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McGehee finds power stroke in sweep

July 25, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Batting practice was optional on Sunday. But that didn’t stop Casey McGehee from getting out there and putting some work in with hitting coach Dale Sveum.

McGehee, who entered Sunday having hit just .234 with four home runs and 14 RBIs since June 1, was the only Brewers hitter to take batting practice on the field before the game.

Maybe his teammates should let him hit alone more often.

With a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning, McGehee put an exclamation point on the Brewers’ 8-3 victory, helping the team record a sweep over the Nationals.

“It was just me and Dale, we were just talking last night and had some ideas of some stuff that we might want to try, just to get a little better feel,” McGehee said. “Who knows if that had anything to do with it, but I’m just trying to get back to feeling like myself at the plate.”

For McGehee, the blast capped a 2-for-3 day that included a crucial first-inning walk, a double in the fifth, three RBIs and a run scored.

Along with McGehee, second baseman Rickie Weeks helped power the Brewers past the Nationals, belting a two-run homer deep to left in the fourth, which made it 5-0 in the Brewers’ favor.

Weeks’ 20th blast of the season extended the Brewers’ streak to 14 consecutive games with a homer. McGehee’s blast was his 14th this year and his first since July 1 in St. Louis.

“When your pitching is holding you in the games, and one swing of the bat with McGehee or Rickie or Prince [Fielder] or [Ryan Braun] can get you several runs,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha, “you feel like you have a chance to win every game.”

The Brewers got an excellent pitching performance from right-hander Dave Bush and were able to limit the damage of their two errors while taking advantage of two defensive miscues by the Nationals.

Thanks to errors in the first and fourth innings, Nationals starter Ross Detwiler was tagged for five runs on just three hits over 3 2/3 innings. Fortunately for Detwiler, his ERA went unharmed, as all five runs were unearned.

For the Brewers, taking advantage of an opponent’s errors made for a much different story than when the Crew was hurt by errors earlier this month in three losses to the Cardinals and Giants.

“We’ve been on the other side of that, and that’s what happens,” Macha said. “Look what happened in the game in St. Louis and back-to-back games here against San Francisco.

“We had an error and they capitalized and got a bunch of unearned runs. It happens to all the teams.”

Afterward, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman was not happy with his team’s defense.

“We did not have a good day defensively today,” Riggleman said. “Going into the series before the All-Star break and up to the current time, we played better defense. But we certainly didn’t get it done today.”

Bush (5-8) tossed six-plus strong innings, giving up just two earned runs on six hits. More importantly, though, Bush recorded seven strikeouts against zero walks.

Through the first five innings, Bush cruised, retiring 15 of 17 batters faced with just one hit. The key for Bush was his changeup, which he used more often than usual.

“[Jonathan Lucroy] called a couple in the first inning and I got a couple swings and misses on it. I had a decent feel for it today,” Bush said. “It’s typically my fourth pitch. It’s not something I’m going to necessarily use a whole lot, unless I feel like I can put it where I want to and get some outs out of it.

“Today, I felt like I could do that here and there. Lucroy figured that out, too and went to it more than usual.”

Bush ran into trouble in the sixth, leaving curveballs up to the first two hitters. It resulted in a pair of runs coming across on a Josh Willingham sacrifice fly and a single by Adam Dunn. Thanks to a nice defensive play by center fielder Carlos Gomez, though, Bush escaped the inning with the lead intact, stranding a pair.

“I didn’t locate all that well,” Bush said of the sixth. “It was mostly a matter of getting some pitches up and having guys on base.”

With the win, the Brewers picked up their second straight home sweep and improved to 10-4 since July 9.

Milwaukee has won four straight games dating back to the series finale in Pittsburgh on Thursday and six straight at home. Next up for the Crew will be the first-place Cincinnati Reds as it looks to continue its climb back into the race on Monday.

“Any time you can sweep a team, no matter who it is, obviously it is big,” McGehee said. “We’re going to have to do some more of that if we want to make things interesting.”

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

Big game has Braun turning corner

July 10, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — It’s safe to say Ryan Braun’s recent slump is a thing of the past.

Before the game against the Pirates on Saturday, manager Ken Macha said he didn’t think Braun had ever experienced such a slump in his life at any level.

