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Mendez stung by long balls in loss

September 26, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Entering their series finale, the Marlins were tied with the Braves for the fewest home runs allowed in the Majors this season, while the Brewers’ offense was tied for second in the National League with 175 homers in 2010.

The Brewers were the clear winners in that battle Sunday, belting four home runs in the first three innings en route to an easy 7-1 victory over the Marlins in their home finale at Miller Park.

With the four long balls, the Brewers overtook the Reds for first place in the NL in home runs. Ryan Braun opened things up with a two-run blast in the first, and Lorenzo Cain added a no-doubt solo shot in the second, the first of his career.

It was clear at that point that Marlins starter Adalberto Mendez was in for a rough outing. For good measure, Braun added a second two-run homer in the third. Two pitches later, Prince Fielder belted his 32nd of the season, marking the end of Mendez’s start.

“They’ve been doing that pretty much all season,” said Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez. “From one to five — those guys — they know how to score runs.”

Lasting just two innings, Mendez’s start was by far his shortest since being called up earlier this month. In three previous September starts, Mendez was 1-1 with a 1.56 ERA, giving up just three runs on 15 hits over 17 1/3 innings pitched.

With his Sunday outing of two-plus innings and six runs on six hits, Mendez’s ERA jumped to 4.19 as he took his second loss of the season. The problem was an inability to be effective with his slider.

“He was relying on his fastball,” Rodriguez said. “When you face a lineup like the Brewers and you get behind in the count, they can make you pay for it. That fastball, even if it’s 94-96 [mph], they don’t care.”

Even with his slider not working, Mendez expected better results out of his fastball. Unfortunately, it was up more often than not and Mendez struggled to execute pitches against the Brewers.

“It’s about making pitches,” Mendez said. “If you make the pitch, you can throw whatever you want, but I couldn’t do it today.”

All the offense the Marlins could produce came in the first inning as three straight hitters reached base and Gaby Sanchez delivered Ozzie Martinez from third with a sacrifice fly. Beginning with Sanchez’s flyout, Brewers lefty Chris Capuano retired 16 of the final 18 Marlins batters he faced.

Capuano (4-4) left after just 72 pitches with a left groin strain, but not before delivering six strong innings and allowing just one run on four hits and a walk with a strikeout. His win came amid a celebratory atmosphere at Miller Park, which included several standing ovations from the home crowd.

Braun took a curtain call after his second home run, and Fielder had one of his own after being removed in the eighth after what may have been his final plate appearance in a Brewers uniform at home. Finally, all-time saves leader and former Marlins reliever Trevor Hoffman entered to his signature “Hells Bells,” closing out the Brewers’ 7-1 victory.

“As a team, we’re disappointed we’re not further along in a playoff run,” Capuano said. “That’s disappointing. But to have a game where you had some guys get some milestones, had Trevor Hoffman come in and even though it wasn’t a save situation they played ‘Hells Bells’ … it was great to finish at home with a win.”

Mendez’s poor outing also cost the Marlins a chance to split the four-game series with the Brewers, while also dropping them back below .500. Sitting at 77-78, the Marlins will need to win four of their final seven games to finish at an even .500 this season.

Their road record dropped back to 39-39 with three games remaining away from Sun Life Stadium. The Marlins will need to take two of three from the Braves to secure a winning road record for the 2010 season.

The highlight of the game for the Marlins turned out to be an impressive Major League debut for reliever Steve Cishek.

After being recalled on Tuesday, to bolster the Marlins bullpen, Cishek finally made his first big league appearance in relief Sunday. With his club trailing 7-1 in the sixth, Cishek pitched two perfect innings, inducing three ground ball outs, a popup and two fly outs.

“It was definitely a dream come true, that’s for sure,” Cishek said. “I just wanted to go right at them, fill up the strike zone as much as possible and whatever happens, happens. It turned out it worked pretty well.”

After needing only 18 pitches, 16 of which were strikes, to retire six batters, Cishek’s manager liked what he saw in his debut.

“I was impressed with Cishek,” Rodriguez said. “This is the first time I’ve seen his slider working that way. He was very tough on right-handed hitters. Going two innings, throwing strikes, I was impressed with him.”

Brewers beat, 9/20

September 21, 2010 Comments off

Macha against continued use of maple bats

MILWAUKEE — As a player, Brewers manager Ken Macha used ash bats. While he sees the competitive benefits of maple bats, he does not see that as reason enough to overlook their dangerous nature.

