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Lindstrom blows three-run lead in the ninth

August 6, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Wandy Rodriguez and the offense had the Brewers down, but Matt Lindstrom couldn’t deliver the knockout punch for the Astros.

With a three-run lead in the ninth, Lindstrom came on looking for his 23rd save of the season. Considering he hadn’t allowed a run in 10 2/3 innings over his last 10 outings, the outcome seemed pretty certain.

Enter Joe Inglett.

With one on and one out in the ninth, Inglett belted his first career pinch-hit homer, cutting the lead to 5-4. It wasn’t exactly a no-doubter, either, as the ball hit the right-field foul pole.

“It was hooking pretty quick,” Inglett said. “I was just willing it to stay fair, and it stayed fair. I thought it wrapped around the pole, but everybody is saying it hit.”

Three batters later, Prince Fielder ripped a two-run walk-off single down the line in right, sending the Brewers fans home happy with a 6-5 victory.

Before his two-run blast on Friday, Inglett had not hit a home run all season. In fact, his last blast came on Sept. 3, 2008, at Minnesota off Nick Blackburn.

For Inglett to come up with a home run in that situation, it was likely just about the last thing Astros manager Brad Mills expected.

“He’s done a pretty good job in the pinch for them so far this year, we knew that coming up,” Mills said of Inglett, who is batting .326 as a pinch-hitter this season with a Major League-leading 15 pinch-hits. “Expectations kind of go out the window a lot of times in this business anyway.”

After the home run, though, the Astros still led, 5-4. It was then that things really got bad for Lindstrom, who was unable to retire the final five Brewers he faced after retiring the first batter of the inning with a groundout.

Ahead, 0-2, on Rickie Weeks, a misplaced curveball from Lindstrom led to a single. He followed that by getting ahead of Corey Hart with a 1-2 count, before throwing three straight out of the zone.

Finally, a 1-0 sinker to Fielder was driven down the line, scoring Weeks and Hart from second and first.

“I kind of lost my location and just was trying to battle against myself a little bit trying to find the zone,” Lindstrom said. “I was getting ahead of hitters pretty good, but just threw too good of a pitch a couple times in the zone.

“The biggest thing was throwing bad pitches when I was ahead in the count and had pitches to waste.”

Prior to the thrilling finish, it was all about Rodriguez who turned in yet another gem on the mound.

Like the Astros as a whole, Rodriguez has been hot of late, turning around what began as a disappointing season.

Rodriguez went 6 1/3 innings, giving up two runs, one earned, on eight hits while recording seven strikeouts.

“He just didn’t make many mistakes,” Fielder said. “He’s in and out. His curveball is pretty good. His pitches are in the zone, but they’re not quite where you can put good wood on it. He pitched a good game, and I’m glad we were able to come back.”

Despite missing out on the win, Rodriguez has gone 6-1 with a 1.86 ERA over his last eight starts, dating back to June 24. Up to that point, Rodriguez had gone 3-10 with a 6.09 ERA through his first 14 starts of the season.

The difference, Rodriguez said, has been all about location.

“My command on every one of my pitches. I missed a lot of my locations [early in the season],” Rodriguez said. “I feel more comfortable when I use all my pitches. I have better location right now.

As for Friday’s outing?

“I had a great breaking ball today and I used it a lot,” Rodriguez said. “I used [my changeup] only with Hart, because when I have my breaking ball, a good one like today, I use it a lot.”

For the Astros, the loss is their second in a row and their first against the Brewers in more than a month.

Houston entered carrying a winning streak of five games against Milwaukee, dating back to a 5-1 win on June 30 at Miller Park.

“You win some, you lose some,” Lindstrom said. “You’ve got to forget this one and go on to the next one.

“I take responsibility for this. It’s unacceptable having a three-run lead out there facing the bottom of the order and letting them get back in the game like that.”

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

No fun in the sun again for the Brewers

June 30, 2010 Comments off

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.”

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