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Brewers recap 5/30

May 30, 2010 Comments off

Rickie fine, but pitching problematic for Crew

MILWAUKEE — So much positive energy had been built up over the first five days of the homestand, but it didn’t take long for the Brewers to lose it on Sunday.

With the game tied in the sixth, reliever Jeff Suppan gave up four runs on six hits in just 1 2/3 innings of work, walking three and striking out two.

Suppan (0-2) simply couldn’t execute, and it cost the Brewers the game, as they lost, 10-4, to the Mets.

“It’s as simple as making quality pitches,” pitching coach Rick Peterson said. “Any time a pitcher struggles, you’d like to say something really profound. But it was just an inability to consistently make quality pitches.”

Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey overcame some early struggles of his own to pick up the win. Dickey (2-0) pitched seven innings, giving up four runs on nine hits while striking out three.

But while Dickey gave up just two hits in keeping the Brewers off the board over a four-inning stretch from the third to the sixth, the Brewers saw an early one-run lead turn into a four-run deficit in the seventh.

After struggling early in the season and pitching his way out of the rotation, Suppan had been mostly relegated to working when a game was out of reach. But with four relievers having been used in Saturday’s 8-6 victory, manager Ken Macha called on Suppan with the score tied.

Afterward, Macha and Peterson both said they were confident in Suppan’s chances to succeed in that situation. With that in mind, it only made things more frustrating for Suppan when he was unable to get out of the seventh inning.

“I actually felt pretty good today,” Suppan said. “It was a matter of execution, I was just up in the zone. … It becomes frustrating, because I feel good, and I feel like I take a lot of steps forward. Then, in a game like this, it’s a situation where it’s my job to come in and keep it close, and I wasn’t able to do it.”

Suppan was called to pitch in the sixth inning after starter Randy Wolf needed 114 pitches to get through the first five.

Wolf did not want to point the finger at rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy, but the two had communication issues with the signs for the second straight outing. The last time, the two battled through a similar problem but the left-hander had his best performance of the season, tossing eight scoreless innings against the Astros.

This time, however, the issues were coupled with a few pitches that just missed the zone and helped lead to Wolf’s high pitch count.

“They just couldn’t get on the same page with signs, and it was a constant battle,” Peterson said. “It’s hard to consistently make quality pitches when that happens. And then, when he did, he was just missing and had some calls that could have gone either way not go his way.”

Wolf allowed just two runs on five hits, but he walked five while striking out just three. Still, Macha was pleased with his starter’s performance.

“Wolfie wasn’t on his game,” Macha said. “[He was] missing a little bit with his fastball [and] wound up with some walks, yet he still had us in the game at the end of five.”

Suppan’s rough outing was even more frustrating for the club after the way the Brewers had begun the game against Dickey.

On a 1-2 knuckleball in the first, second baseman Rickie Weeks belted his 15th career leadoff home run, tying the score at 1.

After Alcides Escobar’s single plated another run in the second, Dickey cruised until the seventh, when Weeks hit another knuckleball out to left for a two-run blast, giving him his fourth career multi-homer game.

“Seems like Weeks likes that knuckleball a little bit,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said.

But after Weeks’ two-run homer put the Brewers right back in the game, the Mets’ four-run ninth off lefty Zach Braddock put away the game.

Just as it was with Suppan, it was a matter of execution for Braddock.

“I left the ball up, and they hit the ball,” Braddock said. “But I had it toward the end, so I had it the whole time, I just didn’t execute early on. I wanted to come in and keep the team in the game as much as possible, but I just couldn’t get it done.”

But even after all that went wrong for the Brewers, they remained focused on the positives after their first winning homestand of the season.

“It just feels good to go out there and get two wins from a good team like that,” Weeks said. “All we can do is go out on the road and try to get some more wins out there. … We let one get away from us today, but I think tomorrow will be a good day for us.”

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

Brewers recap 5/29

May 29, 2010 Comments off

Hart pumps two more homers to beat Mets

MILWAUKEE — Less than 24 hours removed from his first career walk-off home run, Corey Hart picked up right where he left off on Saturday night.

