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Breaking ball key to Braddock’s future

September 21, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Watching from the home bullpen this week, Brewers lefty Zach Braddock could learn a lot from Reds phenom Aroldis Chapman.

Both pitchers possess left-handed power arms, albeit on different levels. Both pitchers also operate with a slider as their No. 2 pitch. The difference — besides an extra 10 mph in fastball velocity — is the effectiveness of those sliders.

While Chapman’s is nearly unhittable, Braddock’s remains a work in progress.

“He is going to be as good in the big leagues as his breaking ball becomes,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “You just can’t come here and just throw one fastball after another, and being 93 [mph], it’ll get knocked around a bit.”

In six appearances this month, Braddock has posted a 7.71 ERA, giving up two runs on two walks and three hits in 2 1/3 innings. Opponents are batting .333 with a .795 OPS off Braddock in September.

For the first time this season, Braddock failed to record an out in each of his last two outings, surrendering a hit to the only batter he faced in each appearance. Aside from a 9.00 mark in three late May outings, Braddock’s 7.71 ERA this month is easily his worst in any month of the season.

Even worse has been Braddock’s performance against lefties, which could likely be attributed to a lack of effectiveness with his breaking ball.

After holding left-handed hitters to a .091 batting average in July and hitless in August, they are batting .400 off Braddock this month.

With those recent struggles in mind, Macha opted not to pitch the lefty Monday night against left-handed-hitting slugger Joey Votto with one on and one out in the eighth. Macha pointed to the last two games in San Francisco to back up his thought process.

“[Kameron] Loe came in and went right through their guys, [Aubrey] Huff being one of them,” Macha said. “The next day, I brought in Braddock against Huff and he hit a line drive. So, I figured Loe could go two innings.”

When asked if Braddock’s performance could be attributed to fatigue at the end of a long season, Macha pointed to the need for a better slider as a counter argument.

Braddock agreed with his manager’s assessment, though he believed his fastball was equally important to his success.

“When I have the ability to change speeds and move in and out, I can be more deceptive. I’m a better pitcher,” Braddock said. “I think strike one and fastball command is of a lot of importance, too. But with the slider comes the added ability to put in the hitters’ minds that there’s something else.”

Brewers beat 7/23

July 23, 2010 Comments off

Hart day-to-day after injuring right wrist

MILWAUKEE — Corey Hart’s trade value may have taken a hit on Friday when the Brewers right fielder injured his right wrist attempting to catch a fly ball in the third inning of the 7-5 win over the Nationals.

But manager Ken Macha and the Brewers just want him in the lineup as soon as they can get him back.

As Washington second baseman Cristian Guzman drove a ball deep to right, Hart tracked it toward the right-field line and crashed into the wall as he attempted to catch the eventual foul ball.

Hart stayed in the game and finished out the top half of the inning, but was removed in favor of veteran outfielder Jim Edmonds, who pinch-hit for Hart in the bottom of the third and hit a decisive two-run homer in the seventh.

After leaving the game, Hart underwent X-rays and an MRI on his wrist, which revealed no fracture.

Brewers manager Ken Macha was unsure how long Hart would be out, but considering the way his right fielder has swung the bat since the middle of May, he certainly would like to have him in the lineup as soon as he can.

“He’s day-to-day, as we all are,” Macha said. “We’ve got other guys that can fill in. Edmonds won the game for us tonight. But [Hart] can have a sudden impact on the game at any time.”

With Hart being the subject of a number of trade rumors this month, the injury could not have come at a more inconvenient time for the club, since any ailment or significant time missed complicates any trade discussions.

From his vantage point, though, Macha did not think the injury looked too significant.

He added that with the way Hart jammed his hand into the wall, the location of the injury required precautionary measures to be taken.

“When they were doing all the tests out in right field on him, it didn’t look that bad,” Macha said. “Where it was located, they were concerned there may be a small bone fracture in there, so they did the MRI.”

Crew concerned with level of plunkings

MILWAUKEE — The Brewers are tired of being bruised.

Entering Friday’s game, they had been hit by pitches 50 times this season, most of any team. Rickie Weeks (18 times) and Prince Fielder (16 times) rank first and second in the Majors. The Cubs’ Marlon Byrd has also been struck 16 times.