“Get rid of the maple bats. Absolutely, 100 percent,” Macha said. “What’s going to really happen is one’s going to go in the stands. … There’s people in the stands, they’re not paying attention to anything. They’re talking to the guy three seats down, not even going to move to get out of the way.”

Macha was asked about the maple bats in light of a chest injury suffered Sunday by Cubs rookie Tyler Colvin, who was struck by a portion of Wellington Castillo’s shattered bat. Colvin was in stable condition shortly after the game, but is expected to miss the rest of the 2010 season.

While he believes maple bats should be eliminated from use, that doesn’t mean Macha is unaware of the reason behind the players’ preference.

“That wood is absolutely harder,” Macha said of the maple bats. “You’d hit with these ash bats and if you hit the ball on a seam, you could see a dent with the seam on the bat. But with the maple, it’s so hard guys will use the thing and you will see no dents in the bat at all.

“When you’ve got two objects striking into each other, the amount of energy that goes in the opposite direction after they hit is not being absorbed by the compression of that bat, so the ball’s going further. I understand that point.”

But the potential for the type of injury suffered by Colvin, Macha said, is reason enough to eliminate the bats, regardless of the difference in performance between the hard maple wood and softer ash.

Rogers unavailable ahead of first start Friday

MILWAUKEE — Though they would have liked to get him another relief appearance, Brewers pitching prospect Mark Rogers’ next appearance will be his Friday start.

Rogers threw a side session in the bullpen Sunday, and is scheduled for another Tuesday in preparation for his first career start. As a result, he’s unavailable out of the bullpen this week.

“I was kind of hoping to get him in one more game,” manager Ken Macha said. “But [pitching coach] Rick [Peterson] said that he felt that [Rogers] could benefit more from doing two sides days than getting an inning in.”

Rogers is scheduled to start Friday in the Brewers’ second of four games against the Marlins. If everything goes according to plan with that start, Rogers could start a second time on the road against the Mets or Reds.

Gomez earns another start in center field

MILWAUKEE — With the impact he had on the Brewers’ recent road trip, Carlos Gomez earned yet another start in center field on Monday against the Reds.

Gomez got the day off Sunday in San Francisco in favor of rookie Lorenzo Cain, who had been the Brewers’ starting center fielder for much of August and early September. On Monday, though, manager Ken Macha went back to Gomez for his sixth start in seven games.

“I didn’t want to forget about Cain, but Gomez has been impacting the games,” Macha said. “So I just put Cain in there yesterday and get Gomez back in there today. … He basically won the game in Houston the last day and then had a tremendous impact on one of the games in San Francisco that we won.

“So he’s earned the playing time.”

Gomez batted .400 on the road trip, collecting eight hits in 20 at-bats along with four stolen bases and a pair of RBIs. With Cain struggling, Macha gave Gomez as many starts in those six games as he had in the club’s previous 40 contests.

As for his other right-handed center fielder, Macha opted not to give any evaluation of Cain.

“You can take either sample size on both sides of the line of demarcation and try to determine what is going to be relevant on down the line,” Macha said. “So let’s hold off on drawing a conclusion.

“I’m not going to make the statement that the league has figured him out.”

Pirates beat 8/29

August 30, 2010 Comments off

Outfielder McCutchen out of Sunday’s lineup

MILWAUKEE — Through 129 games this season for the Pirates entering Sunday, center fielder Andrew McCutchen had played in 121 of them. When game No. 130 rolled around, McCutchen’s name was left, surprisingly, out of the lineup.

“It’s good I guess,” McCutchen said. “I don’t really have days off. It gives me time to just kind of chill, relax and get myself right. I’ll always be ready, though. You never know, it could be a close game and I could come in late. So I keep myself prepared and mentally ready to play.”

All but two of the eight previous games McCutchen had missed came in a mid-July stretch when he sat out six consecutive contests with a shoulder injury. After returning from that injury, McCutchen sat out another time just three games later.

Before that day off, McCutchen had not missed a game for the Pirates since the first week of May. With that in mind, the center fielder did not expect to sit out the series finale at Miller Park on Sunday.

“How can you expect it when you’re arguably the best player on the team?” remarked outfielder Lastings Milledge as he sat nearby at his locker.

