MILWAUKEE — So much for easing Corey Hart into the regular season.
After a knee injury in Spring Training required surgery, it was unclear whether Hart would be ready to go on Opening Day for the second year in a row.
Through two games, Hart appears to be in midseason form.
Following a 1-for-2 performance Friday, Hart blasted two no-doubt home runs Saturday as the Brewers picked up their first win of the season, 6-0, over the Cardinals.
“I think it was big for us to come back today and show that we’re still a good team,” Hart said. “I think we did that.”
Hart’s first homer went deep into the second deck in left, while the second was a two-run shot to center field. Between the two, Hart had an estimated 860 feet worth of home runs on the day.
Not bad for a guy with a knee that is not yet at 100 percent.
“He’s really seeing the ball well,” said manager Ron Roenicke. “Hopefully he’ll come in tomorrow feeling well and we can get him back in there.”
Rickie Weeks also homered in the game, while Aramis Ramirez had a key RBI double in the sixth inning for his first hit in a Brewers uniform. Add in a 2-for-3 day by Ryan Braun — with a pair of doubles, a walk and a run scored — and the Crew showed just how good the offense could be this year, even without Prince Fielder batting cleanup.
All they really needed Saturday was the one run, which Hart provided with his second-inning blast that nearly went over Bernie Brewer’s slide beyond the left field bleachers. That’s because Zack Greinke delivered one of his best outings since coming to Milwaukee last offseason.
Greinke had everything working in his 2012 debut, facing the minimum through 4 1/3 innings. Had it not been for three singles in the fifth and sixth innings — two of which were nearly outs — Greinke may have been on his way to a complete game. Instead, he turned in a stellar seven frames, giving up just four hits and striking out seven batters without a walk.
After starting the season without both Hart and Greinke a year ago, the Brewers already are enjoying what each of them brings to the table just two games in. Full seasons out of both All-Stars could go a long way toward making up for the lost production of Fielder.
“It makes a difference,” Roenicke said. “Last year, we didn’t have those two guys together for quite a while.”
MILWAUKEE — It was a big night Wednesday for Wisconsin athletes at Miller Park, capped by veteran infielder Craig Counsell’s three-run homer in the second inning. Before Counsell’s heroics, though, a pair of homegrown Olympians shared the spotlight.
Tossing ceremonial first pitches before the Brewers hosted the Reds were goalie Jessie Vetter and forward Jinelle Zaugg-Siergiej of the United States’ silver-medal winning women’s hockey team.
Since their final game against Canada in February, Vetter and Zaugg-Siergiej have been keeping busy with a number of guest appearances, including one at a Milwaukee Admirals game. So how did throwing a pitch in front of 27,004 fans at Miller Park rank?
“It’s pretty special because Jessie and I are both from Wisconsin,” Zaugg-Siergiej said. “Being able to throw an opening pitch and doing it in your home state, especially now that I’m living in Milwaukee, it means a lot, it’s a lot of fun.
“It’s a great feeling to represent something bigger than yourself and bigger even than Milwaukee with Team USA and the Olympics.”
Vetter and Zaugg-Siergiej are from Cottage Grove and Eagle River respectively. The two were teammates on the Wisconsin Badgers’ national championship team in 2006.
Between celebrating their silver medal victory with the rest of the country through various appearances and coaching and playing hockey, the two have remained busy in the offseason.
In fact, Zaugg-Siergiej recently got a new job, which resulted in her moving to the Milwaukee area.
“I actually just accepted a coaching position out at Arrowhead for their girls team,” Zaugg-Siergiej said. “I’m also coaching a U14 winter club youth team. Between those two I’m still playing myself, so I still travel and play and train all that kind of stuff.
“In the summers I also run a camp, so the entire summer was incredibly busy.”
While it was not the most well-attended game of the season for the Brewers, Miller Park still exceeded the 16,805 in attendance for the gold medal game in Vancouver on Feb. 25.
Vetter and Zaugg-Siergiej each stepped up in front of that crowd and delivered strong pitches to catcher Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate.