“It’s happening far too often,” outfielder Ryan Braun said. “Look, we understand that we’re a team that hits for a lot of power and they have to pitch us inside. There’s just times that guys are missing by too much with their fastballs, too often, to both [Weeks and Fielder]. That’s not something we want to be a part of, and when it does happen, obviously, we have to do something about it.”

Weeks declined to talk Thursday night about the Ross Ohlendorf pitch that struck him in the fifth inning and sparked some tempers on both sides of the field at PNC Park. Fielder, who had words with the umpires when the teams were warned later in the game, did not make himself available to reporters.

“I haven’t seen the ball that Rickie got hit with,” manager Ken Macha said after Thursday’s game. “But from what I understand, it was in the middle of the batter’s box.”

After the incident Thursday night, Macha did his part to work on eliminating the problem.

“I had another conversation with people from Major League Baseball today,” Macha said. “They’re looking into it.”

As for what he thinks should be done about the issue, Macha made it clear he thinks some suspensions should be in order for the pitchers who are hitting his players.

“They’ve got to get the guys that perpetrate what goes on,” Macha said. “I don’t know people’s intent, but evidence is mounting. … Fining and suspending managers, I don’t think that’s going to get it done. Managers aren’t throwing the balls.”

Macha said he hopes by talking to MLB officials that he can eliminate the problem before it reaches a point where his players are required to retaliate in a significant way.

He added that he doesn’t think MLB would want such action to occur, either.

“That’s why I’m using the avenues that I am. I don’t think the alternative is what Major League Baseball wants, and that’s going out and having a brawl,” Macha said. “They don’t want that. I think that’s why they were trying to clean this up.”

Miller Park largely spared from flooding

MILWAUKEE — As up to eight inches of rain pounded the Milwaukee area on Thursday night, it seemed likely Miller Park would be affected by the flooding that impacted much of city. After all, the ballpark suffered extensive damage after a strong storm a year ago.

Thanks to a recently installed berm between Miller Parkway and the Brewers’ staff parking lot, however, the service level at Miller Park was not affected by the storms Thursday night.

According to Brewers spokesman Tyler Barnes, credit goes to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

“The DOT, in the spring, really did a phenomenal job building this berm,” Barnes said. “They put up a berm to prevent any sort of flooding coming into the south dock.

“The water got up on the berm pretty high, but they nailed it. If this was a once in a five-lifetime rain or whatever they’re saying it was, then it did its job.”

Last summer, a major rainstorm resulted in damage throughout the service level, which includes the home and visitors’ clubhouses as well as batting cages and a media interview room, among other things.

As a result, all the furniture and upholstery in the home clubhouse was required to be replaced — with temporary replacements last season and more permanent furniture and carpeting prior to the start of this season.

After the storm Thursday, the damage at Miller Park was no different than any other above-average rainstorm.

“Sort of ironically, the service level is bone dry, and then in some of the areas of offices on the field level we had a few areas that got some water in them,” Barnes said. “Brewers enterprises, the ticket offices and the administrative office entrance had some water in them.

“I wouldn’t call it standing water, it was more of a nuisance. So we’re having to make some repairs there, but quite honestly, we’ve had some water come in there a couple times already this year.”

Brewers bussed home from Chicago

MILWAUKEE — While the Brewers were in Pittsburgh throughout much of Thursday night’s storm, they certainly were among those who felt its effects.

Rather than fly as regularly scheduled from Pittsburgh to Milwaukee, the club was forced to fly into Chicago as General Mitchell International Airport was closed due to flooding on the runways.

From there, the Brewers bussed from Chicago to Milwaukee. According to Brewers broadcaster Cory Provus, the team’s flight landed in Chicago at 1:30 a.m. CT, while the bus arrived in Milwaukee just before 3 a.m.

“I think I was in bed by 3:30, I’d say,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “It’s no big deal. It’s just like playing a night game in Boston and then going to Kansas City.”

Worth noting

Veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins threw 11 pitches for Triple-A Nashville on Thursday night. According to Brewers manager Ken Macha, Hawkins was scheduled to pitch another inning Friday for the “back-to-back days” part of his rehab assignment. … Left-hander Zach Braddock was unavailable once again for the Brewers on Friday. Macha said that Braddock was undergoing treatment and would likely miss a couple more days. … This weekend, the Brewers will celebrate their teams of the 1990s. Friday night, they wore reproductions of the Brewers uniforms from 1997-99 while welcoming Greg Vaughn and Jeff Cirillo back as part of the celebration.

