By Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel
If the Milwaukee Brewers are going to continue to perform like this in the clutch on the road, it’s going to be a long season away from Miller Park.
The Brewers continued to come up empty with runners in scoring position, going 0 for 9 in those situations Tuesday night in a 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.
The Brewers were fortunate to split the two-game series while going 2 for 23 (.087) with runners in scoring position. For the season, their road batting average in those situations dropped to .211.
With that background, it should come as no shock that the Brewers have scored a total of 14 runs in their last 11 road games, during which they have gone 2-9. Over that stretch, they have been shut out four times.
The Brewers let an opportunity to strike first slip away in the first inning against Hiroki Kuroda, who pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings. With one down, new No. 2 hitter Corey Hart singled to left and Ryan Braun drew a walk.
Prince Fielder bounced into a force at second, leaving runners on the corners, but Casey McGehee’s drive to right-center was hauled in by Matt Kemp in front of the wall.
Brewers starter Randy Wolf was not as fortunate in the bottom of the inning. After a two-out walk to Andre Ethier, Kemp smashed a 3-1 fastball the other way and over the wall in right for a two-run homer.
“That’s Matt’s strength. His strength is right-center to right field,” Wolf said. “He has kind of an inside-out swing. He’s a big, strong guy. I wanted it up; I wanted it elevated above the belt. It was probably thigh-high, right where he could do some damage.”
The Brewers missed on an even better chance to score in the third inning off Kuroda. Wolf led off with a double, sending a drive over Ethier in right and was bunted to third by Rickie Weeks.
Hart drew a walk, putting runners on the corners with one down. But Kuroda recorded a huge out by striking out Braun on a split-finger fastball, then escaped by inducing Fielder to fly out to left.
The Brewers’ inability to hit in the clutch on the road nixed another budding rally in the fourth inning. With one down, Yuniesky Betancourt and Jonathan Lucroy singled, but Carlos Gomez, moved down to the eighth spot because he couldn’t hit with men on base, bounced into a double play, only his second of the season.
Wolf was fortunate to keep it at 2-0 in the bottom of the inning. He walked Juan Uribe to open the inning and issued another walk to Jerry Sands with two down.
Kuroda hit a slow topper toward short that forced Betancourt to charge in and throw on the run but he was late and the infield hit loaded the bases. Wolf fell behind in the count, 3-1, to Jamey Carroll, who hit a smash to the left side that McGehee caught with a sliding stab to get a force at second and snuff the rally.
“My command wasn’t good; I wasn’t very sharp today,” said Wolf, who didn’t look comfortable working with catcher Lucroy. “I had a ton of 3-2 counts and wasn’t able to make the pitch to put guys away early in the count. Obviously, that first-inning mistake (to Kemp) was the ball game, really.”
Hitters know that the ball doesn’t carry well at night at Dodger Stadium and that point was driven home again to Fielder in the sixth inning. After Braun led off with a single, Fielder sent a drive to center that he thought was gone, but the ball didn’t carry in the damp air and Kemp caught it with his back against the wall at the 395-foot marker.
“You’ve really got to hit the ball here, especially the opposite way,” said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, who noted that Kemp must have really got all of his opposite-field two-run shot off Randy Wolf in the first inning.
“I thought Prince’s ball was going out. I thought Casey’s ball was going out, too. It never has (carried well) here. At night time, when it’s cold here, you’ve really got to crush it to get it out, especially to the big part of the park. If those balls go out, we score five runs.”
Braun moved up on a groundout by McGehee and stole third without a throw but was stranded when Betancourt took a called third strike that he thought was wide of the plate.
Wolf struck out Rod Barajas to open the bottom of the inning but it took him 10 pitches to do it, extending him well beyond 100 for the game. When James Loney followed with a single to left, Wolf was done at 119 pitches.
Sergio Mitre, who hadn’t pitched since last Wednesday against San Diego, took over and retired the next two hitters to keep it a 2-0 game.
The Brewers took three more swipes with a runners in scoring position in the eighth and came up empty. Weeks led off with an infield single and moved up on a balk by Kuroda. Hart lined a 3-2 pitch right at Kemp in center and Braun flied out to deep right, moving Weeks to third.
Right-hander Kenly Jansen took over for Kuroda and walked Fielder on four pitches, then fell behind, 3-0, in the count to McGehee. Jansen got it back to 3-2, however, before McGehee fouled out to first.