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After late-season stumble, Brewers look for fixes for '15

After late-season stumble, Brewers look for fixes for '15

MILWAUKEE -- When the Brewers limped into the All-Star break with a 2-11 stretch, general manager Doug Melvin gathered his baseball men for a debate.

Were the Brewers a good team that stumbled to the break with a bad two weeks? Or were they not as good as their early-season record seemed to indicate?

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Two and a half months later, those questions are still being asked. Amid a brutal second-half collapse, principal owner Mark Attanasio promised a fundamental review of all aspects of the organization, including manager Ron Roenicke and his coaches, the disappearing Brewers offense and whether significant changes are necessary before 2015 to ensure a better result.

"There were some good things this season, too, so we're going to try not to forget those," Attanasio said. "When you have a 162-game season, it's a marathon, so at Mile 21 we were in the lead and looked strong. So we want to make sure we want to embrace what got us through those first 21 miles and change out what happened the last five."

He made it clear he was disappointed, to say the least.

"Frankly, even into mid-September I believed in this team and thought they were going to turn it around," Attanasio said. "They just didn't. And, so, you can pick the adjectives -- frustrated, disappointed, catatonic. Very disappointed.

"In fact, I'm disappointed in the team, disappointed in the guys. They're better than this and they didn't show it."

Here is a look at where the Brewers stood heading toward 2015:

Arbitration-eligible: Marco Estrada, Brandon Kintzler, Martin Maldonado, Gerardo Parra

Free agents: Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny, Francisco Rodriguez, Lyle Overbay, Mark Reynolds

Options: Yovani Gallardo ($13 million club option), Aramis Ramirez ($14 million mutual option, $4 million buyout), Rickie Weeks (Brewers may void vesting option).

Rotation: If the Brewers could take solace in one area of the team during the second half of the season, it was a starting rotation that performed well outside of one stretch during which Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza were injured. Assuming the Brewers exercise Gallardo's option -- which is all but certain to happen -- then everybody will be back in 2014, starting with the experienced top three of Gallardo, Garza and Lohse. Wily Peralta took a big step forward in his second Major League season, lowering his ERA and walk rate while becoming the Brewers' third 17-game winner since 1992. Then the Brewers could decide between Jimmy Nelson, who had a great first half in Triple-A, and Mike Fiers, who had a great finish in the Majors, for the fifth spot. With Tyler Thornburg a wild card coming back from an elbow injury, there is depth and talent here. If it helps them solve other issues, including first base, the Brewers might even consider trading someone from this group.

Bullpen: The team answered one significant question -- who'll be the closer -- when it acquired Jonathan Broxton from the Reds at the end of August. Broxton is due $9 million in 2015, and with Rodriguez heading into free agency, Broxton is by far the leading candidate to take over. The other key returning arms are left-hander Will Smith and right-hander Jeremy Jeffress, power pitchers who had some terrific moments in 2014. After that, Melvin & Co. will have to do the usual offseason bullpen reassembly. They will spend a lot of time examining relief workloads from early in the season, which may have contributed to Thornburg getting hurt and Smith wearing down.

"You have to trust everybody on your roster, and that's something I think we can do a better job of," Melvin said. "You can't just wear everybody down. Early in the year, we were on a roll and things were working. When things work, you use them."

Catcher: It was obvious to Brewers coaches and everybody else around the team that no player was more devastated by the team's collapse than its All-Star catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, who played virtually every day and remained Milwaukee's most consistent hitter until a late-September slide. An All-Star Game start gave one of baseball's premier all-around catchers some national notice. In Martin Maldonado, the Brewers also have a premium defensive backup.

First base: The Brewers knew they'd have a hard time replacing larger-than-life Prince Fielder, and three years in, they're still searching. In 2011, Fielder's final season in Milwaukee, the Brewers led the National League in OPS at first base. In 2012, when Corey Hart filled in, the Brewers fell to ninth. In 2013, with Yuniesky Betancourt & Co., the Brewers fell to dead last. And in 2014, with veterans Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, they were last again. Reynolds and Overbay are free agents, so the Brewers will spend another winter seeking a long-term solution to this problem. The leading internal candidate is Matt Clark, who was in Japan in 2013 and began 2014 with the Mets' Double-A club.

Second base: Scooter Gennett batted .103 in very limited chances (39 at-bats) against left-handed pitching in 2014, but will probably get an opportunity to play every day next year with the departure of former second overall Draft pick Rickie Weeks. Gennett batted .235 in the Minor Leagues in 2013 against lefties, and .241 in 2012.

Third base: With no clear candidates in the Minor Leagues at this position, there is a possibility Ramirez returns for another year with the Brewers. He is finishing the final season of a three-year deal that includes a mutual option for 2015. It would pay $14 million if both sides agree, a $4 million buyout if the Brewers decline and nothing if the Brewers exercise their half but Ramirez declines in order to seek one more multi-year deal on the free agent market. Ramirez admitted feeling a bit weary at the end of the least productive full season of his long career, and posted his lowest home run and RBI totals of any season in which he has played at least 100 games.

Shortstop: Jean Segura was an All-Star during the first half of 2013 but has not been the same hitter since. He was already on the way to a tough sophomore season when personal tragedy struck; on July 12, Segura learned that his infant son had passed away unexpectedly in the Dominican Republic. The Brewers believe some offseason downtime and perhaps some changes to his swing will help rejuvenate the 24-year-old. If not, Hector Gomez could see an opportunity next season after a productive Triple-A season.

Outfield: If the Brewers go through arbitration to bring back Gerardo Parra, they will have a solid backup to starting left fielder Khris Davis, center fielder Carlos Gomez and right fielder Ryan Braun. On paper, that is a solid group, though Davis could be more consistent and the electric Gomez is prone to mistakes at the plate and on the bases. The key piece is Braun, who has not been an MVP-caliber player since 2012, and hopes a surgical fix will relieve the thumb pain that limited his production in 2014. Braun is still a year away from entering a five-year, $105 million extension, so there is a lot riding on that surgery.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers' finish doesn't match strong start

Brewers' finish doesn't match strong start

MILWAUKEE -- The cliché is uttered in every clubhouse, every season, usually with a healthy dose of hope: It's not how you start, it's how you finish.

There are many more original ways to describe the Milwaukee Brewers' 2014 season, but none would come close to matching the accuracy of that old adage. A team that charged to the top of the standings in April with a 20-7 start and held first place in the National League Central for 150 consecutive days all the way into September crashed down the stretch. The Brewers were eliminated from the division race on Sept. 21, though their slim postseason hopes extended into the final week of the season.

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Two losing streaks doomed the Brewers' season, one in each half. They went 1-11 from June 29-July 12, needing a win in the final game before the All-Star break to avoid falling out of first. They held onto that position until a brutal 3-16 stretch from Aug. 20-Sept. 9 dropped the team from 2 1/2 games ahead of the rest of the NL Central to four games out of first.

"Our meetings are all about the dips, and how we can avoid those," general manager Doug Melvin said. "And last year we had a 6-22. I want to know why. Mark [Attanasio, the Brewers' principal owner] wants to know why."

Record: 82-80, third in the National League Central

Defining moment: If there was one turning point game during the Brewers' August and September slide, it was the Aug. 27 affair at Petco Park, where the Brewers lost a heartbreaker to the Padres that prompted a rare outburst against the umpires from manager Ron Roenicke. He was furious about a couple of ball/strike calls from Triple-A callup Mark Ripperger that contributed to Francisco Rodriguez surrendering a tying home run in the ninth inning of an eventual 10-inning loss. Instead of adding a game to their lead over the rest of the division and enjoying an off-day following a road series victory, the Brewers absorbed the second of what would become nine consecutive losses.

"This one definitely hurts," said Rodriguez that night, speaking prophetic words. "There's no question about it."

What went right: The most maddening thing about the Brewers' finish was the way they started, with a 7-0 opening road trip during a nine-game winning streak. The Brewers had the best record in baseball when they took a day off on April 24, and still owned the National League's best record all the way through July 11, which happened to be the same night the Brewers learned of the tragic death of shortstop Jean Segura's infant son. Getting off to a good start was a major focus of Melvin and his staff, after the Brewers endured difficulties in recent Aprils and Mays.

"Everybody said, 'You've got to get off to a good start [but] you've got a tough schedule," Melvin said. "Well, we did. So what are we going to say next year -- 'Let's not worry about a good start; let's have a good finish?' Did we grind our guys too much? Play them too much? I don't know. Braun, Gomez, Ramirez all spent time on the DL, right? That's 15 games [each]."

What went wrong: While all phases of the team went sour during the second losing streak, the common denominator throughout the second half was the Brewers' disappearing offense. Only the Reds and Braves scored fewer runs per game after the All-Star break. During the final road trip, Roenicke suggested the Brewers may have to insist on a more patient approach from their aggressive hitters, but Melvin wondered about the wider suppression of scoring around baseball."

"One of the things that's down is hitting," Melvin said. "[On Sept. 22] there were six shutouts in baseball, in 12 games. Fourteen of the 24 teams scored three runs or less. So we're looking at, 'if offense is down 10 percent and a player's performance is down 10 percent, is that a coaching thing? Is that a player thing?'"

The Brewers will spend the winter trying to figure it out.

Biggest surprise: When the bullpen door swung open on Opening Day, it was Rodriguez, not Jim Henderson, who emerged for a ninth-inning save. Henderson, who had assumed the job amid John Axford's rough opening week in 2012, had a poor Spring Training, and as part of their bid to start hot, the Brewers made a change that surprised even players on the field. Rodriguez responded with an All-Star-caliber campaign, moving into baseball's all-time top 10 in saves. He will be a free agent after the season.

Hitter of the Year: Jonathan Lucroy put together what will likely be a top-five NL MVP season, breaking Ivan Rodriguez's record for doubles by a catcher and emerging as the Brewers' most professional hitter. He joined Lyle Overbay and Aramis Ramirez as the only Brewers to log at least 50 doubles in a season, and added a pair of run-scoring doubles during an All-Star Game start for good measure. Ted Simmons is the only other Brewers catcher ever to start an All-Star Game.

Pitcher of the Year: Tough call. Kyle Lohse was victimized by a team-high seven blown saves, but struggled in August after spraining his ankle. Matt Garza was good when healthy, but spent a month on the disabled list. We'll give Wily Peralta the nod for taking a big step forward in his second full season. When the Brewers reached their emotional high point of the season on Aug. 17, finishing a sweep of the Dodgers, it was Peralta leading the way. He was tied for the Major League lead in victories at that point, and while Peralta fell of that pace when the Brewers started sliding as a team, he still turned in a quality season, upping his strikeout rate and lowering his walks and ERA.

