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Twins notebook, 7/1

July 1, 2011 Comments off

Thome belts home run No. 594

MINNEAPOLIS — With the two injuries that have forced him to miss nearly 40 games this season, Jim Thome hasn’t even had time to think about reaching 600 home runs.

Even if his focus is just on staying healthy and contributing, the Twins slugger moved one step closer to that milestone on Friday, as Thome hit career homer No. 594, a three-run shot that just got over the fence in left field in a 6-2 win over the Brewers.

After missing so much time, Thome said it felt good to put one in the seats.

“It does, especially being on the DL and being in Florida trying to get back, and still trying to kind of get a feel here and get back going,” Thome said. “Anytime you can do something, especially the way the guys have been playing, and contribute and help out, is good, no doubt.”

Thome hit an 0-1 curveball from Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo, giving the Twins a 3-1 lead. After missing 20 games with a left quad strain, Thome homered in his fifth game back from the disabled list.

Thome last homered on May 23 against the Mariners, when he hit two balls out of the park in his first game back from a DL stint for an oblique strain.

It was Thome’s fifth home run of the season, putting him six away from being the eighth player in Major League history to hit 600. Thome would be the first to reach the mark since the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez last season.

“Everyone gets excited when Jim Thome comes up, and he crushed that ball in the seats and that’s a big huge boost for us after we got down quick in the ballgame,” said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire. “That’s kind of what we are hoping for as we go along here. If we can keep those guys healthy, some of those things can happen.”

 

Young takes batting practice at Target Field

MINNEAPOLIS — For the first time since spraining his right ankle, Twins left fielder Delmon Young took batting practice on Friday at Target Field. If everything continues to go well this weekend, Young will begin a Triple-A rehab assignment next week.

Young, who left during the fifth inning at Miller Park last Saturday after being injured, took part in both early BP and the Twins’ regular pregame batting practice session, and he also ran the bases.

“He’s feeling great,” Twins head trainer Rick McWane said. “He’s going to do the same thing tomorrow, and the plan is for him to travel to Rochester on Sunday and start a rehab assignment with Rochester next week.”

McWane also gave updates on right-hander Kevin Slowey, currently on the disabled list with an abdominal injury. The 27-year-old threw 3 1/3 innings on Thursday night for the Fort Myers Miracle.

Slowey also will travel to Rochester on Sunday. He is scheduled to start Tuesday for the Red Wings, McWane said.

Twins center fielder Denard Span also continues to make progress in his recovery from a concussion sustained on June 3 in Kansas City.

“Denard came out early, did some long toss, did some running [and] had a good workout,” McWane said. “We still hope to get him on the field taking batting practice at some point, although we don’t have a date right now.”

Humphries, Kardashian take in the opener

MINNEAPOLIS — After waiting out a two-hour rain delay, former Minnesota Gophers forward Kris Humphries threw out the first pitch on Friday at Target Field.

Humphries, an all-Big Ten honoree and 2004 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, was named Minnesota Mr. Basketball as a senior at Hopkins High School in 2003. He spent the last two seasons with the New Jersey Nets, and previously played for the Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz.

Joining Humphries to watch the Twins take on the Brewers was his fiance, reality TV personality Kim Kardashian. The two were visited in their suite during the rain delay by a pair of Twins, closer Matt Capps and catcher Drew Butera.

Before the game, Kardashian tweeted: “Hi Minnesoooota! Heading to the twins game tonight! This should be fun!”

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Marlins, Sanchez struggle in loss to Brewers

September 24, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — It was a rough night for Marlins starter Anibal Sanchez. Things weren’t much easier for his teammates at the plate against Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo.

Sanchez (12-11) allowed five runs over 5 1/3 innings of work, while surrendering a season-high 10 hits to the Brewers as the Marlins lost, 8-3, on Thursday night at Miller Park.

Through four innings, however, things didn’t look so bad for Sanchez, as he looked to be putting together a strong outing and his team trailed by just one run.

All-Star right fielder Corey Hart got things started for the Brewers with a first-inning home run — his 30th of the season — while adding a pair of singles in the third and fifth innings, as he put together a 3-for-5 night with two RBIs.

