Following last night’s thriller, which featured career save No. 600 for Trevor Hoffman, we had a sidebar on his Brewers teammates’ reactions to the moment.
While that story captured the emotions and feelings in the clubhouse, there was far too much to fit in after the game. With a guy like Hoffman who’s frequently described as the “best teammate,” there was hardly of lack of things to say in the home clubhouse.
Braun: “Like we were going to the playoffs”
According to left fielder Ryan Braun, the emotion following the final out of the game was far greater than the meaningless early September game that it starter out as.
“It felt like we were going to the playoffs,” he said. “It was exciting. I think it was exciting for all of us to have something to celebrate, for all of us to have been a part of something so special. That’s something that we might not ever see again. Who knows if anybody else ever gets to 600 saves.”
Coffey: “I was 100 percent spectator”
Perhaps most excited about the achievement — more so even than Hoffman himself — were Hoffman’s bullpen mates.
Reliever Todd Coffey described his feelings as “beyond goosebumps” as he become more of a spectator than a teammate. After that, he went on for a few minutes about the emotions he felt both when Hoffman entered the game and recorded his 600th save.
“As soon as he walked out of the bullpen, the entire bullpen was up and I think we were all clapping louder than the fans, we were hollering louder than the fans,” Coffey said. “I don’t think any of us actually realized we were in the bullpen. We were all out there with Hoffy.
“We were hanging over, we even thought about, ‘let’s just jump the wall and go. Then we thought, ‘we better not jump the wall.’
“I think me, Zach [Braddock] and Kam[eron Loe] all hit the pile at the same time. I think I felt the whole pile moving when we hit it. It’s an experience that I’ll never forget. He’s always there for every one of us. For us to be there for him, it’s amazing. He cares less about himself and more about his teammates than anything else.”
Davis: “Just incredible”
Others had less to say, but their thoughts were no less insightful.
Veteran left-handed starter Doug Davis recalled being part of a similar moment early in his career.
“Definitely the most exciting thing I’ve ever been a part of,” Davis said. “My first win was John Wetteland’s 300th save. I thought that was impressive, but this, twice as many saves, it’s just incredible.”
Bush: “An amazing number”
Another Brewers starter, right-hander Dave Bush, took particular notice of the number of people in the dugout during that final inning, as everyone wanted the best view they could get of Hoffman’s historic save.
“It’s an amazing number, one that nobody’s ever gotten to before,” Bush said. “I can’t even fathom at all what it takes to reach that.
“It was exciting. Probably the most people I’ve ever seen in the dugout in the ninth inning. Everybody was coming down here because they wanted to be as close to it as they could. As a player, moments like that are few and far between. To be his teammate and to be around for something like is just awesome.”
Lucroy: “I’m totally lucky and blessed”
After beginning the season at Double-A Huntsville, catcher Jonathan Lucroy called the game Tuesday night, including Hoffman’s thrilling ninth.
As he waited on the mound for the all-time saves leader, with “Hell’s Bells” blaring from the stadium speakers, Lucroy said he had goosebumps and began to shake from the nerves.
He stayed relaxed behind the plate, though, and didn’t change a thing. Until the final out as he ran down toward first base.
“It’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and cherish,” Lucroy said. “To be able to remember something like that, it’s a blessing for me to even be able to experience it.
“To see him achieve a goal like that is just something that every baseball player lives for. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy. He totally deserves it. It’s an honor for me to even be here and just experience it.
“I was jacked up and excited. I told myself I was going to sacrifice my life to get an out for him if I needed to. I was going to go everything I could to get an out, no matter what I had to do, I was going to sacrifice everything for him.
“For somebody like that, to put in the kind of work he has, to play for as long as he has, and have the kind of character that he has, and for something like that to happen to him, and for me to even be there and be a part of it, it’s an unbelievable feeling.
“I was the first one [to the mound]. Usually I run down to first base and back up on ground balls, but I cut it off halfway. I was going to go get there first as fast as I could. I grabbed him and he grabbed me in a headlock and then everybody else hit and we went at it.
“It’s not very often you see grown men crying out there and there were grown men crying on the field. It was very emotional, I was trying to hold back as best I could. It’s just the payoff for so much hard work and just shows you that if you work hard and be a good person in this game there’s a lot of good things that happen to you.
“I’m totally lucky and blessed to even be here. To experience that, I don’t even deserve that. I don’t even deserve to be on the same field as that guy.”