Rookie of the Year: Jimmy Nelson was the only rookie to play a significant amount of time for the Brewers. He didn't fare particularly well in the Major Leagues, but his first half at Triple-A Nashville offers hope of future success. Nelson, 25 and Milwaukee's Minor League Pitcher of the Year, was 10-2 with a 1.46 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) at Triple-A Nashville, with 114 strikeouts and 32 walks in 111 innings. At the time of his promotion to Milwaukee on July 11, Nelson led the Minor Leagues in ERA, ranked third in the Minors in strikeouts and he tied for the Pacific Coast League lead in wins.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Disappointing season ends with loss to Cubs

Fiers allows four runs, three earned; Lucroy lifts average above .300

Disappointing season ends with loss to Cubs

MILWAUKEE -- A 5-2 loss to the Cubs in Sunday's season finale gave the Brewers 22 losses in their final 31 games, and launched what could be Milwaukee's most compelling offseason in memory.

On one hand, a team that spent 150 days in first place has its starting rotation returning intact for 2015, a closer under contract and controllable talent at six of the eight defensive positions -- all six aged 31 or younger on Opening Day, including four former All-Stars. On the other hand, the Brewers are coming off a second-half collapse that bounced them from postseason contention and so disappointed principal owner Mark Attanasio that, for the first time in his tenure, he did not address the team Sunday before players scattered for the winter.

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With a top-down review already underway, the Brewers appear at a crossroads.

"As far as shakeup, it could be," general manager Doug Melvin said. "We might turn the roster over a little bit. We might have to do that. It's too early to say that."

Sunday's loss, with starter Mike Fiers allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits in six innings, catcher Jonathan Lucroy collecting the two hits he needed to finish with a batting average above .300, and reliever Will Smith tying for the National League lead with his 78th appearance, left the Brewers with an 82-80 record for the year, good for third place in the NL Central. They finished eight games behind the division-champion Cardinals and six games behind the Pirates, who secured the top NL Wild Card spot.

It was a modest finish for a team that went 20-7 to start the season, climbed as high as 19 games over .500 before the end of June, and still stood 15 games over .500 and in first place on the morning of Aug. 26, when an extra-inning loss in San Diego began the Brewers' slide.

"I would trade all the hits I had this season just to be in the postseason," said Lucroy, who singled in the sixth inning and again in the eighth to push his average to .301 for the season (or more precisely, .30085). "I don't know how other guys feel, but guys worked hard, played hard, and it didn't go our way. We just slumped a few times this year. Two long losing streaks, that's what beat us."

The cause of those losing streaks -- a 1-11 stretch in June and July, and a 3-16 stretch in August and September -- will be investigated in the weeks to come.

During a long media session on Sunday morning, manager Ron Roenicke responded with surprising candor when asked whether he believed the pressure of playing in first place got to his players.

"Yes, I do," Roenicke said. "I think, especially for some younger guys, I think it's very difficult. It may be [the answer]. It's a grind to be in first and having teams trying to catch you all the time and trying to maintain that. If you go into a slump, you think, 'We have to hold on and get it back again.' It's a grind.

"That's part of it, though: Do you have grinders on your team to get through that part? Do you have grinders on your staff making sure guys are doing the right things and staying positive? A lot goes into that."

The Brewers' review will include an assessment of Roenicke, who is under contract through next season with a club option for 2015, and his coaches, whose contracts expire next month.

Roenicke told reporters "I did the best that I thought I could do," and said he was operating with the assumption he would return for a fifth season.

"If they think I'm not doing the job that I should be doing, then you try to make an improvement. And same thing goes for the coaches. Same thing goes for the players," Roenicke said. "If there are some things we can do different with the players in improving this, then we need to do it. If it's taking the same personnel, players, and working with them and trying to get them better, then that's what we have to do.

"And we do have to do something. We can't fall in a skid this long offensively and not figure that we need to try to do something a little different."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Braun optimistic procedure will fix thumb issue

Braun optimistic procedure will fix thumb issue

MILWAUKEE -- After months of mulling their options, Ryan Braun and the Brewers have settled on a surgical procedure to address the nerve issue that has contributed to his drop in production over the past two seasons.

Braun said he would undergo a procedure on Thursday morning at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles to deaden the pain receptors around a troublesome nerve near the base of his right thumb. It has prevented him from properly gripping the bat, but Braun did not schedule a fix until now because of the rare nature of the injury and uncertainty surrounding surgical options.

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"It's far less invasive than what the other options were [because] we're not removing the nerve," Braun said. "I'm optimistic. We've obviously tried rest, we've tried to use all types of different technology, we've tried everything we have here to treat it in as many ways as you could possibly imagine, with very little success. So I'm very optimistic and I think the trainers are very optimistic."

The winner of the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2011 and runner-up for the award in '12, Braun began sitting out games because of the thumb issue in May 2013 and was struggling before he was suspended in July for violations of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

The belief was that two extra months without swinging a bat would help the nerve calm down, but the issue returned during 2014 Spring Training. Braun entered Sunday's season finale batting .268 with 19 home runs and 81 RBIs, and he will post the lowest batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage of his career. In an extended interview with MLB.com last week, Braun was adamant that his diminished production was because of the thumb, dismissing the notion that he was affected by boos at road ballparks, or that he was paying a physical price for taking a banned substance in 2011.

Braun is signed through 2020. He will earn $12 million in 2015 before a five-year, $105 million extension kicks in beginning with the '16 season.

"I've kind of known [that I would have an offseason procedure] the whole time, but based on where the team was at, I thought I had a chance to succeed and hopefully find a way to get through it," Braun said. "It's not like I can't play. I can play. I think the longer I've dealt with it, I've learned to deal with it. The pain, physically, is not so much the issue, it's the body's reaction to not being able to use the top hand in my swing for the majority of the year.

"It impacts my bat speed, it impacts my bat path, it impacts everything I'm trying to do as a hitter. And then mentally, knowing where I'm at physically is difficult, too. I have to change my swing, I have to start my swing earlier, I have to do a lot of things that I'm not used to doing.

"None of these things are an excuse. We play a results-oriented game, and at the end of the day, I didn't perform up to the level I expected to perform, regardless of where I'm at physically."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Voting underway to decide Hank Aaron Awards

Help decide this season's top offensive performer in each league

Voting underway to decide Hank Aaron Awards

Voting is underway through Sunday exclusively at MLB.com to help decide the 16th annual winners of the Hank Aaron Award, given by "The Hammer" himself during the upcoming 110th World Series to the outstanding offensive performer in each league.

American League nominees include Nelson Cruz of Baltimore, David Ortiz of Boston, Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, Michael Brantley of Cleveland, Victor Martinez of Detroit, Jose Altuve of Houston, Alex Gordon of Kansas City, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, Trevor Plouffe of Minnesota, Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees, Josh Donaldson of Oakland, Robinson Cano of Seattle, Evan Longoria of Tampa Bay, Adrian Beltre of Texas and Jose Bautista of Toronto.

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National League candidates include Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona, Justin Upton of Atlanta, Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs, Devin Mesoraco of Cincinnati, Justin Morneau of Colorado, Adrian Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Giancarlo Stanton of Miami, Jonathan Lucroy of Milwaukee, Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets, Andrew McCutchen of Pittsburgh, Matt Carpenter of St. Louis, Seth Smith of San Diego, Hunter Pence of San Francisco and Anthony Rendon of Washington.

Goldschmidt is going after his second straight Hank Aaron Award, having been the NL choice last year for the first time. Miguel Cabrera was the AL recipient each of the past two years, but V-Mart's nomination by Detroit means an end to that streak.

"As one of the game's most talented and respected players ever, it is appropriate that Major League Baseball recognizes the top offensive performers in each league with an award named in honor of Hank Aaron," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Each of the nominees should be applauded for their outstanding seasons, which will make selecting just one winner in each league a difficult task for Hank, our Hall of Fame panel and our participating fans."

"I am honored to have my name on the award given by Major League Baseball to the top offensive performers in the game," Aaron said. "Each of the nominees is talented and deserving, which makes me grateful to have the assistance of my fellow Hall of Famers and the fans to help select the winners."

For the fifth consecutive year, a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Aaron will join fans in voting for the award, which is officially sanctioned by MLB and has recognized the top offensive threat in each league since it was established in 1999.

The panel includes some of the greatest offensive players of all-time -- Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Frank Thomas and Robin Yount. These Hall of Famers -- who combined for 16,956 hits, 8,844 RBIs and 2,109 home runs -- have been personally selected by Aaron to lend their expertise to select the best offensive performer in each league.

Do you go with a masher, like Stanton or Cruz? Or do you recognize a guy like Altuve, who led the Majors in batting average and led the AL in stolen bases? Home run kings often fare well in this process, but Chris Davis (53 homers) was trumped last year by Cabrera. And what about Trout, often referred to as the game's best player?

Past winners of the Hank Aaron Award include Cabrera and Goldschmidt (2013); Cabrera and Buster Posey (2012); Bautista and Matt Kemp (2011); Bautista and Joey Votto (2010); Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols (2009); Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis (2008); Rodriguez and Prince Fielder (2007); Jeter and Ryan Howard (2006); Ortiz and Andruw Jones (2005); Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds (2004); Alex Rodriguez and Pujols (2003); Rodriguez and Bonds (2001-02); Carlos Delgado and Todd Helton (2000) and Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa (1999).

The award was introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record. At that time, it was the first major award introduced by MLB in more than 25 years.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Blame for Brewers' collapse might fall on Roenicke

While it wasn't the fault of the manager, club struggled to close out season

Blame for Brewers' collapse might fall on Roenicke

MILWAUKEE -- It is not Ron Roenicke's fault that the Brewers went 9-22 in their last 31 games of this season. But when blamed is placed, the manager is often the first in line.

The 2014 Brewers are a particularly painful case since they were in first place for 149 consecutive days, but then, starting Aug. 26, they lost nine in a row and 13 of 14. For two weeks, the entire team slumped. After that, the pitching recovered, but the offense continued heading south. What happens next?

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Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio has said that general manager Doug Melvin would return, but that the status of Roenicke and the coaching staff are under review. Roenicke has one year left on his contract.

Attanasio left little doubt about his dissatisfaction with the Brewers' late-season performance.

"You can pick the adjectives -- frustrated, disappointed, catatonic," Attanasio said. "Very disappointed. In fact, I'm disappointed in the team, disappointed in the guys. They're better than this and they didn't show it. ... It started with not hitting.

"We have to identify what went wrong, we have to have a good explanation for how we're fixing it, and if we're not making any changes, we'd better have a damn good reason for why."

That doesn't sound much like a prediction in favor of the status quo. Roenicke said Sunday that he had no idea what his status was, and that it wasn't a comfortable situation. But he was not at all consumed by self-pity.

"It's always uncomfortable when you're not sure what's going to happen," Roenicke said. When asked for a self-evaluation, he replied:

"I worked my tail off; I did the best that I thought I could do. I'm always wanting to do things better and get better at what I do. So you do the best that you can do, and you know that as a manager, sometimes if it doesn't go well you're the guy that's going to get blamed for it."

As Roenicke said, everybody knows what happened, but the trick is to uncover the causes. "You can point to what happened, but the 'why' is what we really need to figure out," the manager said.

There are a couple of obvious "whys" and they have nothing to do with the manager. Going into the season the Brewers had an obvious shortcoming in their offense at first base. They never fixed it. At what must be a run-producing position, the Brewers couldn't produce runs. Brewers first basemen combined for a .642 OPS, by far the worst among NL teams. (The next-highest club, Pittsburgh, got a .689 OPS from the position.)