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

Brewers beat 7/11

July 11, 2010 Comments off

Hart joins Braun as All-Start starter

MILWAUKEE — What a week it has been for Corey Hart.

A week ago, Hart was named to the All-Star Game for the second time as a reserve outfielder for the National League.

One week later, he has been added to the starting lineup.

Hart, who will participate in Monday’s Home Run Derby, was announced Sunday as the replacement for injured Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, joining teammate Ryan Braun in the starting outfield for the NL.

“I was excited, then I got really excited when Brauny came in and kind of like jumped on me,” said Hart, who hit a two-run walk-off homer, his 21st, to cap the Brewers’ 6-5 victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday. “We haven’t had two position players in the starting lineup for I don’t know how long. So it’s a pretty good moment for us.”

It’s the first time in 27 years that the Brewers will have two position players in the starting lineup as Braun and Hart share the outfield in Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Anaheim.

The last pair of Brewers position players to start together in the All-Star Game were catcher Ted Simmons and shortstop Robin Yount for the American League in 1983.

Braun, who is the first Brewers player to start in the All-Star Game three straight years, joined Ben Sheets in the starting lineup in 2008, as Sheets was the starting pitcher for the NL.

For Hart, the starting nod just adds to an already impressive first half of the season.

After struggling for much of the 2009 season, Hart had a poor Spring Training, leading to his benching on Opening Day.

Hart expressed his displeasure with being taken out of the Opening Day starting lineup but used that move as the motivation behind his surprising resurgence.

It has paid off so far as he has moved from the No. 7 spot in the batting order to No. 2, becoming one of manager Ken Macha’s most reliable hitters.

More importantly, though, Hart earned the respect of the rest of the league, as he was voted into the All-Star Game by his peers.

“It’s pretty nice,” Hart said of being added to the starting lineup after all he has been through this season. “It’s an extra stamp on the, ‘I told you so,’ I guess. I love it here, and I wanted to prove to them that I could be the guy again.

“I’ve always told them I wanted to be here and I want to stay here as long as they’ll let me. Obviously they were down on me, so I wanted to prove them wrong so they could get a good feeling about me again.”

Hawkins’ rehab stint starts Thursday

MILWAUKEE — After two months on the disabled list, LaTroy Hawkins finally will return to game action on Thursday, for the Brewers’ rookie league team in Arizona.

Hawkins is scheduled to pitch one inning in Arizona against the Cubs’ rookie league squad. If all goes according to plan in that outing for Hawkins, the veteran reliever will go to Nashville to continue his rehab with the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate.

“I don’t know exactly what the schedule is, but he’s going to get back-to-back days and he’s going to get a two-inning stint also,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “Hopes are that he may be back around the Cincinnati series [on July 26-28].”

The true test over the next two weeks for Hawkins will be the back-to-back days he pitches with Nashville, Macha said based on his conversation with pitching coach Rick Peterson.

“It’s broken up into back-to-back days and then a two-inning stint, and I think the back-to-back days are right before the Cincinnati series,” Macha said. “Rick’s feeling is if he’s fine after the back-to-back days he should be ready to join us.”

No slowing Axford’s surprising rise

MILWAUKEE — If anyone said they saw this coming from John Axford, they’d be lying.

Since being called up on May 15, Axford has emerged as the Brewers’ closer, something no one would have expected in Spring Training with the all-time saves leader, Trevor Hoffman, on the roster.

Axford, a 27-year-old native of Ontario, Canada, hasn’t just taken hold of the closer’s role for the Brewers either. He’s been consistently dominant in the late innings for the Crew.

“Who knew he was going to come and do this?” manager Ken Macha said of Axford.

With his save in Saturday’s win over the Pirates, Axford maintained his perfect mark, having converted 10-of-10 save opportunities. Along with that impressive streak, Axford is 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA.

Axford made his 22nd appearance of the season Saturday, and finally surrendered the first home run — a solo shot by catcher Ryan Doumit — of his Major League career.

