consistently dominant in the late innings for the Crew.

“Who knew he was going to come and do this?” manager Ken Macha said of Axford.

With his save in Saturday’s win over the Pirates, Axford maintained his perfect mark, having converted 10-of-10 save opportunities. Along with that impressive streak, Axford is 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA.

Axford made his 22nd appearance of the season Saturday, and finally surrendered the first home run — a solo shot by catcher Ryan Doumit — of his Major League career.

“We got the win, we got the save, that’s all that matters,” Axford said. “Obviously I don’t want to give up that home run, the first one of my career. It was going to happen at some point or another if I want to keep going in this game, obviously.

“It’d probably be a miracle if I didn’t give up one if I kept playing.”

Axford has quickly become a fan favorite, due in large part to his facial hair.

When first called up, Axford sported a handlebar mustache, the ends of which he occasionally curled, giving him a look reminiscent of former Brewers closer and Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers.

He has since switched to a different look with the mustache, but remains a favorite among Brewers fans as he continues to impress in the ninth. After being called up in September 2009, Axford’s goal was to return to the big leagues in 2010 out of Spring Training.

He had to wait until May, but his first two months in the big leagues this season have been better than anyone could have predicted.

“It’s been great, it’s been fun,” Axford said. “Coming out of that ‘pen, obviously the emotions are going and everything like that. But on the mound, I try to calm it.

“Outside those lines, everything’s been fantastic, it’s been great. I’m feeling happy all the time no matter what’s really going on. I’m happy to be here, especially in the situation I’ve been put in to have the confidence and the trust of the staff. It’s been a blessing.”

Braddock becomes reliable source of relief

MILWAUKEE — Three rough outings aside, Zach Braddock has been as reliable as any Brewers reliever since being called up in late May.

Braddock surrendered four runs in the ninth inning of a 10-4 loss to the Mets on May 30, one run in an inning against the Cubs on June 9 and three runs to the Rockies in just two-thirds of an inning on June 19.

In his other 16 appearances through Saturday, Braddock had not allowed a run.

It adds up to a 1-1 record with a 4.32 ERA in those 19 appearances for Braddock, who also had allowed five of 13 inherited runners to score.

“I’ve had my struggles, but I’ve also had my successes,” Braddock said. “Learning this road is keeping those as evenly keeled as possible. You never want to have those bad days, but it’s how you pick up off them and how you come out the next day and get right back at it.”

Since giving up three runs in Colorado on June 19, Braddock entered Sunday having pitched 6 2/3 innings over eight appearances without allowing a run. He also has given up just six hits and one walk over the same stretch while recording seven strikeouts.

In his time with the big league club, Braddock has been fortunate to spend every game in the bullpen alongside all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman. The experience has been invaluable for Braddock.

“A lot of the older guys have helped me, but obviously, the no-brainer is Trevor Hoffman,” Braddock said. “His experience speaks volumes over my time here. And I don’t even have to seek out help. Sometimes all it takes is to observe his daily routine.”

In addition to the veterans on the club, though, Braddock has benefited from playing alongside a couple young players like himself in catcher Jonathan Lucroy and closer John Axford.

For Braddock, the familiarity with Lucroy and Axford has only made his experience in the Majors that much better.

“It’s always great to have friends with you, and it’s always great to have guys who you can bounce the experience off,” Braddock said. “We’re all going through this together.

“With the bond that Jonathan and I have, it can only strengthen that between us as a battery. And with Ax and I, it can only make us better to share our experiences out there with each other.”

Manager Ken Macha named fellow relievers Kameron Loe and Axford as “pleasant surprises” before Sunday’s game.

As for Braddock, however, his performance has been about what Macha and the Brewers had expected out of the lefty.

“He’s been in some games where he’s done extremely well,” Macha said. “He’s gotten hit hard here, too. Kameron Loe, he’s an invitee to Major League camp and then he comes in and has the impact he’s had. I’d say that’s a bigger surprise.

“We all knew Braddock had great stuff.”

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

Bucs blow lead, lose on walk-off in 10th

July 10, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Even All-Stars have an off night once in a while.