And right fielder Ryan Braun was a shadow of himself offensively. Braun hit .226 with eight home runs after the All-Star break. He had been better, although still beneath his career norms, in the first half of the season. Braun has been bothered by a damaged nerve in his right thumb. He will undergo a procedure this week in which the nerve will be deadened.

After the season finale Sunday, a 5-2 loss to the Cubs, Braun indicated that his limitations were an important factor in the team not succeeding.

"If I was relatively healthy, if I was performing up to the standards that I set for myself, we'd be in a different place," Braun said.

Asked if Braun's return to his previous productivity could be in itself an answer to the Brewers' offensive woes, Roenicke responded:

"Oh, absolutely. You know, when you have your three-four hitters with the capability of doing the things that he can do, along with [Carlos] Gomez, we know what [Jonathan Lucroy] is and his numbers this year. It fits in with a package that I think can be a pretty exciting package."

The unanswered question relates to Braun's suspension for the final 65 games of the 2013 season for violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Can he be the player he was before the suspension?

Roenicke would be satisfied if Braun merely got back to the numbers he put up in the first half of this season (.298/.348/.515).

"If we get back to that, we still have a really nice player," Roenicke said. "But we need to get back to that. I know he's been disappointed in what's happened here the second half and I think he feels if he can get this thumb issue behind him that he can be that same player again. Hopefully, there's some things that he's going to do that will get him back to being that player that has a chance to be that same guy that I saw my first couple of years [in Milwaukee]."

In Roenicke's first year in Milwaukee, 2011, Braun was the National League Most Valuable Player. The Brewers won the NL Central, had their best regular season in franchise history (96-66) and advanced to the NL Championship Series. At that point, Roenicke was praised as a solid tactician, an aggressive in-game manager and a leader of men.

Roenicke didn't become somebody less in the next three seasons. He is not a charismatic personality, but he is an honest, diligent, fundamentally decent man. Even with all that, if someone has to take the fall for what happened to the Milwaukee club the last five weeks, the manager would be first in line. It wouldn't be fair, but it would be business as usual in this line of work.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Weeks wraps up time with Brewers on bench

Second baseman, who was drafted by Milwaukee, doesn't appear in finale

Weeks wraps up time with Brewers on bench

MILWAUKEE -- Rickie Weeks' 10-year tenure with the Brewers ended quietly Sunday, with the former All-Star second baseman remaining on the bench for all nine innings of the Brewers' season-ending loss to the Cubs.

Weeks might not have lived up to the hype he generated when the Brewers drafted him second overall in 2003, but he was part of the wave of prospects, with Prince Fielder, J.J Hardy, Ryan Braun and others, who lifted the Brewers back to respectability beginning a decade ago. Weeks is 11th in Brewers history with 1,009 hits and sixth with 684 runs scored.

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He was in the last season of a four-year contract that included a vesting option for 2015 based on appearance criteria Weeks did not meet because he platooned at second base with Scooter Gennett. Weeks, 32, will be a free agent for the first time.

"I asked him yesterday if he wanted to get an at-bat, or whatever he wanted to do -- start, get one [at-bat]," manager Ron Roenicke said, "and he didn't want to."

After the game, Weeks shed little light on that decision.

"I mean, it was some other things. It wasn't a big deal," he said. "It was just one of those things where what's done is done. I had a good conversation earlier this morning with Doug [Melvin, the Brewers' general manager]. Life still goes on. It's not like it's the end of all things. I'm the type of person, I just move on. That's the way it is."

He also said, "I told the manager that if the time permitted itself during the game, put me out there, and if not, so be it."

Starting against left-handed pitchers and playing off the bench, Weeks batted .274 with a .357 on-base percentage in 252 at-bats this season, with eight home runs and 29 RBIs. When the Brewers earlier this season floated the idea of trying some left field, where Khris Davis was struggling, Weeks declined, and he made no secret throughout the season about his belief he could still perform as a starting second baseman in the Major Leagues.

"I don't think I'm going to be here next year," he said. "It's just for me to just move forward with my life. … I mean, I hate to say this, but I'm the type of person that keeps looking forward. There's nothing bad about the city or anything like that. That's just the way I work, really. Obviously, very grateful for the opportunities I had to play here all this time and the fan support and things like that. It's all a great thing."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers pleased with season attendance

Brewers pleased with season attendance

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' sensational April did not propel them to the postseason as they had hoped, but it did help at the box office. A crowd of 33,837 for Sunday's season finale pushed the season attendance at Miller Park to 2,797,384 -- the seventh-best total in franchise history, and within 14,000 fans of the inaugural season at Miller Park in 2001.

"My wish was a good start, and that was delivered, so that adjusted all of our thinking," said COO Rick Schlesinger. "I knew that we wouldn't be able to get to three million, no matter how well the team played, but I thought 2.8 million was attainable, and we're basically there.

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"So overall, I'm very pleased. If you look at the support we're getting compared to other teams in bigger markets, this is a pretty great success story."

To be clear, Schlesinger was talking about the Brewers' success in terms of attendance. In terms of on-field performance, Schlesinger was just as disappointed as principal owner Mark Attanasio, who promised this weekend to review all aspects of the baseball operation.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers top Cubs to secure winning season

Peralta strikes out career-high 13; Lucroy delivers go-ahead double

Brewers top Cubs to secure winning season

MILWAUKEE -- For all their stumbles down the stretch, at least the 2014 Brewers will finish with a winning record.

Victory No. 82 was a 2-1 triumph over the Cubs on a Saturday night at sold-out Miller Park that was packed with Milwaukee milestones. Carlos Gomez broke a three-way tie with his team-best 23rd home run and Wily Peralta set a career high with 13 strikeouts in a game decided by Jonathan Lucroy's record-setting RBI double, and sealed when Francisco Rodriguez took sole possession of 10th place on baseball's all-time saves list with save No. 348.

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The Brewers, losers of 21 of their previous 29 games, needed the victory to secure their third winning season in four years under manager Ron Roenicke. The franchise had not played above .500 in three of four years since its heyday in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when George Bamberger, Buck Rodgers and Harvey Kuenn skippered the way to six straight winning seasons.

"I feel a lot better with that than not doing it," said Roenicke. "The big thing is just playing the way we did today. Seeing Wily go out there and pitch and then the two guys after him [Jonathan Broxton and Rodriguez]. Seeing Luc finally have a good day offensively. He's been grinding pretty hard. That's nice to see."

Gomez had tied the game in the third inning when he homered off Cubs left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, and he scored from third when Lucroy banged his go-ahead double off the left-field wall. Lucroy's fifth-inning, tie-breaking hit was his 53rd double overall, matching Lyle Overbay's Brewers record, and Lucroy's 46th double this season as a catcher, breaking a Major League mark set by Ivan Rodriguez.

"I'm just happy to contribute to the win tonight," said Lucroy, who entered the night in an 0-for-18 funk. "I wish I could have done that more often during the season. It's one of those things that's kind of bittersweet, I guess."

The hit made a winner of Peralta, who had already matched his previous career high for strikeouts (nine) by the end of the fourth inning, and went on to allow only one run on five hits in seven innings, with one walk.

Peralta is only the eighth Brewers pitcher to strike out 13 or more batters in a game, a feat that has been accomplished 12 times, including twice in 2014. Mike Fiers whiffed 14 Cubs at Wrigley Field on Aug. 14.

"He threw some two-strike sliders today that were really unhittable," Roenicke said.

And with five quality starts to finish his second full season in the Major Leagues, Peralta went 17-11 with a 3.53 ERA for only the 11th season of 17-plus victories in Brewers history, and the third since 1992. Before Peralta, the last was Yovani Gallardo, who went 17-10 in 2011.

"I can see how he's chalked up all those victories," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "His fastball was explosive, his secondary pitches had some bite. He used them to get out of some innings. He had good stuff."

"Wily was awesome tonight," Lucroy said. "He was determined, he competed his butt off, and I tell you what, that guy, he's going to throw a couple of no-hitters before his career is over with, for sure, if not a perfect game. Because he's got the best nasty stuff around. If he continues to get better as he has, year to year, man, he's going to be really, really, really good."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Attanasio vows to fix what's wrong with Brewers

Attanasio vows to fix what's wrong with Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- Vowing a top-down review of the entire organization, Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio on Saturday expressed extreme displeasure about his team's collapse, and he vowed to find answers for it.

"I think we need to give the fans a reason to come back," Attanasio said. "That means we have to identify what went wrong, we have to have a good explanation for how we're fixing it, and if we're not making any changes, we'd better have a damn good reason for why. And I mean changes broadly speaking -- [if the team retains the] same roster, same manager and coaches, same everything, we'd better say, 'Well, it was this, and that's why we're not changing.' And that's an option.

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"I wouldn't say we're quite at a crossroads, but we're at [the point] where you can take a path in the woods, and you take one direction or the other. We do have a lot of talent, we have experienced players. We need to identify what's missing. Is it more power hitters? Is it more players with an edge? Is it -- I don't know. Whatever it was, it worked like gangbusters the first half of the year, and didn't work in the second half."

The Brewers began the season 20-7, were 19 games over .500 through June 28, and were still 15 games over .500 and 1 1/2 games ahead of their closest National League Central competitor on Aug. 25 before falling apart. A nine-game losing streak amid a 3-16 stretch dropped the Brewers out of first place after 150 days there.

"On Aug. 25, I was in San Diego," Attanasio said. "We won the game, 10-1. The clubhouse was buoyant; the team had an unmistakable swagger on the field. So much so that the Padres owners were coming by and saying, 'You guys are so big, so strong. Everybody can hit the ball out of the park. How did you guys put this team together?' From that day, we've kind of gone backwards.

"The short answer is I haven't handled it well. Honestly, I haven't slept. Going into September, [general manager] Doug [Melvin] and I were still working on everything we could to get the team to the playoffs. We [traded for] Jonathan Broxton. That was upwards of an $11 million commitment at the time, if you look at increasing the buyout with his trade option with what he's owed this year and next year. We thought we were making the playoffs at that point in time. Frankly, even into mid-September I believed in this team and thought they were going to turn it around. They just didn't. And, so, you can pick the adjectives -- frustrated, disappointed, catatonic. Very disappointed.

"In fact, I'm disappointed in the team, disappointed in the guys. They're better than this and they didn't show it." 

What would he say to the team?

"This is going to be the first year I don't address the team as a team at the end of the year," Attanasio said. "This will be the first time I don't because I'm just too unhappy, and what's the point of another meeting to dwell on things? I'm going to talk to some players individually. I've started that already and I'll finish that today."

The very nature of Saturday's question-and-answer session was a departure from tradition. The Brewers typically hold a pre-planned, well-publicized news conference a few days after the season, during which Melvin, sometimes Attanasio and sometimes the field manager spent an hour or more dissecting the season that was and the offseason ahead.

Before the collapse, it appeared the Brewers would be in for a relatively stable offseason. Closer Francisco Rodriguez is the team's most notable free agent, and that spot already appears set with Broxton. If the Brewers exercise Yovani Gallardo's club option, and both sides exercise third baseman Aramis Ramirez's mutual option, the only uncertain position would be first base.

