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Brewers' losing streak hits six

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McClatchy-Tribune
May 9, 2008
— Whenever a team is built on the assumption that it will hit and score—a lot—it better hit and score.

A lot.


Either that or have some outstanding pitching performances.


If neither of those things happens, you have what the Milwaukee Brewers have just gone through during their last two series.


Back-to-back series sweeps as it appears the lineup is actually swinging the brooms they are being brushed away with.


The second sweep was completed here Thursday night by the Florida Marlins, who sent the Brewers back home with a 7-2 loss.


It was their sixth consecutive defeat, dropping them two games below .500 at 16-18 and leaving the clubhouse baffled, dazed and utterly frustrated.


The nine-game trip started out OK after the Brewers took two of three from the Chicago Cubs, but then they collapsed.


“A lot of that was pitching,” manager Ned Yost said. “The pitching was keeping the score down, and the offense was scoring enough runs to win ball games. But the pitching’s slipped here a little bit the last six games, and the offense is still struggling. That’s the difference.


“Our bats aren’t covering the pitching.”


Entering play Thursday, the Brewers were last in the National League in batting average (.206) and runs scored (18) during the last week.


For the six games this season against the Marlins, the Brewers batted a measly .174 and were 9-for-62 against the bullpen.


The Brewers mimicked a team that is not struggling, finding nine hits against the Marlins in the finale. But they left 11 runners on base and were 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position.


That’s not a horrible average, but when the pitching isn’t lights out, it isn’t good enough.


Plain and simple.


“We just can’t get the big hit when we need it,” center fielder Mike Cameron said. “We just have to keep fighting, and hopefully we can keep getting guys out there and eventually somebody’s going to get a big hit and let everybody relax.”


The Marlins were able to deliver those big hits. After retiring the first two batters in the first inning, Carlos Villanueva gave up a single to Hanley Ramirez and a two-run home run into the left-field seats by Jorge Cantu.


Villanueva escaped a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the third inning with a double play, but not before he gave up a run on a single by Ramirez to push the lead to 3-0.


Villanueva again hit the wall in the fifth inning, giving up four runs on three hits after again retiring the first two batters. The last hit in the string was a three-run bomb by Matt Treanor.


It was the third consecutive start Villanueva has not been able to pitch into the sixth.


“We’ve got to get more than through the fifth inning from our starting pitching,” Yost said. “We can’t keep doing that.”


It might not have happened if Villanueva could have found that elusive third out.


“I feel like it could’ve been different in so many ways,” Villanueva said. “I was one pitch away, and they scored six runs after two outs. I feel like I’m very close to where I want to be, but it’s one little thing.


“You look at the scoreboard and watch me give up seven runs. I don’t feel like I pitched that way. But that’s how it’s going right now.”


The aftermath of the six consecutive losses is a five-game deficit in the National League Central, trailing three teams, including the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals, who await the Brewers tonight at Miller Park.


Cameron said sometimes the home cooking, sleeping in your own bed and the fans behind you could get a team out of a rut. But if that doesn’t work, there might be a lot of hands thrown up in the air.


As Yost spoke after the game, he searched for some semblance of an answer. But the shrug of his shoulders as he spoke said he was just as dumbfounded as his players.


“There’s nothing you can do to force it,” he said. “When it’s ready to turn around, it’ll turn around, and it turns around in a hurry. But you got to keep getting after it.”



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