Axford: “My heart was racing the entire time”
Of course, no story about Hoffman’s historic accomplishment would be complete without some mention of his replacement, rookie John Axford.
As has been the case all season, Axford had nothing but positive things to say about his mentor in the Brewers bullpen.
“He’s meant everything to my development because he carries about his business perfectly. He does everything right,” Axford said. “That’s been the best mentor for me. I just try to watch him and see what he does and see how I can build upon that. Every time I go out there I just try and do right by Trevor. I just want to do basically what Trevor would do and do things the right way.
“My heart was racing the entire time once the ‘Hell’s Bells’ started. My heart was going and it didn’t stop the entire time until we’re actually here right now and I’m still talking a mile a minute. I still feel the emotion and the rush from it. I think it was absolutely unbelievable.”
“It’s a cool kind of turn around. At the beginning of the year, I got my first save and Hoffy went in and got a hold for me. Now I got to go in and save that game for him, which is probably going to be the best hold of my entire life right there. I’m definitely glad I was in that game for sure.”
McGehee: “The ultimate professional”
Third baseman Casey McGehee admitted he was nervous when Hoffman entered the game. In fact, he was just hoping the ball wasn’t hit to him.
Once the final out had been recorded, however, McGehee was thrilled to be a part of such a big moment and to have played with someone who is the all-time leader in any category.
“I think the reaction of all the guys kind of let everybody see how important to this team and to us he is,” McGehee said. “You couldn’t have asked for it to happen to a better guy. He’s the ultimate professional with everything he does.
“There’s not too many people you played with that you can say you played with the all-time best anything. When my career is over and I’m sitting around telling stories at a bar somewhere, that’s going to be one of the ones I tell.
“You can’t block that out, we all knew what was going on. Most of us, we’re huge fans of the game. Coming up, we remember watching Trevor Hoffman when he was in his prime and he was virtually unhittable. To be any small part of it, it’s pretty special.
“Some of these guys that got called up today, first day in the big leagues, not a bad way to start your big league career.”
Fielder: “Happy to be a part of it”
The final out was recorded by Prince Fielder, as veteran shortstop Craig Counsell fielded a ground ball and fired to Fielder at first.
As Fielder closed his first-baseman’s mitt on the ball, he joined McGehee and Lucroy as the first three players to embrace Hoffman on the mound.
“It was awesome,” Fielder said. “Coming into this year, you knew he was close to getting it. Everything he had to go through to get to it and he finally got it, I’m really happy for him. It’s really awesome.
“It [ranks] up there just because it’s your teammate and it’s a really special moment and something that nobody else has ever done. That’s what makes it even more special and I’m just really happy to be a part of it.
Narveson: “Pretty amazing”
But none of it would have been possible had it not been for an impressive seven-inning performance by lefty starter Chris Narveson.
His brilliance on the mound was lost in the shuffle, but everything was set up by one of Narveson’s best starts of the 2010 season.
“That was pretty amazing,” Narveson said. “To be able to witness it and be the guy that started that game, was pretty special.”
MILWAUKEE — Judging by their reaction after the final out in Tuesday night’s 4-2 victory over the Cardinals, you might think the Brewers had just won the World Series.
While that may not have been the case, what they experienced certainly ranks up there pretty close. As shortstop Craig Counsell fired to Prince Fielder at first, all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman recorded career save No. 600.
“To have that final out hit to Milwaukee’s own, sure-handed Craig Counsell, that was rather fitting,” said Hoffman.
As Fielder caught the feed from Counsell, the Brewers mobbed Hoffman on the mound.
“To be a part of it was great because of how much admiration we all have for Trevor,” Counsell said. “That’s what makes it special. Hopefully, that came out [in the celebration]. The way he does his job is the way we all try to do ours.”
For rookie John Axford, the moment presented a fitting role reversal.
When Axford entered with one out in the eighth, he appeared to be in line for the five-out save and his 21st of the season. Instead, the historic moment finally arrived for Hoffman.
“We all understood that this was a moment for him,” Axford said. “I was just hoping inside that he was going to go out there. I know he deserves it and I knew he could get it done.”
After the emotional on-field ceremony that ensued, Axford was reminded by teammate Zach Braddock of an interesting relationship between Hoffman’s save No. 600 and the first of the 2010 season for Axford.