But the tone of Saturday's session left room for a greater shake up.

"First off, I want to find out who cares about winning and losing in the clubhouse," Melvin said. "If there are guys in there that don't care about winning then they probably won't be there. As far as shakeup, it could be. We might turn the roster over a little bit. We might have to do that. It's too early to say that. We haven't even finished the season."

Melvin's organizational review is already underway. He had a series of meetings during the Brewers' final road trip with members of his baseball operations department and manager Ron Roenicke to begin brainstorming where things went wrong.

Attanasio appeared ready to give that process time.

"It's not that easy to really understand what happened here," Attanasio said. "If it were, we would have a quick response today. It's not like we're delaying the decision because it's uncomfortable. We are delaying the decision because we need to do the work to sort through what happened. … We are going to look at everything. We are going to look at players and their performance. We are going to look at players' motivations. We are going to look at field staff. Doug is going to examine what he's done.

"And frankly, there's nothing to do about it this season, but if you go back to the four things that I've always stressed since I bought the team, No. 1 is being perennially competitive. … I always said, 'We gotta win, we gotta win, we gotta win.' And we've got 2.8 million fans here supporting the team, we better damn well win. Maybe that wasn't the right approach. Maybe I should have directed that we take a step back here, which we never have. I am certainly not looking to do that now, by the way. But I do have to examine from the top, is it the right thing? 

"Is the right thing to always try to compete? Again, I think the answer is always going to be yes, because we have 2.8 million reasons to say that. We have 2.8 million reasons to spend $110 million. But you see teams that occasionally retrench, and they seem to be doing a little better right now. We'll look at all of that." 

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers sticking with GM, to evaluate coaches

Owner Attanasio says Melvin's job is safe; Roenicke, staff to be interviewed

Brewers sticking with GM, to evaluate coaches

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said Saturday that general manager Doug Melvin's job was safe, but he could not offer the same assurance to Ron Roenicke or his coaches.

Roenicke is under contract through the end of 2015 with a club option for '16. When Attanasio was asked about Roenicke's performance this season, he deferred to Melvin, who said, "I think he's disappointed. We're all disappointed in a lot of our responsibilities to the club.

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"I can look back at myself and say with some of the decisions we made, did we make the right ones? We played very well for a period of time. I would hope that Ron and the coaches, and would hope the players also feel there's a responsibility for them, because we thought we had a good enough team to go to the postseason. When we started out the way we did, we thought we did."

The Brewers made it to the postseason in 2011, Roenicke's first year at the helm, and beat the D-backs in a thrilling National League Division Series for Milwaukee's first postseason series win in 29 years. But they fell to 83-79 in 2012, 74-88 in '13 and entered Saturday having lost 21 of their last 29 games to fall to 81-79 in 2014 with two games to play.

Asked about Melvin's job status, Attanasio said, "Doug's standing here so obviously he's coming back." 

The Brewers do not make public the contractual status of their coaches, but most typically have year-to-year deals that expire at the end of October. That gives Attanasio and Melvin some time to make decisions.

The staff consists of bench coach Jerry Narron, hitting coach Johnny Narron, pitching coach Rick Kranitz, third-base coach Ed Sedar, first-base coach Garth Iorg, bullpen coach Lee Tunnell and coaches Mike Guerrero and John Shelby.

"We have a process of going through that at the end of the year," Melvin said. "This year has been a little different because of us playing the way we have here, and hoping to get in the playoffs late. Those are coming a little bit later, our interviews."

The Brewers' slide has been marked by a dramatic drop in offensive production. They were second in the NL to Colorado in several major offensive categories through the end of June, but only the Braves and Reds have scored fewer runs per game since then. A poor stretch of starting pitching contributed to a 3-16 stretch in late August and early September, and the Brewers have suffered defensive lapses, too.

Yet Roenicke has maintained a calm public demeanor throughout, refusing to publicly criticize players even on nights like Sept. 18, when first baseman Mark Reynolds forgot the number of outs in the eighth inning of what became a loss to the Cardinals, or Friday, when the Brewers went 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position in a loss to the Cubs.

"If [the players] know how frustrated I am and we are, as a staff, they get a little tighter," Roenicke said. "I know you guys will say, 'They can't get much worse,' but I think when they know the staff is fed up with things and we're tired of it, it doesn't help. …

"For one thing, it's not my style to just 'blow' on people. I have before and it hasn't gone well when I've done it. I see what the players are like. It doesn't mean that I don't have a forceful way. I've had enough meetings with them to let them know how I feel and we as a staff feel."

He added: "I'm frustrated with what's going on and if I thought it would be better for us to [blow up], I would do things that are out of my style because my job is to get these guys to perform. So if I thought it would help, I would do it. Even though it's not really what I want to do, I would still do it if I thought it would help."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Lucroy sets season mark for doubles as catcher

Brewers backstop also ties franchise record for two-baggers in a season

Lucroy sets season mark for doubles as catcher

MILWAUKEE -- After tying a club record and setting a Major League record with one swing Saturday, Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy's only regret was that he didn't do more.

Lucroy's fifth-inning double sent the Brewers to a 2-1 win over the Cubs and gave Lucroy 53 doubles this season, matching Lyle Overbay's Brewers record, and 46 doubles while playing catcher, breaking the Major League mark Lucroy had shared with Ivan Rodriguez for the past 1 1/2 weeks. Lucroy suggested he'd trade them all for a chance to play into October.

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"I've said it all year, individual stuff is great, but whenever it doesn't work out for the team, obviously it's bittersweet," Lucroy said. "It's something I wish could have been a little different. I wish I would have had a bad year and we went all the way to the World Series. That's the kind of guy I am. That's what I wish could have happened. Obviously, it didn't happen that way. You've got to move forward."

Manager Ron Roenicke plans to start Lucroy again Sunday for a chance to push his batting average back to .300 for the season. Only 48 times in 46 seasons of Brewers history has a player qualified for a batting title and hit at least .300.

With his three hits Saturday coming off an 0-for-18 slide, Lucroy is 174-for-581 this season. He must go 1-for-3 or better in Sunday's season finale.

"I kind of got out of my approach a little bit since that last game in Pittsburgh," Lucroy said, referring to the middle stop in the team's three-city trip. "I started trying to do a little too much, especially considering the situation, where we're trying to win at the same time. But got back in the cage today and got back to where I usually am, and it worked out. I was able to get some good pitches to hit."

His regular-season totals don't include the two RBI doubles Lucroy logged at the All-Star Game in July, part of a workmanlike season for the 28-year-old. He has started 149 games, including 133 behind the plate.

When the Milwaukee chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America announces its team awards during the offseason, Lucroy is all but a lock to be the first catcher to win club MVP honors since Dave Nilsson and B.J. Surhoff won in back-to-back seasons in 1994-95. Because the Brewers were in the American League then, both saw only limited time behind the plate.

That award would provide little solace for the Brewers' lost season.

"I take a lot of the blame on myself, because I think there's things I could have done different for the season," Lucroy said. "The other day when I told you we got complacent, I was talking about really myself, and taking things for granted that we were going to be good all year. That's what I was talking about.

"I took for granted that, hey, we're going to be there all year, we're going to compete and be good all year, and then all of a sudden we hit a rough spot. I remember the series, that Toronto series the first time. I took for granted we would turn it around quick, but we never did. I blame myself for not getting in here, getting it turned around, getting some guys going again. It's one of those things that you have to learn from, I guess."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers to honor Selig by retiring uniform No. 1

Brewers to honor Selig by retiring uniform No. 1

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers are retiring uniform No. 1 next season to honor their founder, Allan H. "Bud" Selig, the man who brought big league baseball back to Milwaukee in 1970 and later rose to the top of the game as the ninth Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

Selig's 22-year tenure as Commissioner will come to an end when he retires in January. Selig visited Miller Park on Friday as part of his farewell tour, and he will return next season for a ceremony to lift No. 1 to the rafters alongside Paul Molitor's No 4, Robin Yount's No. 19, Rollie Fingers' No. 34, Hank Aaron's No. 44 and Jackie Robinson's No. 42, which is retired throughout baseball.

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"I'm never at a loss for words," Selig said, "but I am right now."

The Brewers said the number retirement was the first in a series of planned measures to honor Selig in his hometown, more of which will be announced at a later date.

"We've looked for ways to honor him, because but for his blood, sweat and tears, as well as his daughter Wendy's, we wouldn't be sitting here," said Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio. "We did a statue out front, but it didn't seem to be enough, frankly."

One night earlier this season, Attanasio gazed up at the ring of retired numbers above center field at Miller Park, and the idea of retiring another for Selig was put in motion.

Selig, 80, was born and raised in Milwaukee, following the old Milwaukee Brewers Minor League team and the Chicago Cubs before falling in love with the Milwaukee Braves, who called the Brew City home from 1953-65 before leaving for Atlanta.

One of many Milwaukee baseball fans heartbroken by the Braves' departure, Selig formed an organization set on bringing Major League Baseball back to the city. He succeeded on March 31, 1970, when a bankruptcy court awarded the Seattle Pilots franchise to Selig and his investors. Eight days later, they arrived in Milwaukee and became the Brewers.

"A student of mine at Marquette [where Selig lectures on sports law and policy] asked me this year what am I most proud of," he said. "And when all is said and done, it's bringing the Brewers to Milwaukee. The thing people don't understand is the really unbelievable odds. We got passed over in National League expansion, American League expansion. Thought we had the White Sox bought. Seattle, [then-Commissioner] Bowie Kuhn tried to keep them there, and I don't blame him. I would have done the same thing.

"On the night of March 31, five and a half years later, we became the Milwaukee Brewers. So this [the number retirement] means a great deal to me. I'm proud of everything that has happened."

Selig reminisced about some of those happenings on Friday, including the difficult years that preceded the Pilots' arrival. One of the worst nights was in May 1968, when Selig thought he had the votes to acquire a National League expansion franchise.

Instead, Montreal and San Diego won those teams.

"In fact, I can still remember Walker O'Malley saying, 'And the winners are,' and I could see the 'M' forming," Selig said. "He said, 'Montreal and San Diego.' I walked the streets of Chicago all night. It was so painful. … But I came back the next day and, I don't know, I was young. I wasn't going to give up.

"Then we had the White Sox bought. It was done. Done. I'm going to write all this in my book. Then the day after Labor Day, Arthur Allen called, who was then the owner of the White Sox, and said his brother, John, had bought it. There was a lot of family history there. That day, I read in the paper, 'Save the Pilots.'"

It was a newspaper story about unrest about the Pilots' unstable situation in Seattle. Selig said he went to Baltimore for the 1969 World Series and arranged to buy the franchise. Two days later, Kuhn heard about the deal and intervened. Selig eventually prevailed.

"It taught me a lot about persistence and tenacity," Selig said.

Notable Milwaukee Brewers who have worn uniform No. 1 include their first Opening Day shortstop, Ted Kubiak. Through the years, Del Crandall, Gary Sheffield, Fernando Vina and Corey Hart have all worn the number. Outfielder Logan Schafer, who had it this season, will be the last.