“You don’t really expect a day off when you play every day,” McCutchen said. “I don’t mind playing every day. I’ve had my days off with me being injured, so it’s not like I’ve been playing the whole season. I guess they felt I needed one, so they gave me one.

“I’m not thinking too much about it.”

Alvarez moving forward after costly error

MILWAUKEE — With two out and a runner on third in the bottom of the seventh on Saturday, reliever Chan Ho Park got Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy to ground to third.

With a hard hit grounder, the ball hopped off the glove of Pirates rookie Pedro Alvarez, caroming over his left shoulder and into shallow left field to shortstop Ronny Cedeno.

“The ball kicked up on me a little bit,” Alvarez said. “It took a tough hop and I can’t predict something like that.”

As center fielder Lorenzo Cain scored easily from third, the Brewers tied the game at seven runs apiece, coming back from four runs down when the Pirates led, 6-2, in the third inning.

Alvarez appeared a bit indecisive on whether to charge the ball or wait back on it. He chose the latter, and could not make the play.

“It’s still a sign of youth,” said manager John Russell. “It’s a big moment, you get a little tense and [he will] continue to get better.”

The error was Alvarez’s 10th of the season, which ranks as the ninth-most among National League third basemen. With a .942 fielding percentage, Alvarez now sits 14th among those in the NL who have started 60 or more games at the hot corner.

Even with the error leading to a crucial run for the Brewers, it’s not one that Alvarez plans to spend much time worrying about.

“Obviously you never want that to happen,” Alvarez said. “I can’t worry about it anymore. I tried to get myself in the best position possible to catch it and I just couldn’t come up with it.”

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

Errors costly in Bucs’ extra-inning loss

August 29, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — One bad inning is all it takes to send you from a win to a loss. Within that inning, it’s often one hit or one defensive play that makes the difference.

It took two innings and two defensive miscues to complete the job on Saturday, but the seventh inning made all the difference for the second consecutive night at Miller Park as the Pirates lost, 8-7, to the Brewers.

On Friday, it was a six-run rally highlighted by a misplayed line drive to right field that turned into a game-winning two-run triple. In the second game of the series, a pair of errors by rookie infielders Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker allowed the Brewers’ tying and winning runs to score, respectively.

“We always know every time we come here it’s going to be a battle,” Walker said. “Four-run lead, three-run lead, whatever it may be, it’s never safe here when we play these guys.”

In a long game that featured 14 pitchers, 21 position players and lasted more than four hours, lefty reliever Wil Ledezma finally surrendered a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th to rookie center fielder Lorenzo Cain, scoring Ryan Braun from second and sending the Brewers fans among a crowd of 37,782 home happy.

“That was awesome — my first Major League walk-off,” said Cain, who also scored the tying run in the seventh.

Without a fielding error by Walker at second base, the 11th inning may have turned out much differently. As Prince Fielder ripped a grounder toward the rookie second baseman, Walker misplayed it, allowing Braun to advance and putting Fielder aboard safely at first.

“It’s a play I’ve got to make. Plain and simple,” Walker said. “I’ll take the blame. We played our butts off today and a couple of mistakes just cost us the game.”

The other mistake for the Pirates came in that crucial seventh inning.

Entering the seventh inning, lefty Zach Duke was in line for his first career win at Miller Park and the Pirates led by three runs, sitting just three innings from their first road win since July 28 at Colorado.

But after reliever Sean Gallagher gave up a leadoff single to Braun, he was removed in favor of left-hander Brian Burres. As Burres hung a 1-2 slider on the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Fielder didn’t miss it, sending the ball an estimated 455 feet to right-center field for his second home run of the game and his 20th career multi-homer game.

Four batters later, Chan Ho Park appeared to have gotten out of the inning, but a fielding error charged to Alvarez on a hard hit grounder to third allowed Cain to tie the game at 7.

“It’s a tough play, but again, it kind of shows our youth a little bit,” said Pirates manager John Russell. “We make those plays and it might be a different game, but the guys really battled. They kept after it.”

While he would have gotten the win had it not been for the seventh inning, Duke was not exactly sharp.

He allowed four runs on nine hits while walking one, recording one strikeout and surrendering a pair of solo home runs.

“It was definitely a battle from the first hitter on,” Duke said. “My location wasn’t very good and my stuff wasn’t all that great. Everything was giving me problems.”

Despite his struggles, Duke did outduel Brewers starter and fellow lefty Chris Capuano.