That run would be the only one allowed by Sanchez through four innings. He surrendered two more in the fifth, but his manager still thought he was pitching well at that point.

“Anibal, I think he was good in the first five innings,” Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “Then he ran into bad luck with bloopers and then a soft line drive, and then he got himself in trouble. When you’re facing an offensive team like Milwaukee, they take advantage of everything.”

The Brewers did just that in the sixth. Casey McGehee led off with a single and Sanchez hit Mat Gamel with a pitch, putting two on with none out. Following a flyout to left, Luis Cruz blooped one in for a single to center, loading the bases for Gallardo.

Despite Sanchez’s best efforts against the Brewers starter, he added a single to left, which drove in two runs and proved to be the end of the night for the Marlins right-hander.

“[Gallardo’s] a pretty good hitter, too,” Sanchez said. “My slider’s my best pitch. I threw it to him and he made contact.”

Sanchez did not escape a single inning without allowing a hit, despite holding the Brewers to just one run through four. The loss was the third in Sanchez’s past four starts, as he’s posted a 6.95 ERA, while allowing 17 runs on 26 hits in 22 innings of work.

When asked about Sanchez’s poor numbers in September, Rodriguez attributed them to Sanchez being “overworked,” while adding his thoughts about Sanchez’s season as a whole.

“If the season is over today, I would say Anibal Sanchez had a great season,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been pitching very, very well. Just for the fact that he’s healthy and he’s throwing — that’s good news.”

On the mound for the Brewers, Gallardo delivered 6 2/3 innings, surrendering three runs on seven hits while walking two and recording nine strikeouts.

The Marlins’ No. 1-6 hitters particularly struggled, combining to go 3-for-19 against Gallardo, with six strikeouts and one RBI.

“The main thing for me is getting ahead — starting off with strike one,” Gallardo said. “That opens everything up for you to throw your slider, curveball, and it gets them to swing early.”

“We’re still trying to figure out what pitch that was,” Rodriguez said of the pitch that got rookie Logan Morrison to swing and miss. “It was either a changeup or a split-finger. Morrison came into the dugout saying, ‘I had no chance on that pitch.’

“That’s why he’s one of the best in the league.”

Gallardo (14-7) was shutting out the Marlins through six innings while limiting them to just four hits. In the seventh, the bottom of the order sparked a rally, as Mike Stanton and Brad Davis recorded back-to-back singles and scored on a Cameron Maybin single which was misplayed by Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain for an error.

Morrison proved to be the final batter faced by Gallardo, who walked the Marlins left fielder. Capping off the inning, Dan Uggla added the Marlins’ third run with a single off reliever Kameron Loe, scoring Maybin from third base.

Right-hander Sandy Rosario made his Major League debut in the seventh inning, and the Brewers welcomed him with back-to-back homers. On his first pitch in the big leagues, Rosario surrendered a solo homer to Rickie Weeks. Two pitches later, Prince Fielder went deep with his 31st of the season.

An inning after the offense managed to pull the Marlins back within two runs, Rosario’s rough debut put the game out of reach.

With the seventh-inning rally proving to be for naught, the highlight of the game for the Marlins ended up being Morrison’s walk. With the free pass, Morrison extended his streak to 42 consecutive games in which he has reached base safely, tying him with Mark Teixeira for the longest such streak in the Majors this season.

Afterward, though, Morrison was more disappointed about the team’s loss and less interested in talking about his own personal accomplishments.

“It would’ve felt better if we won the game,” Morrison said. “I don’t really know what to say about that. We didn’t win the game today, and I didn’t make a play for Anibal I needed to make that kind of blew the game open, and we weren’t able to come back from it.”

Gallardo’s gem gives Crew win over Cubs

September 13, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — With his command issues worked out, Yovani Gallardo has looked more like a staff ace again over his last two starts. Fortunately for the Brewers, his abilities at the plate haven’t escaped him, either.

With the Brewers’ recent offensive struggles continuing on Sunday afternoon, Gallardo took things into his own hands.

Gallardo delivered his second straight strong start and scored the game’s first run, in the fifth inning, and the Brewers won, 2-0, over the Cubs to avoid the three-game sweep.

