Fri. Final: Brewers 3, Reds 2
By Todd Welter
Braden Looper already suffered one tough loss this week. He did not want to go through another. Thanks to Corey Hart, he did not have to.
Looper pitched seven strong innings the day after burying his grandfather and Hart hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh as the Brewers squeaked out a 3-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Miller Park.
"I found out Sunday morning after I pitched," Looper said. "Essentially, he was kind of like my father. He was the guy that got me started in baseball. It was good to win the game. That home run by Corey was a gift because I was mad at myself. I got that two run lead, I was pitching pretty good and I'm glad that mistake did not cost me the game. It was kind of a special one."
Looper gave up just two hits, walked two and struck out four in probably one of the best ways a grandson could honor his grandfather's memory.
"It's one of the games I'll remember for a long time because of that," Looper said.
Looper can thank Corey Hart for that special moment. Hart stepped to the plate in the seventh inning and ripped a solo blast to left field that put the Brewers ahead for good.
"It is good to be able to help him out a little bit," Hart said.
Two days off seemed to do Hart some good. Hart had seen his batting average decline worse than a stock market crash and that prompted Brewers manager Ken Macha to sit him in last Wednesday's game against the Cardinals. Hart came into the contest hitting .176 over his last 17 games and saw his average drop from .287 to .243.
"Anytime you're mentally not where you want to be, you press," Hart explained. "It is one of those things you try to work through it and try to get through it as fast as you can. Obviously, it is always better on the other side."
His night was not without a need to shake off some rust as he flied out in his first at-bat and struck out in his next. In his third at-bat, he came through with his first home run since May 16th.
"It was one of those things when you hit it, it is a nice weight off your shoulders to do anything good for a change," Hart felt.
Macha is hoping that homer is what Hart needs to get out of this slump.
"His second at-bat he struck out, he put his head down, he was a little bit down and then he wins the game for us. So pump your chest out, take a deep breath and feel good about yourself," Macha said.
Looper's win was in jeopardy in the eighth. Reliever Todd Coffey gave up two straight hits to open up the inning. He got bailed out by a nice defensive play by Craig Counsell. Counsell fielded a bouncer from pinch hitter Chris Dickerson and quickly applied the tag on Adam Rosales and then fired to first that just barely got Dickerson out. Wily Taveras grounded out to end the threat.
Trevor Hoffman closed out the Reds in the ninth to pick up his 12th save of the year. He has been better than ever since coming to Milwaukee from San Diego in the offseason. He has yet to give up a run in his 14 appearances this season and has allowed just six hits while holding opponents to a .136 average.
Reds starter Johnny Cueto (4-3) took the loss for giving up all three Brewers runs that came on home runs. In addition to Hart's home run, Cueto got tagged for a two-run home run by Prince Fielder in the first inning. Cueto lasted seven innings, gave up three hits, walked four and struck out three.
The Brewers are still having trouble scoring runs as this was the seventh straight game in which the Crew scored three runs or less. The Brewers only had three hits the entire game. On the bright side, Milwaukee (28-20) snapped the Reds' (26-21) four-game win streak.