On May 23 at Target Field, after Hoffman had surrendered the closer’s duties, he delivered a scoreless eighth for a hold with the Brewers leading, 4-2, over the Twins. Three months later, it was Axford who delivered the hold in front of Hoffman.
“I felt like I had a big stake in it, too,” Axford said. “It really is unbelievable. It’s probably the best hold I’ll ever have in my entire life right there.”
Not only was it likely the most memorable hold of Axford’s career, it was also the most exciting win to date for Brewers starter Chris Narveson.
“You can’t beat starting a game with Hoffy coming in and getting 600,” Narveson said. “That will be one of the best games I’ll ever be a part of.”
When Hoffman began to warm in the bullpen during the bottom of the eighth, fans and players alike began to take notice.
In the dugout, teammates were asking Axford if it would be him or Hoffman in the ninth. As the Miller Park speakers began to play “Hells Bells,” their questions were answered. With that, they became spectators along with everyone else in attendance.
“I had beyond goosebumps,” reliever Todd Coffey said. “I was completely removed from the bullpen and everything. I was 100 percent spectator at that point.”
For the players on the field, however, the moment was more nerve wracking than anything before Counsell and Fielder recorded the final out.
“The one thought that kept going through my mind was, ‘Don’t hit the ball to me,'” said third baseman Casey McGehee. “I think I probably was more nervous than he was.”
Once save No. 600 was in the books, celebration ensued. From all directions — the outfield, infield, dugout and bullpen — Brewers players and coaches sprinted to the mound.
First among them was rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who embraced Hoffman after playing an integral role in the historic moment.
“It’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and cherish,” Lucroy said. “I got goosebumps standing on the mound waiting for him to get in there.
“I’ll never forget it the rest of my life.”
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
MILWAUKEE — When the night began, Tuesday’s game meant far more to the Cardinals than the Brewers. That all changed when Trevor Hoffman entered in the ninth.
With a two-run lead, the Brewers called Hoffman’s number, setting him up for career save No. 600. Hoffman delivered as he pitched a scoreless ninth in the Brewers’ 4-2 victory over the Cardinals at Miller Park.
Before Hoffman’s historic 600th save, the game was highlighted by a number of unusual happenings on the field.
Brewers manager Ken Macha was tossed by second-base umpire Tim Timmons, and Brewers center fielder Chris Dickerson, Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan and then a male fan sitting in the stands near home plate were all ejected by home-plate umpire Bob Davidson.
“It was an interesting evening,” Macha said. “One coach, one manager, one player and one fan. Everybody got thrown out.”
The flurry of ejections began in the bottom of the second inning, when Timmons called interference on Brewers runner Craig Counsell for leaving the baseline in an attempt to break up Chris Narveson’s double play. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who initially appeared to score on the play for a 3-0 Brewers lead, was ordered back to third base while Macha rushed out to argue.
That call was crucial until the fifth inning, when McGehee’s two-run single off St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse (2-7) snapped a tie and gave the Brewers a 4-2 lead. McGehee also hit an RBI double in Milwaukee’s two-run first inning, and he claimed the club lead with 90 RBIs.
“We scored all our runs with two outs,” Macha said. “That’s what the bugaboo’s been. The other team scoring two-out runs. Tonight, that was ours on all four runs.”
That cushion was enough for Narveson (11-7), who matched a season-high with nine strikeouts and limited St. Louis to two runs on four hits in seven sharp innings. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning, when the Cardinals strung together four in a row, including RBI singles by Yadier Molina and Colby Rasmus.
Narveson watched a 1-0 lead slip away from the bullpen in the seventh inning of his previous start in Cincinnati, so this time he handled the inning himself. Narveson retired nine of the final 10 men he faced, and erased the exception — Matt Holliday, who walked leading off the sixth inning — on a strikeout-throwout double play.
He set down the final five Cardinals hitters he faced in order, including three strikeouts.
“I felt like I had all my pitches working and was able to execute when I needed to,” Narveson said. “I kept them off-balance. The knocks that they had, they did some good pieces of hitting. It’s going to happen at some point during the game.”
The 33,149 fans in the stands — or at least the 33,148 who avoided Davidson’s ire — might remember the flurry of ejections as much as McGehee’s clutch hit or Narveson’s mound gem.
One inning after Macha was tossed by Timmons after the call at second base, Cardinals pitching coach Duncan was ejected in the bottom of the third inning for arguing balls and strikes for Lohse, who was charged with four runs on seven hits in five innings.
