Back with the Brewers, Johnny Hellweg gets his first win

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Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday, September 7, 2013

CHICAGO—The second time around turned out much better for Johnny Hellweg.

Taking advantage of another shot in the Milwaukee Brewers’ rotation, the rookie right-hander pitched as if he belonged Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Hellweg induced 11 ground-ball outs in six innings, and Logan Schafer provided most of the offense with a three-RBI triple in the fourth inning as the Brewers held on to beat the Cubs, 5-3.

The performance earned Hellweg his first major-league victory just days after he was named the Brewers’ minor-league pitcher of the year and figures to send him into his next start with a much-needed boost of confidence.

“It feels awesome,” said Hellweg, who improved to 1-3 while also dropping his earned-run average more than two full runs to 8.64.

“It’s a good feeling going into my next start. Feels good to go out there and put up six innings and give the team a chance to win.”

Similar to his previous three starts for the Brewers, Hellweg appeared to be pitching tentatively at the start.

He hit the second batter of the game, Darwin Barney, and gave up a single to Anthony Rizzo to follow but didn’t allow the Cubs to score.

Hellweg walked Brian Bogusevic to open the bottom of the second and then hung a curveball that Luis Valbuena served into the bleachers in right for a 2-0 Chicago lead.

After giving up a one-out single to Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, Hellweg stood at 31 pitches and got a visit at the mound from catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

Hellweg got Starlin Castro to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play on the very next pitch.

What did Lucroy say?

“I told him, ‘Let’s go. You’ve got good stuff. Trust it. Get on top of the baseball. Let your sinker work for you,’” Lucroy recounted. “He’s got a good sinker, about 94-95. That’s going to blow right-handed hitters up. I just went out there and motivated him a little bit.”

From that point, Hellweg retired nine of the next 11 batters he faced, and seven of those via groundout—his calling card.

“When I was working down in zone, they were hitting it on the ground and I was getting some ground-ball outs,” said Hellweg. “I know they rolled over on a couple changeups as well. The ground-ball was huge for me today.”

In the meantime, he was staked to a 4-2 lead thanks to a four-run fourth inning.

Scooter Gennett drove in the first run with a single, and Schafer, starting in center field so Carlos Gomez could rest his knee, provided the big blow with a bases-loaded triple into the gap in right-center.

“He really didn’t have anywhere to put me,” said Schafer. “A 2-0 count I was basically dead red, put a good swing on something and stayed within myself. It was really nice to feel the barrel of the bat and run around those bases.”

Hellweg made one more mistake in his final inning, giving up a two-out, solo homer to Bogusevic before closing out the sixth.

“I think he’s a guy that has to get into a rhythm and start feeling good, and then he starts pumping,” Lucroy said. “He got into a rhythm after the first couple innings, and we started working together well.”

Hellweg’s day ended a career-high six innings and 99 pitches. He allowed four hits, three earned runs and three walks to go along with a strikeout in notching his first quality start.

“That was good to see,” said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke.

“I wasn’t sure because he came out in the first inning and was. … a little different. But as the innings went on, his stuff got better, location got better. I thought he pitched more with his changeup and breaking ball. Hopefully this is the guy we’re going to see.”

Aside from that fourth inning, the Brewers struggled all afternoon with men on base. They got two on in the seventh and loaded the bases in the eighth but failed to pad their lead.

Lucroy finally delivered some insurance with a two-out triple to right-center in the ninth that scored Norichika Aoki from first.

Rob Wooten pitched a scoreless seventh and Brandon Kintzler a scoreless eighth, highlighted by an unassisted, inning-ending double play at first base by Yuniesky Betancourt.

Jim Henderson rebounded from a couple of tough outings to close the game out and record his 23rd save. Gomez, inserted into the game in the eighth inning, made a diving catch to rob Valbuena for the final out.

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