Pirates top Brewers to regain first place

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Tom Haudricourt
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Monday, September 2, 2013

The way things have gone on the field for the Milwaukee Brewers over the long Labor Day weekend, the more interesting news Monday afternoon came after the game.

The Brewers announced they were recalling right-hander Johnny Hellweg and first baseman/outfielder Sean Halton from Class AAA Nashville, and also purchasing the contract of right-hander Jimmy Nelson from that club.

In news that mattered only to the Pittsburgh Pirates, they took a 5-2 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park. The victory moved the Pirates (80-57) back into sole possession of first place in the National League Central and within one victory of putting an end to their heinous 20-year losing streak. But at this point they are preparing to fry much bigger fish.

Hellweg will join the starting rotation at some point, though manager Ron Roenicke didn't specify the date of his first start. Hellweg fared poorly in a brief trial before the all-star break (10.97 earned run average in four games, including three starts) but returned to Nashville to put the finishing touches on a Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year campaign in which he went 12-5 with a 3.15 ERA in 23 starts.

Nelson, 24, is a starting pitcher, but Roenicke said he would work out of the Brewers' bullpen for the present. Nelson began the year at Class AA Huntsville, going 5-4 with a 2.74 ERA in 12 starts before moving up to Nashville, where he was 5-6 with a 3.67 ERA in 15 outings.

“If we can slide him in and get him a start that would be good, but I'm not sure yet,” said Roenicke.

Halton, coming up for the third time this year, will give the Brewers decision-makers—and fans—somebody else to watch at first base other than Juan Francisco, who has five hits in his last 40 at-bats.

Another young player the Brewers plan to continue to look at is right-hander Tyler Thornburg, who acquitted himself well in a return to the rotation against the Pirates. Thornburg allowed six hits and two runs over six innings, giving him a 1.13 ERA in four starts this season.

“I felt pretty good going out there,” said Thornburg, who walked three and struck out four. “My changeup was really good today, so we stuck with it for a while. You're definitely happy any time you give your team a chance to win the ball game.”

Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton had other plans, however. For the second consecutive start, he controlled the Brewers' bats, allowing one earned run over seven innings. Last Wednesday at PNC Park, Morton held them to an unearned run over 6 2/3 innings in a 7-1 romp.

“He's really good,” Roenicke said after his team fell to 0-4 on the homestand. “He throws a great sinker, pounds the right-handers in with it. He's always down in the (strike) zone. He's got a good curveball and a good changeup. That's a really nice pitcher to have.”

Morton had only one clean inning—the sixth, when he struck out the side—but made pitches when necessary. The Brewers went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, which proved to be the difference in the game.

No. 3 hitter Jonathan Lucroy, who has been solid (.312) throughout the season with runners in scoring position, went 0-for4 in those situations against Morton. With a runner on third and one out in the third inning, he bounced into a double play that featured curious base-running, and struck out with a run in, a runner on third and two down in the seventh as the last batter faced by Morton.

“We lacked the big hit,” said Roenicke, whose team once again napped under the sun, falling to 14-31 in day games.

Last updated: 11:06 pm Monday, September 2, 2013

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