Dickerson was ejected after striking out for the third time to end the fifth inning. Dickerson, who was upset in the first inning after his apparent ball four turned into a check-swing strike, took issue with Davidson’s called strike 3 to end the fifth and slammed his helmet.
Two innings later, Davidson turned his attention to a male fan sitting in one of the front rows behind home plate. Davidson alerted security officials to the man, who was removed.
“It was kind of a crazy game,” said left fielder Ryan Braun. “A lot of action and a lot of action early. I don’t really know what was going on, but I’m happy we won and I’m thrilled for Trevor.”
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
MILWAUKEE — Along with the turn of the century and the start of a new millennium, the 2000s marked a new era of Brewers baseball, one that included a playoff appearance.
It began in 2001 with the opening of Miller Park, the Brewers’ new state-of-the-art, $400 million home. The changes continued in 2002, when Doug Melvin was named general manager of the club. In 2004, the Brewers had new ownership, as Mark Attanasio took over the club from Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig.
All that set the stage for the team’s return to the playoffs, 26 years after losing the 1982 World Series.
Brewers alumni Geoff Jenkins and Bob Wickman are scheduled to participate Friday in a pregame autograph session to celebrate the 2000s as part of the Brewers’ 40th Anniversary season. On Sunday, all fans will receive a collectible Brewers Bobble Head doll, featuring CC Sabathia securing the final out of the regular-season finale, playoff-clinching game in 2008, compliments of Palermo’s Pizza and Piggly Wiggly.
After a one-year delay due to a fatal crane accident, Miller Park finally opened its doors to the public on April 6, 2001. Among those in attendance were President George W. Bush and Selig, both of whom threw out ceremonial first pitches.
With his 435-foot home run in the bottom of the eighth, first baseman Richie Sexson sent the crowd of 42,024 home happy, as the Brewers secured the first win at Miller Park, 5-4, over the Cincinnati Reds.
The Brewers’ new ballpark got rave reviews, to say the least.
“There’s no comparison,” said former Brewers infielder Jim Gantner. “This is an awesome building and a great place to play. You miss County Stadium, but when you see this, you forget about it real quick.”
“I did play in County Stadium and know what it was like to play there,” Sexson said. “This is definitely 10 times better than County Stadium.”
While much of the credit for getting the ballpark built goes to Selig, and deservedly so, the Milwaukee native, along with his daughter, credited the fans on Opening Day 2001.
“There are many people that played a role in building this magnificent park,” Selig told the fans. “But none are greater than all of you.”
“You’re the best fans in the world,” added then-team president Wendy Selig-Prieb. “Enjoy this wonderful ballpark. You deserve it.”
In their first season playing at Miller Park, the Brewers had high hopes, but weren’t any better than previous seasons. In fact, they were worse, finishing 2001 in fourth place in the National League Central with a 68-94 record as injuries decimated the team in the second half.
One year later, the ballpark, with its unique fan-shaped roof, was host to the first 100-loss season in Brewers history, as the Crew finished 56-106, good for last in the division. With that came more changes for the Brewers, this time in the front office.
Melvin gets a second chance
In April 2002, the Brewers fired manager Davey Lopes after just 15 games as Milwaukee skidded out to a 3-12 record in Lopes’ third season at the helm. Five months later, general manager Dean Taylor was cut loose as well, as the Brewers shook up their front office.
Doug Melvin was tabbed for the job, given a second chance to show what he could do running a Major League club. Melvin, the former Texas Rangers general manager who led that franchise to three division titles in four years during the 1990s, was named the eighth general manager in Brewers history on Sept. 25, 2002.
“I don’t believe in rebuilding plans,” Melvin said in a spirited press conference. “If there was a three-year plan, I would wait and buy a ticket in, what, 2005? I don’t believe in that, I want people to be a part of this process to get to where we want to go.
“We’ll enjoy it a lot more if we do it together.”
Melvin brought in former Jays general manager Gord Ash as his assistant GM and hired manager Ned Yost, who brought along with him a new coaching staff. But Melvin’s best move in his first days as general manager now appears to have been keeping amateur scouting director Jack Zduriencik in place.
Under Zduriencik, the Brewers put together some of the best Drafts in club history, restocking their system with top-level talent, and building one of the best cores of young players in the Major Leagues.