Selig has already been honored with a statue on the home plate plaza outside Miller Park, the ballpark he helped bring to fruition. He is also a member of the team's Walk of Fame and Wall of Honor.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers' bats unable to pick up Nelson

Rookie righty allows five runs; offense goes 2-for-18 with RISP

Brewers' bats unable to pick up Nelson

MILWAUKEE -- Before he was the ninth Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Allan H. "Bud" Selig ran the Brewers, so he was uniquely positioned to understand how current owner Mark Attanasio felt as his team's six-week slide stretched to Friday's 6-4 loss to the Cubs.

"My friend Bart Giamatti had it right when he wrote that brilliant ode on baseball: 'It breaks your heart. It is designed to,'" Selig told a gathering before the game, with Attanasio sitting at his side. "You have to understand when you get into this sport that you're going to have years like that. You learn to adjust to that."

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Attanasio smiled and subtly nodded. Eventually the men parted ways, and Attanasio took his usual seats next to the dugout to watch the Brewers' first game since they were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. It became Milwaukee's 21st loss in 29 games.

The Cubs beat rookie right-hander Jimmy Nelson with equal parts broken bats, bloops and blasts, while the Brewers' offense remained in its late-summer slumber. Brewers batters went hitless in their first 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position and finished the game 2-for-18 in the clutch. They stranded eight men in scoring position.

At 81-79, the Brewers are back to within two games of .500 for the first time since they were 4-2, and they must win one of their remaining two games to finish with a winning record. It is a stunning conclusion for a club that was 19 games over .500 on June 28.

Selig remembered a comparable collapse.

"It's a somewhat similar situation to 1983," he said. "We had won [the American League pennant] in '82, and I think we led most of the summer, and we thought we were well on the way. We had a wonderful club; [Paul] Molitor, [Robin] Yount, [Cecil] Cooper and so on.

"And we had a very bad September. I still remember in New York, we were there and had to listen to George Steinbrenner. My mother-in-law tried to talk me into getting out of it right then. She thought it was a horrible business. But you know … Bart also convinced me that baseball is a metaphor for life. That means you have your ups and your downs, you have your happy moments and you have the others. You have to adjust."

Nelson was forced to adjust quickly after he was named to start Friday in place of Matt Garza, who has a stiff shoulder. Nelson finished his rookie season by allowing five runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings, with one walk, four strikeouts, two wild pitches and a Chris Coghlan home run that put the Brewers in a 1-0 hole before Nelson record his first out.

The Cubs tacked on two runs with a flurry of hits off shattered bats in the third inning, and two more runs in the fifth, one of which scored after long man Marco Estrada took over for Nelson.

"Obviously, it's a tale of two seasons for me," said Nelson, who was 10-2 with a 1.46 ERA in the first half at Triple-A Nashville, and 2-9 with a 4.93 ERA for the Brewers. "I had a great first half, I know what I'm doing mechanically, physically, mentally, and that's something I'm going to get back to. I've had the most frustrating and disappointing second half of the season I've ever had."

Unable to cobble together any significant rallies against Cubs rookie left-hander Eric Jokisch and the relievers who followed, the Brewers scored a run apiece in four different innings beginning with shortstop Jean Segura's home run in the second. It was Segura's first home run since he belted two on June 20 at Colorado, snapping a homerless drought that spanned 255 plate appearances.

Since the start of July, the Brewers are batting .238 overall, 26th of the 30 Major League teams, and .240 with runners in scoring position, good for 25th. Only the Braves and Reds have scored fewer runs per game.

"Can't answer it," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "We watch it and keep hoping they're going to bust out. Just, I don't know."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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With Brewers eliminated, Garza shut down

Right-hander felt stiffness in shoulder while throwing during 'pen session

With Brewers eliminated, Garza shut down

MILWAUKEE -- After the Brewers were formally eliminated from postseason contention with Thursday's loss to the Reds, team officials decided it was wise for Matt Garza to call it a season.

Rookie right-hander Jimmy Nelson started instead on Friday night against the Cubs. The Brewers said Garza had a stiff shoulder.

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"He'd be pitching today if we were still in it," said manager Ron Roenicke, who visited with Garza on Thursday. "But he felt a little stiffness in there the other day when he was throwing his bullpen, and was asking me what I thought. If we wanted him to pitch, he would have pitched."

In the first season of the richest free-agent contract in Brewers history (four years, $50 million), Garza was effective when he was healthy. He went 8-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 27 starts and 163 1/3 innings, missing most of August with a rib-cage strain.

He led the Brewers' regular starting pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings (6.94), fielding independent pitching (3.53) and wins above replacement (2.5).

He also landed on the disabled list for the fourth consecutive season.

"I talked to him today. We need to get him to where he's going to be good for a whole season," Roenicke said. "It's not the part when you're missing him for the month; when he got hurt this year, he was really good and he was on a roll that, if he continued that pace, we wouldn't have gone through all that funky stuff that we did. So [the team has] to keep him on a good pace that helps him get locked in and then maintain that longer. Any time you have an injury, it's hard when you miss a month to come back and be that same guy again.

"They're going to address some things physically, but he's in great shape. How do you keep him away from an oblique [injury]? I don't know how you do that. The good thing was, his elbow held up good this year, his shoulder -- really, everything in his arm held up really well."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Selig has been No. 1 for Milwaukee

Commissioner brought Major League Baseball back to city in 1970

Selig has been No. 1 for Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig said that he was made speechless by the honor. So you knew that this was truly an historic occasion.

The Milwaukee Brewers announced Friday that they would retire uniform No. 1 in Selig's honor at a ceremony next season. Selig, who previously owned the Brewers, will retire in January after more than 22 years as Commissioner.

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"It is a great honor," Selig said. "I'm usually not speechless, but [this is] more than I can articulate. It's a wonderful honor. ... I'm never at a loss for words, but I am right now, I guess."

As someone who has covered Selig for more than 30 years, I can safely say that he has never before referred to himself as "speechless" on any public occasion. So, yes, he was genuinely moved by this honor.

Selig, of course, eventually found additional words. But the underlying theme of this honor was the recognition on the part of Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio of the indispensable role Selig played in restoring Major League Baseball to Milwaukee and then maintaining baseball in Milwaukee.

Selig led the movement to bring baseball back to Milwaukee after the Braves departed for Atlanta following the 1965 season. After several disappointments, Selig landed the Seattle Pilots out of bankruptcy court and Milwaukee had a big league team again in 1970.

Later, Selig led the charge on behalf of Miller Park and its retractable roof. This required what turned into a statewide political battle. Selig persevered and the ballpark was built. Without it, baseball in Milwaukee could not have succeeded. With it, the Brewers will draw 2.8 million fans this season.

Attanasio, as Brewers owner, understands this better than anyone, and his gratitude to Selig is both genuine and understandable.

"We've looked for ways to honor him, because but for his blood, sweat and tears, as well as his daughter Wendy's, we wouldn't be sitting here," said Attanasio. "We did a statue out front, but it didn't seem to be enough, frankly.

"So when I sit in the ballpark every night and I look up at our wall of honor, our ring of honor, I see names like [Henry] Aaron, [Robin] Yount, [Bob] Uecker, actually, and Jackie Robinson, No. 42, we had the idea to retire a number in Commissioner Selig's honor. And the No. 1 seemed most fitting to our founder."

The Brewers, like other small-market franchises, have benefited from Selig's economic reformation of baseball, which has led to increased competitive balance. Under Attanasio's ownership, the Brewers returned to the postseason for the first time in 26 years in 2008 and won a division title in '11, with the best regular-season record in franchise history.

Selig, in turn, referred to Attanasio as "the ideal owner for this franchise."

Bringing baseball back to Milwaukee in 1970, "against really unbelievable odds," remains his proudest accomplishment in the game, Selig said Friday.

The Commissioner told a story from April 7, 1970, the first Brewers game at County Stadium, a one-sided loss to the California Angels. Selig was still glowing over the fact that the team, acquired just days before, was actually playing in Milwaukee.

"We lost to Andy Messersmith, 12-0," Selig said. "I was walking down the ramp, still feeling pretty good but beginning to understand that this was all going to change. A man stopped me and said: 'You wanted a team in the worst way and that's what you got.' And I knew then that the honeymoon was not going to last very long."

It was a long way from that moment to 22-plus years as Commissioner. But as far as No 1 in the history of the Milwaukee Brewers, that's a very reasonable estimate of what Bud Selig has meant to this franchise.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Braun reaches on HBP after call overturned

Braun reaches on HBP after call overturned

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun had to wait out a review before taking first base on his sixth hit by pitch this season during Friday night's game against the Cubs.

Plate umpire Ben May initially ruled the Justin Grimm pitch to Braun a foul ball, but replays showed it actually hit Braun on the right forearm. After the Brewers challenged, the call was overturned.

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It loaded the bases for Jonathan Lucroy, who grounded out to end the inning with the Brewers trailing, 5-3.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers' playoff hopes end with loss in Cincinnati

Gallardo struggles; miscues, continued offensive woes front and center

Brewers' playoff hopes end with loss in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI -- It was with all of their warts on public display Thursday that the Brewers completed a six-week collapse and bowed out of the postseason picture with a 5-3 loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park.

In the field, a pair of Brewers errors helped the Reds mount the go-ahead rally in the fifth inning. On the mound, Yovani Gallardo surrendered 10 hits in five-plus innings. And compounding the problem which most scuttled Milwaukee's chances in the second half, Brewers hitters again were held to three or fewer runs. The outcome sealed a National League Wild Card berth for the San Francisco Giants and ensured the Brewers would miss the postseason for a third consecutive season.

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The Brewers will scatter following Sunday's season finale against the Cubs, despite spending 150 days atop the NL Central -- including 149 consecutive days from April 5-Aug. 31.

"These games are the killers," manager Ron Roenicke said of Thursday's sloppy affair. "They're just hard to watch when you know you can win a game and you give it away."

Rickie Weeks hit a second-inning home run and had two hits, but committed two of the Brewers' three errors -- including one of two during Cincinnati's decisive rally in the fifth. The other was committed by rookie first baseman Jason Rogers, who, in his first Major League start, dropped an on-target throw from Weeks to thwart a would-be double play. After Jay Bruce doubled past Rogers down the right-field line, Weeks dropped a playable popup in shallow right field for a run-scoring error that tied the game at 2. Yorman Rodriguez followed with an RBI single to make it 3-2.

The Reds tacked on two sixth-inning runs on Brandon Phillips' homer off Gallardo, who did not distinguish himself in his final 2014 start. In five-plus innings, Gallardo surrendered 10 hits and five runs (three earned), with one walk, a wild pitch and four strikeouts.

"The only thing I would change is that one pitch [to Phillips]," said Gallardo, referring to an inside fastball he wished he'd thrown higher.

Brewers hitters couldn't bail Gallardo out. Against Reds left-hander David Holmberg and three relievers, the Brewers mustered six hits and went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position, the biggest of those at-bats being pinch-hitter Scooter Gennett's double-play grounder with the bases loaded and nobody out in the seventh inning against Sam LeCure. It scored a run, but short-circuited a budding Brewers rally.