From the looks of this series, he won’t have to worry about that anymore.

After a game-winning single in the 10th inning on Friday, Braun broke out in a big way on Saturday night, homering, doubling and scoring three runs to lead the Brewers past the Pirates, 4-3, at Miller Park.

Macha said that players are judged based on the way they respond to adversity, which Braun has had quite a bit of over the past month.

“Hopefully he’s working his way out of it,” said Macha.

Braun belted his 12th home run of the season and his first since June 28, a solo shot to left-center field in the third. Prince Fielder followed with a shot to right, giving the Brewers their fifth set of back-to-back homers this season.

“On 3-2, I challenged Prince, and he made me pay, and Braun hit a fat slider out,” said Pirates starter Jeff Karstens, who was tagged with his fourth loss of the season. “[Braun] has kind of hit me well, so I have to figure that out.”

Braun added a double in the fifth as he went 2-for-4 and scored three of the Brewers’ four runs.

Going back to his final at-bat on Friday night, Braun is 3-for-5 with a home run, two RBIs and three runs scored. Before singling in the sixth inning on Friday, he had been 0-for-19.

“I wouldn’t say I’m locked in, [but] I feel better than I did a couple days ago,” Braun said. “It’s a gradual process. You’ve got to walk before you can run I guess. I’m headed in the right direction and starting to feel better.”

Braun wasn’t the only Brewers starter with an impressive performance.

Right-handed starter Dave Bush delivered his fifth consecutive quality start, giving up just two runs on six hits over 6 1/3 innings while walking one and striking out five.

Bush (4-6) picked up the win, his third in his past four decisions. In 18 appearances and 17 starts this season, Bush has 11 quality starts with a 4.14 ERA.

Since getting roughed up for seven runs in just one-third inning in Minnesota on May 21, Bush has gone 3-1 with a 3.37 ERA, with six quality starts. Bush’s performance lately has been as good as it has been since suffering a triceps injury in June 2009 after being struck on the arm with a line drive in Florida.

“The last month or so, I’ve had good command and quite honestly, I’m just feeling stronger,” Bush said. “I feel like I’ve kind of gotten back to the point where I was before I got hurt.

“At the beginning of the year, I was still struggling a little bit with arm strength. It was just a process to getting back to where I felt comfortable. I feel like I have a little more life on the ball now and that sets up my pitches better.”

If not for two bad outings — April 25 vs. Chicago and May 21 at Minnesota — Bush would have a 2.95 ERA with just 30 runs allowed in 91 2/3 innings outside of those two starts.

“The other thing is we really haven’t scored a whole lot of runs for him,” said Macha, whose club is 6-11 when Bush starts. “He’s been a little bit of a tough-luck guy. He came out of a game the other day [with the score] 1-1, pitched very well.

“What’s that [17] starts now? He’s probably given us a chance [to win] in 14 of them.”

Bush allowed two baserunners with just one out in the first, but he settled down nicely the rest of the way, retiring nine of the next 10 batters and 14 of the next 18 before finally giving up a run in the sixth on a Garrett Jones homer to lead off the inning.

Behind Bush, the Brewers got another strong performance from the bullpen as reliever Kameron Loe and Zach Braddock combined for 1 2/3 scoreless innings before handing it off to John Axford.

The closer gave up a home run to lead off the ninth — the first he has allowed in his Brewers career — and proceeded to retire the next three hitters, recording his 10th save in as many chances

With the victory, the Brewers won consecutive games for the first time since winning five in a row from June 20-25.

“The back-to-back wins for the team were more important than the back-to-back homers,” Braun said. “Obviously yesterday was a good win for us, today’s a good win, and it’d be real nice to come out and win tomorrow and go into the All-Star break with some momentum.”

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

No fun in the sun again for the Brewers

June 30, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Blame it on the shadows. Or the mistakes on the basepaths.

Whatever it was, the Brewers had another poor showing on Wednesday in a day game at Miller Park, which is starting to become a trend.

Offensive struggles in home day games continued for the Brewers, as Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez quieted Milwaukee, which lost, 5-1, to drop its first series of the homestand.

