Brewers’ road hitting woes continue in loss

by Adam McClavy,

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke felt an unfortunate sense of déjà vu on Thursday night.

“I’ve seen a lot of these games,” Roenicke said. “Whether it’s on the road or not, a lot of these games.”

The Brewers are just not the same team on the road as the one that slugs its way to wins at Miller Park. And after scoring five times to win the opener of this brief, two-game series, the hitters slipped back into their inexplicable away-game funk, going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position in a 1-0 loss to the Padres at PETCO Park that was decided in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Orlando Hudson, fresh off the 15-day disabled list, won the game after a single, a stolen base, an intentional walk and a sacrifice bunt pushed the winning run to third base with one out. After another intentional walk loaded the bases, the Brewers employed the same five-man infield alignment they tried last month in Washington, but Hudson lined a first-pitch changeup for a sacrifice fly to right field.

That piece of hitting beat right-hander Marco Estrada (1-2), who joined the Brewers in early April as Zack Greinke’s fill-in and has remained because he’s so effective in relief.

“What are you going to do?” asked Estrada, who surrendered only one hit in the inning.

Before Estrada took the mound, the Brewers squandered one final scoring opportunity. It came via hard-nosed catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who threw up his left hand while sliding into second base to break up the Padres’ double-play turn. Credit Craig Counsell, who had hit the ground ball to second, for seeing the ball deflect off Lucroy’s hand and scuttling to second base, giving the Brewers one last opportunity to put up a run with a clutch hit.

Pinch-hitter Yuniesky Betancourt didn’t last long. He swung at the first pitch from Padres closer Heath Bell, a breaking ball, and hit a routine grounder to second base.

“We had chances to win that game today,” Roenicke said. “Sometimes you look at games [like Wednesday’s], and you think you’re going to get it going. Early on, we had people on base. We just didn’t get them in.”

The Brewers lost the game, and lost their left fielder in the fifth inning. Ryan Braun made an early exit after an inning-ending popout, and two innings later, the club offered a vague diagnosis: left shoulder soreness. Braun, who has started all 44 of the team’s games this season, said the injury was probably not serious, but he was unsure whether he’d play against the Rockies on Friday night.

Lucroy was examined by the training staff, too, and said he would be fine.

The real pain is being felt by the Brewers’ offense, at least on the road. They are the best hitting team at home in baseball, but went 6-for-43 in the clutch during their four-game West Coast road trip, and are 12-for-101 in their last 14 road games.

Braun was in no mood to discuss the team’s road woes.

“You just keep moving forward. Never look back,” he said. “It does us no good. You can’t go back to change anything, so you keep moving forward.”

The Brewers were blanked through eight innings by Padres starter Aaron Harang, who owned an 8.46 ERA and had surrendered seven home runs in his previous four starts — three of them at pitcher-friendly PETCO Park. He held the Brewers to five singles and a Prince Fielder double, working around two walks and striking out four in his best start this season. He threw only 98 pitches, 10 of them to the second batter of the game, Corey Hart, who worked a walk.

It should have been a good matchup for Milwaukee. Harang, the former Cincinnati Reds right-hander, was 0-2 with a 7.91 ERA in his previous five games (four starts) against the Brewers since the start of the 2009 season.

But he was tough from the start on Thursday. Hart worked his 10-pitch walk with one out in the first inning, and moved to third on a single by Braun, who stole second base. That gave the Brewers runners at second and third with one out, but Fielder popped a 1-and-0 pitch to shortstop, and Casey McGehee hit an inning-ending comebacker to Harang.

The Brewers had three more opportunities for a clutch hit in the fourth inning, after Fielder scalded a leadoff double. McGehee grounded out to shortstop, freezing Fielder, before Mark Kotsay grounded out to first base and Lucroy flied out to center field.

In the fifth, it was Braun’s turn. But he flied out to right field with runners at first and second and two outs, and then left the game with his shoulder injury.

The Brewers’ continued road slump wasted left-hander Chris Narveson’s best start of the season. He scattered four hits and one harmless walk in 7 1/3 scoreless innings, with four strikeouts.

“Baseball goes like that,” Narveson said. “One swing different for us, one swing for them, and it could have easily been the game. We had opportunities, and they had opportunities, too.”

“It was really the first time I’ve seen [Narveson], but I was very impressed by his changeup,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “I think that was a key, and that he kept the ball down. They’ve got the makings of a good rotation over there.”

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