Starting in place of Manny Parra for Milwaukee, Capuano was roughed up for six runs on six hits in just three innings of work while walking three and giving up two home runs.

“I had flashes tonight where I thought I had great sequences to guys, and then I had flashes where I was having some problems with command,” Capuano said. “I have to do a better job than that. That’s obvious.”

Parra replaced Capuano in the fourth, and proceeded to put down nine of 10 batters faced through three innings of work. He gave up just one hit, a fourth-inning single to Walker, while striking out three batters.

Left fielder Jose Tabata highlighted the Pirates’ offensive outburst, as he homered in the first inning and finished 3-for-5, adding a double and a single. Catcher Chris Snyder also added his second home run of the series in the third, a three-run shot that put the Pirates up, 6-2, at the time.

Walker added a solo homer in the seventh — which appeared to be insurance for the Pirates — off reliever Mike McClendon. Seven runs marked the most scored by the Pirates since a 7-1 victory over the Marlins on Aug. 16.

The loss is the 12th straight on the road for the Pirates, and secures yet another road series loss for Pittsburgh. In 21 road series this season, including the current three-game set with the Brewers, the Pirates now have lost 16 series with just four series wins and one tie.

“It’s tough coming in here, but we battled with them tonight,” Duke said. “Hopefully we can get one tomorrow.”

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

Playoff return highlights 2000s turnaround

August 28, 2010 Comments off

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.

Inaugural Season
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.

New Ownership
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.

Kid gloves come off, and Escobar, Cain excel

August 19, 2010 Comments off

ST. LOUIS — With right-hander Adam Wainwright on the mound Wednesday for the Cardinals, center fielder Lorenzo Cain didn’t expect to see his name in the Brewers’ lineup.

When the rookie saw his name in the lineup, his excitement for the series finale increased significantly.

“I saw I was in the lineup, and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m facing Wainwright,'” Cain said after Milwaukee’s 3-2 win. “I got excited for that and just tried to go up there and get the job done.

“My first ace, and I was able to put together a few good at-bats and get some hits.”

Entering the game, right-handed hitters had been hitting .202 off Wainwright, compared to a .214 mark for lefties. Cain went 2-for-3 on the day, with a leadoff double in the fifth and an RBI triple in the seventh inning.

Cain followed his double with a steal of third base, which proved crucial when he scored on a soft grounder back to the pitcher by George Kottaras. After the triple, Cain scored the eventual game-winning run on an Alcides Escobar sacrifice fly.

Even Cain’s second-inning out was hit hard, as Wainwright snagged a liner back to the mound before doubling off Prince Fielder at first to end the inning.

“He has got some talent. No doubt,” Wainwright said of Cain. “I thought I made a good pitch, and he drove it to the right-center gap. Put a good swing on it.

Along with Cain, fellow rookie Escobar was in the lineup for the Brewers on Wednesday, despite having struggled against Wainwright. Making the move more surprising was the success veteran infielder Craig Counsell had against Wainwright in his career.

Counsell entered Wednesday’s series finale at Busch Stadium with a .304 (7-for-23) batting average against the Cardinals right-hander. Escobar, on the other hand, was hitting just .167 (2-for-12) against Wainwright.

Escobar’s day didn’t go quite as well as it did for Cain, but was still successful, as the rookie shortstop finished 0-for-1 with a strikeout and the game-winning sacrifice fly. More significantly, though, Escobar left the game in the ninth with cramps in his hamstring.

After hustling to catch a throw from Corey Hart in right field, Escobar’s day was done.

“I walked to the mound, and I said, ‘Hey, [John] Axford, give me a minute, I can’t move my leg,'” Escobar said. “I’ll be OK. With the day off tomorrow, I’ll be OK on Friday.”

“I was just glad that [Escobar’s injury] wasn’t too bad,” Axford said. “When he came up to the mound then, I wasn’t too sure what was going on. I asked him if he was OK, and he said, ‘No,’ so I didn’t really know what was going on.”

According to manager Ken Macha, the idea of putting Cain and Escobar in the lineup had more to do with the future of the club and the development of the two rookies than trying to win the two-game series from the Cardinals.

Considering the two accounted for all three runs on the day against Wainwright, the initial results were promising for the Brewers.

“Sooner or later, if they’re going to be your everyday guys, they’re going to have to get in there,” Macha said. “You can’t protect them the whole time.”

Montero’s blast leads D-backs past Crew

August 12, 2010 Comments off

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.”

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