Several Brewers have reason to smile
CHICAGO When the long baseball season hasn’t gone quite according to plan for an individual player, the primary goal is to go home feeling good about himself in some way.
Dave Bush, Jody Gerut and Mike Rivera know the feeling, and each had reason to smile Thursday afternoon for the roles they played in the Milwaukee Brewers’ 7-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Bush battled through 5 2/3 innings with more guile than stuff, Gerut smacked a huge grand slam, and Rivera finally provided some breathing room with a two-run double in the seventh after several opportunities had slipped away from the Brewers.
“It always feels good going into the off-season strong,” said Gerut, whose bases-loaded blast in the fourth inning off Randy Wells erased a 2-1 deficit. “I’m really happy for whatever I can get.”
For the longest time after coming from San Diego in mid-May in a trade for Tony Gwynn Jr., Gerut did nothing. He failed miserably as a pinch-hitter and rarely contributed when given a start in the outfield.
When right fielder Corey Hart was lost to an appendectomy at the outset of August, Gerut began to get more playing time and finally rediscovered his hitting stroke. Still, before the slam, he had only two homers and 11 RBI in 116 at-bats with the Brewers.
“He’s got a few more at-bats under his belt,” said manager Ken Macha, whose club went 5-2 on a trip that began in Arizona. “If you look at his history, he’s done fine. He keeps himself ready; he’s a pro. And he’s got some pop in his bat.”
Rivera has some pop as well, but unlike 2008, has not prospered offensively while getting scant playing time behind starter Jason Kendall. Entering the day, Rivera was batting .232 with two homers and 12 RBIs in only 95 at-bats.
“It’s been tough being on the bench so much,” said Rivera. “Today, I was struggling early (0-for-3 with two strikeouts). My first at-bats were tough. It felt good to make an adjustment and help the team.”
With the bases loaded and the Brewers clinging to a 5-4 lead in the seventh, Rivera fell behind reliever Esmailin Caridad in the count, 0-2, looking particularly bad flailing at a second-pitch breaking ball. But Caridad hung his next curveball and Rivera whacked it into the left-field corner for a two-run double.
The big hits by Gerut and Rivera allowed Bush to come away with his second consecutive victory. He wasn’t nearly as sharp as his previous start in Arizona (seven innings, one run, 11 strikeouts), surrendering eight hits and four runs before being removed with two on and two down in the sixth.
After missing two months with an arm injury, Bush (5-7) won’t quibble about victories. But he wasn’t around afterward to discuss it, having bolted for the airport to return home to Maine for the expected birth of a second child Friday.
“He struggled a little bit, but he got some big outs when he needed them,” said Rivera. “It’s good to go out there and battle and make some pitches when you don’t have your best stuff. He wasn’t sharp, but he got through it.”
Four relievers did fine work behind Bush, with closer Trevor Hoffman wrapping things up in the ninth for his 33rd save in 36 chances. The key moment came in the sixth when Todd Coffey took over for Bush and faced pinch-hitter Aramis Ramirez, normally the starter at third base.
Ramirez, 1-for- 14 for his career against Coffey, stayed alive by fouling off two 3-2 pitches before flying out to right to strand the two runners.
“That was the out of the game,” said Macha.
Coffey had been scuffling in recent weeks before making an adjustment in his delivery. He returned to form with a 1-2-3 inning the previous evening and was ready to pitch in his third consecutive game.
“It was unacceptable the way I was throwing the ball,” said Coffey. “I figured out a little thing and got my timing back again. Today was definitely a big situation. I stayed away from him and finally got the out we needed.”