Gallardo finished the final guaranteed season of his contract 8-11 with a career-best (for a full season) 3.51 ERA. With 146 strikeouts in 192 1/3 innings, he became the Brewers' all-time strikeout leader, and his WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio were Gallardo's best since 2011, when he finished seventh in NL Cy Young Award balloting. But he finished with a losing record for the first time in his career.

The Brewers won't have to make an official decision until after the World Series, but they are likely to exercise a $13 million option to bring back Gallardo for another season. He will turn 29 during Spring Training.

How long will the Brewers' late-season collapse stick with him into the offseason?

"It better not stick very long, I'll tell you that," Gallardo said. "It's obviously -- I mean, I hate to say it, but there's nothing you can do now. Coming into this road trip, we knew it wasn't going to be easy, that's for sure, starting off in St. Louis and then going to Pittsburgh and here. We had that chance. We just didn't play the way we wanted to. We have to finish off strong and prepare for next year."

The 81-78 Brewers must win one of their three games against the Cubs this weekend at Miller Park to secure a winning season.

"I think it's important to do that," Roenicke said. "I'm sure most of the guys will want to play, the pitchers will want to pitch, so I'll have a discussion with [general manager] Doug [Melvin] to see if there's anything he wants to do differently."

The Brewers announced one change while they were on the way to the airport Thursday afternoon, saying Friday's scheduled starter, Matt Garza, had come down with a stiff shoulder. Rookie right-hander Jimmy Nelson will start in Garza's place against the Cubs.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Second-half woes cost Brewers shot at playoffs

Second-half woes cost Brewers shot at playoffs

CINCINNATI -- The Brewers' increasingly likely fate became an assured one on Thursday, when a 5-3 loss to the Reds eliminated Milwaukee from postseason contention and completed an historically significant collapse.

According to STATS LLC, the Brewers are only the fifth team since the divisional era began in 1969 to spend at least 150 days in first place, yet miss the playoffs. The others were the '69 Cubs, 2007 Mets, '08 D-backs and '09 Tigers. Those other four teams finished in second place, but the Brewers -- who spent exactly 150 days atop the National League Central, including every day from April 5-Aug. 31 before falling with a Labor Day loss at Wrigley Field -- will finish third behind the postseason-bound Cardinals and Pirates.

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"We kind of did it to ourselves," said catcher Jonathan Lucroy. "We were in the driver's seat for a while, and then we got complacent, and now this is where we're at. So, you know, we got what we deserved. We've got to play better."

Asked to explain what he meant by the team getting "complacent," Lucroy shrugged.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "Just, we had a lot of things go wrong at the same time. Guys started slumping all at the same time, and we couldn't quite get it back rolling again. Those prolonged slumps are what beat us."

The Brewers fell to 8-20 since Aug. 26 and saw their faint hopes dashed during a dud of a final road trip, during which the team dropped two of three games in consecutive series at St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Milwaukee scored three or fewer runs in eight of those nine games, including two or fewer runs in six in a row.

It continued a larger trend. Since the start of July, the Brewers have scored three or fewer runs in 43 of 75 games while playing 15 games under .500, falling from 6 1/2 games ahead of the rest of the division to seven games behind the first-place Cardinals on Thursday.

"You know, we kind of gave it away," said right-hander Mike Fiers, who pitched admirably after joining the Brewers' rotation in early August. "We had a lot of opportunities. I mean, it was in our hands, and just, we couldn't put it all together.

"Sometimes the pitching wasn't there, the defense, or the hitting. It's been all scattered out. We didn't put it all together for a good stretch of time. We were in first place for a while, but the last month and a half has been pretty rough."

Said Kyle Lohse, whose two-hit shutout of the Reds on Wednesday kept the Brewers' hopes alive for one final day: "It's been tough on everybody. It just felt like we were climbing uphill the whole time, and couldn't get anything going."

The Brewers will post their second-best ERA in their 14 seasons at Miller Park, but much of that quality pitching was wasted by an offensive funk that covered the entire second half. After ranking second in the NL in nearly every offensive category through June 30 -- including runs per game -- only the Reds have struggled worse to score since then.

"I mean, things were going our way," second baseman Scooter Gennett said. "We were playing good baseball, but at the same time there, there were some games that we should have lost that we found a way to win. That's the thing now -- we're not finding ways to win games that we haven't played solid in.

"That, and I think guys just making adjustments on us. ... I think in certain situations, they're executing better pitches on us. During the year, you have to play that chess game with guys. They're winning the chess game. We need to be smarter."

The Brewers still have three games remaining against the Cubs at Miller Park. Manager Ron Roenicke said he would discuss with general manager Doug Melvin and some veteran players how to approach those games.

Center fielder Carlos Gomez was among those who indicated he would play through.

"We have to come and continue to finish the season," Gomez said. "It's not time to get frustrated. You can get frustrated after the season, when you're home. Now you have to continue playing and finish the season strong."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Aramis to address future after season concludes

Aramis to address future after season concludes

CINCINNATI -- Aramis Ramirez's agent, Paul Kinzer, will be in Milwaukee this weekend for an annual season-ending sit-down with his client, and the two have a lot to talk about.

Ramirez is finishing the final season of a three-year deal with the Brewers, but he has a mutual option for 2015. It would pay Ramirez $14 million if both sides agree, $4 million via buyout if Milwaukee declines and nothing if the club exercises its half but Ramirez declines in order to seek one more multiyear deal on the free-agent market.

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"We haven't talked about anything yet," said Ramirez, who insisted his focus has been on trying to help the Brewers remain in the postseason hunt. "We don't know what we're going to do, they don't know what they're going to do, I think, so far. I'd like to come back here, but I don't know."

Asked whether that meant he is not tempted by the chance to seek a longer contract on the open market, Ramirez said, "I don't really know right now what I'm going to do. I have to go home and talk to my family. I don't know how much longer I want to play. We'll see after this season."

Ramirez admitted feeling a bit weary at the end of the least productive full season of his long career, one that saw the Brewers tumble from the top of the National League Central during a brutal stretch in late August and into September.

Ramirez, who went into Thursday's start in Cincinnati with 15 home runs and a .768 OPS, is on pace for his lowest marks in those categories of any season in which he has played at least 100 games. He had made clear in previous comments that he intends to play in 2015, so does that mean next season could be Ramirez's last?

"Maybe, but I don't want to make any calls right now," Ramirez said. "I don't want to say I'm going to play one more year and end up playing three. I do know it's not going to be five."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Crew-chief review confirms out call at home

Crew-chief review confirms out call at home

CINCINNATI -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke asked the umpires to take a second look at an out at the plate in the fourth inning of Thursday's series finale against the Reds, but an out remained an out in what briefly remained a tie game.

Ryan Braun broke from third base when Aramis Ramirez grounded to Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips, whose throw home pulled catcher Tucker Barnhart up the third-base line. Braun tried to leap over Barnhart's glove, but he was tagged on the backside before he could score.

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Roenicke requested a crew-chief review of whether Barnhart violated Rule 7.13, instituted this season to limit collisions at home plate. After a brief look, the decision was confirmed and the Brewers and Reds remained tied, 1-1.

Khris Davis promptly gave Milwaukee a lead with a sacrifice fly.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers looking at all options for first base

Brewers looking at all options for first base

CINCINNATI -- After posting the National League's lowest OPS at first base for a second straight season, the Brewers will consider all options this winter in an effort to find a long-term solution to the problem. Here's a popular suggestion from Brewer Nation: Move Ryan Braun to first.

"Well, we've talked about it," manager Ron Roenicke said Thursday, making clear those talks are purely hypothetical, have not included Braun and probably won't go anywhere.

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Braun has already moved from shortstop at the University of Miami to third base, left field and right field during his years with the Brewers.

After moving across the outfield to open left field for Khris Davis, Braun ranked in the bottom half among baseball's everyday right fielders, according to the defensive metrics. But Milwaukee is reluctant to move him because he still runs well and has a superior throwing arm, traits that would be wasted at first base.

On the other hand, if the Brewers plan to return with their three starting outfielders -- Davis in left, Carlos Gomez in center and Braun in right -- then they would face a decision this winter with Gerardo Parra, who was acquired in a July 31 trade with the D-backs, earned $4.85 million this season and has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining. Making him a starter would add a Gold Glover to the outfield mix, and a left-handed bat to a lineup dominated by right-handers.

"I haven't talked enough with Doug [Melvin, Milwaukee's general manager] about it to even know if there would be a reason to [move Braun]," Roenicke said. "I still think he is a good defender in the outfield. Learning the new position, I thought he picked up pretty fast, and I think he'll continue to get better in right.

"So it's just what the needs are. I know we have Parra over here now, and we'll figure out what to do with him next year."

It appears Davis will stay put in left field. He has the good hands and below-average throwing arm that seem theoretically suited for first base, but he tried the position during his Minor League years and was not comfortable there.

With Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay headed for free agency after the season, the Brewers will have two regular first basemen on the 40-man roster -- Matt Clark and Hunter Morris -- plus the versatile Jason Rogers, who started at first base against the Reds on Thursday. Rogers played a lot of third base this season and also has manned left field, but he may be best suited for first base, according to Roenicke.

"He feels that's his natural spot, and he feels comfortable there," Roenicke said.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Weeks goes behind second-base bag to make great throw

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Weeks goes behind second-base bag to make great throw

Rickie Weeks is lucky that Jean Segura isn't a sitcom character with a personal space issue. Otherwise he'd be in trouble for crossing the strip of masking tape that the shortstop put down to equally divide the infield between the two players. 

With the Brewers holding a 2-0 lead over the Reds on Wednesday night, Weeks raced behind the bag and into shallow left field to rob Todd Frazier of a base hit. Impressively, Weeks managed to not only get the ball to first base without a hop, but there was plenty of pace on the ball, too. 

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With Crew on the brink, Lohse blanks Reds

Righty throws second shutout of season; offense scores five runs

With Crew on the brink, Lohse blanks Reds

CINCINNATI -- For the second straight year, Kyle Lohse finished a season with a two-hit shutout. This time, it spared the once-soaring Brewers from a losing record and staved off their elimination from the postseason chase for another day.

The only man standing between Lohse and a perfect game on Wednesday was Reds first baseman Jack Hannahan, whose two singles accounted for the only baserunners against Lohse in nine innings of a 5-0 win at Great American Ball Park. It marked only Milwaukee's second victory in seven games and was win No. 81 this season, ensuring no worse than a .500 finish for a team that spent 150 days atop the National League Central.

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The win delayed the Brewers' exit from the postseason race as the Giants lost to the Dodgers later on Wednesday night. Milwaukee's elimination number remains at one, so if the Brewers lose or San Francisco wins again, the Crew will not be able to reach the playoffs. Both teams have four more games.

According to data from Baseball-Reference.com, it was the 25th shutout on two or fewer hits in Brewers history, and only the fourth in the past 11 seasons. Two were this season, in this ballpark -- Matt Garza pitched a two-hitter against the Reds on July 5. Lohse owned the one before that, a two-hit shutout of the Braves in his final start of last season.