“We got the win, we got the save, that’s all that matters,” Axford said. “Obviously I don’t want to give up that home run, the first one of my career. It was going to happen at some point or another if I want to keep going in this game, obviously.

“It’d probably be a miracle if I didn’t give up one if I kept playing.”

Axford has quickly become a fan favorite, due in large part to his facial hair.

When first called up, Axford sported a handlebar mustache, the ends of which he occasionally curled, giving him a look reminiscent of former Brewers closer and Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers.

He has since switched to a different look with the mustache, but remains a favorite among Brewers fans as he continues to impress in the ninth. After being called up in September 2009, Axford’s goal was to return to the big leagues in 2010 out of Spring Training.

He had to wait until May, but his first two months in the big leagues this season have been better than anyone could have predicted.

“It’s been great, it’s been fun,” Axford said. “Coming out of that ‘pen, obviously the emotions are going and everything like that. But on the mound, I try to calm it.

“Outside those lines, everything’s been fantastic, it’s been great. I’m feeling happy all the time no matter what’s really going on. I’m happy to be here, especially in the situation I’ve been put in to have the confidence and the trust of the staff. It’s been a blessing.”

Braddock becomes reliable source of relief

MILWAUKEE — Three rough outings aside, Zach Braddock has been as reliable as any Brewers reliever since being called up in late May.

Braddock surrendered four runs in the ninth inning of a 10-4 loss to the Mets on May 30, one run in an inning against the Cubs on June 9 and three runs to the Rockies in just two-thirds of an inning on June 19.

In his other 16 appearances through Saturday, Braddock had not allowed a run.

It adds up to a 1-1 record with a 4.32 ERA in those 19 appearances for Braddock, who also had allowed five of 13 inherited runners to score.

“I’ve had my struggles, but I’ve also had my successes,” Braddock said. “Learning this road is keeping those as evenly keeled as possible. You never want to have those bad days, but it’s how you pick up off them and how you come out the next day and get right back at it.”

Since giving up three runs in Colorado on June 19, Braddock entered Sunday having pitched 6 2/3 innings over eight appearances without allowing a run. He also has given up just six hits and one walk over the same stretch while recording seven strikeouts.

In his time with the big league club, Braddock has been fortunate to spend every game in the bullpen alongside all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman. The experience has been invaluable for Braddock.

“A lot of the older guys have helped me, but obviously, the no-brainer is Trevor Hoffman,” Braddock said. “His experience speaks volumes over my time here. And I don’t even have to seek out help. Sometimes all it takes is to observe his daily routine.”

In addition to the veterans on the club, though, Braddock has benefited from playing alongside a couple young players like himself in catcher Jonathan Lucroy and closer John Axford.

For Braddock, the familiarity with Lucroy and Axford has only made his experience in the Majors that much better.

“It’s always great to have friends with you, and it’s always great to have guys who you can bounce the experience off,” Braddock said. “We’re all going through this together.

“With the bond that Jonathan and I have, it can only strengthen that between us as a battery. And with Ax and I, it can only make us better to share our experiences out there with each other.”

Manager Ken Macha named fellow relievers Kameron Loe and Axford as “pleasant surprises” before Sunday’s game.

As for Braddock, however, his performance has been about what Macha and the Brewers had expected out of the lefty.

“He’s been in some games where he’s done extremely well,” Macha said. “He’s gotten hit hard here, too. Kameron Loe, he’s an invitee to Major League camp and then he comes in and has the impact he’s had. I’d say that’s a bigger surprise.

“We all knew Braddock had great stuff.”

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’ early lead vanishes vs. Astros

June 29, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — For three innings, it was like the Brewers were back in May.

Just as they seemed to be rolling right along, leading by four runs early and by three through five innings, the Brewers had a stretch on Monday in which they looked more like the club that lost nine in a row in the middle of May than the one that had won six of seven.

Brewers pitchers Manny Parra, Carlos Villanueva, Todd Coffey and David Riske combined to give up seven runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to allow Houston to take the series opener, 9-5, at Miller Park.

“The bullpen, that has been doing very well, tonight didn’t get the job done,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said.

Coffey (2-2), who gave up two unearned runs, took the loss, though a defensive miscue by Casey McGehee at third base did not make things easy on him.

After Villanueva gave up an RBI single and a walk with two outs in the sixth, Coffey entered and promptly surrendered a two-run single to Hunter Pence, tying the game at 5.

