Tue. Final: Nationals 8, Brewers 3
By Todd Welter
Next game: Wednesday, July 29 vs. Washington
The plan was four innings, at least 60 pitches and the hope that Carlos Villanueva would pitch well enough in his first start of the season to give the Brewers a fighting chance. Not all things went according to plan.
Villanueva lasted four innings and threw 67 pitches. What he did not do was pitch well enough to give the Brewers a fighting chance. Villanueva gave up five runs as the Brewers dropped their second straight game to the lowly Washington Nationals 8-3 at Miller Park.
Nyjer Morgan opened up the game with a home run off Villanueva and then drove in two of the four runs the Nationals scored in the fourth inning as Washington (32-68) won their fourth straight game.
The Brewers as of late have been dealing with the type of misery the Nationals have been feeling all season. The Crew has dropped eight of their last 12 games since the All-Star break. July continues to be an awful month for the Brewers with a 7-16 record.
"I've been through worse," Brewers manager Ken Macha felt. "We got to keep fighting to get through this thing."
When it comes down to it, the Brewers (49-51) probably did not put themselves in a position to win this one from the beginning-- not with Villanueva making his first start of the season. Villanueva flamed out poorly last season as a starter with a 2-5 record and a 6.43 ERA. It did not help that he was struggling out of the bullpen with a 10.80 ERA in 17 appearances prior to the start.
Although Macha did not have a whole lot of options. Dave Bush and Seth McClung are on the disabled list. Mike Burns flamed out in his chance as the fifth starter and was sent down to the minors.
The rotation's problems maybe getting worse as Jeff Suppan has been diagnosed with a left oblique strain after having a MRI performed earlier in the day. Suppan is scheduled to be re-evaluated on Thursday by team physician Dr. William Raasch to see if he can make his scheduled start on Saturday.
Villanueva's struggles showed right from the start as Morgan parked the second pitch of the game into the right-field bleachers. Villanueva did go on to retire seven of the next nine batters he faced but he could not escape any jams in the fourth inning which led to Villanueva's (2-8) eighth loss of the year.
"I've just been making mistakes and instead of getting a hit, they have been getting it on the sweet spot of the bat and hitting it out," Villanueva said. "Obviously, the results are disappointing."
He started off that inning by giving up a home run to Adam Dunn that at last check may have landed somewhere in St. Francis. A slight exaggeration, but Dunn hit the ball so far that it landed in the right-field concourse, bounced through the open panels and out of the ballpark.
Wil Nieves later drove in another run with a two-out single that dropped due to Corey Hart not being able to come up with a diving catch and Morgan drove in two more runs with a single.
"We make that catch there, we are in good shape," Macha thought as he felt if Hart did make that catch on Nieves' two-out hit, the game might have had a different outcome.
Tim Dillard was recently called up from Triple-A Nashville and was a candidate to start this game but Macha preferred to use him for the later innings. Dillard did not fare any better in relief of Villanueva. Dillard had trouble throwing strikes all game as by evidence of the five walks he issued in four innings of work.
"One guy gave up hits, the other guy had a tough time with the strike zone," is how Macha summed the combo of Villanueva and Dillard.
He got through three innings unfazed but then gave up a three-run homer to Cristian Guzman to run up the total runs Brewers pitchers have given up over the last five games to 41 runs.
"Not exactly the debut I wanted to make," Dillard bluntly stated.
Of those 41 runs, 27 runs have been produced by 12 home runs. Since July 1, Brewers arms have given up eight or more runs in nine games including six of the last eight games. That is a pretty good reason why the Brewers have fallen all the way to fourth place in the NL Central.
"With that being said, tomorrow we got Manny [Parra] pitching," Macha optimistically said. "Looking forward to his outing. He has pitched well since coming back. Washington really has not done well against left-handers. You got to be positive about coming in tomorrow and trying to get this thing on track."
Milwaukee's offense could not do much off Nationals starter Colin Balester. Balester (1-1) picked up his first win of the year thanks to a solid six innings of work. He gave up two runs-- one of which came on Ryan Braun's 21st home run of the year -- five hits and struck out three.
Braun scored another run in the ninth as he finished 2-for-4 along with a triple.