Cort Hart reaches 30 homers
“I definitely have a smile on my face every time I come here,” said Hart, who reached 30 home runs for the first time in his career Thursday night.
Hart hit one of three Milwaukee homers and Yovani Gallardo added another win to his strong September, leading the Brewers to an 8-3 victory over the Florida Marlins.
Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder added consecutive homers in the seventh on the first three pitches of reliever Sandy Rosario’s major league debut.
Gallardo (14-7) gave up three runs in 6 2-3 innings, improving to 3-0 with a 1.95 ERA and 25 strikeouts in four September starts, and impressed Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez.
“He’s amazing,” Rodriguez said. “It’s the first time I’ve seen him pitch live. He threw one pitch to Logan Morrison that we’re still trying to figure out what pitch it was.”
Probably a slider, something Gallardo has been working on extensively this season. Brewers manager Ken Macha says it’s now the ace’s best breaking pitch.
Morrison, a rookie, just stopped swinging at Gallardo’s pitches. That helped him draw a walk that extended his streak of reaching base safely to 42 games, tying the best mark in the majors this season as his cancer-stricken father watched from the stands.
“It would’ve felt better if we won the game,” Morrison said. “I got away from my plan a little bit and that’s what happens when you don’t stick to your approach. It’s a learning process.”
It’s been a learning process for Hart, too.
After struggling late in the 2008 season and for most of 2009, he had a disappointing spring training and bristled when he wasn’t in the team’s starting lineup on opening day.
Since then, he’s regained his starting role in right field with a torrid summer that included an All-Star nod and a $26.5 million, three-year contract extension signed in August.
Along the way, he’s set new career highs in homers and RBIs (96).
“A lot of it is sometimes it takes your ego getting squished a little bit to find that fire and to fight back,” Hart said. “I think all it was for me was just to be able to realize that things had to change, and I had to lose that pride a little bit.”
After Hart homered off Anibal Sanchez (12-11) in the first, the Brewers tacked on four more runs against the right-hander and chased him on Gallardo’s two-run single that made it 5-0 in the sixth.
Gallardo allowed three runs in the seventh, leaving with two outs after he walked Morrison to extend his streak. In the bottom of the inning, Weeks hit his 28th homer and Fielder his 31st off Rosario.
“You know what I like about him? He was throwing strikes,” Rodriguez said. “He came in and was facing the middle of the order, very good hitters. I threw him in there right in the middle of something. We knew it was a tough task for him.”
Florida (76-76) is trying to finish with a winning record and will be mathematically eliminated from the playoff chase unless the Marlins win their final 10 games, the Braves lose their final nine and multiple other scenarios play out.
Milwaukee was eliminated earlier this week and hasn’t played a factor in the race all season, just two years after winning the NL wild card. Gallardo and the rest of the Brewers have accepted that they squandered another opportunity after a nine-game losing streak in May put them in a deep hole.
“That’s how baseball is. We can’t control certain things,” Gallardo said. “It was just unfortunate things didn’t work out for us this year.”
Morrison had gone 0 for 3 before his walk that tied Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira for the longest streak in the majors this season. Morrison is four games from the Marlins record held by Luis Castillo.
“There’s been way longer ones in the past,” Morrison said. “Not this year, but, I don’t know. I really don’t know what to say.”
Morrison’s father, Tom, was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in April. He saw his son play in the majors for the first time last month in New York.
His doctors ordered him not to fly, so he traveled 1,000 miles by train from Slidell, La., and plans to attend the final series of the season in Miami that begins next week.
Notes: Brewers LF Ryan Braun (elbow) was out of the lineup and is day-to-day after being hit by a pitch on Wednesday night. … Marlins SS Hanley Ramirez (left elbow) missed his second straight game. Rodriguez said it doesn’t make sense to attempt to bring him back with 10 games left unless he shows significant improvement. Ramirez is hitting .300 with 21 homers, 76 RBIs and 32 steals this year.