“To their credit, they got some big two-out hits, and two-strike hits,” Macha said. “[Michael] Bourn, that was a big hit off of Villa, went the other way with it to left field. Then we brought in Coffey to get Pence and first-pitch swinging he got a hanging slider. So there were two big hits there in that inning.”

In the seventh, though, a fielding error by McGehee allowed the leadoff batter, Chris Johnson, to reach and contributed to a pair of unearned runs.

Immediately following the error, Coffey gave up a double on a 1-0 fastball to Pedro Feliz, which scored Johnson from first and gave the Astros their first lead.

According to Coffey, the error did not impact on his performance.

“It didn’t at all,” Coffey said. “I still can’t give up a double two pitches later. I’ve got to get it done. I didn’t get it done. I made [Zach] Braddock come in and clean up my mess.”

For Coffey, it was his third outing since returning from the 15-day disabled list. In those three outings, Coffey has given up four runs — two earned — in one inning while surrendering five hits and one walk with zero strikeouts.

After Braddock finished up the seventh, allowing an inherited runner to score on a single, David Riske, who had not allowed a run in six appearances entering the game, gave up two more. Riske opened the inning by allowing a walk, single and double, all but ending any hopes of a comeback.

It was an impressive offensive night for the Astros, who tallied 14 hits, including three doubles and a homer. With the solo blast in the third, Bourn snapped a streak of 542 at-bats without a homer, dating to July 10, 2009.

Bourn, Pence and Feliz each tallied three hits, while Bourn added a fourth, tying a career high.

“We had a good offensive night,” Pence said. “We found some holes and put the barrel on the ball quite a bit. It feels good. I think the way Bourn swung it today and Keppinger was on the base all the time and Carlos [Lee] had some big hits, all the way up and down we swung it well.”

After entering the game with the second-best ERA (2.33) in the Majors as a staff over the past seven days, Brewers pitchers seemed to do everything they hadn’t been doing over their recent stretch of strong performances.

In particular, the Brewers gave up six walks, after the club’s walk totals had been down during its recent run.

Additionally, after leading 4-0 in the second, the club tied a season high for the biggest blown lead of the season.

“We had a bunch of walks tonight and that hasn’t been happening,” Macha said. “[We gave up] a bunch of free bases, six free bases.”

Parra came up short of a quality start once again, by one inning and one run. Over the past 16 games, the Brewers have gotten 10 quality starts with a 3.23 ERA from their starters.

Once he got over the 100-pitch mark, however, Parra’s command — which was already a bit off as he gave up four walks — got away from him.

“It’s disappointing that we lost,” Parra said. “I just wasn’t sharp. [It was] kind of a battle. I didn’t really have any consistency with any pitches. … Nothing was really there. I was just battling and trying to get guys out with whatever I could.

“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.

Brewers beat 6/24

June 24, 2010 Comments off

Weeks’ surge helps get Crew going

MILWAUKEE — With his three RBIs on Wednesday, Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks pushed his season total to 41 and took the Major League lead in RBIs from the leadoff spot.

Weeks’ 11 homers as the team’s leadoff hitter also ranks second behind Kelly Johnson of the D-backs, who has 12.

With right fielder Corey Hart batting behind Weeks, the Brewers have 29 home runs and 95 RBIs from their leadoff and No. 2 hitters, though much of Hart’s production has come from the No. 6 spot.

Brewers manager Ken Macha has said in the past that Weeks’ production is the true key to the club’s offensive success, even more so than sluggers Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. But like the club’s sluggers, Weeks struggles at times with consistency.

“He’s like all the other guys, they ride the roller coaster a little bit,” Macha said. “You try to avoid the big dips. He had a pretty big dip there for a while.”

Weeks’ performance over the past month has been an offensive resurgence from the Brewers second baseman, who had been struggling when the club faced the Twins at Target Field in Minnesota last month.

That slump for Weeks came after he opened the season with a career-high-tying 10-game hitting streak, making him only the fifth player in franchise history to begin the season with a hit streak of at least 10 games.

“At the beginning of the year, he was extremely hot,” Macha said. “If I remember right, we played a Pittsburgh series where they pitched him a little differently, and it kind of got him off his game. He was trying to make adjustments and it wasn’t working.”