Among those draft during Zduriencik’s tenure are former first-round picks Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, second baseman Rickie Weeks, former Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy, right fielder Corey Hart, staff ace Yovani Gallardo, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and center fielder Lorenzo Cain.
As well as building from within, one of Melvin’s best moves as general manager came in 2008, when he traded highly rated prospects Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley and Zach Jackson to the Indians for Sabathia, who would help carry the Brewers to the Wild Card.
Along with Melvin, Ash and Yost, the organization brought in another new face in 2004, as Mark Attanasio, a Los Angeles investment banker and New York native, took over the club from the previous ownership group, which included Selig-Prieb.
When introduced at a news conference on Oct. 4, 2004, as the Brewers’ owner-elect, Attanasio said he was “up to the challenge” of turning around the ballclub. He also admitted he had dreamed as a child of owning a Major League baseball club.
“As a kid, I lived, breathed and died with the Yankees forever,” Attanasio said. “Once I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to hit a curveball, I gave up dreams of playing Major League Baseball, and when I got a little older thought maybe one day I could own a team.”
One of Attanasio’s biggest impacts upon taking over as the team’s principal owner was a commitment to raising the payroll to make the Brewers more competitive, despite playing in the smallest market in baseball.
After the payroll dipped as low as $27.5 million in 2004, it was raised to $39.9 million in Attanasio’s first season as owner. A year later, the Brewers’ payroll was up to $57.6 million, and by Opening Day 2007, it reached $71 million. When the Brewers reached the playoffs in 2008, the payroll was up to $80.9 million, and in 2010, the Opening Day payroll was up to $90.4 million.
Even with the financial commitment of Attanasio’s ownership group, he acknowledged in his first news conference at Miller Park that he had a lot to do to match the legacy of the Selig family in Milwaukee.
“The Attanasio family feels it has big shoes to fill here,” Attanasio said. “But that being said, we know that we can be the stewards of baseball in Milwaukee for the next 35 years.”
With Melvin, Ash, Yost and Attanasio in place, the Brewers were just a few years away from ending their playoff drought.
The Wait Is Over
When the Brewers returned from St. Louis in 1982 having lost to the Cardinals in the World Series, no one could have guessed it would take 26 years for the club to return to the playoffs. After all, they were expected to be back the following season.
But time after time, the Brewers’ best ballclubs came up short in 1983, ’88, ’91 and ’92. Even in ’07, when the Brewers led the division for much of the season, they came up just two games behind the Chicago Cubs.
Finally, in 2008, it was the Brewers’ turn.
Milwaukee entered the 2008 campaign with high expectations after the ’07 season saw the Brewers post their first winning record since ’92. In an effort to bolster their playoff hopes, Melvin brought in Sabathia just before the All-Star break on July 7. Sabathia was so dominant over the final three months of the season for the Crew that he even garnered a few votes for the NL Cy Young Award.
In 17 starts for the Brewers in 2008, Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA, tossing seven complete games, including three shutouts. Aside from a near no-hitter against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, the most impressive of those seven complete games was Sabathia’s last.
On the final day of the regular season, Sabathia made his third consecutive start on three days’ rest and worked all nine innings in the most clutch pitching performance in Brewers history. In front of 45,299 fans, Sabathia threw 122 pitches, struck out seven, scattered four hits and allowed only one unearned run.
“It’s unbelievable what he has done for the guys on this team, this organization and this city,” left fielder Ryan Braun said. “He’s revived baseball in Milwaukee. He took whatever expectation we had and destroyed it.”
Braun played a pretty big role in the club’s run as well. On that night, Braun made the difference at the plate, as he blasted a tie-breaking, two-run home run with two outs in the eighth inning, which gave the Brewers the 3-1 win.
Just days earlier, Braun delivered a grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 5-1 Brewers win.
“It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s difficult to describe,” Braun said. “The grand slam the other night, that was pretty special, but this one was pretty meaningful.”
With the Brewers finally returning to the postseason, Miller Park hosted the first two playoff games in its history on Oct. 4-5, 2008. The first game, Game 3, was the Brewers’ first win in the postseason since that 1982 World Series. Game 4 was a different story, however, as the Phillies secured a trip to the NLCS with a 6-2 win.
They came up short of winning their first playoff series since 1982, but for fans in Milwaukee and across the state of Wisconsin, the ’08 season was one to remember, and one 26 years in the making.
