Sun. Final: Braves 10, Brewers 2
By Todd Welter
Next game: Monday, July 27th vs. Washington
The Brewers still think of themselves as contenders and buyers in the trade market but the trends are starting to indicate otherwise.
The Crew dropped to 7-14 over their last 21 games thanks to a 10-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves before a packed house at Miller Park.
This poor stretch has just been one indication of the struggles the Brewers are having that might make one wonder if the Brewers are legit contenders. Since being a season's best 11-games over .500 on May 19, the Crew has gone 24-35 to drop to an even 49-49 on the season. The Brewers have gone 19-29 since June 1st which are not exactly numbers that means the Brewers are one or two pieces away from running away with the NL Central.
"Everybody is kind of frustrated with the way it is going," Corey Hart said who drew some boos from the fans in the seventh for misplaying a hit to right.
"Obviously, it is not going the way we want it to go. We are not pleasing a lot of a people."
It has been hard to please when the Brewers dropped from owning first place in the NL Central five weeks ago to now sitting in fourth place in the division. The only saving grace is the Brewers are still just 2.5-games back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the division lead. That is about the only good number the Brewers have going as things need to change and change quickly if the Brewers are to stay in the division race.
One area that could use a change is the pitching, particularly the starting rotation as the Crew rank 15th in the National League in starting rotation ERA.
"We've got to have our pitching get better," Brewers manager Ken Macha bluntly stated.
"You got to go out there in a pennant race and get consistent pitching and hopefully your starters carry you deeper into the game."
Braden Looper had been one of the few bright spots in the rotation recently as he was 4-0 with a 3.23 ERA over his last five starts coming into the contest.
Looper (9-5) looked nothing like those numbers in his six innings of work as he picked up his fifth loss of the season. Looper gave up five runs on seven hits, walked four and struck out just two.
While he was not completely tough to watch, he did have a four-run meltdown in the sixth. Matt Diaz drove in the first run and then Casey Kotchman followed with a three-run blast to right field. Kotchman finished 2-for-4 with three runs.
"I was fighting myself especially for the first few innings of the game," Looper described. "I was behind a lot today. I was able to limit the damage most of the time until that last inning. Unfortunately, that three-run homer really hurt."
Looper allowed a runner on base in five of the six innings he worked and started the game by giving up a run in the first. Things usually do not turn out well for the Crew when the opponent scores first as Milwaukee is now 18-32 when that happens.
Although this loss can not be totally put on Looper's shoulders as the Braves scored nine of their 10 runs over the last four innings including five off the bullpen.
"The guys who are going to pitch when you are behind in the game, trying to hold the other team close, those guys have not been getting it done in that part of bullpen," Macha explained.
The Braves picked up another run in the seventh inning on Brian McCann's 11th homer of the season. Atlanta added two more runs in the eighth-inning off reliever Mike Burns. One run was Burns' fault as he walked in a run. The other can be blamed on Jody Gerut's fielding error as he dropped a routine fly ball.
The Braves (51-48) finished off their rout with two more runs in the ninth on Kelly Johnson's two-run blast to right-center. Johnson finished 3-for-4 with two doubles, a walk and two runs.
The other reason the Brewers are probably not a Roy Halladay away from the World Series has been the inability of the offense to consistently score runs. The Brewers rank 11th in the NL when it comes to hitting with runners in scoring position and it does not help that the Brewers have scored a total of 84 runs this month which is good for 10th in the NL.
The Brewers scored their only two runs in the sixth inning courtesy of Corey Hart's two-run homer. Braves starter Derek Lowe was pretty tough to score runs on in his six innings of work.
Lowe (10-7) picked up his tenth win despite giving up nine hits. Just like Looper, Lowe allowed at least one runner in five of the six innings he worked. The difference was Lowe escaped every jam he faced although he owes a lot to Nate McClouth. He made two great catches in center that killed potential rallies in third and the sixth inning.