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Wrigley remains house of horrors for Hawkins

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Anthony Witrado
April 15, 2010
— Two outs.

Nobody on base.


LaTroy Hawkins going about business as usual for this season.


Then, in the structure made of brick, steel, concrete, dirt and sod that Hawkins had come to loathe during his time within it, the Milwaukee Brewers’ set-up man imploded.


A single, two walks and two more singles produced a four-run eighth inning for the Chicago Cubs, who ground out a 7-6 victory in their final at-bat Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field.


The walks, particularly the first one to Cubs catcher Geovany Soto with a runner on, were Hawkins’ undoing.


“It was the walk to Soto,” Hawkins said. “I just can’t be walking guys. I don’t care about the hits. I was ahead of Soto and I walked him.


“That was the turning point.”


Hawkins had been fabulous before this outing, throwing 3 1/3 shutout innings, walking one and striking out six. It looked as if it would be more of the same after he retired Marlon Byrd on a groundout and struck out Chad Tracy to start the bottom of the eighth.


Jeff Baker followed with a single on an 0-2 count, and after being ahead with two strikes on Soto, who fouled off three two-strike pitches, Hawkins walked him.


“That’s not acceptable,” Hawkins said. “You can beat me swinging the bat. I don’t like walking guys.”


Then he walked Tyler Colvin to load the bases before the Cubs beat him swinging the bat.


Ryan Theriot singled on an 0-2 count to score Baker and Soto.


Kosuke Fukudome then rolled over a two-strike curveball just out of the reach of diving second baseman Rickie Weeks to score the final two runs.


“They grinded out some at-bats,” Brewers catcher Gregg Zaun said. “Those were some good pitches by him, but Soto spoiled quite a few of them.


“That ball barely dribbled through the infield. If it’s 1 or 2 inches off the plate, he probably hits it right at Rickie. (Hawkins) made pitches to get into counts, but he couldn’t put anybody away.”


Hawkins pitched for the Cubs in 2004 and part of 2005 and became the de facto closer because of an injury. The stint went horribly as he blew 18 saves, more than any reliever in those two seasons combined. Hawkins finished his Cubs career with a sub-3.00 earned-run average, but the blown saves cost him the love of the Wrigley faithful and he later said the Cubs fans sent him racially charged hate mail that he opted to have Major League Baseball security open.


When he was introduced Monday as part of the Cubs’ opening-day festivities, he was booed more than any other Brewer. In response Hawkins raised his hands to his waist and encouraged the hissing.


After the game, a small contingent of Cubs fans chanted Hawkins’ name as they exited the stadium.


Despite the animosity, Hawkins said it didn’t sting any worse to give up the game here compared with another ballpark.


“I don’t care,” Hawkins said. “It doesn’t make a difference. This place made me a better person.”


That inning stained right-hander Dave Bush’s start. He lasted six innings and allowed two runs on seven hits and didn’t walk a batter. But for his second consecutive turn, the bullpen blew a lead and the Brewers lost.


“It’s a tough way to start,” Bush said. “I could be 2-0 instead of 0-0, but that’s the way it happens.”


Despite losing their second straight to the Cubs, the Brewers had positives, such as Bush’s outing and Weeks, Carlos Gomez and Alcides Escobar combining for seven hits, three runs, a double, two triples and four RBI.


With a 3-5 mark eight games in, no one is yanking out their hair by the roots or packing away the equipment to return to their off-season homes.


“I don’t think this team has a problem with resiliency,” said Zaun, who broke an 0-for-21 skid with a single in the eighth. “Guys will show up tomorrow.


“We’re all rowing the boat in the same direction.”



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