If there was one thing Pirates manager John Russell thought he could count on, it was the performance of relievers Joel Hanrahan, Octavio Dotel and Evan Meek.

Unfortunately for Russell and the Pirates, those three were the ones that surrendered the lead over the final three innings on Friday night as the Pirates lost, 5-4, to the Brewers at Miller Park.

“The three guys that we bring in in the eighth, ninth and 10th are guys that have done that job for us all year long and each one of them gave up runs,” Russell said. “It’s not something we see very often. Unfortunately, it happened. It’s a shame.”

With a 4-2 lead in the eighth, Hanrahan came on in relief of left-handed starter Paul Maholm, carrying an 11-inning scoreless streak with him. Brewers slugger Prince Fielder ended that streak with one swing of the bat, crushing a 1-2 slider deep into the second deck in right field.

In the ninth, closer Octavio Dotel came on looking to end it and snap the Pirates’ four-game losing skid. Dotel had converted seven consecutive saves since June 13, but he struggled after starting the inning with a groundout to third base.

Despite a bunt single, stolen base, throwing error, triple and wild pitch — all with one out — Dotel escaped with the game tied, leaving the contest in the hands of Meek, who entered the game with just a 0.94 ERA.

Meek (4-3) battled for two outs through the first three hitters, including an impressive strikeout of fellow All-Star Corey Hart. With that, it looked like Meek would escape unscathed.

But Meek was bested by fellow All-Star Ryan Braun, who drove a first-pitch slider to the wall in right, plating Rickie Weeks and giving the Brewers the walk-off win.

“To put it simply, the No. 1 priority with Braun was just to keep the ball down, and it was a bad pitch,” Meek said. “It was a breaking ball and it was up right where he was looking to hit it, and that’s really it.

“It was just a poor pitch. You’ve got to keep the ball down with all these guys, especially Braun, and the ball was up. And he did what he should’ve done to it.”

Braun got the opportunity to deliver the game-winning hit after the Pirates chose to walk Fielder with first base open.

“Of course, you always want to make the team pay when they walk Prince,” Braun said. “I’m just glad to contribute.”

Perhaps most disappointing about the bullpen’s performance on the night were the good performances that it wasted.

Before Friday’s game, Russell talked about the need for good pitching and extra-base hits to change the Pirates’ fortunes on the road.

They got some of each in the series opener against the Brewers, but unfortunately, the hitting faltered after the fifth as did the pitching following the seventh.

Maholm overcame early struggles to toss seven strong innings, allowing just two runs on three hits while giving up two walks, hitting three batters and recording four strikeouts.

After walking Weeks to lead off the game, Maholm surrendered a two-run opposite-field blast to Corey Hart, his 20th of the season. Aside from some issues with hit batters, Maholm effectively limited the Brewers the rest of the way, giving up just two hits.

“I just got [upset] and started throwing, that’s what it boils down to,” Maholm said. “It wasn’t any mechanical change. I’ve had a couple bad outings, but I just told myself that was going to be it. It was going to stop there and I was going to get deep into the game.”

Maholm had plenty of support early, as the Pirates picked up five extra-base hits — three doubles and two home runs — the first four of which contributed to the club’s four runs on the night.

They couldn’t score after the fifth inning, though, as the Brewers’ bullpen combined to toss five scoreless innings to pick up lefty starter Doug Davis, who struggled in his return from a nearly two-month stay on the disabled list.

The Brewers may have caught a break in the eighth inning, when Lastings Milledge’s single struck second-base umpire Chris Guccione in the foot on its way to center field. Garrett Jones might have tried to score from second on the play had it not struck the ump and been moving fast enough to elude second baseman Weeks, but Jones instead had to return to his base and was stranded there.

Brewers closer John Axford (4-1) picked up the win, throwing a scoreless 10th.

As the home team walked off to victory, snapping a five-game losing streak, the Pirates added a fourth game to their losing skid, and Pittsburgh came out on the losing end for the 22nd time in its last 24 road games.