For the first time since 1982, the Brewers played games in October that mattered.
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
MILWAUKEE — No Manny? No problem for the Dodgers.
With Manny Ramirez rumored to be the subject of trade discusions, the Dodgers showed Thursday they could put up plenty of offense without him and shut down their opponents’ bats as the 12-time All-Star took a scheduled off-day for the day game after a night game.
With a 7-1 victory Thursday over the Brewers at Miller Park, the Dodgers completed the sweep, giving them three straight wins for the first time since Aug. 7-10, when the Dodgers won their last two against the Nationals and the series opener in Philadelphia.
The sweep is the Dodgers’ first since they took all three games from the Giants in San Francisco on June 28-30.
“We haven’t done this for a while,” said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. “We certainly need more than this, but you can’t go win five in a row unless you win three in a row. I thought we played these three games very well and we had some key outs that we got out of the bullpen and some key two-out hits. We did a lot of things well this week.
“Hopefully we can build on this.”
While the six-run margin of victory looks like an easy win in the box score, the way the Dodgers got there was anything but. After taking a 1-0 lead in the first and letting the Brewers tie it back up in the fourth on a Prince Fielder home run, things got interesting in the middle innings.
With a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth, Torre used three pitchers for three outs for a second consecutive game. Starter Carlos Monasterios seemed to lose his command in the inning, walking Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo and hitting Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart.
“I don’t think I lost that much control,” Monasterios said through an interpreter. “But since I hit that hitter, I lost a little bit of rhythm and that’s what happened.”
Torre, who said he thought Monasterios tried to rush through the fifth inning to put himself in line for the win, brought in Ronald Belisario with the bases loaded. Belisario (2-1) retired Ryan Braun for the third straight game, needing just four pitches — all fastballs — to strike out Braun and earn his second win of the season.
George Sherrill then entered to face Fielder, who grounded into a forceout to get the Dodgers out of the jam.
With Belisario matching up against Braun and Sherrill against Fielder, the fifth inning resembled the ninth inning of Wednesday night’s 5-4 win, when Torre used Belisario, Sherrill and Octavio Dotel to close out the game.
“That’s why they’re a good team,” Fielder said. “It’s a good move, bringing tough guys out of the bullpen to kind of shut it down.”
The move did appear to shut the Brewers down. Over the final four innings, the Dodgers’ bullpen allowed just one baserunner — catcher Jonathan Lucroy walked to lead off the seventh. For the game, the Dodgers gave up just two hits, which matched a Milwaukee season.
Reliever Kenley Jansen had a lot to do with that, as he was impressive over the sixth and seventh innings, retiring six of seven batters faced. He did not allow a hit while striking out four batters and walking one.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Andre Ethier was called out on strikes to lead off the inning and was later ejected by home-plate umpire Adrian Johnson following a Matt Kemp strikeout.
“It was just a bad call, I thought it was a bad call,” Ethier said. “The pitch was repeated to the next batter, same exact pitch, I thought even a better pitch, and he called it a ball that time. So I was asking him from the dugout, ‘Are you sure about that?’
“He didn’t like it too much. Neither did I. One of us has the power to kick the other one out.”
Two batters later, Casey Blake blasted a two-run homer that gave the Dodgers some breathing room.
Finally, in the seventh, a walk followed by three straight singles and a fielding error by Lucroy resulted in three Dodgers runs, putting the game out of reach. Jansen got things started with a one out walk in his first career plate appearance and later scored his first career run on Ryan Theriot’s single.
“The seventh inning was not pretty,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “We didn’t back up home. We had a wild pitch. A ball got through Luc’s legs. That stuff happens from time to time, but you hope it would be at a minimum.”
When he wasn’t being asked about Ramirez this week, Torre talked a few times about the need for his players to ignore the standings, focus on themselves and string together a handful of wins as they look to get back in the playoff race.
After winning three in a row, the Dodgers cut their National League Wild Card deficit from eight games — following Sunday’s loss — to five games as of the end of Thursday’s win, with the Phillies having lost earlier and the Giants yet to play.
“We talked about winning series, and we didn’t do that for about a week and a half,” said catcher Brad Ausmus, who recorded his first three-hit game since July 27, 2008. “You’re talking about not only winning series, but mixing in a few series where you manage to sweep the team that you’re playing.
“We’re fortunate to come out of Milwaukee having done that.”