Over the past five games entering Thursday, however, Weeks had a five-game hitting streak in which he’d collected seven hits in 17 at-bats while scoring five runs and driving in seven runs with two doubles and a home run.

“As of late, he’s done some real good things. The double with the bases loaded in Colorado was a huge hit,” Macha said. “I keep preaching this: Up the middle and opposite field always is a good way to go. That big hit last night went up the middle.”

Macha has confidence in Lucroy’s defense

MILWAUKEE — When rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy was called up a month ago, the Brewers were concerned with his ability to stop sharp breaking balls.

Though he let five wild pitches get by him on Wednesday night in a 5-3 win over the Twins, manager Ken Macha said he’s been satisfied with Lucroy’s defense since taking over the starting role.

“What were there, five wild pitches? He had a tough time with them,” Macha said. “But he’s been pretty good up until yesterday as far as stopping balls. He caught [Yovani Gallardo] up in Colorado and did a great job as Yo was throwing that hard breaking ball in the dirt.”

In addition to four wild pitches by left-handed starter Manny Parra, reliever Kameron Loe saw one get by Lucroy in the seventh. According to Lucroy, both Parra’s splitter and Loe’s two-seam fastball are plus pitches with a lot of break.

With that in mind, Lucroy was not worried about being unable to stop those five pitches.

“Sometimes those things happen. There’s not really anything I could do to stop them,” Lucroy said. “It’s hard, because they were on his splitter, and when he throws that thing you don’t know where it’s going. That’s why it’s so good, because it’s unpredictable.”

Macha acknowledged before Thursday’s game that he thought one of the wild pitches led to Parra being tentative with his splitter for a stretch, but Macha did not think it had a significant impact on the game.

“I think Manny just got a little streak, maybe three or four hitters where he got tentative,” Macha said. “He came back after that inning and threw the ball well.”

As for the Loe wild pitch, Lucroy said his two-seam fastball is even harder to stop than Parra’s splitter.

“His two-seamer is a hard, sinking fastball,” Lucroy said. “It just bit and went straight down to the ground. That happens. I can’t do anything about that and I can’t block a fastball. I can’t get down quick enough for that. All I can try to do is pick it, and I couldn’t grab that one.”

Braddock tends to have initial advantage

MILWAUKEE — One thing about the matchup between lefty reliever Zach Braddock and pinch-hitter Jim Thome in the Brewers’ 5-3 win over the Twins on Wednesday really stood out to manager Ken Macha: Thome had not previously faced Braddock.

Since calling Braddock up before the series finale at Target Field on May 23, the Brewers have seen the 22-year-old hard-throwing lefty enjoy plenty of success against hitters the first time he faces them.

“If you haven’t faced Braddock, you don’t realize how the ball jumps up on you,” Macha said. “The first time you face somebody like that … he hides the ball, it jumps on you.”

In Thome’s first at-bat against Braddock, the left-handed slugger went down swinging at a 1-2 slider.

After getting Thome to strike out to end the sixth, Braddock struck out another batter who had not previously faced him in center fielder Denard Span. Braddock followed that up with his third strikeout of the game, getting Orlando Hudson — who doubled off Braddock in Minnesota — to go down swinging.

Similar to Braddock has been reliever Kameron Loe, whose movement on his fastball has surprised even his manager at times.

“The movement of Loe’s fastball is off the charts,” Macha said. “I remember back to an at-bat somebody had in Florida and I thought they were all sliders — they were moving so much — but they were all fastballs.”

Loe saw some adjustments by hitters in his second inning on Tuesday night, but impressed by striking out third baseman Michael Cuddyer for the second straight night on Wednesday.

According to Macha, the key for Loe is to get the first-pitch strike.

“The at-bat against Cuddyer, strike one was very important,” Macha said. “That kind of forced Cuddyer to swing, because he took strike one. They know the ball’s sinking a lot, so strike one was very important for him.

“We’ll see how these guys progress as they get out there a little more in the scouting report.”