"It's weird," said Lohse. "Somehow I have to trick everybody into thinking every start is my last one of the year."

Lohse, who struck out six without walking a batter, logged his 12th career complete game and ninth shutout, and his second of each this season. He blanked the Cubs on three hits over nine innings of a 9-0 win on June 1.

It was Lohse's third career two-hit shutout, and it might have been even better if not for the pesky Hannahan, who lined a single to center field leading off the third inning and blooped a single to center field in the fifth.

"He hit two pretty good pitches, too," Lohse said. "First one, trying to get the backdoor curveball down in there to the dirt and he just did a good job of staying on it. The other one, I mean, I broke his bat. You can't do much more about that. I'll take what I got."

Considering their recent slump, the Brewers' scoring represented a breakout. A three-run eighth inning, built on Jean Segura's two-run double and Lohse's sacrifice fly, gave the Brewers more than four runs in a game for only the third time in 22 games this month. It was their first multirun inning in eight games on the road trip.

The Brewers also worked a season-high 10 walks, and three of those runners scored.

"I'm sure it's been printed for the past month or two: The pitching's been there," said second baseman Rickie Weeks, who contributed two hits, a run scored, an RBI and a terrific defensive play up the middle to Lohse's effort. "We haven't been getting key hits in the right spots. Things haven't been going our way. But for the most part, we came out today and backed up Lohse."

The co-player of the game with Lohse was Segura, whose clutch double in the eighth inning off Reds reliever Ryan Dennick extended a 2-0 lead to 4-0 and allowed Lohse to bat for himself. Manager Ron Roenicke confirmed that had Segura made an out or walked to load the bases, he would have removed Lohse at the 78-pitch mark in favor of a bat.

Segura's double to left-center field snapped a 26-game, 22-start RBI drought for the young shortstop.

"You know, we're holding onto those two [runs] for a long time," said Roenicke, who lamented his club leaving the bases loaded in the fifth and again in the seventh. "And then Seggy comes up with a huge hit. That was big."

He added: "A lot of good things happened today."

Many of them happened to Lohse, who got the slick defensive play from Weeks to rob Todd Frazier of a hit in the seventh inning, and highlight-reel catches from left fielder Gerardo Parra and center fielder Carlos Gomez in the eighth.

"We just couldn't get anything started," Reds manager Bryan Price said.

After missing time in August and struggling into September because of a sprained ankle, Lohse was able to finish his second season in Milwaukee with three consecutive quality starts. As he departed Great American Ball Park late Wednesday, the possibility of one more outing -- in a tiebreaker game against the Giants -- remained mathematically possible.

If that slim chance does not come to pass, at least Lohse could head home on a positive.

"It doesn't really matter how many years you've played, it's the same feeling with everybody," Roenicke said, "that you finish a season on a good note and you feel good going into the offseason and coming back the next year."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Braun says shutdown hasn't been discussed

Braun says shutdown hasn't been discussed

CINCINNATI -- With the Brewers on the brink of mathematical elimination Wednesday and his right thumb still hurting, Ryan Braun was asked whether all parties would be better served by the former National League MVP Award winner simply calling it a season.

"We haven't even discussed that," Braun said before batting second against the Reds. "We've done everything we could to try to compete, to stay in it as long as we could, and I think the goal is to try to continue to win as many games as we can as a team. We would love to finish strong and at least go into the offseason knowing we finished better than the way the majority of the last month has gone."

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The Brewers are scheduled to face left-handed pitchers from Thursday-Saturday, so Braun, a right-handed batter, could continue to play beyond mathematical elimination.

"If it was a bunch of right-handers, I probably would talk to him," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We may still have that conversation. He still has some games where he helps us. But against a left-hander, the alternative is another left-hander [fourth outfielder Gerardo Parra] out there."

The Brewers' late-season collapse is drawing comparisons to some of the worst slides in baseball history, and Braun acknowledged his own role. After managing the pain caused by an inflamed nerve near his right thumb during the first half of the season, Braun entered Wednesday batting .234 since the All-Star break, tied for 120th of 148 qualifying Major League hitters. His .390 slugging percentage was tied for 90th with Marlins leadoff hitter Christian Yelich. Braun's 10 ground-ball double plays tied for seventh most in the Majors since the break.

With Brewers medical officials and outside experts, Braun has spent the season mulling potential solutions for the thumb issue which has now bothered him for two years.

He holds onto the idea that, if healthy, his season and the Brewers' season would be in a different place.

"I know if I'm anywhere close to healthy and anywhere close to what I expect of myself, the standard I feel I've set for myself to this point in my career, I feel [the team] would be in a different place," Braun said. "It's definitely difficult and frustrating.

"There's no guarantee we're in the playoffs or anything like that, but I think if I just do what I expect myself to do, what I know I can do if I'm healthy, that we're in a different place as a team. Our starting pitching has been really good the last couple of weeks, but we haven't swung the bats. You need your best players to play well down the stretch, and obviously I haven't done that."

Overall, Braun was hitting .271 with 19 home runs and 81 RBIs entering Wednesday's game. The thumb issue has forced him to alter his swing, and to begin swinging earlier than usual. In turn, he has been less selective at the plate than past seasons.

"None of these things are an excuse," he said. "We play a results-oriented game, and at the end of the day, I didn't perform up to the level I expected to perform to, regardless of where I'm at physically."

In the third inning of Wednesday's game, Braun hit a ball that looked like it was going to be a home run, but Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton made a leaping catch at the wall.

Last call
Rickie Weeks made a rare start at second base against a right-handed pitcher Wednesday after left-handed-hitting Scooter Gennett showed renewed effects of a right quadriceps strain during Tuesday's loss. Gennett was out running from second to home on a first-inning single that typically would have scored him easily, according to Roenicke.

The issue has quietly limited Gennett "quite a bit," Roenicke said. "We haven't been able to run when we want to run with him. The defense, I think he's been OK on the defensive part. But it's bothering him."

With left-handers on the mound against the Brewers for three straight games Thursday-Saturday, Weeks could be in line for more starts during the final week. Weeks, drafted by the Brewers second overall in 2003, could be playing his final games for the team.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Weeks out at second as Reds win challenge

Weeks out at second as Reds win challenge

CINCINNATI -- Reds manager Bryan Price successfully challenged a play at second base in the second inning of Cincinnati's game against the Brewers at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday.

With one out and Rickie Weeks at first base, Lyle Overbay hit a sharp ground ball up the middle, where shortstop Zack Cozart ranged to the right side of second base to grab it and backhand a toss to second baseman Brandon Phillips. Phillips reached back with his bare hand and caught the ball as Weeks was sliding into the bag.

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Weeks was initially ruled safe by second-base umpire Quinn Wolcott. Following a review, the call was overturned and Weeks was ruled out at second. The next batter, Jean Segura, grounded to first for the final out of the frame.

Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers on brink of elimination with loss to Reds

Fiers allows back-to-back homers in first; offense held to one run

Brewers on brink of elimination with loss to Reds

CINCINNATI -- Another unproductive night at the plate left the Brewers on the very brink of elimination.

Mike Fiers surrendered back-to-back home runs in the first inning and the Brewers couldn't answer against Johnny Cueto, who logged his 19th victory in the Reds' 3-1 win at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday. The Pirates topped the Braves on Tuesday to clinch a postseason berth, but the Giants lost to the Dodgers later in the night. If Milwaukee loses one more game or San Francisco wins one more game, the Crew will be eliminated from the postseason race.

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"We've been trying to get this thing done and win some games," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "It's just, every night, it seems to be the same thing."

The Brewers have been held to fewer than three runs in six straight games and are 2-5 so far on their season-ending road trip -- despite not allowing more than four runs in any of those games.

"Our pitchers have done great, thrown up ones and twos almost every day," said Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett. "It just stinks when you can't go out and put up a five-spot or give them some breathing room early. Our record in the last 10 days is proof that we haven't done what we can and what we should in certain situations."

The game was decided with back-to-back Reds home runs in the first inning. Fiers had surrendered only three homers in his first eight starts this season but was touched for two in the span of eight pitches after a close 2-2 pitch against Reds first baseman Todd Frazier was called inside for ball 3 by plate umpire C.B. Bucknor.

Frazier hit the full-count offering, a fastball up and away, over the center-field wall. Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco followed by hitting another full-count fastball to the first row in left field to make it 2-0.

Did the 2-2 pitch change the game?

"Well, it definitely changed the game, but I need to make a better pitch than that [after the count went full]," Fiers said. "Frazier, that guy can hit pretty much any pitch, but to Mesoraco, I think I gave in a little bit. I think I lost focus a little bit."

With Roenicke desperately seeking offense, Fiers was out after 86 pitches and five innings, charged with those two runs and two other hits, with one walk and three strikeouts. It was his second straight loss after winning six of his first seven decisions as a starter.

The right-hander is scheduled for one more start in Sunday's season finale.

Brewers hitters threatened during a top of the first inning in which they collected two singles and a walk against Cueto, but Carlos Gomez was picked off first base on what he said was to be a hit-and-run play, and Gennett was thrown out at home plate to end a scoreless inning. Gennett would have scored, Roenicke argued, if healthy, but he remains slowed by a right quadriceps strain.

In the sixth, Gomez put the Brewers on the board with a solo home run, his first since Aug. 20 and his 22nd homer this season to tie Khris Davis and Mark Reynolds for the team lead. But the Brewers were otherwise thwarted by Cueto (eight innings, four hits, one run, one walk, seven strikeouts) and Aroldis Chapman (34th save).

In the seventh, a Reds error and an Aramis Ramirez single gave the Brewers runners at first and second base with no outs before Ryan Braun hit into a rally-killing double play against Cueto. In the ninth, the Brewers had runners at first and second with one out before Ramirez and Braun struck out to end the game.

The seventh-inning opportunity stood out because Braun grounded into a third-to-first double play on a first pitch inside off the plate. He is batting .234 since the All-Star break, 12th-lowest of the National League's qualifying hitters in the second half of the season.

"After we had the error in the inning, my idea was, 'I've got to get this guy to hit a ground ball. I've got to get this guy for a double play,'" Cueto said. "Thank God, it happened."

Including 1-for-6 on Tuesday, the Brewers are 5-for-37 (.135) with runners in scoring position on their road trip.

"We're not getting that at-bat we need when we've got people out there," Roenicke said.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers begin search for director of scouting

GM Melvin says club will look at candidates inside and outside the organization

Brewers begin search for director of scouting

CINCINNATI -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin is beginning to gather a list of candidates to replace the team's late amateur scouting director, Bruce Seid, who passed away unexpectedly earlier this month.

The most experienced internal candidates are national crosschecker Joe Ferrone, national pitching crosschecker Jim Rooney and regional crosscheckers Doug Reynolds and Corey Rodriguez, but Melvin said he would also consider outside candidates this time. Seid was the Brewers' West Coast crosschecker when he was promoted to the top job for 2009, after the Mariners hired Jack Zduriencik to be their GM.

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Melvin plans to conduct more formal interviews during a well-attended showcase in Jupiter, Fla., during the third week of October.

