Brewers sweep Reds
Get good starting pitching and an opportunistic offense and the victories will tally themselves.
However, the Milwaukee Brewers had abandoned that blueprint recently and were sagging heading into this latest series with the Cincinnati Reds, a team nipping at their heels for National League Central supremacy.
But the Brewers returned to their ways of solid starting pitching and a quick striking offense, getting one without the other in the first two victories of the series before finally putting both together to sweep the Reds, 5-2, in Sunday’s finale at Miller Park.
With the St. Louis Cardinals losing, the Brewers hold a one-game lead in the Central going into their seven-game road trip at Florida and Atlanta.
“Today we got on the board early with ‘Yo’ (Yovani Gallardo) on the mound,” said centerfielder Mike Cameron, who went 2 for 4 with a home run and three runs batted in. “That made it much easier to focus on getting the victory instead of figuring out how to score some runs.
“When you get big hits with two outs, those things pretty much give you a good chance to win ball games.”
The Brewers struck for a couple of those timely hits in the first inning.
After a J.J. Hardy walk and a Ryan Braun single with one out, Prince Fielder flew out, and then Cameron and Mat Gamel hit run-scoring singles to get the brooms waving.
Hardy’s sacrifice fly pushed home one more in the second, and after committing an error—he short-armed a ball in the left-center gap after Braun didn’t peel off the play quickly enough—that led to a run in the top of the third, Cameron laced a two-run homer to left field in the bottom half to give the Brewers a 5-1 lead.
“That’s a (tough) way to get an error,” said Cameron, who had a gruesome collision with former N.Y. Mets teammate Carlos Beltran on a similar play in 2005.
The Brewers drew three walks against Reds right-hander Micah Owings, and all of them scored.
The Milwaukee offense was muzzled after Cameron’s homer, partly because of the infamous shadows that creep over the Miller Park infield during day games.
The Reds pitchers allowed a single, and a runner reached on an error after the home run. But after that, Cincinnati retired 17 of the next 18 batters they faced.
“Both teams are hitting in that shadow,” manager Ken Macha said. “One of the things that Prince says, and I admire him for this, is ‘Hey, the shadow’s there. It’s not going anywhere. You have to deal with it.’
“With that said, there’s a whole bunch of stadiums that have shadows. The sun’s not going anywhere.”
That the offense stalled didn’t matter because Gallardo (5-2) and the bullpen didn’t need any further support.
Gallardo had to grind through 5 1/3 innings, peppering seven hits for two runs, one of them earned. He struck out nine and walked two. The earned run came on Brandon Phillips’ solo home run in the fifth.
Gallardo struck out the side in the first inning and looked like he might cruise, but he had base runners in every inning after that.
His day finally ended when Ryan Hanigan doubled, and Owings singled with one out in the sixth. Gallardo left after 97 pitches, which was just about his limit after throwing 126 pitches in his previous outing.
“It was very tough,” Gallardo said. “I went in the dugout and was telling the guys I had to fight myself out there on the mound.
“I just wasn’t consistent.”
The bullpen picked him up, though. Mitch Stetter relived him and left Hanigan at third to end the sixth. He combined with Mark DiFelice and closer Trevor Hoffman to pitch 32/3 innings without allowing a hit while striking out five.
“We hadn’t been really jumping out to a lead,” Macha said. “That’s what we did today.
“If you have your druthers, I take what we got today (from Gallardo). Believe me. We’ll take that. It’s nice to jump out to that lead and carry the baton and hand it to the bullpen that’s been outstanding.”
Last updated: 10:49 am Thursday, December 13, 2012