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Twins turn tables, rally past Brewers late

July 3, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Matt Capps is still the Twins’ closer. But lefty Glen Perkins showed Sunday that he too could close out a ballgame, and with authority.

After watching Capps put two on with one out, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire called on Perkins to face left-handed slugger Prince Fielder. Perkins struck out Fielder and Casey McGehee to secure the 9-7 victory.

Facing the All-Star first baseman in a big situation, Perkins retired Fielder on three pitches, getting him to chase a slider for the second out of the inning. Then, after McGehee fouled off two fastballs and Perkins missed with two sliders out of the zone, he got the slumping third baseman to swing over a slider down and in to end the game.

McGehee snapped his bat over his knee before walking back to the dugout as the Twins celebrated the thrilling come-from-behind victory.

“That was a really hard situation; Cappy has good numbers [against Fielder], he let me know that on the mound,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve got to win baseball games, and I just thought that was a better matchup at the time.

“I think Perkins has a hot hand, and I wanted to win the ballgame, so I went to Perkins.”

Perkins has been dominan all season, giving up just seven runs (six earned) over 30 innings for a 1.80 ERA. Lefties are hitting just .209 off Perkins with 10 strikeouts in 43 at-bats.

The biggest key to Perkins’ success has been the use of his slider, which is tough on both lefties and righties, as he showed Sunday in getting Fielder and McGehee to swing and miss at it. Being able to touch 96 mph with his fastball doesn’t hurt, either.

“I’m just kind of putting it where I want for the most part,” Perkins said. “That’s a good pitch to have if I can run fastballs up there and get them off that and then throw the slider, it’s got to be tough as a hitter.”

With Perkins picking up his first career save, the Twins put together a comeback of their own Sunday against the Brewers after watching a seven-run lead slip away a night earlier.

They didn’t trail by as many runs as the Brewers did the night before, and the Twins did not wait until the ninth, but Minnesota returned the favor, handing Milwaukee a tough loss.

With their comeback, Minnesota got starter Nick Blackburn off the hook after he had a second straight rough outing, giving up six runs in just four innings.

Blackburn retired the first six Brewers in order, but all three outs in the second were hard-hit line drives. Mark Kotsay broke through for Milwaukee in the third with a 442-foot solo blast into the second deck in right field.

Milwaukee batted around in the fourth, scoring five runs on five hits, including a two-run triple by Kotsay.

Including the eight runs (seven earned) allowed on 13 hits over 4 1/3 innings Monday against the Dodgers, Blackburn has gone 0-1 with a 14.05 ERA in his last two starts, allowing 13 earned runs allowed on 19 hits in just 8 1/3 innings.

“I kind of over-adjusted from my last outing,” Blackburn said. “I struggled in it, and went out and tried to do a little too much today. We’ll just try to tune it back down a little bit and hopefully get back on track.”

After falling behind, 6-1, through four innings, the Twins’ comeback started in the fourth with a three-run home run by left fielder Rene Tosoni.

Brewers starter Zack Greinke was particularly frustrated by that pitch to Tosoni, a fastball up and away that was supposed to be buried inside.

“That pitch and the pitch to [Michael] Cuddyer before, those were the two big mistakes of the game,” Greinke said. “Other than that, I pitched real well. Those two were real bad. I don’t know that hitter [Tosoni], but that’s not a good pitch to anyone. … I don’t know why I made a pitch that bad when there’s two guys on base. I don’t get it.”

Greinke allowed five runs (four earned) on five hits over six innings with nine strikeouts and two walks. It was the sixth time in 12 starts this season he had allowed four or more earned runs, and the eighth start in which he gave up at least one home run.

With two out in the seventh, the Twins continued their rally as Joe Mauer and Cuddyer hit back-to-back singles, with the latter driving in Ben Revere from second base. Jim Thome, who earlier hit career home run No. 595, then walked to load the bases.

Third baseman Danny Valencia ripped a single to left, which was misplayed by Kotsay, allowing all three runs to score and Valencia to slide in safely at third as the Twins went from down five to the eventual two-run victory.

“It was unfortunate,” Kotsay said. “If I had come up with the ball, I thought we would have had a play at the plate with Cuddyer.”

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

Fielder wants Kemp on NL’s Derby squad

July 3, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Brewers All-Star slugger Prince Fielder is taking his job as National League captain for the State Farm Home Run Derby seriously, and so far, he has settled on just one of his three picks.

That pick is one of three NL starters in the outfield, but it’s not Brewers teammate Ryan Braun. Fielder wants Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp on his team.

“He’s guaranteed, I think,” Fielder said. “Yeah, he’s a guarantee, Kemp, if he wants to.”

Fielder said he had not talked to Kemp as of Sunday morning. But he has communicated with him through a mutual friend, Dodgers outfielder Tony Gwynn, a former Brewers teammate of Fielder’s.

Kemp, who entered Sunday leading the NL with 22 home runs, had indicated to reporters that he would be excited for the opportunity to swing for the fences in the Derby.

“I’m pretty sure if [Fielder] picks me, I’m in it,” said Kemp. “As a kid, everybody dreams of going up against the biggest home-run hitters in baseball. I remember seeing Frank Thomas in it and it’s been one of my dreams, definitely, if I get the chance to be in it.”