“It all starts with locating the fastball,” Gallardo said. “I was able to do that tonight and throw my offspeed for strikes, and everything worked out.”

In tossing seven scoreless innings, Gallardo (12-7) allowed just four hits and three walks while recording five strikeouts. He picked up his first win since Aug. 8, against the Astros, while not allowing a run for the first time since July 22 at Pittsburgh.

Leading off the bottom of the fifth, Gallardo doubled to the gap in right-center field, setting up the Brewers’ best scoring opportunity of the day. Two outs later, left fielder Ryan Braun delivered the run from second base with a double of his own.

Braun’s double snapped a 22-inning scoreless streak for the Brewers. In the eighth, third baseman Casey McGehee added an insurance run with a solo home run, his 21st of the season.

“Our pitchers have really been throwing the ball well for the last couple of weeks, so it’s nice to finally pick somebody up,” Braun said.

After being shut out in the first two games of the series by Cubs starters Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster, the Brewers finished the series with just two runs, the first off Casey Coleman, the other off reliever Thomas Diamond.

Before the doubles by Gallardo and Braun, the Brewers had opportunities in the first, second and third innings but could not capitalize. Their biggest chance came in the first, with Corey Hart and Braun on first and third and only one out, but Prince Fielder grounded into an inning-ending double play.

In the second inning, Lorenzo Cain was stranded after a one-out single, and in the third, McGehee grounded into a fielder’s choice, stranding the bases loaded.

“It’s been interesting,” said manager Ken Macha, reverting to his favorite adjective. “Two runs. That’s a little like the San Diego series [from April 29 to May 2]. We scored two runs there and won one out of four. We got two runs here. We played three games, and somebody was shut out in every one of them.”

Coleman was nearly as impressive as Zambrano and Dempster, tossing six strong innings while allowing just the one run in the fifth on five hits with three strikeouts.

Gallardo’s outing was his second straight of seven innings or more and four hits or fewer. The last time he went seven innings without allowing a run was on June 24, when he tossed a five-hit shutout against the Twins.

The performance also was his best since coming off the disabled list on July 22 following an oblique strain, an injury he sustained on July 4. Though he admitted that his success begins with locating his fastball, it was his offspeed stuff made the difference.

“Gallardo’s tough. You have to give him his due,” said Cubs manager Mike Quade. “You don’t want to be behind on him — he’s got a devastating curveball. His breaking ball is very tough. He didn’t make many mistakes, and we didn’t have many opportunities to capitalize on them.”

Before his injury, Gallardo was 8-4 with a 2.58 ERA, allowing 32 earned runs in 111 2/3 innings pitched. Opponents were hitting just .224 against him, as he struck out 122 batters and allowed 48 walks.

In his first eight starts following the injury, he went 3-3 with a 7.23 ERA, allowing 34 earned runs over 42 1/3 innings. Opponents batted .314 with a .875 OPS against him over that stretch, though he recorded 49 strikeouts against just 17 walks.

In his last two starts, he has given up just two runs on eight hits and five walks over 14 innings, for a 1.29 ERA with 10 strikeouts.

According to Macha, though, the change has had more to do with location than any aftereffects of the oblique injury.

One thing that’s remained consistent throughout is Gallardo’s offensive prowess. Entering the game, he was batting .259 with four home runs and eight RBIs. He boosted that average to .268 with his double, one of his many big hits on the season.

“He’s been unbelievable. His whole time in the Major Leagues, he’s really swung the bat well,” Braun said. “I think he deserves the Silver Slugger this year for a pitcher. I’m serious.

“When you have him in the lineup, it’s like having an extra weapon. It’s like having a DH when you’re playing in an American League ballpark. He’s that good. He’s a tough out, he drives the ball and he has good at-bats.”

Playoff return highlights 2000s turnaround

August 28, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Along with the turn of the century and the start of a new millennium, the 2000s marked a new era of Brewers baseball, one that included a playoff appearance.

