Loss in series finale puts Brewers on their heels
With each passing inning Sunday afternoon, the Milwaukee Brewers seemed more and more inept at producing offense, looking like a squad running for the exit leading to three days off rather than toward a division crown.
That was until the final three innings, when they scored all their runs and threatened to tie the score in the ninth.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, the team with baseball’s best record at the all-star break, were a glaring contrast until then as they beat around Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo for a 7-4 victory at Miller Park to take the best-of-three series, 2-1.
The Brewers scored in the seventh and eighth innings and brought the tying run to the plate with one out in the ninth, but Corey Hart lined out to left with two runners on and all-star leftfielder Ryan Braun popped out to shortstop.
The St. Louis Cardinals split a doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, so the Brewers headed into their vacation 2 1/2 games out in the National League Central.
The Brewers have dropped eight of their last 11 games with a combination of offensive and pitching woes, making the break a lifesaver of sorts. As a side note, the Brewers have lost eight consecutive day games at Miller Park.
“It’s not great (to end that way), but you just look forward,” Braun said. “You can’t look back at this point. I think it’s going to be nice for everybody to have some time off and get refreshed.”
“We’re in the race, obviously. I’m just excited about having the opportunity to compete and get back to the playoffs. That’s all you can ask for.”
The fact that they haven’t been buried in the division despite their poor play is somewhat uplifting for the Brewers, a team searching for any piece of optimism at this point.
Manager Ken Macha insists that with a few breaks in their favor over the last couple weeks their outlook heading into the next three days would be much more positive.
“I don’t think our club is tired,” Macha said. “We have guys out there playing hard and battling.
“We just needed a little bit here and there… . Obviously you’re not pleased that in your last 10 games you only win three of them, but you have to forget about that. The fortunate thing is we’re still in the hunt.”
In Gallardo’s last three starts the Brewers have given him a big zero in terms of run support while he has been on the mound. In fact, in his last five starts (1-4), the offense has given Gallardo just seven runs total, leaving the right-hander without room for error.
The Brewers could have given him a handful of runs Sunday, however, and it wouldn’t have mattered.
Gallardo, struggling with high pitch counts early in games lately, started badly by walking Rafael Furcal in the first inning. Furcal later scored on James Loney’s bases-loaded flare single to center.
Manny Ramirez, who doubled, also scored on the play when centerfielder Mike Cameron overran the ball after it landed and was charged with an error.
It appeared the Brewers might get at least one of those back when Corey Hart doubled with one out in the bottom of the first. Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee walked to load the bases with two down, but Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw struck out Cameron to end the threat.
Gallardo struggled through the second inning as well, getting his pitch count up to 48 before stranding a runner.
After a 1-2-3 third—he got a double play after allowing a lead off single to Ramirez, who went 3 for 3 with two doubles, a walk and two runs—Gallardo allowed a homer to Brad Ausmus in the fourth and two more runs in the fifth.
Gallardo lasted five innings and allowed five runs on six hits. He walked four, two of whom scored, and struck out three. This was the second consecutive outing Gallardo has failed to make it into the sixth inning.
On the other side, Kershaw settled after the first and after walking Craig Counsell in the second, he retired 14 of the next 15 batters, with the help of a double play to end the sixth.
Gallardo had put together three very good starts, despite losing two of them thanks to little offensive help, on the heels of two poor starts in which he couldn’t pitch beyond the fifth.
Now, he’s back to being bad, thanks to what he thinks is a mechanical problem that has him out of whack.
“My command was off again today,” Gallardo said. “It’s pretty upsetting. I was throwing the ball pretty good there up until my last couple of starts. You just have to make an adjustment.”