“We had just a couple chances to score,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “And we didn’t get it done. We had first and second, one out in the third inning, then we had a leadoff double in the sixth down by one and wound up having two outs on the bases there.”

Part of the problem offensively for Milwaukee was those outs on the basepaths. In the second, McGehee was caught off third on a grounder to third baseman Chris Johnson. As he returned, he tried to step over Johnson, but was called out.

Four innings later, McGehee doubled to lead off the sixth. Rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy followed by bouncing one to Rodriguez, who faked to first before getting McGehee at third. During the next at-bat, Lucroy compounded the problem, as he was caught stealing second.

As strong as the Brewers have been overall offensively this season, they have struggled to hit well at home during day games. Through 15 home day games, the Brewers have just a .236 (123-for-521) team batting average, with just 52 runs scored and 15 home runs.

The offense looked good early in the second and third, but the Brewers only scored the one run in the second, combining to leave four runners on base in the two innings. Over the final six innings, the Crew was unable to put much together.

Rodriguez (5-10) tossed seven strong innings, giving up just one run on seven hits as he walked one and recorded six strikeouts.

“I thought his curveball was real good,” Macha said of Rodriguez. “When he got some guys on he went to that curveball, Rodriguez did, and it was very good.”

The Astros’ lefty outdueled Brewers starter Dave Bush, who went six innings, allowing two runs on five hits while walking five with three strikeouts.

Just as the Brewers have struggled at Miller Park during the day, the Astros knew coming in what kind of effect the shadows could have in the late innings of afternoon contests. With that in mind, they were happy to plate a pair against Bush.

“Playing in this ballpark, and when the shadows creep in, it was kind of nice to get those hits early in the game,” Astros shortstop Geoff Blum said. “You’ve got to be patient with Bush. He’s got four quality pitches, and fortunately for myself, he left a couple up and I was able to find some holes.”

Blum went 2-for-3 on the day with three runs scored, a double and two walks. In the fourth, Blum’s double sparked a two-hit, two-walk inning for the Astros that led to Houston tying the game at 1 on a wild pitch.

In the sixth, Blum’s leadoff walk resulted in the eventual winning run, which he scored on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze by Rodriguez.

Despite his third straight quality start, Bush (3-6) took the loss.

“It’s a disappointing game to lose,” Bush said. “But Rodriguez pitched really well. And he pitched a little bit better than I did. So good job for him, and he earned it for sure.”

It was reliever Carlos Villanueva, though, who let the Astros take control of the ballgame. Villanueva surrendered three runs on three hits in just two-thirds of an inning.

After taking the lead in the sixth, the Astros plated three runs in the seventh on three doubles off Villanueva.

“My job there is to keep the game the same way it is when I come in,” Villanueva said. “They hit my mistakes. I thought I made a couple [of] good pitches, but when I needed an out pitch there, I left the ball up and they put pretty good swings on them.”

With the loss, the Brewers finished 3-3 over the final six games of the homestand after sweeping the first-place Minnesota Twins to open the nine-game stretch at Miller Park.

While the end result, a 6-3 homestand, was good for the Brewers, the way they got there — especially in losing two of three to the fifth-place Astros — was not.

“We’ve got to go to St. Louis, and we’re going to have to play a little better than this [losing] two out of the three here,” Macha said. “Six and three on the homestand. [You] just look at it and say, before the homestand, you’d have taken that. But after the start we had, it’s a little disappointing.”

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 6/29

June 29, 2010 Comments off

Crew must alter rotation for Davis’ return

MILWAUKEE — At least one Brewers pitcher likely will not make their regularly scheduled start in the next homestand, manager Ken Macha said Tuesday.

If everything goes according to plan in his rehab start Wednesday for Class A Wisconsin, lefty Doug Davis will return to the rotation sometime during the Brewers’ four-game series with the Giants.

Macha does not expect to use a six-man rotation, which means one Brewers starter — not Yovani Gallardo — will be bumped from a start in the San Francisco series.

“Unless we have two guys throwing at the same time,” Macha said. “Six, I don’t think that’s going to happen. If we do six, then that pops somebody out at the other end over the last three days there.”

Without Davis’ return, the Brewers’ probable pitchers for the Giants series would be Dave Bush, Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson and Manny Parra. As Davis’ rehab start falls on Wednesday, his next outing on regular rest would coincide with Bush’s scheduled appearnace.