With two home runs and six RBIs on the night, Hart carried the Brewers to an 8-6 victory over the Mets at Miller Park.

Hart crushed a 1-1 slider in the first from Mets starter Fernando Nieve (1-3), a no-doubter over the bullpen in left for his first career grand slam. Two innings later, Hart drove an 0-1 pitch from Oliver Perez out to left, a two-run shot, for his third homer in as many at-bats.

After hitting just three home runs over the first six weeks of the season, Hart has nine blasts and 19 RBIs in his last 14 games.

“I didn’t even want to sit down next to him, these uniforms are hot enough,” Brewers manager Ken Macha joked. “Guys kept telling me when he gets hot, he can carry the club. Well, he’s been doing that as of late.”

On Negro League Tribute Night at Miller Park, with the Brewers wearing the uniforms of the Milwaukee Bears and the Mets dressed as the New York Cubans, Hart became the 15th hitter in franchise history to belt homers in three consecutive at-bats and the first to do so since Geoff Jenkins’ three-homer game on May 21, 2003.

His six RBIs tied a career high for Hart, who leads the team with 12 home runs on the season. It was also his eighth career multi-homer game and second during his current hot streak.

“It’s all Dale,” said Hart, referring to Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum. “Dale’s worked really hard to change some things around for me and help my mindset. What he did is help me get the ball in the air.

“I’ve had stretches where I’ve hit balls hard, but now the ones I’m hitting are getting good backspin and they’re carrying. I keep doing what he’s telling me, and so far it’s working.”

Nieve (1-3) took the loss for the Mets, as he lasted just two innings, surrendering five runs on three hits with three walks and five strikeouts.

But after Hart put the Brewers up, 7-3, with his second homer in the third inning, the Brewers, too, had to go the rest of the way with the bullpen on the mound.

Starter Manny Parra lasted just three innings for the Brewers, giving up three runs on six hits with three walks — one intentional — and two strikeouts.

“I was just out of sync,” Parra said. “It made it really hard to command my fastball. … For me, my game is commanding my fastball. I do that and I’ll be just fine. But the days like today where I’m out of sync and struggling with the fastball command, it’s going to make for a tough day.”

Fortunately for the Brewers, three members of their bullpen delivered excellent performances on the night.

After Marco Estrada relieved Parra and proceeded to allow three runs on one hit and one walk in just 1 2/3 innings, Todd Coffey (2-1) came in and shut the Mets down. But things didn’t start so smoothly for the reliever.

Before he threw his first pitch, Coffey was forced to switch gloves because the color of the glove — which he’s been using all season — was too light, clashing with the Bears uniform. After being tipped off by Mets manager Jerry Manuel, the umpires approached Coffey and asked him to make the switch.

“It was light, a little bit too close to the colors of the uniform,” Manuel said. “I told [the umpires] before he came in. I saw him warming up in the ‘pen with it and thought it was a little light. I should have let him keep the other one though, right?”

As Manuel joked, the glove didn’t matter, as Coffey (2-1) threw 2 1/3 scoreless, striking out three while keeping the Mets off the basepaths.

Coffey entered with the bases loaded in the fifth. Upon getting Jason Bay to ground out to second to end the inning, Coffey started a string of 13 straight batters retired by Brewers relievers to close out the game.

Carlos Villanueva pitched a clean eighth with two strikeouts as the setup man on the night, and John Axford needed just 14 pitches in the ninth for his second save of the season.

“It’s huge,” Parra said of the bullpen’s performance. “It’s great to win this ballgame. We came out firing, scoring a lot of runs. So it was just great that we were able to win that game [and] put a lot of confidence in this clubhouse. I think we’re starting to play a lot better.”

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

Brewers recap 5/28

May 28, 2010 Comments off

Walk-off homer caps Gallardo’s shutout

MILWAUKEE — If ever there were a game that could turn the Brewers’ season around, Yovani Gallardo pitched it Friday night against the Mets.

