Brewers fall in 10th inning
By Anthony Witrado
Seth McClung sat in front of his locker in almost his full uniform, his hands folded on his stomach as he gazed straight ahead into space.
This was 30 minutes after McClung had given up a game-winning home run against the Florida Marlins on Sunday afternoon at Miller Park in what was the Milwaukee Brewers’ eighth extra-inning game of the season.
Minutes before, McClung accepted full responsibility for the Brewers’ 3-2, 10-inning loss, but he would not have been put in that situation had the offense managed more than five hits, only one of which produced a run, against a Florida pitching staff that started the game with a 4.39 earned run average.
“There were probably four instances of balls we hit right on the nose,” manager Ned Yost said. “We could have changed the whole complexion of the game, but we hit them right at people.
“But that’s what happens when you’re struggling a little bit to score runs. You just can’t find those holes.”
The loss dropped the Brewers to 3-4 on the homestand. They scored just eight runs in their last four games, losing three of them.
For a good chunk of the last seven games the Brewers had been among the National League’s best hitters with runners in scoring position, but they were abysmal against the Marlins, taking collars in two of the games. They were 0-for-7 in the first game, 0-for-11 in the second and 0-for-8 on Sunday.
Obviously, the opportunities were there.
In the first inning, with the bases loaded and one out, Corey Hart smoked a line drive to left field, but Josh Willingham made a leaping catch. The line out ended up as a sacrifice fly that scored Rickie Weeks for a 1-0 lead, but off the bat it looked like extra bases.
J.J. Hardy’s sharp grounder was fielded by shortstop Hanley Ramirez for the fielder’s choice force out to end the first inning and strand two runners.
There was another shot in the seventh when Tony Gwynn Jr. singled and stole second base with two outs and Ryan Braun at the plate, but Braun struck out looking.
In the ninth, with Craig Counsell on second base and Weeks on first, Gwynn flew out and Braun again struck out to end the chance.
“You try to go up there and obviously hit the ball, but we haven’t had too much luck lately,” Hart said. “It’s frustrating but that’s part of it. We have a good team so we can’t change much. We’re doing the right things, just not getting the breaks right now.”
The Marlins were a little better with men on base. Jorge Cantu scored Josh Willingham with a double to left field in the sixth inning to tie the game. Wes Helms followed with a bloop single to right to score Cantu and end starter Manny Parra’s day (5 1/3 innings pitched, 6 hits, 2 earned runs).
Florida wasn’t as good in the seventh after loading the bases on two walks and a single against Brewers reliever Derrick Turnbow. Then in one of Yost’s most successful double switches of the season, he took out Turnbow and Hardy for left-hander Mitch Stetter and Bill Hall.
Stetter, with the bases packed and no outs, came in and struck out the first two hitters and got the third to foul out to Prince Fielder near the Brewers dugout.
In the bottom of the inning, Hall, who didn’t start so that Counsell could get some at-bats, smashed a towering home run into the left-field bleachers to knot the score, 2-2. It was Hall’s seventh homer of the season.
Neither team could plate their runners on base after that, so with no one on in the 10th, Helms took care of business.
McClung got ahead, 0-2, with fastballs, so he decided to throw another one up and out of the zone. He got the ball up, but not high enough and it ended up belt-high.
Helms was looking fastball and demolished it over the left-field fence.
“Luckily he threw what I was looking for,” Helms said. “That’s one of those situations that (if) I guess fastball and he throws a curve, I probably look like Bugs Bunny out there.”
McClung said he threw the right pitch, just in the wrong spot.
“I take full responsibility,” he said. “I let everybody down. The fastball was intended to be up, not middle. It was the right pitch. I just didn’t execute it.”