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Pirates find power, bash Brewers

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McClatchy-Tribune
August 18, 2009
— To string together the number of victories the Milwaukee Brewers need to climb back into the playoff race, their pitching staff must stop getting pummeled by some of the worst teams in the National League.

It appears that battered bunch is just not up to it.


Yet another last-place team took batting practice against the Brewers here Monday night as the Pittsburgh Pirates pounded out 16 hits on their way to a 9-5 victory at PNC Park.


The mugging followed the pattern of a series of beatings put on the Brewers in recent weeks by downtrodden Washington, San Diego and Pittsburgh. It marked the 25th time in 41 games since July 1 that the Brewers’ pitching staff surrendered five or more runs.


As an indication of what the offense is up against in trying to overcome the woeful pitching, in each of the Brewers’ last four losses they scored five runs or more. How many runs should you need to win?


“They’re all tough; a loss is a loss, no matter how you draw it up or script it,” said center fielder Mike Cameron, who briefly drew the Brewers within striking range at 6-4 with a two-run homer in the sixth inning.


“It’s a little tougher now because we’re coming down the home stretch. We’ve got to make up a lot of ground to give ourselves a chance. We’ve got to keep fighting. They’ll try to kick us while we’re down.


“We’ve got to keep pounding away and have blue-collar at-bats and see what we come up with. That’s all you can do.”


Right-hander Carlos Villanueva, who had made some progress in his transition from reliever to starter, took a major step backward against the Pirates. In only four innings, Villanueva was tagged for 11 hits and six runs.


Most of the damage came in the third inning, when Pittsburgh collected seven hits and scored five times. The outburst started with a two-run homer by Garrett Jones and continued as the Pirates sent 10 hitters to the plate.


It was a major breakthrough for Pittsburgh’s lineup, which has been watered down by a string of trades of front-line players. It had been more than 400 innings since the Pirates scored five runs in an inning, on June 24 against Cleveland.


Pittsburgh had gone 699 innings, dating back to May 17 against Colorado, since putting together at least seven hits in an inning.


“It was a tough inning,” said Villanueva, who fell to 2-10 with a 6.25 ERA. “They hit a couple of balls good and some hits dropped in that weren’t hit that hard.


“I couldn’t keep a crooked number off the board. If I limit the damage there, it gives us a chance to win the game.”


Villanueva surrendered a homer to Andy LaRoche in the second inning on a 0-2 fastball he didn’t get high enough. Jones’ shot came on a changeup right down the middle.


Opponents have hit 159 homers off the Brewers, the highest total in the league.


“The home-run ball is absolutely murdering us,” said manager Ken Macha. “Throw the ball down the middle and bad things happen.”


The Brewers scored four runs in six innings against Pittsburgh starter Kevin Hart, but that wasn’t enough. They put a quick run on the board when Felipe Lopez led off the game with a triple and scored on a single by Craig Counsell.


Prince Fielder continued his recent offensive tear with a rocket into the elevated right-field stands in the fourth for home run No. 31 and added an RBI single in the seventh. But the Brewers’ bullpen couldn’t hold the fort, either, with Jesus Colome surrendering five hits, including a two-run blast by light-hitting Ronny Cedeno, and three runs in two innings of work.


“Our starter didn’t do very well, and our bullpen didn’t do very well, either,” said Macha. “We’ve got seven guys in the bullpen. Everybody has to contribute.


“You’ve got to compliment our position players. They are scrapping. They’re fighting back regardless of the score. Hopefully, we’ll get some good starts and give them a chance.”



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