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.”
MILWAUKEE — Early on in the 2010 season, pitching was the problem for the D-backs. Now, it’s been the biggest reason they’ve put together a hot streak over the past two weeks.
Solid pitching was the key Tuesday as the D-backs beat the Brewers, 2-1, at Miller Park for just their seventh win when scoring three or fewer runs.
On May 29, the team ERA peaked at 5.95, the worst it has been all season for the D-backs. Since then, it’s been on a steady decline.
Pitching continued to be key on Tuesday. Since losing seven straight to the Giants and Phillies, the pitching staff has posted a 3.96 ERA over 108 2/3 innings pitched, more than a run below their season mark, which was lowered to 5.15 following Tuesday’s game.
Despite the improvement since late May, however, the offense has frequently been burdened this season with overcoming large deficits. As a result, the key for the D-backs this season has been getting to four runs.
When scoring four or more, they’re 38-24. Three or fewer runs, on the other hand, and the D-backs had just a 6-45 record entering the second of four games with the Brewers.
“Those guys have been throwing the ball pretty good lately,” said catcher Miguel Montero. “Finally our bullpen is starting to put it all together.
“I think we’re going to have a good run the rest of the season.”
Montero, who has been hot himself lately, came up with the game-winner in the eighth, blasting a solo home run off the batter’s eye in center field.
Rookie right-hander Barry Enright was impressive once again, but settled for the no-decision as he tossed six strong innings, giving up just one run on three hits. He also walked two while recording a pair of strikeouts.
Making his eighth career start, Enright extended his streak of consecutive starts of five innings or more with three or fewer runs allowed.
Enright has reached that mark in each of his first eight Major League starts, joining the Angels’ Jared Weaver as the only active players to do so.
“Their pitcher, his command was tremendous,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha of Enright. “He got Strike 1, and I thought he was commanding the outside corner very well. After he got Strike 1, he didn’t give you many pitches to hit.”
After struggling a bit in the first two innings, Enright settled in, much like Ian Kennedy did on Monday night. Enright gave up a single to center fielder Lorenzo Cain to lead off the game before retiring five straight batters. With two out in the second, Alcides Escobar homered to left, accounting for the Brewers’ only run.
Enright retired 13 of the last 16 batters he faced after the Escobar home run, though, giving the 24-year-old rookie his fifth consecutive quality start.
“He did his job. Six innings, and he totally controlled the game,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “It’s obvious he was getting tired, but he found a way to get through it. Real good job.”
Arizona’s offense was limited much of the night, but the D-backs managed their first run in the fifth. The run was generated nearly completely by the speed of Chris Young, who doubled, stole third and scored on a shallow fly to second baseman Rickie Weeks.
Weeks’ throw easily beat Young, but catcher Jonathan Lucroy was up the first base line a bit when he caught it. As the rookie turned back to make the tag, Young slid in just ahead of Lucroy, tying the game at one run apiece.
“Right there, you take a chance,” Young said. “If the right fielder catches that ball, I probably don’t run. But it was the second baseman. He’s running back and if he catches it he still has to stop, pivot, turn around and make an accurate throw to get the out.
“It was pretty much a gamble. I could been out just as easily as I was safe, but it was definitely time to take a gamble.”
Behind Enright, who left after tossing 93 pitches, the bullpen was dominant for the second straight night, shutting the Brewers down over the final three frames. Entering in the seventh with the game tied, Blaine Boyer pitched two scoreless innings, giving up just one hit as he picked up his third win of the season.
In the ninth, Gibson handed the ball to Sam Demel, giving the rookie his first career save opportunity. One night after securing his first Major League win, Demel gave up two hits, but got a huge double play in the inning to pick up his first career save.
“It’s been kind of a whirlwind,” Demel said. “It’s been nice getting in those situations and coming through. … It’s still the same game, just a different inning.”
As the D-backs won for the fifth time in their last six games and the eighth time in 12 games, there’s a definite sense of optimism in the visitor’s clubhouse this week in Milwaukee.
While they’re well out of the playoff race, the D-backs look like a team that could put together an impressive run over the season’s final eight weeks.
“The pieces are here. We have great teammates and we have great guys around here,” Enright said. “It’s all trusting each other and we kind of have that team chemistry. We’re all starting to mesh with the new guys in the locker room.
“Having that come, it’s done a great job and it’s pretty exciting.”