Maldonado sparks Brewers to avoid sweep

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By Todd Rosiak
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.--David Price made his scheduled start for the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday afternoon, and that actually wound up being a good thing for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Martin Maldonado drove in four runs with three hits to finally get a sputtering offense back on track as the Brewers snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the American League strikeout leader in Price and the Rays, 5-0, at Tropicana Field.

“We had to win this game, no doubt,” said manager Ron Roenicke.

The days leading up to Price’s start were highlighted by rampant speculation that the left-hander would be scratched and ultimately traded by Tampa Bay. But with the Rays the hottest team in the major leagues in the last month, they apparently decided to hang onto their ace with the trade deadline looming Thursday afternoon.

So, after playfully tweaking some fans with a tweet earlier in the morning, Price took the mound—and ultimately was outshined by Yovani Gallardo.

Staked to a 2-0 lead thanks to a second-inning single by Maldonado, Gallardo breezed through seven innings of four-hit ball. He issued one walk and struck out five to improve to 6-5 on the season.

Gallardo is also unscored upon in his last 16 2/3 innings, dating to the final two innings of his start in Washington on July 20.

“Definitely a big win,” Gallardo said. “We had two tough games yesterday and the day before that. I was able to make pitches, to be honest. Got into trouble and made pitches down in the zone to get out of it.”

The first two innings were a true contrast offensively for the Brewers.

Price threw a total of nine pitches in the first—all strikes. Carlos Gomez struck out swinging on three pitches, Jonathan Lucroy lined out to right after being down, 0-2, and Ryan Braun grounded out to first after falling behind, 0-2.

Things turned quickly in the second when Aramis Ramirez singled to lead off and Rickie Weeks and Mark Reynolds each drew walks. That brought up Maldonado, who singled to center to drive in Ramirez and Weeks and match the number of runs Milwaukee had scored in its previous three games.

After Gomez capped an eight-pitch at-bat by grounding into a fielder’s choice to end the Brewers’ second, Price had thrown 31 pitches in the frame and 40 overall. It was unusual patience shown by a Milwaukee team that had struck out a total of 24 times in the first two games of the series.

“I thought the at-bats were great,” said Roenicke. “I wish I knew why from game to game, but for some reason today I thought they saw the ball really well and were really patient. We really put some good swings together.”

Milwaukee tacked on another run in the third inning when Lucroy singled to lead off, Braun reached on an error by shortstop Yunel Escobar and Ramirez singled in Lucroy to make it 3-0.

The Brewers were seemingly in position to stretch their lead even further, but Braun was thrown out trying to steal third after a Weeks strikeout, and then Khris Davis whiffed to end the threat.

On the other side, Gallardo was on his game from the start, picking right up where he left off after the 72/3-inning, four-hit shutout he tossed in his previous outing against the New York Mets.

Gallardo allowed a single to Ben Zobrist two batters in, then just one base-runner—a walk to No. 9 hitter Kevin Kiermaier—over the next five innings.

It wasn’t until James Loney and Logan Forsythe singled with two outs in the seventh that the Rays got back into the hit column, but Gallardo extinguished the threat quickly by getting Escobar to tap out to third and end his day at 99 pitches.

In getting his first victory since June 19, Gallardo passed Ben Sheets for sole possession of fifth place on the Brewers’ all-time wins list with 87.

“I think he made good pitches when he needed to, was throwing his breaking ball for a strike when he needed to,” Maldonado said. “He had a pretty good fastball down and away. That was probably key for him today.”

Maldonado added an RBI double in the sixth and an RBI single in the eighth to match his career high of four RBI, and give the Brewers a couple valuable insurance runs.

“That feels good—especially when they’re going for the sweep and they have their best pitcher on the mound,” Maldonado said of his big day. “That just means you’ve got to score runs early against that guy.”

Price (11-8) threw 113 pitches over seven innings, allowing seven hits, four runs (three earned) and two walks while striking out six. The loss was his first since June 20.

Jeremy Jeffress, Zach Duke and Francisco Rodriguez took over from there, with Rodriguez striking out Escobar with the bases loaded and the tying run on deck to earn his 31st save and the Brewers their seventh shutout victory of the season.

Now the Brewers have an off-day Thursday with the trading deadline looming, before opening a three-game weekend series in St. Louis.

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