It began in 2001 with the opening of Miller Park, the Brewers’ new state-of-the-art, $400 million home. The changes continued in 2002, when Doug Melvin was named general manager of the club. In 2004, the Brewers had new ownership, as Mark Attanasio took over the club from Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig.

All that set the stage for the team’s return to the playoffs, 26 years after losing the 1982 World Series.

Brewers alumni Geoff Jenkins and Bob Wickman are scheduled to participate Friday in a pregame autograph session to celebrate the 2000s as part of the Brewers’ 40th Anniversary season. On Sunday, all fans will receive a collectible Brewers Bobble Head doll, featuring CC Sabathia securing the final out of the regular-season finale, playoff-clinching game in 2008, compliments of Palermo’s Pizza and Piggly Wiggly.

Inaugural Season
After a one-year delay due to a fatal crane accident, Miller Park finally opened its doors to the public on April 6, 2001. Among those in attendance were President George W. Bush and Selig, both of whom threw out ceremonial first pitches.

With his 435-foot home run in the bottom of the eighth, first baseman Richie Sexson sent the crowd of 42,024 home happy, as the Brewers secured the first win at Miller Park, 5-4, over the Cincinnati Reds.

The Brewers’ new ballpark got rave reviews, to say the least.

“There’s no comparison,” said former Brewers infielder Jim Gantner. “This is an awesome building and a great place to play. You miss County Stadium, but when you see this, you forget about it real quick.”

“I did play in County Stadium and know what it was like to play there,” Sexson said. “This is definitely 10 times better than County Stadium.”

While much of the credit for getting the ballpark built goes to Selig, and deservedly so, the Milwaukee native, along with his daughter, credited the fans on Opening Day 2001.

“There are many people that played a role in building this magnificent park,” Selig told the fans. “But none are greater than all of you.”

“You’re the best fans in the world,” added then-team president Wendy Selig-Prieb. “Enjoy this wonderful ballpark. You deserve it.”

In their first season playing at Miller Park, the Brewers had high hopes, but weren’t any better than previous seasons. In fact, they were worse, finishing 2001 in fourth place in the National League Central with a 68-94 record as injuries decimated the team in the second half.

One year later, the ballpark, with its unique fan-shaped roof, was host to the first 100-loss season in Brewers history, as the Crew finished 56-106, good for last in the division. With that came more changes for the Brewers, this time in the front office.

Melvin gets a second chance
In April 2002, the Brewers fired manager Davey Lopes after just 15 games as Milwaukee skidded out to a 3-12 record in Lopes’ third season at the helm. Five months later, general manager Dean Taylor was cut loose as well, as the Brewers shook up their front office.

Doug Melvin was tabbed for the job, given a second chance to show what he could do running a Major League club. Melvin, the former Texas Rangers general manager who led that franchise to three division titles in four years during the 1990s, was named the eighth general manager in Brewers history on Sept. 25, 2002.

“I don’t believe in rebuilding plans,” Melvin said in a spirited press conference. “If there was a three-year plan, I would wait and buy a ticket in, what, 2005? I don’t believe in that, I want people to be a part of this process to get to where we want to go.

“We’ll enjoy it a lot more if we do it together.”

Melvin brought in former Jays general manager Gord Ash as his assistant GM and hired manager Ned Yost, who brought along with him a new coaching staff. But Melvin’s best move in his first days as general manager now appears to have been keeping amateur scouting director Jack Zduriencik in place.

Under Zduriencik, the Brewers put together some of the best Drafts in club history, restocking their system with top-level talent, and building one of the best cores of young players in the Major Leagues.

Among those draft during Zduriencik’s tenure are former first-round picks Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, second baseman Rickie Weeks, former Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy, right fielder Corey Hart, staff ace Yovani Gallardo, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and center fielder Lorenzo Cain.

As well as building from within, one of Melvin’s best moves as general manager came in 2008, when he traded highly rated prospects Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley and Zach Jackson to the Indians for Sabathia, who would help carry the Brewers to the Wild Card.

New Ownership
Along with Melvin, Ash and Yost, the organization brought in another new face in 2004, as Mark Attanasio, a Los Angeles investment banker and New York native, took over the club from the previous ownership group, which included Selig-Prieb.

