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Gagne returns to save Brewers

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McClatchy-Tribune
May 14, 2008
— Eric Gagne’s “mental break” didn’t last very long.

Two games after the Milwaukee Brewers closer said he was pitching with doubt in his mind and didn’t deserve the ball in the ninth, he was back on the mound in the final inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team with which Gagne had his glory years.


And despite not retiring the opposing batters in order for the 12th consecutive inning and needing 23 pitches, Gagne picked up his 10th save of the season by closing out the Brewers’ 5-3 victory Tuesday at Miller Park.


“It was a relief,” Gagne said. “The fans were great. They tried to help me out there, and just a positive attitude from everybody.”


Including his manager, Ned Yost. After Gagne pitched two innings Monday, Yost spoke to his closer and asked him if he was ready to take back his rightful role. Gagne said he was, and that was all Yost needed to know.


“The whole bullpen kind of gets disrupted when your closer is struggling,” Yost said. “So the quicker you can get him back into his role, the better it is for everybody.”


For that reason, there was never any hesitation to call on Gagne in a save opportunity.


“I think that he just needed a day to get away from closing, and the day was (Monday),” Yost said. “You still have to trust your people. You have to understand that he’s our closer. I’ve never been one to protect myself. Sure, I could not pitch him so that nobody thinks that I’m stupid for pitching him, but I’ve never done that.


“I believe and I trust in my guys. Eric Gagne is my closer and I wanted him back out there.”


As has been his style this season, Gagne left room for suspense. Russell Martin smacked a leadoff single, and after a fielder’s choice and a passed ball, Blake DeWitt ended up on second base. Gagne got pinch hitter Mark Sweeney to fly out, but another pinch hitter, Andruw Jones, worked a 10-pitch walk to bring the go-ahead run to the plate and get Brian Shouse up in the bullpen.


Juan Pierre is no home-run threat, so Gagne threw a semi-get-me-over fastball on the first pitch and Pierre popped it up to shortstop J.J. Hardy for the final out.


“I didn’t breathe for a while,” Gagne said about watching the ball come down into Hardy’s glove. “I was waiting because the way it’s been going, you never know. Maybe a bird was going to fly out or something.”


Salomon Torres pitched two 1-2-3 innings, taking over after a good start from Carlos Villanueva, who allowed three runs in six innings and didn’t walk anyone.


Villanueva allowed an RBI single to Jeff Kent in the first inning after Matt Kemp smoked a two-out double.


The Dodgers pierced him again in the third on Kemp’s run-scoring single. And Martin did the same the next inning.


Villanueva was solid after that and allowed just two base runners the rest of the way.


“From the third inning on, I just got in a rhythm,” Villanueva said. “As soon as I got in my rhythm, I was able to not worry about where I was standing, where I’m releasing the ball. Just do exactly what I wanted to do with my pitches.


The Brewers continued to come out of their offensive funk by posting 10 hits, all but one coming against Brad Penny .


Ryan Braun continued to stay hot, going 2 for 4 with a two-run double and a triple after striking out in his first two at-bats.



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