Brewers continue to slide
As bright and shiny as things were for the Milwaukee Brewers in April, that's how dark and ugly they have turned in May.
The ongoing theme of injuries and woeful offense continued Tuesday night as the Brewers were dominated by right-hander Julio Teheran in a 5-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.
As if it weren't bad enough that the fading Brewers suffered a season-high fourth consecutive loss and 12th in 19 games, right-hander Yovani Gallardo exited in the fourth inning with a sprained left ankle. Gallardo's next start appeared in jeopardy.
“Yo had an X-ray that was negative,” said manager Ron Roenicke. “It's a sprain; he's day to day. We'll see about his next start. It's questionable. I think he's going to be pretty sore, coming in tomorrow.”
Already down, 3-0, entering the bottom of the fourth, things went from bad to worse for the Brewers. After B.J. Upton led off with a walk, Andrelton Simmons hit a bouncer up the middle that caromed off second base and into shallow left field.
Upton moved to third on the hit and when the Brewers didn't get the ball in crisply, Simmons broke for second. Umpire Fieldin Culbreth ruled shortstop Jean Segura tagged Simmons in time but the Braves challenged it and the call was overturned.
Gallardo struck out Gerald Laird looking, but Teheran hit a high chopper over the mound that went for a run-scoring error when second baseman Scooter Gennett and Segura collided trying to field it. Gallardo had tried to leap and catch the ball but his left foot slipped on the mound and he tumbled to the ground in pain.
Gallardo tried to stay in the game but the medical staff voted no for fear of damaging the ankle more.
“It's stiffened up now a little bit but it should be all right,” Gallardo said after the game. “I was just trying to change directions to try to get that ball and (the ankle) rolled on me.
“I definitely tried (to stay in) but it's my landing leg, so the last thing you need to do is overcompensate for that and something else can happen. It all depends how it is tomorrow. It's stiff now but hopefully it's nothing big.”
The good news was that reliever Tyler Thornburg came in cold for Gallardo and turned in 3 2/3 solid innings (three hits, one run). The bad news was that it hardly mattered the way Teheran was mowing through the sputtering Brewers attack.
Entering the game with a 2.20 earned run average, Teheran blanked the Brewers on six hits. He needed a career-high 128 pitches to do it but the outcome only added to the mounting frustrations for Brewers hitters, who were told there will be no batting practice Wednesday in hopes they will stop grinding so hard at the plate.
It was the second shutout in four games for the Brewers, who have scored only five runs during their skid. In their 11 losses in May, they have scored more than three runs just once.
As lifeless as the Brewers have been of late, one could almost forget they are still in first place in the National League Central, though now only 2½ games ahead of improving St. Louis.
“Everybody is going to go through tough stretches,” said first baseman Lyle Overbay. “We're not pointing fingers at each other. We're all in this together. That's the main reason why we're not panicking.
“The pitchers have done real well. They're keeping us in games; we're just not getting that timely hitting. Our pitchers aren't pressing, saying, 'Oh, man, I can't give up two runs or we're not going to win.' It's not like that. They're going out and executing their game plan.”
Beyond the disappearing offense, the Brewers didn't have their heads in the game in the field, making mental errors on relays and allowing the Braves to take extra bases.
“We didn't play well today,” said Roenicke. “We've been so good defensively but today we were sloppy. The game awareness was not there today.”
The Brewers knew when they came to Turner Field—where they have lost 11 of their last 13 games—they were going to face the best pitching staff in the majors (2.76 team ERA). It won't get any easier Wednesday against Ervin Santana (4-1, 2.76) or Thursday against Aaron Harang (4-4, 2.98).
To avoid giving back all of the cushion they built in April, however, the Brewers must find a way to dig a foothold and score some runs.
“We're not grinding out the at-bats that we need to,” said Roenicke. “The pitching has still been very good. We need to score some runs. We need to either have somebody go out there and throw a shutout like they did or we need to swing the bats better.”