Worth noting

With a win Thursday, the Brewers would tie a season-long winning streak of four games. The club previously won four consecutive games from May 18-22. … A win would also give Milwaukee a sweep of the Minnesota, something the club has not done in a series of three or more games since May 17-20, 1996, at the Metrodome. … The Brewers’ last sweep of the Twins in Milwaukee came Aug. 24-27, 1995, when they took a four-game series at County Stadium. … The game on Saturday, July 3 at the St. Louis Cardinals has been changed to a 5:35 p.m. CT first pitch and has been added to the FS Wisconsin broadcast schedule. It was previously scheduled to begin at 3:10 p.m.

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 5/30

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 5/23

May 23, 2010 Comments off

Brewers’ staff pieces together win over Twins

MINNEAPOLIS — With the way things had been going, the Brewers needed a complete team effort from their pitching staff on Sunday against the Twins. That’s exactly what they got as five pitchers combined to lead the Brewers to a 4-3 win in the series finale at Target Field.

Before the series finale, manager Ken Macha worried that short pitching performances could leave his staff in a state of “total disarray.” That’s because after a one-third-of-an-inning outing by Dave Bush to open the series and a 12-inning game on Saturday, the Brewers had no starter available after using lefty Manny Parra in the 11th and 12th innings in the second game of the series.

Instead, the Brewers avoided that scenario and put together the best complete-team performance they’ve had since before losing 11 of their last 12 games.

“It was a total team effort today, and it’s been that way the whole way,” pitching coach Rick Peterson said. “Nobody has gone into bed and under the covers. Everybody realizes our struggles, but guys are making a concerted effort to improve themselves.”

With the Brewers down a run in the fourth, right fielder Corey Hart stayed hot, crushing a 1-0 pitch from Carl Pavano to the third deck in left, the first ball that has been hit there in Target Field. At an estimated 440 feet, Hart’s home run was the longest yet at the new stadium.

Hart’s blast was his ninth of the season and sixth in the last nine games. First baseman Prince Fielder added a solo shot to right in the sixth, which proved to be the eventual game-winning run.

But it was the Brewers’ pitching that stole the spotlight on Sunday.

Marco Estrada, who had thrown 21 pitches in relief less than 24 hours earlier, got the nod for the start and gave the Brewers three innings, in which he allowed two runs on four hits.

After Estrada was Parra, who remained available to pitch despite being unavailable to start. After being tagged with the loss the night before, Parra (1-3) got the win, throwing two scoreless innings while giving up three hits, walking two and striking out a pair.

With that, the Brewers led, 3-2, through five innings, despite having used two pitchers that had thrown in relief the previous night.

“That’s fighting right there,” Parra said. “We were trying any way we could to get nine innings. It was a good battle.”

But as impressive as the Brewers’ first two pitchers were, it’s the late innings that have been the biggest problem recently. Fortunately for them, the last three pitchers got the job done as well.

Lefty Zach Braddock, who was called up from Triple-A Nashville before the game, delivered two impressive innings, giving up just one hit and one walk while striking out a pair.

With the way Estrada and Parra started things off, Braddock said he didn’t want to disappoint.

“Everyone who pitched today pitched a great game,” Braddock said. “I just wanted to keep up with everyone else and do the job that was asked of me.”

Next up for the Brewers was veteran reliever Trevor Hoffman, making his 1,000th career appearance. In his first action since stepping out of the closer’s role to work with Peterson on his mechanics, Hoffman was dominant in the eighth.

He needed just 10 pitches, nine of which were strikes, to retire the Twins in order and set things up for John Axford to close it out in the ninth.

“He threw strikes, he was crisp [and] he was hitting the corners,” Macha said. “He threw a very good changeup to [Trevor Plouffe] for a strikeout. It’s encouraging.”

Axford, who got his first Major League save on the final day of the 2009 season, was sent out with a chance for his second in the ninth. In order to do so, however, he had to get through the heart of the Twins’ order.

After a leadoff double by Orlando Hudson to the gap in right, Axford got Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer each to strike out swinging with 96-mph fastballs. Axford still wasn’t done, though, as Jason Kubel singled in Hudson and the Twins loaded the bases two batters later.

But with a 1-2 curveball to Plouffe, Axford secured the win as they avoided what would have been the club’s fourth sweep in their last five series.

“It felt good; I just had to get it done,” Axford said. “It was great, it really was. A lot of emotion right there on the mound. That’s probably some of the most I’ll show really at the end. But I was excited. I wanted to get that save and go home with a win.”

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