“It’s just frustrating to play well and not be able to close it out,” Maholm said. “But you give those guys the ball every night and they’re going to have an off night. But you come back tomorrow and expect them to do 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

Wolf, Brewers done in by home run balls

June 26, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — In baseball, momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher.

It’s a quote that’s been used several times this season by manager Ken Macha and it came true on Saturday for the Brewers as they lost, 5-4, to the Mariners at Miller Park.

Entering the game riding a season-high five-game winning streak, the Brewers looked to veteran lefty Randy Wolf to help guide them to a sixth consecutive win. Unfortunately for Wolf and the Brewers, the lefty fell victim to something that has plagued him much of the season.

“It was the home run ball again today for Wolfie,” Macha said. “Both those home runs were legit anywhere.”

Wolf (5-7) gave up a solo home run in the third to left fielder Milton Bradley, which put the Mariners on top 2-0 going into the bottom half of the frame.

Wolf answered with a one-out double, which sparked a four-run rally for the Brewers.

After Wolf, second baseman Rickie Weeks drew a walk and right fielder Corey Hart doubled to left, plating both Wolf and Weeks. It was after Weeks scored, though, when things got interesting.

Weeks leveled Mariners catcher Rob Johnson as Bradley’s throw reached the plate, allowing the ball to get away. On the throw, Hart advanced to third, forcing a throw from Mariners starter Doug Fister.

As Fister’s throw got away from third baseman Jose Lopez, an alert Hart scampered home just ahead of the throw, giving Milwaukee a 3-2 lead.

“I’m still tired; I wish there wouldn’t have been that many mistakes so I could’ve stayed there [at second],” Hart joked after the game. “I think my legs were giving out [approaching home plate] and I was going to fall down no matter what, so I just tried to look a little better than it would have been.

“[The ball] kicked back, but I think the third baseman was looking for the outfielder. So I took off because he was kind of in la la land.”

First baseman Prince Fielder followed with a blast deep to right-center field, making it 4-2 in the Brewers’ favor. With that, it appeared as though for the second consecutive game the offense had quickly turned around what looked like was headed for a Brewers loss.

Unfortunately for them, any momentum was quickly lost in the top of the fourth.

Wolf gave up a one-out walk to Chone Figgins, who scored one batter later on a Franklin Gutierrez double. Lopez came up next and belted a 1-0 fastball to left, putting the Mariners back on top, 5-4.

Afterward, the lefty saw a common theme with the two home runs.

“The first was a changeup I threw to Milton Bradley that just got too much of the plate,” Wolf said. “The next one was a fastball that got too much of the plate.”

Making matters worse for the Brewers was the Mariners’ ability to silence the bats of the home team from the fourth inning on. After putting up four runs on three hits in the third, the Crew managed just one hit and zero runs over the final five frames.

Much of the credit for that belonged to reliever Brian Sweeney, who was lights out in his first Major League appearance since Sept. 29, 2006. Sweeney (1-0) tossed four scoreless innings, giving up just the one hit while striking out four.

“It’s been a while,” Sweeney said with a smile. “This is what you grow up as a kid dreaming about. You want to pitch in the big leagues. To get back here again feels just as good as the first time around. It’s always satisfying, no matter what. Being here, being a part of this team. I felt today just as I did in 2003 when I got that call.”

Wolf’s performance was especially disappointing because both he and the Brewers pitching staff as a whole had been performing so well of late.

Entering the game, Milwaukee had gotten nine quality starts over its last 13 games with the starters posting a 3.06 ERA during the same stretch. Brewers starters had gone 7-4 over that period while the team was 8-5.

With Wolf’s performance included, Brewers starters have a 3.29 ERA, having given up 32 earned runs over their last 14 games.

Wolf personally had posted back-to-back quality starts, going seven strong innings in each while giving up a combined three runs on six hits with four strikeouts and seven walks. Perhaps more importantly, Wolf surrendered just one home run in his last two outings.

On Saturday, struggles with his fastball cost Wolf a third straight quality start.

“I didn’t locate my fastball as well as I have my last two starts,” Wolf said. “Pretty much everything rides off your fastball, and when you don’t have good fastball command it’s hard to be successful. That was the story today.”