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Brewers' bullpen fails again

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McClatchy-Tribune
May 15, 2008
— For the past few weeks, Eric Gagne has been bashed back and forth like a human pinata.

Yet, one gets the impression that anxious fans of the up-and-down Milwaukee Brewers wouldn’t mind seeing Gagne get the ball in the ninth inning today.


With Gagne unavailable after pitching three innings in the previous two games, manager Ned Yost gave set-up man Guillermo Mota the chance Wednesday night to close out a victory.


Let’s just say it didn’t go so well.


Mota surrendered three runs before getting the third out in the ninth, allowing the Los Angeles Dodgers to come all the way back from a 4-1 deficit to take a 6-4 triumph and snap a five-game skid at Miller Park.


Considering the Brewers coughed up two unearned runs in the seventh and wasted by far the best performance of the season by young left-hander Manny Parra, this one went in the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” file.


“I don’t think we gave it away,” insisted Yost. “(The Dodgers) earned it.”


It was a bad night all the way around for the Brewers’ bullpen. Right-hander David Riske left the game in the eighth inning with a hyper-extended elbow, which is never a good thing for a pitcher.


“I don’t know anything,” said Riske, who was examined this morning by team physician William Raasch.


Bad things began to happen to Mota before he threw his first pitch. After he threw five warm-up pitches, third base umpire Joe West asked for the baseball and threw it to second base, as if he were a catcher throwing down before the start of an inning.


West, renown for finding his way into interesting situations, drew the ire of Yost for that antic. The Brewers’ manager came out, yelled “What’s the problem?” and proceeded to give “Cowboy Joe” a piece of his mind.


Yost brushed off the incident afterward, leaving Mota to explain what happened.


“Joe West asked me for the ball and threw it to second base,” said Mota. “I only threw five pitches. I said, ‘I get eight.’ He said I threw extra pitches in the bullpen.”


Mota’s real problems started when he walked pinch-hitter Delwyn Young with one out. Pinch-hitter Andre Ethier then lined a single to right, putting runners on the corners.


That brought to the plate leadoff hitter Juan Pierre, a slap hitter with a .310 slugging percentage and four extra-base hits (all doubles) for the season. Pierre lashed an opposite-field double to left-center, scoring both runners and putting the Dodgers on top.


“That was a nice piece of hitting,” said Yost. “We’re playing the infield in, hoping he hits a ground ball at somebody.”


Pierre then got a big jump on Mota and stole third without a throw, setting up a run-scoring groundout by Andruw Jones. Dodgers closer Takashi Saito did his job, putting down the Brewers in order in the bottom of the inning.


“Everybody knows in the bullpen we’re in a situation where we have to be ready,” said Mota, who entered the game with a 2.20 ERA and one save in 15 outings.


“We had to wait for whoever is available and he wants to use. That was my chance tonight, and I did not do the job.”


Yost noted the previous night how important it was for Gagne to return to the closer’s role after a brief break, because the rest of the bullpen fell in place in front of him. Asked if the outcome showed why Gagne should be the closer, Yost said, “Pretty much. It’s tough on guys.”


Parra was cruising into the seventh when an error by first baseman Prince Fielder led to two unearned runs that cut the Brewers’ advantage to 4-3. He was charged with one earned run in 6 2/3 innings after failing to make it beyond 5 1/3 innings in any of his previous seven starts.


“He’s been making little strides every time out. That was a big stride,” said Yost. “That’s the Manny we saw in spring training. He attacked tonight.”



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