“I got a little nervous, but it was fun,” said Zaugg-Siergiej, who added that Vetter’s pitch was the more impressive of the two. “I’m just glad I made it on target all the way to home plate. She did play baseball growing up and I’ve never played baseball before.
“Hers was pretty hard. I’m going to give her that one.”
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.
Hart day-to-day after injuring right wrist
MILWAUKEE — Corey Hart’s trade value may have taken a hit on Friday when the Brewers right fielder injured his right wrist attempting to catch a fly ball in the third inning of the 7-5 win over the Nationals.
But manager Ken Macha and the Brewers just want him in the lineup as soon as they can get him back.
As Washington second baseman Cristian Guzman drove a ball deep to right, Hart tracked it toward the right-field line and crashed into the wall as he attempted to catch the eventual foul ball.
Hart stayed in the game and finished out the top half of the inning, but was removed in favor of veteran outfielder Jim Edmonds, who pinch-hit for Hart in the bottom of the third and hit a decisive two-run homer in the seventh.
After leaving the game, Hart underwent X-rays and an MRI on his wrist, which revealed no fracture.
Brewers manager Ken Macha was unsure how long Hart would be out, but considering the way his right fielder has swung the bat since the middle of May, he certainly would like to have him in the lineup as soon as he can.
“He’s day-to-day, as we all are,” Macha said. “We’ve got other guys that can fill in. Edmonds won the game for us tonight. But [Hart] can have a sudden impact on the game at any time.”
With Hart being the subject of a number of trade rumors this month, the injury could not have come at a more inconvenient time for the club, since any ailment or significant time missed complicates any trade discussions.
From his vantage point, though, Macha did not think the injury looked too significant.
He added that with the way Hart jammed his hand into the wall, the location of the injury required precautionary measures to be taken.
“When they were doing all the tests out in right field on him, it didn’t look that bad,” Macha said. “Where it was located, they were concerned there may be a small bone fracture in there, so they did the MRI.”
Crew concerned with level of plunkings
MILWAUKEE — The Brewers are tired of being bruised.
Entering Friday’s game, they had been hit by pitches 50 times this season, most of any team. Rickie Weeks (18 times) and Prince Fielder (16 times) rank first and second in the Majors. The Cubs’ Marlon Byrd has also been struck 16 times.
“It’s happening far too often,” outfielder Ryan Braun said. “Look, we understand that we’re a team that hits for a lot of power and they have to pitch us inside. There’s just times that guys are missing by too much with their fastballs, too often, to both [Weeks and Fielder]. That’s not something we want to be a part of, and when it does happen, obviously, we have to do something about it.”
Weeks declined to talk Thursday night about the Ross Ohlendorf pitch that struck him in the fifth inning and sparked some tempers on both sides of the field at PNC Park. Fielder, who had words with the umpires when the teams were warned later in the game, did not make himself available to reporters.
“I haven’t seen the ball that Rickie got hit with,” manager Ken Macha said after Thursday’s game. “But from what I understand, it was in the middle of the batter’s box.”
After the incident Thursday night, Macha did his part to work on eliminating the problem.
“I had another conversation with people from Major League Baseball today,” Macha said. “They’re looking into it.”
As for what he thinks should be done about the issue, Macha made it clear he thinks some suspensions should be in order for the pitchers who are hitting his players.
“They’ve got to get the guys that perpetrate what goes on,” Macha said. “I don’t know people’s intent, but evidence is mounting. … Fining and suspending managers, I don’t think that’s going to get it done. Managers aren’t throwing the balls.”
Macha said he hopes by talking to MLB officials that he can eliminate the problem before it reaches a point where his players are required to retaliate in a significant way.
He added that he doesn’t think MLB would want such action to occur, either.
“That’s why I’m using the avenues that I am. I don’t think the alternative is what Major League Baseball wants, and that’s going out and having a brawl,” Macha said. “They don’t want that. I think that’s why they were trying to clean this up.”
