Braves 2, Brewers 1
Via Associated Press
How much bad news can one baseball team take?
As if it weren’t enough that the offense was shut down again Thursday night and the Milwaukee Brewers lost their sixth game in a row, they also suffered another casualty in what has become an incredibly injury-riddled year.
Outfielder Nyjer Morgan, just off the disabled list two days earlier, suffered a fractured left middle finger bunting a pitch in the eighth inning and is expected to be sidelined 2-4 weeks.
“We’re going to see what we’re made of, what kind of character we have,” said reliever Kameron Loe, who served up the game-winning home run to Martin Prado in the eighth inning as the Atlanta Braves pulled out a 2-1 victory at Turner Field to sweep the four-game series.
Manager Ron Roenicke wasn’t certain what the club would do to replace Morgan. When Morgan rejoined the club after recovering from a thigh injury, outfielder Brandon Boggs was sent outright to Class AAA Nashville and the Brewers were waiting to hear if he would accept the assignment.
Morgan was so disconsolate over the injury, suffered when the finger was struck by the ball on a sacrifice bunt, he sat for several minutes in front of his locker, a towel draped over his head. He then stormed around the clubhouse in outward frustration.
“It’s tough,” said Roenicke. “It’s not going good and we were all looking forward to getting the team back to full strength. Nyjer’s a big part of that. He was a big part early on when we got going. He’s a spark to our lineup; he does a good job defensively.
“He goes down with an injury, then we get him back and all of a sudden another one.”
Either the Braves have the best starting rotation in the majors or the Brewers’ offense is in big, big trouble. The Brewers scored just six runs in the four games, collecting only 20 hits and batting .160 as a team.
But the offensive slide began at the outset of the losing streak in the last two games in Houston. During the six losses, the Brewers have scored seven runs with a .176 team batting average. Over that stretch, they have two hits in 36 at-bats (.056) with runners in scoring position.
“We’re seeing some guys that are really throwing the ball good against us,” said Roenicke. “And I think sometimes when you’re not hitting you go out of the (strike) zone and the pattern that you’re usually good in because you’re trying to create something.
“Sometimes you’re not patient enough, but I thought we had a lot of good at-bats tonight. When we have the chance, we’re not getting that hit.”
In the process, a fine outing by starting pitcher Shaun Marcum was wasted. Marcum again was tremendous, holding the Braves to a second-inning homer by Eric Hinske during his seven-inning stint.
Marcum allowed five hits and one walk while striking out eight, only regretting the 0-2 fastball to Hinske that was badly misplaced.
“It was supposed to be up and in,” said Marcum. “It was more middle, middle. Not a good pitch at all. That’s what hitters are supposed to do with mistake pitches – hit ’em out of the park.”
Marcum, who lowered his earned run average to 2.06, had thrown only 98 pitches through seven innings, but Roenicke summoned Loe nevertheless.
“That’s a decision we wrestle with at times, whether to put him back out there or not,” said Roenicke. “I’m still really comfortable when I’m bringing in Loe and really comfortable when I’m bringing in ‘Ax’ (John Axford).
“I felt that Shaun did a great job and we didn’t need to push him anymore.”
Loe, who took the loss in the first game of the skid, fell behind in the count, 3-1, to the first hitter he faced, Prado, who socked the next pitch out of the park for his third homer. Prado hit an 88-mph sinker that didn’t sink.
“I left it up,” said Loe. “It was the worst pitch I threw all inning. We’re struggling right now and part of it is we’re not getting ahead of hitters, and walking hitters. Strike one is huge. I know I haven’t been doing a good job of getting strike one.”
The Brewers scored only an unearned run in six innings off Atlanta starter Brandon Beachy, who struck out a career-high nine. Three relievers worked an inning each, contributing two strikeouts apiece as the Brewers whiffed a whopping 15 times.
“You’ve got to give those guys some credit,” said Marcum. “They threw the ball really well against us. They have a great pitching staff over there. We’re out there battling, doing everything we can. Things just aren’t going our way right now.
“The way things have been going, we needed a win. That was a tough one to take right there. Everybody’s spirits are up. We realize we’ve got a lot of baseball left in us and we’re a lot better than the way we’re playing. We know it’s going to turn eventually.”