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Brewers are playing on minor-league level

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Michael Hunt
June 12, 2009
— You had to look at the surroundings twice Thursday to convince yourself this wasn’t spring training. Nope, no battered strip malls rising out of the sand to make it look like the outskirts of Phoenix, at least none that could be seen through a roof obscuring a halfway decent afternoon.

No, it was just a split-squad-type lineup thrown out there by a manager trying to do something, anything, to break out of what passes as a full-bore slump these days. Well that, and enough pitching changes to put the whole tedious affair in danger of exceeding the 4-hour time limit that should be imposed on baseball games and French film directors.


And that’s the thing about the Milwaukee Brewers at the moment. It’s one thing to be bad, but there’s got to be a rule somewhere about being bad and boring at the same time.


Oh, Ryan Braun finally set off the fireworks in the ninth inning, but it ended pretty much the same way it proceeded for most of the day, with a strikeout and an important runner left hanging.


“It’s just how things are going right now,” starter Yovani Gallardo said at the end of the 5-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies that made it four in a row and seven of the last 10 for the Brewers.


You knew there would be times like these after the 4-9 start that morphed into something approaching torrid, the giving up of five outs in second inning, the seven runners stranded on strikeouts in the fifth, sixth and seventh, the hard-hit balls that yielded nothing, the inconvenient bounces and the misplaced pitches.


And things will eventually turn around for a team that has shown it can hit, catch and throw the baseball well enough to compete, but right now, the Brewers’ current plight could be summarized from a snapshot in the bottom of the fifth.


Gallardo, who didn’t have his usual stuff against an opponent that worked him deep into the count, was pulled for a pinch hitter after 105 pitches. That pinch hitter happened to be Bill Hall, who whiffed with two aboard. The boos from the Miller Park crowd of 35,467 were heard throughout the valley, even with the lid closed.


“It’s the job of myself and the coaching staff to continue to stay positive,” manager Ken Macha said. “The comeback in the ninth inning will help, along with our number of hits.”


You might not know it from the 90-plus victories he averaged in four seasons in Oakland, but Macha has been through worse. His 2005 A’s team lost eight in a row and 20 of 24, and still it won 88 games. And last season the Brewers had rougher stretches, the 12 of 16 they dropped at a time when Ned Yost was supposedly fired, and the five in a row they lost when he really was fired in September.


So they’ll persevere, but without blinders. There are problems to overcome, like the teetering bullpen that gave up what turned out to be two huge runs in the eighth. And a bench that, aside from Casey McGehee—who nevertheless abetted the Rockies in the second with an error—hit no better than the starters it replaced.


The surging Rockies swept the Brewers right out of their own yard, but that’s the way it goes sometimes in baseball. Replace a manager and suddenly the whole world looks brighter. Maybe a shot at the other league will help with the Chicago White Sox in town.


Because right now, it’s hard to imagine anything making it worse.



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