Miller Park largely spared from flooding
MILWAUKEE — As up to eight inches of rain pounded the Milwaukee area on Thursday night, it seemed likely Miller Park would be affected by the flooding that impacted much of city. After all, the ballpark suffered extensive damage after a strong storm a year ago.
Thanks to a recently installed berm between Miller Parkway and the Brewers’ staff parking lot, however, the service level at Miller Park was not affected by the storms Thursday night.
According to Brewers spokesman Tyler Barnes, credit goes to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
“The DOT, in the spring, really did a phenomenal job building this berm,” Barnes said. “They put up a berm to prevent any sort of flooding coming into the south dock.
“The water got up on the berm pretty high, but they nailed it. If this was a once in a five-lifetime rain or whatever they’re saying it was, then it did its job.”
Last summer, a major rainstorm resulted in damage throughout the service level, which includes the home and visitors’ clubhouses as well as batting cages and a media interview room, among other things.
As a result, all the furniture and upholstery in the home clubhouse was required to be replaced — with temporary replacements last season and more permanent furniture and carpeting prior to the start of this season.
After the storm Thursday, the damage at Miller Park was no different than any other above-average rainstorm.
“Sort of ironically, the service level is bone dry, and then in some of the areas of offices on the field level we had a few areas that got some water in them,” Barnes said. “Brewers enterprises, the ticket offices and the administrative office entrance had some water in them.
“I wouldn’t call it standing water, it was more of a nuisance. So we’re having to make some repairs there, but quite honestly, we’ve had some water come in there a couple times already this year.”
Brewers bussed home from Chicago
MILWAUKEE — While the Brewers were in Pittsburgh throughout much of Thursday night’s storm, they certainly were among those who felt its effects.
Rather than fly as regularly scheduled from Pittsburgh to Milwaukee, the club was forced to fly into Chicago as General Mitchell International Airport was closed due to flooding on the runways.
From there, the Brewers bussed from Chicago to Milwaukee. According to Brewers broadcaster Cory Provus, the team’s flight landed in Chicago at 1:30 a.m. CT, while the bus arrived in Milwaukee just before 3 a.m.
“I think I was in bed by 3:30, I’d say,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “It’s no big deal. It’s just like playing a night game in Boston and then going to Kansas City.”
Veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins threw 11 pitches for Triple-A Nashville on Thursday night. According to Brewers manager Ken Macha, Hawkins was scheduled to pitch another inning Friday for the “back-to-back days” part of his rehab assignment. … Left-hander Zach Braddock was unavailable once again for the Brewers on Friday. Macha said that Braddock was undergoing treatment and would likely miss a couple more days. … This weekend, the Brewers will celebrate their teams of the 1990s. Friday night, they wore reproductions of the Brewers uniforms from 1997-99 while welcoming Greg Vaughn and Jeff Cirillo back as part of the celebration.
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
MILWAUKEE — A familiar face and voice has returned to the Brewers’ broadcast booth.
Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Uecker, who had been gone since April after having heart surgery, was back Friday in his familiar role alongside Cory Provus as Milwaukee’s play-by-play announcer.
Before the series opener with the Nationals on Friday, Uecker was his usual self.
“I’m ready to rock and roll,” Uecker said to open his news conference. “The doctors kind of said, ‘OK.’ They knew I was coming back anyway, so there was nothing they could do.”
Uecker announced that he would work every home game through the end of the season while also covering select road trips.
As for where he might travel, Uecker suggested close cities such as Chicago and Cincinnati, as well as San Francisco because he “likes it there.”
“I’m really looking forward to coming back and working,” Uecker said. “Depending on how I feel, and I think I’m going to feel OK, I’m going to go back to work.”
Surgeons replaced Uecker’s aortic valve, a portion of his aortic root and performed a coronary bypass on one vessel on April 30. He was expected to return within 10-12 weeks, but a staph infection slowed his progress.
Uecker said the infection, his inability to put the weight back on — he’s still 10 pounds down from before the surgery — as well as getting the right mix of medications have been the biggest struggles since he’s been away.