But it wouldn’t have happened without right fielder Corey Hart, who crushed a 1-1 offering from Ryota Igarashi into the bullpen in left for the 2-0 victory and the Brewers’ second walk-off win in two nights at Miller Park.

Gallardo (5-2) delivered an absolute gem of a performance, pitching his first career shutout and second career complete game. As he scattered eight hits and struck out seven while walking one, Gallardo outlasted one of the best lefties in the game in Johan Santana.

Gallardo dialed up the velocity as high as 94 mph in the ninth, but he credited his ability to stay relaxed on the mound for getting him through a 121-pitch complete game.

“Not trying to overthrow is the main thing for me,” Gallardo said. “We all know I have that tendency to try to do a little bit too much in certain situations. But I was able to stay under control and make pitches whenever I needed.”

In his last three outings, Gallardo settled for no-decisions, despite going six innings in each and giving up an average of just over two runs per game.

But Gallardo was not the only one who pitched well on the night. Santana threw eight scoreless innings for the Mets, giving up just three hits and two walks while walking five.

After throwing 105 pitches, Santana was pulled in the ninth in favor of the Mets’ bullpen.

“Once he had doubled, [and] fought through the eighth, I didn’t think it would be a good move,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said of leaving Santana in for the ninth, with Prince Fielder up to bat. “Fielder, I thought he was seeing it pretty good, anyway. I didn’t want to chance him losing that ballgame after the way he had performed.”

For the Brewers’ hitters, the end of Santana’s night was a welcome sight.

“Obviously he’s been known to throw upwards of 120 pitches, and I don’t think he was that high,” Hart said. “For us, it was a little comforting to get a few new guys in there to see if we could handle those guys.”

Hart’s home run was his team-leading 10th of the season, but much like Gallardo would not have gotten the shutout victory without his homer, Hart wouldn’t have even batted in the ninth had it not been for the hustle of Ryan Braun two batters earlier.

Braun grounded a ball up the middle and beat it out for a one-out infield single. Following him was third baseman Casey McGehee, who popped out to the first baseman for the second out of the inning.

“Give Brauny some credit,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “He hits that ball up the middle and runs it out. Otherwise, it’d have been our third out [and] it would’ve turned the inning over. [But] then Corey gets a pitch to win the game.”

Gallardo’s last complete game, a 5-2 win for the Brewers over the Astros, came on April 24, 2009. Its significance is much higher, however, when considering no Brewers pitcher had gone the distance since.

According to Macha, it was Gallardo’s command of his fastball that helped him last all nine innings, as it got him out of several tough situations.

In the fourth, sixth, eighth and ninth innings, Gallardo ended the inning with a strikeout, with the last three looking. Each time, Gallardo ended the inning with a fastball.

“He was throwing everything for strikes,” catcher George Kottaras said. “Throwing that velocity in the late innings is impressive as well, but … it’s also how he got to those pitches in those sequences. He was throwing his breaking ball and his changeup for strikes … and just kept them guessing.”

A few times in the Brewers’ recent slump, Macha has talked about not being able to get over the hump. In doing so, he referenced that when one thing went right, another went wrong.

Friday night, despite the lack of offense, the Brewers played as well as they have all season.

As great as Gallardo’s pitching was, the defense behind him bailed him out in a few tough spots, turning double plays in the third and the eighth innings. The first, which started with second baseman Rickie Weeks, ended the inning after the Mets had the bases loaded with none out one batter earlier.

In the eighth, the Brewers went around the horn to get the first two outs of the inning and save a run, as Santana batted next and crushed a double to the gap in right.

With so much going right in a thrilling win, they may have finally gotten over the hump.

“Those guys are pretty excited in there,” Macha said, referring to his players in the clubhouse. “It should do a lot of things as far as getting people over the hump.”

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

Extra Innings 4/14

April 14, 2010 Comments off

Extra Innings: Too early to fret… for most

By Jordan Schelling     The Badger Herald