While Davis is anxious to return to the rotation, he understands it will force out another starter, something he is not pleased to do.

“They’re going to have to cut ties with somebody with me coming back,” Davis said. “I hate to see anybody leave and get sent down, or whatever it is, because of me.

“I know it’s part of the game, but if we’re winning I have no reason to say, ‘I can come in and do better than this guy.’ With the way we’ve been playing and the way they’ve been pitching, I can’t.”

At the same time, the success of the rest of the pitching staff only makes Davis want to get out on the mound that much sooner.

“There’s only so much you can do on the DL to help your team win,” Davis said. “Just to get back out there and get on the mound and actually contribute to a winning ballclub is something that you really can’t replace on the DL.”

Hawkins shows progress in bullpen session

MILWAUKEE — With another day came another step forward for reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who is finally seeing some progress with his right shoulder weakness.

Hawkins threw off the mound in a bullpen session Monday for the first time since going on the disabled list. By all accounts, things went as well as could have been expected.

“All reports were good,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “[Pitching coach] Rick [Peterson] was very pleased. I asked [bullpen catcher] Marcus [Hanel], who caught him, and he said he had some late life, he had pretty good velocity, free and easy. A lot of positive things.”

Macha said he planned to announce what the next step would be for the veteran right-hander after an upcoming bullpen session.

“We’ll wait until after Thursday,” Macha said, “and then I’ll do that update.”

Coffey working out arm angle issues

MILWAUKEE — Another reliever appears to be having arm angle issues for the Brewers.

Todd Coffey has struggled in his three appearances since returning from the disabled list on June 20. The right-hander has relinquished four runs — two earned — in one total inning of work. According to manager Ken Macha, the angle of his pitches is the issue.

“Flat. Everything’s flat in the zone,” Macha said. “Guys that he normally gets out — I think [Hunter] Pence was 2-for-11 off him and [Pedro] Feliz was 1-for-11 off him — they whacked him pretty good.”

While Coffey’s arm angle may be the cause of the flatness of his pitches, Macha said something else is causing him to have those issues.

The Brewers’ hope now is that Coffey will do what needs to be done to fix it. On Tuesday, the first step was early work for Coffey in the bullpen.

“He pulls off the ball, his front side opens early and his arm drops down,” Macha said. “He went into ruts like that last year at times, and he got it straightened out.”

Riske unconcerned with rare rough inning

MILWAUKEE — He was bound to give up a run eventually.

But the issue was not that Milwaukee reliever David Riske let Houston touch the scoreboard on Monday. The noticeable difference in his effectiveness was the cause for concern for some.

“Those hitters get paid, too, just like I do. It happens,” said Riske, who was not troubled by his outing. “You can’t be perfect every time.”

Riske, who had not allowed run in his first six appearances since coming off the disabled list June 8, surrendered two runs on two hits and a walk in one inning against the Astros.

According to Riske, his delivery may have been too fast, which caused his arm to drag a bit. He added that he wasn’t throwing as many strikes as he usually does. Manager Ken Macha said he thought Riske left some pitches up with a lack of movement.

“His split and changeup have been very good,” Macha said. “But when they were belt-high, they would up hitting them.”

Riske said he did not go back and watch his inning — and he does not plan to do so.

Instead, he just plans to move forward and try to get better results next time.

“I was just a little off, I had an off night,” Riske said. “I’m not worried about it. Not at all.”

Brewers add Jeffress to 40-man roster

MILWAUKEE — With an open spot available, the Brewers added right-handed reliever Jeremy Jeffress to the 40-man roster on Tuesday, optioning him to Class A Wisconsin.

Milwaukee designated Chris Smith for assignment when reliever Todd Coffey was activated from the disabled list, opening a spot on the 40-man roster. Smith eventually accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Nashville, but the open spot remained.

Jeffress, 22, was a first-round selection by the Brewers in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. His time with the club has been marred by separate 50- and 100-game suspensions for testing positive for “a drug of abuse.”

Since signing with the club in 2006, Jeffress has played for the Double-A Huntsville Stars, Class A Advanced Brevard County Manatees and the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

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