Bush pitches well, but offense is missing
The Milwaukee Brewers’ right-hander made his sixth consecutive quality start Thursday—and, yes, sometimes a quality start can be a misleading statistic. But in this case, Bush really has pitched well.
Yet, in half of those games, the Brewers have taken the defeat despite Bush going six innings and giving up two runs in each outing.
The reason is a lack of offense. In each of those three losses, the Brewers have posted just one run in support for Bush, just as they did in the series opener against the Atlanta Braves, resulting in a 2-1 loss at Turner Field here Thursday night to open the second part of the National League baseball season.
Bush made a few mistakes over his 100-pitch outing, but only two bit him. All-star second baseman Martin Prado hit a fastball left in the zone over the wall in left-center field for his 11th home run.
Two batters later, Bush threw a 3-2 cutter that sat almost in the middle of the strike zone, and Chipper Jones launched it over the center-field fence for his seventh homer.
It was all the Braves needed as their right-hander, Jair Jurrjens, did enough to shut down the fickle Brewers offense.
“That was a well-pitched game on both sides,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “Two homers to one. That’s about it.”
The one Brewers run came in the first inning on Corey Hart’s 22nd home run, giving him homers in consecutive at-bats. He hit a walk-off shot against Pittsburgh to send the team into the break.
Macha said the lack of support has to wear on Bush, even if Bush wouldn’t admit it.
“It happens,” Bush said with a twinge of humor. “There’s nothing I can control about that except when I’m hitting, but I guess I’m not expected to do a whole lot (with the bat).
“One of the things I learned early in my career was focus on the things I can control.”
The reason for Bush’s success over the last month is he finally feels completely healthy and strong after being hit in the right arm by a line drive in June of last year.
Bush was on the disabled list until Aug. 26 last season with a micro tear in his triceps muscle. When he returned, he wasn’t the same, going 2-5 with an 8.10 earned-run average in seven starts.
Bush pitched well to start this season, but five losses in six starts—including that ugly seven-run, one-third inning performance in Minnesota—followed by four consecutive no-decisions left doubt that he was going to be the consistent pitcher the Brewers needed him to be.
But since June 15, when he pitched into the eighth inning and allowed one run against the Angels, Bush has been on top of his game. He is 3-2 with a 2.15 ERA during this run of quality starts.
“I think I’m just strong and healthier than I was at the beginning of the year,” Bush said. “Even though I felt good, it took a while to fully regain some of the strength I lost last year.
“I didn’t feel a particular turning point. I just think it was gradual. As I got more innings under my belt, I started building the strength that I lost.”
The Brewers could have helped Bush in the second inning when Casey McGehee and Jim Edmonds started with consecutive singles, but McGehee tested right fielder Jason Heyward’s arm and was easily thrown out trying to go first-to-third.
“That was an ill-advised base-running error,” Macha said. “There was nobody out. One of the cardinal sins is you don’t make the first or third out at third base. That (throw) had a big impact on the game.”
The Brewers also had leadoff men on in the fifth and eight innings but failed to score. In the eighth, Hart singled to start, but Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and McGehee weren’t able to produce the run.
“It’s unfortunate that when (Bush) goes out there, we haven’t got job done for him,” Rickie Weeks said. “My hat goes off to him because he goes out there and battles his butt off, but we just can’t get no runs for him.”