 

The Cardinals’ two All-Star outfielders, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday, expressed interest Sunday in the Derby as well, and would bring plenty of experience to the NL squad. Berkman has been in the Derby four times, in 2002, ’04, ’06 and ’08. Holliday participated in ’07 and ’10.

“It would be hard to turn down an invitation,” Berkman said. “That would be tough to say no.”

All three Reds All-Stars also said they would be open to joining Fielder in the Derby.

“If they ask me to do it, I’ll probably do it,” said Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips. “I know the Reds probably don’t want me to do it. I feel like I could put a show on for the fans.”

As for Fielder’s teammates, Braun said before Sunday’s series finale against the Twins that he was officially out.

“Oh yeah, I’m out for sure,” Braun said. “I was leaning toward not doing it, but I’m definitely not doing it now.”

Something that may have added to Braun’s decision to not participate this year is the opportunity for another Brewers All-Star to take part in the Derby.

Second baseman Rickie Weeks, one of three Brewers starters in the All-Star Game along with Fielder and Braun, could be the fourth Milwaukee slugger to give the Derby a shot in the last five years. Fielder made his first appearance in 2007, Braun did it in ’08 in New York, Fielder won the ’09 contest in St. Louis, and right fielder Corey Hart participated last season in Anaheim.

So will Fielder add Weeks’ name to his lineup?

“Yeah, I think so,” Fielder said. “But I can’t let it out. I’ve got to narrow it down. He’s in my pool, so I don’t know yet.

“I can only pick a couple of my friends. Only my friends that hit the ball far.”

Weeks certainly fits that description, as Milwaukee’s leadoff hitter has 15 home runs, including a solo shot in Sunday’s game — seven back of Kemp, the NL leader — and is second among NL second basemen.

Of those 15 homers, Weeks has eight over 400 feet, including a 434-foot blast last month over the left-field bleachers at Wrigley Field and onto Waveland Ave.

Can Weeks’ name be penciled in for the Derby?

“I don’t know, I’ve got to be asked,” said Weeks, who was then asked if he would agree to participate if asked. “Oh yeah, I’ll say yes.”

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

Pavano struggles as Twins are swept by Brewers

June 26, 2011 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — A six-game National League roadtrip finally ended on Sunday for the Twins, but not before their fifth straight loss, a 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Brewers at Miller Park.

It was Minnesota’s seventh consecutive loss to Milwaukee, finalizing the Brewers’ second straight sweep of the Twins.

“I hear they’ve struggled a little bit offensively, but we don’t see it,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We see some pretty good hitters all the way up and down that lineup, to tell you the truth. Right now, I wish we struggled like they were struggling.”

In the first inning of the trip, the Twins’ offense looked pretty good, as it scored eight runs on nine hits on the way to its eighth straight victory. In the ensuing 53 innings, the Twins were outscored, 30-9.

Minnesota now sits nine games behind first-place Detroit.

“For us right now, because of the injuries, everything’s got to be going on all cylinders,” said Michael Cuddyer. “Our hitters have to pick up our pitchers, and our pitchers have to pick up the hitters. That’s the way that we went on our streak, and that’s the way we’re going to have to win. That’s it.”

Right-hander Carl Pavano got the win in a 9-2 victory over the Giants on Tuesday, but he couldn’t end the Twins’ losing skid on Sunday. After four scoreless innings, Pavano gave up five runs, including a two-run home run to Ryan Braun in the fifth and RBI doubles in the sixth by Jonathan Lucroy and Brewers starter Chris Narveson.

It all started with a triple to left field by Lucroy that could have been a double, if Jason Repko had fielded it cleanly. Pavano retired the next two batters, but Nyjer Morgan followed with an RBI single before Braun crushed an 0-1 pitch to right-center.

“He can really hit the ball, we’ve all known that for a long time,” Gardenhire said. “He covered that fastball pretty good. I think it was up just a little bit, but man, he hit the heck out of that ball.”

Pavano finished with five runs allowed on eight hits over six innings, with five strikeouts and one walk. He took his sixth loss of the season, despite recording his 1,000th career strikeout in the fifth inning.

“That’s a tough loss,” Pavano said. “My job today was to go out there and end this losing streak, and I wasn’t able to do that.”

Jim Thome, who pinch-hit in the seventh, reached a milestone of his own by recording his 1,637th RBI, putting him ahead of Ernie Banks for 28th on the all-time list.

In addition to helping his own cause at the plate, Narveson was impressive on the mound, giving up just two runs on five hits in 6 2/3 innings, with seven strikeouts against two walks. Narveson improved to 5-5 on the season with a 4.42 ERA.

Not only did the Twins lose five of six games on the roadtrip, they also added two more injuries to the long list they had already compiled this season. The Twins have now used the disabled list 16 times this season for 13 players.

“It’s tough to go out there and win and even compete when you’re missing some of your best players,” Braun said. “I think when they get everybody back healthy, obviously, they’re a much better team.”