When introduced at a news conference on Oct. 4, 2004, as the Brewers’ owner-elect, Attanasio said he was “up to the challenge” of turning around the ballclub. He also admitted he had dreamed as a child of owning a Major League baseball club.

“As a kid, I lived, breathed and died with the Yankees forever,” Attanasio said. “Once I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to hit a curveball, I gave up dreams of playing Major League Baseball, and when I got a little older thought maybe one day I could own a team.”

One of Attanasio’s biggest impacts upon taking over as the team’s principal owner was a commitment to raising the payroll to make the Brewers more competitive, despite playing in the smallest market in baseball.

After the payroll dipped as low as $27.5 million in 2004, it was raised to $39.9 million in Attanasio’s first season as owner. A year later, the Brewers’ payroll was up to $57.6 million, and by Opening Day 2007, it reached $71 million. When the Brewers reached the playoffs in 2008, the payroll was up to $80.9 million, and in 2010, the Opening Day payroll was up to $90.4 million.

Even with the financial commitment of Attanasio’s ownership group, he acknowledged in his first news conference at Miller Park that he had a lot to do to match the legacy of the Selig family in Milwaukee.

“The Attanasio family feels it has big shoes to fill here,” Attanasio said. “But that being said, we know that we can be the stewards of baseball in Milwaukee for the next 35 years.”

With Melvin, Ash, Yost and Attanasio in place, the Brewers were just a few years away from ending their playoff drought.

The Wait Is Over
When the Brewers returned from St. Louis in 1982 having lost to the Cardinals in the World Series, no one could have guessed it would take 26 years for the club to return to the playoffs. After all, they were expected to be back the following season.

But time after time, the Brewers’ best ballclubs came up short in 1983, ’88, ’91 and ’92. Even in ’07, when the Brewers led the division for much of the season, they came up just two games behind the Chicago Cubs.

Finally, in 2008, it was the Brewers’ turn.

Milwaukee entered the 2008 campaign with high expectations after the ’07 season saw the Brewers post their first winning record since ’92. In an effort to bolster their playoff hopes, Melvin brought in Sabathia just before the All-Star break on July 7. Sabathia was so dominant over the final three months of the season for the Crew that he even garnered a few votes for the NL Cy Young Award.

In 17 starts for the Brewers in 2008, Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA, tossing seven complete games, including three shutouts. Aside from a near no-hitter against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, the most impressive of those seven complete games was Sabathia’s last.

On the final day of the regular season, Sabathia made his third consecutive start on three days’ rest and worked all nine innings in the most clutch pitching performance in Brewers history. In front of 45,299 fans, Sabathia threw 122 pitches, struck out seven, scattered four hits and allowed only one unearned run.

“It’s unbelievable what he has done for the guys on this team, this organization and this city,” left fielder Ryan Braun said. “He’s revived baseball in Milwaukee. He took whatever expectation we had and destroyed it.”

Braun played a pretty big role in the club’s run as well. On that night, Braun made the difference at the plate, as he blasted a tie-breaking, two-run home run with two outs in the eighth inning, which gave the Brewers the 3-1 win.

Just days earlier, Braun delivered a grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 5-1 Brewers win.

“It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s difficult to describe,” Braun said. “The grand slam the other night, that was pretty special, but this one was pretty meaningful.”

With the Brewers finally returning to the postseason, Miller Park hosted the first two playoff games in its history on Oct. 4-5, 2008. The first game, Game 3, was the Brewers’ first win in the postseason since that 1982 World Series. Game 4 was a different story, however, as the Phillies secured a trip to the NLCS with a 6-2 win.

They came up short of winning their first playoff series since 1982, but for fans in Milwaukee and across the state of Wisconsin, the ’08 season was one to remember, and one 26 years in the making.

For the first time since 1982, the Brewers played games in October that mattered.

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

Dodgers earn first sweep since June

August 28, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — No Manny? No problem for the Dodgers.

With Manny Ramirez rumored to be the subject of trade discusions, the Dodgers showed Thursday they could put up plenty of offense without him and shut down their opponents’ bats as the 12-time All-Star took a scheduled off-day for the day game after a night game.