Even with the setback of the staph infection, however, Uecker’s return Friday came exactly 12 weeks to the date of the surgery.
“It’s been a long haul,” Uecker said. “Not from the surgery. I got that staph infection right after we had the last [news conference]. That was the thing that really put me down. I don’t know if it ever goes away. I’m still on a lot of medication for that.
“It something that attacks new things in your body.”
Uecker said he had an 80 percent blockage in his aorta, though he “never had a pain, never had a problem.”
“I noticed the first night I was breathing better,” Uecker said. “I was breathing easier, not that I ever had a problem. … Now I feel stronger. I really do feel better.”
While he was away, Uecker joked that he was renting people to come stay with him due to the boredom of being away from Miller Park for so long.
That, he said, was what he missed most during his time off: being in the clubhouse, around the guys and being with Provus and producer Kent Sommerfeld in the radio booth.
“Every day at a certain time, you’re supposed to be at the ballpark. When you can’t go to the ballpark, it’s terribly boring,” Uecker said. “When you’re around here as long as I’ve been here and you make friendships, you miss that stuff.”
Uecker’s doctors, Aldred C. Nicolosi and Jim Kleczka, in recognition of the work they did on the Brewers broadcaster, were given the opportunity to throw out the ceremonial first pitches before Friday’s game.
After mentioning it, Uecker — right on cue — shared his thoughts about how they might do.
“I hope they do better than they did on my incision,” Uecker joked. “I hope they throw a good pitch tonight. They’re all fired up about that.”
Provus said earlier in the week that Uecker would have his usual pregame show with Brewers manager Ken Macha while doing play-by-play for six innings to Provus’ three.
So how would Uecker make his return to the broadcast booth even better?
“I’d like to win, I’d like to win all the time,” Uecker said. “I don’t worry about what I say or do. I could make stuff up. In my mind, we’ll win. But I want them to win. I always want them to win.
“Winning is a lot more fun in the broadcast booth.”
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 — 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.”
Fielder puts slow start behind him
MILWAUKEE — Prince Fielder has quickly made his slow start a thing of the past.
Fielder is just trying to do what works best for him, and it’s working pretty well right now. On the Brewers’ current homestand, Fielder has four home runs and eight RBIs, increasing his season totals to 17 homers and 35 RBIs.
With his recent power barrage, including a pair of long balls Tuesday night, Fielder leads the Majors with 10 home runs in the month of June. The key, according to Fielder, is just doing what he’s always done.
“I’m just trying to swing like I swing,” Fielder said. “I’ve never been a guy to swing easy. When you’re not getting results people want you to do different things.
“The only thing I’ve been trying to do different is swing the way I swing. I’ve never been a guy that hits singles to left field. That just happens.”
Fielder remains fifth on the team in RBIs with 35, but it has more to do with timing than with Fielder’s production. While he has 10 homers this month, he also has just 16 RBIs.
Including a two-run shot in the third inning on Tuesday, only four of Fielder’s 17 home runs this season have come with runners on base. None of them has been with more than one runner on base.
By comparison, out of Fielder’s 46 home runs in 2009, nearly half (24) came with runners on base, including nine with two or more runners on base.
Still, with Fielder hitting home runs, the Brewers’ offense, which leads the National League in home runs, total bases and extra-base hits entering Wednesday’s game, is only going to get better.
Milwaukee pitchers providing some offense
MILWAUKEE — Facing the Brewers, the No. 9 spot in the batting order is hardly an easy out. Yovani Gallardo reaffirmed that on Tuesday night, going 1-for-1 with a solo homer and a walk.
With a .219 batting average, Brewers pitchers lead the National League. Milwaukee’s pitching staff is tied for first with 33 hits and 14 runs. Brewers pitchers also rank first in home runs (3), RBIs (14), doubles (8), on-base percentage (.261), slugging percentage (.331), and OPS (.592).
Along with their success, the Brewers staff has even coined a phrase to describe it.
“These guys have got a quote in here in the dugout,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “They say, ‘Pitchers rake.'”
