Brewers' offense is offensive

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Consider the Milwaukee Brewers' season-opening series against the Atlanta Braves a golden opportunity missed.

Instead of pounding around an injury-ravaged Atlanta rotation that included youngster Alex Wood and veteran retread Aaron Harang, Milwaukee's bats went cold.

The Brewers actually beat the Braves' best current starter, Julio Teheran, on opening day Monday before losing to Wood on Tuesday and being shut out by Harang and three relievers on Wednesday.

The final offensive numbers were, well, offensive.

Milwaukee hit a collective .184 with only two extra-base hits and scored four runs. The Brewers had a .237 on-base clip, slugged .230 and struck out 17 times in 87 at-bats.

Aramis Ramirez drove in three of those four runs, while Ryan Braun went 1 for 11 (.091).

Needless to say, it wasn't the way the Brewers envisioned beginning the season. Not with a lineup that has all its big guns healthy and coming off strong springs. And certainly not when the Brewers' own rotation has more than held up its end of the bargain.

“I'm disappointed in that,” said manager Ron Roenicke. “I think our offense is going to score runs and when we don't, I'm going to be disappointed.

“Sometimes you look at the other pitcher; I've seen Harang before and this was really a good ball game for him. Braun squared up a couple of balls, but we really didn't hit a lot of balls hard. We have to keep plugging away and we have to swing the bat well, there's no question.

“We're not an on-base team, so we need to swing it.”

Ramirez provided all the necessary offense on opening day against Teheran, a 14-game winner a season ago, with a two-run double in an eventual 2-0 Brewers victory.

Wood kept the Brewers off-balance for seven innings Tuesday, allowing a home run to Carlos Gomez on the first pitch and just four hits and three walks the rest of the way as the Braves evened the series with a 5-2 victory.

Then on Wednesday, Harang—with his seventh team in 12 major-league seasons—held the Brewers hitless through six innings before Logan Schafer singled to lead off the seventh. Harang left after 62/3, and three relievers combined to shut the door in a two-hit shutout.

Milwaukee had just one true scoring opportunity and that came in that seventh, when Braun reached on a fielder's choice and went to third on a one-out single to right by Ramirez.

After Jonathan Lucroy popped out, Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez brought in left-hander Luis Avilan to face Scooter Gennett, and Roenicke countered with Rickie Weeks, who grounded out to third to end the inning.

David Carpenter pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Craig Kimbrel notched his second consecutive save with a perfect ninth, sending the Brewers to a 1-2 record and into a weekend interleague series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park looking for answers at the plate.

Things won't get any easier there, as Boston is scheduled to start Jake Peavy, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester on the same weekend they'll be celebrating their 2013 World Series championship.

“Offensively, we're going to click. We'll figure it out,” said Schafer.

“It's way too early (to panic), especially because we've been hitting the ball pretty well. There's just times where we hit it right at people. It's the third game of the year. We're a far cry from 162.

“We've got a long way to go.”

Gomez has struck out four times in 10 at-bats as the Brewers' new leadoff hitter, while Braun doesn't have much to show despite hitting the ball hard several times. Khris Davis is hitless and has struck out four times in eight at-bats.

“Ryan's swinging the bat well,” said Roenicke. “He's hit the ball hard. You look at spring training, some of the averages, and it doesn't tell the right story. If you're lining out and four of those balls are lined out, your average would be great.

“So I'm not worried about the numbers there.”

With the platoons at first and second base, only Scooter Gennett (.400) has found success to this point. Ramirez is hitting .500 (5 for 10) and Jonathan Lucroy .400.

“We haven't hit the way we'd like to,” Ramirez said. “It's early, but we've got to pick it up.

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