With a 7-1 victory Thursday over the Brewers at Miller Park, the Dodgers completed the sweep, giving them three straight wins for the first time since Aug. 7-10, when the Dodgers won their last two against the Nationals and the series opener in Philadelphia.

The sweep is the Dodgers’ first since they took all three games from the Giants in San Francisco on June 28-30.

“We haven’t done this for a while,” said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. “We certainly need more than this, but you can’t go win five in a row unless you win three in a row. I thought we played these three games very well and we had some key outs that we got out of the bullpen and some key two-out hits. We did a lot of things well this week.

“Hopefully we can build on this.”

While the six-run margin of victory looks like an easy win in the box score, the way the Dodgers got there was anything but. After taking a 1-0 lead in the first and letting the Brewers tie it back up in the fourth on a Prince Fielder home run, things got interesting in the middle innings.

With a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth, Torre used three pitchers for three outs for a second consecutive game. Starter Carlos Monasterios seemed to lose his command in the inning, walking Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo and hitting Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart.

“I don’t think I lost that much control,” Monasterios said through an interpreter. “But since I hit that hitter, I lost a little bit of rhythm and that’s what happened.”

Torre, who said he thought Monasterios tried to rush through the fifth inning to put himself in line for the win, brought in Ronald Belisario with the bases loaded. Belisario (2-1) retired Ryan Braun for the third straight game, needing just four pitches — all fastballs — to strike out Braun and earn his second win of the season.

George Sherrill then entered to face Fielder, who grounded into a forceout to get the Dodgers out of the jam.

With Belisario matching up against Braun and Sherrill against Fielder, the fifth inning resembled the ninth inning of Wednesday night’s 5-4 win, when Torre used Belisario, Sherrill and Octavio Dotel to close out the game.

“That’s why they’re a good team,” Fielder said. “It’s a good move, bringing tough guys out of the bullpen to kind of shut it down.”

The move did appear to shut the Brewers down. Over the final four innings, the Dodgers’ bullpen allowed just one baserunner — catcher Jonathan Lucroy walked to lead off the seventh. For the game, the Dodgers gave up just two hits, which matched a Milwaukee season.

Reliever Kenley Jansen had a lot to do with that, as he was impressive over the sixth and seventh innings, retiring six of seven batters faced. He did not allow a hit while striking out four batters and walking one.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Andre Ethier was called out on strikes to lead off the inning and was later ejected by home-plate umpire Adrian Johnson following a Matt Kemp strikeout.

“It was just a bad call, I thought it was a bad call,” Ethier said. “The pitch was repeated to the next batter, same exact pitch, I thought even a better pitch, and he called it a ball that time. So I was asking him from the dugout, ‘Are you sure about that?’

“He didn’t like it too much. Neither did I. One of us has the power to kick the other one out.”

Two batters later, Casey Blake blasted a two-run homer that gave the Dodgers some breathing room.

Finally, in the seventh, a walk followed by three straight singles and a fielding error by Lucroy resulted in three Dodgers runs, putting the game out of reach. Jansen got things started with a one out walk in his first career plate appearance and later scored his first career run on Ryan Theriot’s single.

“The seventh inning was not pretty,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “We didn’t back up home. We had a wild pitch. A ball got through Luc’s legs. That stuff happens from time to time, but you hope it would be at a minimum.”

When he wasn’t being asked about Ramirez this week, Torre talked a few times about the need for his players to ignore the standings, focus on themselves and string together a handful of wins as they look to get back in the playoff race.

After winning three in a row, the Dodgers cut their National League Wild Card deficit from eight games — following Sunday’s loss — to five games as of the end of Thursday’s win, with the Phillies having lost earlier and the Giants yet to play.

“We talked about winning series, and we didn’t do that for about a week and a half,” said catcher Brad Ausmus, who recorded his first three-hit game since July 27, 2008. “You’re talking about not only winning series, but mixing in a few series where you manage to sweep the team that you’re playing.

“We’re fortunate to come out of Milwaukee having done 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.