While the hurlers’ ability to swing that bat has come in handy quite a bit of late, Macha would like to see them improve on another aspect of the game at the plate: bunting.
The Brewers rank last in the NL with just eight sacrifice bunts, while they have more than four times as many hits.
“We’ve been working on our bunting,” Macha said. “We’ve got more hits than we do sacrifice bunts. So we’ve been putting some time in on the bunting, because eventually we’re going to need to move [a runner] up.”
Still, on the current homestand, Brewers pitchers have been even better at the plate than their season average of .219. More than double that even.
With eight hits in 18 at-bats, the pitching staff had posted a .444 batting average entering Wednesday’s final game of the homestand. Along with that .444 mark, the Brewers have gotten two RBIs, five runs, a walk and a home run out of the pitcher’s spot.
Each of the Brewers’ five starters — Gallardo, Randy Wolf, Dave Bush, Chris Narveson and Manny Parra — has contributed at least one hit, while all of them except Bush have either scored a run, driven in a run, or both.
“We have some pretty good [hitting] pitchers,” Gallardo said. “We have a lot of fun up their hitting. [Wolf], [Bush], Narveson and Manny, we take it serious. For certain situations, you can only help yourself out. I think that’s what we try to do.
“We joke around out there when we hit BP, but you never know when it’s going to come in handy.”
Offense struggles with shadows at home
MILWAUKEE — The shadows aren’t going anywhere, deal with it.
That quote, from Rickie Weeks in 2009 about the shadows during Miller Park day games, was recalled by manager Ken Macha on Wednesday when asked about the effect they’ve had on the Brewers’ offense.
Even so, the Brewers have not hit well during the day at home.
In 14 home day games, the Brewers have just a .238 team batting average, with just 51 runs scored and 15 home runs.
“Get it out of your mind and go up there and bear down the best you can,” Macha suggested before Wednesday’s game. “I hate the saying, but it is what it is. The other teams play in the same thing.
“Does it make it tougher? Yes, it does. But there are shadows in Anaheim, there are shadows in Boston, almost every stadium’s got the shadows.”
On the season, the Brewers have been nearly 30 points better overall than in home day games, with a .267 batting average. With 96 home runs in 77 games, the Brewers average 1.24 homers per game.
That rate goes up slightly at night, as they hit 1.29 per game. During the day, however, it dips to just 1.07 homers per game.
Some hitters, however, perform even better during home day games. Weeks and Casey McGehee are hitting .320 and .308, respectively, during home game days. Even more impressive is Carlos Gomez at home during the day, with a .303 average, compared to just .239 overall this season.
Most affected by the shadows seems to be left fielder Ryan Braun. In 53 at-bats during home day games, Braun has just eight hits, good for a .151 batting average.
Braun entered Wednesday having not hit a home run at home during the day, while collecting just three doubles for a .208 slugging percentage. With a .207 on-base percentage — boosted by three walks — Braun has just a .415 OPS in home day games.
Of all hitters with at least 25 at-bats in home day games, Braun’s average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and OPS rank last.
With that in mind, day games at Miller Park may seem like a good time for a rare day off for the Brewers’ left fielder. For Macha and the Brewers, however, the current roster situation and recent pitching matchups have not allowed for such a move.
“At a later date I might give him a day off when we have a day game,” Macha said. “Today, we’ve got a lefty going. The last day game, they had a lefty going.
“My roster is what it is, too.”
Davis has successful rehab outing
MILWAUKEE — He was not as dominant as in his last rehab start, but Doug Davis was effective on Wednesday as he took the mound for Class A Wisconsin in Appleton.
Davis tossed seven strong innings, surrendering just one run on six hits. He hit a batter, walked three and recorded four strikeouts. The lefty tossed 96 pitches — four shy of his targeted total of 100 — with 63 going for strikes.
Following the start — Davis’ last rehab outing — he will meet the Brewers in St. Louis. Davis is expected to pitch again during the Brewers’ four-game home series with the Giants next week. On normal rest, his next start would coincide with that of right-hander Dave Bush.