Of the nine hitters in the Opening Day lineup for the Twins, only three — Alexi Casilla, Danny Valencia and Cuddyer — have avoided stints on the DL. Through 76 games this season, the Twins have used 39 players, including four catchers, four shortstops, five second basemen, six left fielders, five right fielders and 11 designated hitters.

But that doesn’t mean anyone is going to take it easy on the injury-plagued Twins.

“I don’t really care,” Brewers slugger Prince Fielder said. “That’s the team that’s out there, so you have to try to beat them.”

Gardenhire has also used 70 different batting orders and 66 different defensive lineups in 76 games. The most common of each has only been used three times.

When the Twins won 15 of 17 games earlier this month, they executed well, and it didn’t seem to matter who they put on the field. On this trip, they looked more like the Twins ballclub that was 20 games under .500 and 16 1/2 games back at the beginning of June.

Especially in Milwaukee, sloppy defense and mistakes cost the Twins. In their five straight losses, the Twins have committed seven errors, which allowed four unearned runs to score.

“It looked like we were chasing a mouse around out there,” Gardenhire said. “I hate sloppy baseball. … Those are plays you just have to make. And it just shows right up on the scoreboard when you don’t make ’em; all these runs start going up.”

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

Baker’s solid effort for naught vs. Crew

June 24, 2011 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — The Twins had pitched around Prince Fielder all night. And when they finally gave him a pitch to hit in the seventh inning, he didn’t miss it.

Fielder struck out to lead off the second, then walked on six pitches in the fourth before being intentionally walked in the fifth. Lefty Jose Mijares fell behind, 3-0, on Fielder in the seventh, and when he put a 3-2 fastball over the plate, Fielder ripped a double to right, giving the Brewers a 4-3 victory over the Twins.

“Ended up making a bad pitch to Fielder and he got us,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We tried to not let the guy beat us, and he ended up beating us.”

Mijares threw six fastballs to Fielder, the first three of which missed the zone. After two called strikes, Twins catcher Joe Mauer set up away for another fastball, but Mijares left it over the plate for Fielder.

Gardenhire questioned the decision to have his lefty reliever throw six straight fastballs to a left-handed slugger like Fielder.

“I’m just disappointed because we threw six straight fastballs,” Gardenhire said. “Looking for a breaking ball, even 3-2, and we never threw it; we threw another fastball. And that’s disappointing to me because we have to execute better than that.

“He made a terrible pitch. We damn sure don’t want Prince to beat us, and he did. The guy’s a great hitter, that’s what he does. That’s what he does best.”

Mijares said that he had been throwing the slider in the bullpen warming up, and it had been working well. It was not so effective the last time he pitched, which may have contributed to Mauer’s pitch selection.

Still, Mijares was surprised that the All-Star catcher called for all fastballs.

“I don’t know what’s going on with Mauer,” Mijares said. “He never put down a sign for breaking ball. Never. It was fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball.”

Mauer said that it was easy to question the pitch selection in retrospect, but that he believed it was the best chance for Mijares to get Fielder out at the time.

He also noted that location was an issue when Mijares did throw the fastball.

“Called for a fastball there,” Mauer said. “I didn’t call for it down the middle.”

With a one-run lead, Gardenhire said that he did not want to put the go-ahead run at second base, even after Mijares fell behind 3-0.

Fielder said he was just looking for a good pitch to hit.

“I didn’t know what they were going to do, that’s why I just kind of took it [3-0], to see what was going on and, you know, I’m not surprised,” Fielder said. “They’re trying to get me out and that’s their job.”

Fielder’s late double ruined what could have been a fourth straight quality start for Twins right-hander Scott Baker.

Baker still delivered a solid start, but surrendered four runs on eight hits, with the last two runs coming on the double given up by Mijares. Baker struggled a bit with his command, walking four batters while also recording four strikeouts.

After leaving in position for a win, Baker took his fifth loss.

“In that situation, of course you want to pitch to the guy,” Baker said. “I don’t care who’s coming in behind you. It doesn’t matter if it’s the best closer in baseball or the 12th or 13th pitcher. As a starting pitcher, you do not want to leave [with] guys on base.”

All four Brewers runs came on doubles, as Corey Hart and Ryan Braun also doubled home runs in the fourth and fifth innings.

After opening the series in San Francisco with an eight-run first inning, the Twins scored just three runs over the final 26 innings against the Giants. Minnesota put up three in the sixth on Friday night with one swing by Danny Valencia.

Following a Michael Cuddyer one-out walk and a Delmon Young single, Valencia put the first pitch he saw from lefty Randy Wolf into the seats, his eighth home run of the season. Valencia also increased his team-leading RBI total to 36.

Wolf had given up just three hits and two walks prior to the sixth inning, and finished with three runs allowed over seven innings for his sixth win of the season.

“A disappointing loss for our ballclub,” Gardenhire said. “That’s tough to take right now. Bake pitched his tail off for us, and did very, very well. We brought the left-handed matchup and it didn’t work out 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.

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.”

No shortage of praise for Hoffman in Brewers clubhouse

September 9, 2010 Comments off

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.”

Hoffman’s teammates take pride in 600

September 8, 2010 Comments off

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.