Capuano picks up Gallardo as Crew wins

August 21, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — As far as feel-good stories go, Chris Capuano’s comeback from a second Tommy John surgery ranks up there among the best of them. The Brewers lefty added another chapter on Friday night.

It was one of those nights at Miller Park, where nothing seems to go according to plan. It was also one of those starts for Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo, who was hurt by mistakes and struggled with his command.

Fortunately for Gallardo and the Brewers, they had a lefty in the bullpen ready to go. Capuano pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up just one walk while facing the minimum and retiring 10 of 11 batters faced as the Brewers defeated the Padres, 10-6.

With his stellar performance, Capuano made up for one of the shortest outings of the season for Gallardo. Capuano won at home for the first time since May 7, 2007, giving him the perfect belated birthday present, as the lefty celebrated his 32nd birthday on Thursday.

“It’s great to get a win anytime,” Capuano said. “We’ve been working on some stuff and today felt real good with the location and the different pitches. The arm strength feels like it’s starting to come back a little bit. It’s definitely a lot more fun out there pitching.”

On a wild night, the Brewers outslugged the Padres for their third straight win and fourth in five games. Third baseman Casey McGehee led the way, recording an RBI double and a three-run homer in his first two at-bats.

With the two hits, McGehee extended his franchise record streak to 11 hits in 11 straight home at-bats, shattering the previous mark of seven straight hits at home. After being unaware of the 9-for-9 against the Diamondbacks, was McGehee aware of the 11-for-11?

“Now I am,” McGehee answered. “That was nice for us to be able to have that kind of an offensive game, especially supporting Yovani, who’s pitched so well for us. For us to be able to pick him up one time, was really good.”

With a team ERA of 3.18, the Padres’ mark was 23 points lower than any other team in the Majors before Friday’s game. With that in mind, and Gallardo taking the hill for the Brewers, the formula for a pitchers’ duel certainly was there.

None of that seemed to matter, as from the outset, the game was nothing like anyone would have expected. Both starting pitchers, Gallardo and Wade LeBlanc, went just 3 1/3 innings, combining to allow 13 runs on 13 hits with six walks, four strikeouts and four home runs.

Recording just 10 outs to Capuano’s 11 outs, Gallardo surrendered six runs on six hits while walking five and recording just one strikeout.

In the first inning, Gallardo left two curveballs up, over the plate. Adrian Gonzalez and Chase Headley took advantage of those mistakes, sending them over the fence and giving the Padres an early 3-0 lead.

“He wasn’t as sharp as we have seen him before,” Headley said. “He wasn’t commanding his fastball and he left a few curveballs up. We did a good job coming out and getting on him early.”

After the Brewers answered with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the frame, Gallardo surrendered two more right back to the Padres. Milwaukee’s offense never gave up, though, as the Brewers scored in each of the next five innings.

In the third, it was McGehee’s three-run blast. An inning later, rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy added a two-run shot, which proved to be the eventual game winner.

“They picked me up,” Gallardo said. “It just was one of those days for me. It got out of hand. They put up some runs in the first inning for me after I gave up three, and they kept battling. I give them a lot of props.”

Todd Coffey and Zach Braddock joined Capuano in shutting down the Padres offense, which recorded just one hit over the final 5 2/3 innings on Friday night.

Even with that, the story of the day was Capuano, who continues to progress in his return to the Major Leagues.

With the bases loaded in the fourth following back-to-back one-out walks, Brewers manager Ken Macha had seen enough of Gallardo, calling for Capuano. Entering Friday’s game, Capuano had a 4.44 ERA, while opposing hitters had been batting .289 against him with three home runs.

Add five of seven inherited runners having scored in those 15 appearances, and Capuano didn’t exactly seem like the ideal choice in such a pressure situation as the Brewers trailed 6-5 at the time. He performed admirably, stranding all three runners with a strikeout and a groundout to end the inning.

“Big crossroads there,” Macha said.

“Unbelievable,” Lucroy said. “That’s all you can ask out of a middle reliever: Come in and do something like that. He’s getting back to [the way he pitched before his second Tommy John surgery]. He knows exactly what he wants to do out there. It’s real easy to catch somebody like that.”