"I've talked to a number of our guys, but we're open to somebody outside, too," Melvin said. "The one thing I've talked about is I've always liked my scouting director in Milwaukee, in the office. A lot of teams don't have them there. … I've always liked them in-house because of the interaction you have."

Seid and his wife moved from California to take the job. So when left fielder Khris Davis was struggling early this year in his first full season in the Majors, Seid was there to offer his input. The Brewers stuck with Davis, and he entered Tuesday tied for the team lead in home runs and tied for third in RBIs.

Of the Brewers' crosscheckers, arguably the most experienced is Ferrone, 47, who is finishing his fourth season in the organization. He previously served as a special assistant to the GM and scout for the Pirates, and has also served as a regional crosschecker for the Tigers and Dodgers, and as an area scout for the Dodgers and Expos. He also has coaching experience with a Dodgers' Class A affiliate. Ferrone currently resides in Michigan.

Reynolds (22 seasons) and Rodriguez (21 seasons) have the longest tenure of those candidates. Rooney, 53, has been with the Brewers for the last 11 seasons. All three have spent the past six years in crosschecker roles, coordinating with the Brewers' area scouts.

Melvin has been with the team throughout its final road trip and spent Monday and Tuesday in meetings with manager Ron Roenicke and other members of the front office for an annual evaluation of the team. The men have discussed the myriad of issues that have led the Brewers to fall from first place in the National League Central.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Many theories, few answers for Brewers' slump

Hitters' penchant for swinging at first pitch of an at-bat among possible causes

Many theories, few answers for Brewers' slump

PITTSBURGH -- Before the reporter could finish a question about the Brewers' recent offensive inconsistencies, manager Ron Roenicke interrupted.

"No, we're pretty consistent, actually," Roenicke said with a smirk.

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The point is well taken. On their make-or-break road trip, the Brewers have surrendered only 12 runs -- but they have scored just eight times while losing four of six games to fall to the brink of elimination. Hitting coach Johnny Narron cited the playoff-caliber opponents in St. Louis and Pittsburgh, but Milwaukee's scoring slide has gone on much longer.

On June 30, three months into the six-month Major League season, the Brewers were 18 games over .500 and 6 1/2 ahead of their closest division rival. They were the National League's second-best offense below 5,000 feet -- trailing only the high-altitude Rockies in runs per game (4.56), home runs per game (1.05) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.739). The Rockies and Brewers were the only NL teams hitting better than a homer per game.

Brewers' offense by half (NL rank)
Through 6/30 Category Since 7/1
4.56 (2nd) Runs per game 3.47 (14th)
1.05 (2nd) Home runs per game 0.81 (6th)
.261 (2nd) Batting average .241 (13th)
.739 (2nd) On-base pct. plus slugging pct. .675 (9th)
3.66 (15th) Pitches per plate appearance 3.62 (15th)

But from July 1 through Sunday, when the Brewers were shut out by Pirates starter Vance Worley and closer-for-a-day Tony Watson, Milwaukee was 14th of 15 NL teams with 3.47 runs per game, ninth with a .675 OPS and sixth with .81 home runs per game.

Since the start of July, no Brewer with at least 100 at-bats is batting at least .300. The Pirates have four such players. The Brewers' .283 batting average on balls in play during second half suggests a degree of bad luck, but it does not account for the completeness of Milwaukee's offensive outage.

"I really wish I knew why, because obviously we would be doing it a lot different," said catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who batted .334 through June 30 and has hit .268 since. "You can't really put your finger on it. I guess this late in the season, all of the scouting reports are out and all the numbers are there, as far as what guys are most consistent at, what they're best at, what they're worst at. I guess we're being exploited to the fullest extent of our weaknesses. That's the only thing I can think of."

The larger question already under consideration by general manager Doug Melvin and the baseball men under him is this: Is it a matter that must be addressed before the Brewers take the field for 2015, or is inconsistency simply the price Milwaukee pays for having so many free swingers who, when they're hot, are among the most dangerous players at their positions?

Roenicke suggested the former.

"I'm sure it will be talked about," Roenicke said. "The personnel that I write down on this lineup, I think, should be pretty good offensively. I don't know why lately it hasn't been. Maybe we need to figure out, especially with the young guys, 'How do we go about creating more runs?' Do we need to be more patient? I've talked about the first-pitch swinging a lot, and I know that's who we are. It's not something that I like; it's just the personnel we have. Maybe we can be better at that."

All season, the Brewers have been baseball's freest swingers. It was a major storyline during their 20-7 start, when center fielder Carlos Gomez described the team's approach to The New York Times as, "It has to be, like, wayyy a ball for us to not swing."

That trait has remained steady. Through June 30, the Brewers saw the fewest pitches per plate appearance in the Major Leagues (3.66). Since July 1, Milwaukee is still last in that category, at 3.62. The Rockies and Brewers were the only teams in baseball as of Monday to swing at more than half of their opponents' pitches, and they also were first and second in swinging at pitches outside the strike zone.

But the trouble with blaming the Brewers' inconsistencies on the fact that they "don't take enough pitches" is embodied in Oakland, where the A's have endured a similar second-half collapse. During each half, the A's have ranked in the top 50 percent of Major League teams in patience at the plate, but they fell from an MLB-best 5.15 runs per game in the first half to 3.84 runs per game since.

"If you want to go look at batting averages on first pitches, it's pretty high," said Melvin. "You can take a lot of pitches, and it doesn't guarantee you're going to hit. Yeah, you'd like to be better, but I don't think that's the answer."

On the first pitch, the Brewers are eighth in the Majors with a .355 batting average and fifth with a .964 OPS. Only Jose Altuve of the Astros has more one-pitch at-bats this season than Gomez (148 to 118). Gomez leads Milwaukee with a .424 batting average in first-pitch outcomes. After 0-1, he hits .270.

Melvin, who is an unabashed believer in ballpark effects and the significance of hitting for power -- he points to the runaway Orioles as an example -- is more concerned that the Brewers are hitting home runs at a much lower rate than earlier this season, and especially compared to past seasons. The team's pace is for 151 home runs, which would be its lowest total since 2004.

Melvin cited personnel as one factor; Prince Fielder left via free agency following the 2011 season, and Corey Hart wasn't healthy in 2013 before following Fielder out. Rickie Weeks would have a higher homer total this season, but he's been replaced by Scooter Gennett as the everyday second baseman. Ryan Braun and Gomez have seen their power affected in the second half by nagging physical issues, and Mark Reynolds by a prolonged hitting slump.

But the in-season drop is more difficult to explain. Typically, the ball flies better in the second half at Miller Park.

"I don't know why the change," Roenicke said. "We were always this [modest on-base percentage] team, but because of the drop in home runs, we're not scoring as much."

Melvin is in the process of seeking opinions from his baseball-operations staff, which runs the gamut from old-school scouts to new-school analytical experts. There are reasons to believe 2015 could see the return of a potent Brewers offense. Braun has a year of shouldering boos under his belt, and he could be better if he is able to get healthy and stop chasing pitches in an effort to make things happen. Gennett and left fielder Khris Davis are viewed as professional hitters who could improve their discipline. First base, again, will be open, offering Melvin an opportunity to fill the position with additional consistency.

"You just have to keep pushing," Narron said. "You have to keep trying to make things happen. You have to do the little things. You just have to stay confident. When the pressure's on, you just have to push past that pressure."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers' playoff hopes dealt blow in loss to Bucs

Milwaukee 4 1/2 games out of Wild Card spot after being shut out

Brewers' playoff hopes dealt blow in loss to Bucs

PITTSBURGH -- Mathematically, the Brewers remain alive for a postseason berth. Realistically, even the most optimistic man in the clubhouse had to admit the odds are nearing zero.

With the offense again missing in action on Sunday, Pirates catcher Russell Martin's seventh-inning single beat the Brewers, 1-0, in the regular-season finale at PNC Park. The Brewers fell 4 1/2 games behind the Pirates for the National League's second Wild Card berth.

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"It looks bad, but as [long] as you have a chance, you still continue to fight for it," said Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez, who owned up to a costly baserunning mistake in the ninth inning. "There's still six games to play, and we won, early in the season, nine games straight. Why can we not win six games straight?"

Even if they do, the math is daunting. A combination of three Brewers losses or Pirates victories will eliminate Milwaukee. If the Brewers run the table against the Reds and Cubs this week, the Pirates -- winners of 13 of their last 16 games -- would need to lose five of their remaining seven to force a play-in game at Miller Park.

Those calculations are moot if Milwaukee does not start scoring. Brewers pitchers have surrendered only 12 runs in the first six games of this do-or-die road trip, but Brewers hitters have scored only eight in that same span -- covering 61 innings at-bat. The result is a 2-4 record on a trip that continues Tuesday in Cincinnati.

"You're looking at postseason situations," hitting coach Johnny Narron said. "If you look at the scores, there wasn't a lot of runs scored by anybody in St. Louis or here. So it's just battling, and it's the pitchers putting their best stuff out there and the hitters putting their best stuff. That's big league baseball.

"But like I said, you go back and look at the scores, it's for both sides. It just didn't fall in our favor. You're facing teams that are potentially going to be or are going to be in the playoffs, so you're going to have your better pitchers. That's what your're confronted with. It's not like you're playing somebody out of contention and their callups are pitching."

A day after the 69th 1-0 victory in Brewers history, runs were similarly hard to come by in Sunday's series finale. Milwaukee starter Wily Peralta allowed only two infield singles through his first six innings -- both belonging to Pirates leadoff man Josh Harrison -- before Andrew McCutchen's infield hit sparked the winning rally in the seventh.

McCutchen took second base when a high pitch ticked off catcher Jonathan Lucroy's glove for a passed ball, then took third on a slider in the dirt that went for a wild pitch. With one out, Martin, the Pirates' hero on Friday, gave them their first hit past the infield -- a sharp single to center field for a 1-0 lead.

"That's a tough loss for us, for everybody as a team, you know?" said Peralta, who was charged with a run on five hits in seven innings, on 87 pitches. "This was an important series for us. We pitched good. Not much hitting. But like I said, this was an important series and we should have won this. We know that. We should have won."

Brewers batters, meanwhile, found themselves shut down by right-hander Vance Worley, who had not exceeded five innings in either of his previous September starts, and entered the day 0-3 with a 5.48 ERA in four career starts against Milwaukee.

Worley blanked the Brewers over eight innings on four hits, retiring the final 13 men he faced following Ryan Braun's fourth-inning single.

Worley needed only 82 pitches for his eight innings. He did not walk a batter, and struck out five. With closer Mark Melancon unavailable, Tony Watson worked around a bunch of trouble in the ninth inning, getting help when Gomez got caught in a rundown between second and third base for the first out. Watson retired Braun with two runners aboard to end the game.

"We kept battling," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We just kept thinking we're going to find a way to get something done, and we kept scratching and clawing."

The Brewers are off Monday while the Pirates begin a four-game series in Atlanta, to be followed by three games in Cincinnati.

"It sure doesn't look good," Roenicke said. "They [the Pirates] are a good team. They're playing well, and you don't expect them to not play well here the last [seven] games. And we've got to basically win it out. That's not easy to do."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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