After the bullpen nearly blew Randy Wolf’s dominating performance on Wednesday, it was encouraging for the Brewers to see a reliever pick up the slack on an off night for their ace.

While Capuano would still like to see his name in the starting rotation again someday, Friday night’s win will suffice for now.

“It’s just a blessing to be healthy and feel good every day coming to the park,” Capuano said. “I would like to be starting, [but] the main thing is that I’m feeling healthy, my arm’s getting stronger and everything is feeling good.

“I’m just enjoying the opportunities I get to pitch right now.”

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

Rocky start for Wright as Astros skid

August 8, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — What a difference a week made for the Astros and Wesley Wright.

Coming to Milwaukee, the Astros had hopes of building another winning streak and, with a sweep, moving into third place in the National League Central.

Three days later, Houston was the team that was swept, and with four straight losses, the Astros head home on a low note after an 11-6 defeat at the hands of the Brewers on Sunday.

Just a week removed from earning his first Major League win as a starter over the very same Brewers team, Wright had no such luck at Miller Park. Wright lasted just 2 1/3 innings, surrendering seven runs on five hits and four walks.

“Execution,” Wright said of the difference from his last start. “I really struggled from the first inning on to get on top of the ball and drive it down in the zone. I was behind from the start, and they were able to get some big hits with guys in scoring position.”

A week earlier, Wright went seven strong at Minute Maid Park, giving up just two runs on four hits with a walk and six strikeouts. Wright did not allow a run until the sixth and reached career highs in innings and strikeouts.

In that game, the Brewers seemed unable to make the necessary adjustments against the 25-year-old lefty. On Sunday, it was Wright who couldn’t adjust.

“He threw so well last week against them, and you’d always like to see a guy be able to build on a good performance,” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “They didn’t have to worry about adjustments. The ball seemed to be high arm side, and he was having trouble getting balls back down in. Those adjustments were tough.”

After the Astros opened with two runs on four hits in the first, Wright gave up four runs before recording a second out, as the Brewers’ first five batters reached base.

“Every game is different,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “You can’t just write one guy out there and figure he is going to do what he did in the game before.”

The Brewers had another four-run inning in the third, sparked by a trio of Brewers rookies, as Wright walked the first two batters of the inning before recording an out.

After a two-run double to left-center off the bat of Lorenzo Cain, the Brewers’ rookie center fielder, Wright’s day was done. Nelson Figueroa came on and surrendered a single and double to Alcides Escobar and Jonathan Lucroy, respectively, before ending the inning with a pair of strikeouts.

An inning later, a Casey McGehee three-run home run into the Brewers’ bullpen in left off Gustavo Chacin put an exclamation point on Milwaukee’s big day.

Most frustrating for Wright was the fact that Gallardo, like Wright, didn’t seem to have his best stuff in the series finale. But after tossing an impressive second inning, Wright said he “wasn’t able to get the ball rolling,” and keep the Astros in the game.

For Gallardo, who improved to 11-5 on the season, after giving up four runs on eight hits and one walk against seven strikeouts, all that mattered was the victory.

“Any time I do what I was supposed to, which is get the team a win, it’s always a plus,” Gallardo said. “I gave up a couple of [runs] there in the first inning, but our hitters came back with a four-spot.

“After that, it’s about staying with the lead and not returning it the other way.”

Offensively, the Astros continued to swing the bats well, just not quite as well — or efficiently — as the Brewers. After sitting out Saturday due to a sore right foot, center fielder Michael Bourn put together a 3-for-5 game with two runs, two RBIs and a double.

A two-run single in the fourth by Bourn cut the Brewers’ lead to 8-4 at the time, and a pair of back-to-back doubles by Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee leading off the eighth gave the Astros their fifth run. Lee and second baseman Jeff Keppinger joined Bourn with two RBIs.

On a weekend when so many things didn’t go the Astros’ way, the six-run output was one of the few bright spots.

“There’s no doubt,” Mills said when asked whether the offense was nice to see. “[Bourn’s] three hits with some RBIs after sitting out last night — and he’s got that sore foot from when he was hit in St. Louis — that was nice to see. Carlos, it’s nice to see him get some hits as well.”

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