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Brewers fall into second place after sixth straight loss

Nelson spins quality start, but offense falls just short against Cubs

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Brewers fall into second place after sixth straight loss play video for Brewers fall into second place after sixth straight loss

CHICAGO -- For the first time since April 4, the Brewers find themselves out of first place in the National League Central.

A 4-2 loss to the Cubs on Monday to open a three-game series at Wrigley Field coupled with the Cardinals' 5-4 win over the Pirates has given St. Louis sole possession of first by one game.

Monday's defeat extended Milwaukee's season-high skid to six games -- all on the road -- during which it's been outscored 42-13.

"We've had it before. We're going through a bad week and we need to change it," manager Ron Roenicke said. "It certainly can change in a hurry. It could change tomorrow."

Back-to-back homers in the seventh by Khris Davis and Gerardo Parra weren't enough to overcome a 3-0 Cubs cushion created in the first four innings.

Milwaukee led off the game with a pair of singles, and Scooter Gennett moved to third base after Ryan Braun grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. But former Cub Aramis Ramirez struck out to end the inning -- one of seven strikeouts issued by Cubs starter Jacob Turner.

The Brewers wouldn't put runners in scoring position again until Ramirez moved to second on defensive indifference with two outs in the ninth.

"That order has got to produce some runs," Roenicke said. "Still it's a nice lineup. We start off well and get two hits then get a double play. When we get people on base, we need to drive in some guys."

Only Parra, filling in for the injured Carlos Gomez, had a multi-hit game, going 3-for-4.

Jimmy Nelson, called up Monday as rosters expanded, allowed three earned runs on nine hits with a walk and four strikeouts in six innings.

"It was a step in the right direction," Nelson said. "Made a few mistakes there, caught too much of the plate on a few of the sliders. Like I've said before, [the Cubs] did what they were supposed to with them. Just tried to battle out there and give us a chance."

Cubs rookie Jorge Soler lined a pair of doubles and scored in the second on an RBI single by Welington Castillo. Soler became the third player in Major League history to hit for extra bases in each of his first five games. During that span, the mega-prospect is hitting .526 (10-for-19) with three homers, seven RBIs, four runs and four strikeouts.

Castillo extended the Cubs' lead to 3-0 with a two-run homer to left with two outs in the fourth. Luis Valbuena provided an insurance run with a homer in the eighth, extending the lead to 4-2.

Before giving up the long ball, Turner extended his scoreless streak to 12 2/3 innings against the Brewers, dating back to May 24 when he was with the Marlins.

"Good slider, good location on his fastball," Roenicke said. "Threw curveballs when he needed to get guys off balance. But he moves the ball around nice."

Turner left after Davis' homer in the sixth, finishing with the lone earned run, five hits and a walk in 6 1/3 innings. Blake Parker gave up the subsequent homer to Parra.

The Cubs, in the cellar of the NL Central for the bulk of the season, have won 20 of their last 35 and have played formidably during that stretch, mostly against contending teams.

"That it happens to be clubs that are contending -- is it a confidence booster? Maybe it is," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "It's that way because you're looking at clubs that are in contention that are doing certain things consistently over a period of time. We get to see what they're doing. What is it we can improve upon? At the end of the day like today, when we have a victory, you can say, maybe we can play with these guys."

The Brewers are coping with just the fifth day this season where they haven't been atop the NL Central.

"It's easy to get to the top," Davis said. "It's harder staying there."

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{"content":["injury" ] }

Gomez sits with wrist injury, will likely get MRI

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Gomez sits with wrist injury, will likely get MRI play video for Gomez sits with wrist injury, will likely get MRI

CHICAGO -- Carlos Gomez was not in the Brewers' lineup for Monday's series opener at Wrigley Field after leaving Sunday's game against the Giants with a left wrist injury.

Manager Ron Roenicke said that X-rays taken on Sunday were negative, but that an MRI will likely be conducted also. Roenicke was unsure to the severity of Gomez's injury, but said that the two-time All-Star exhibited a healthier demeanor Monday.

"I'm encouraged today," Roenicke said while noting that Gomez will likely miss more than a game. "You would think if it was really bad, it'd be worse today than it was yesterday."

Gomez said he felt a "pop" in the wrist during a third-inning strikeout, in which he spun 360-degrees before dropping the bat, conferring with head athletic trainer Dan Wright and ultimately leaving the game.

Roenicke said Gomez's more forceful swing than the typical hitter could have been a contributing factor to the soreness that led to the injury.

"Hand or wrist is not good for him," Roenicke said of Gomez, who has been the team's leadoff hitter in 88 of his 127 starts. "There's no easing back on swings, and the way he plays, his whole game depends on him being physically close to 100 percent."

Gerardo Parra took over Gomez's post in center field and batted sixth in Monday's series opener against the Cubs as he did Sunday. Since arriving from Arizona at the Trade Deadline, Parra has a .222/.286/.378 slash line with four extra-base hits, three walks and seven RBIs in 23 games, nine of which he's started.

"Any time you have one of your guys that sparks the team, when he's out of there and you can replace him with a guy that's really good, it makes a big difference," Roenicke said of Parra.

The team also called up utility outfielder Logan Schafer in an expected move as rosters expanded to 40 on Monday.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Broxton joins Brewers, adds experience to 'pen

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Broxton joins Brewers, adds experience to 'pen play video for Broxton joins Brewers, adds experience to 'pen

CHICAGO -- Recently acquired right-handed reliever Jonathan Broxton joined the Brewers Monday at Wrigley Field as the team began a three-game series against the Cubs.

Manager Ron Roenicke said that Broxton will be largely used as the setup reliever to closer Francisco Rodriguez, whose 39 saves are tied for fourth most in the Majors. Broxton boasts a 1.86 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings this season.

Roenicke indicated that righty-lefty matchups will play little consequence in his late-game pitching decisions.

"There's not any restrictions for me," Roenicke said. "I haven't really looked at the exact splits on [Broxton], but I know that [whether] you're the eighth-inning guy or the closer, you don't care about those things."

The manager also noted that Will Smith could still serve as a late-innings reliever despite a recent fall off from his stellar start to the season. Roenicke said his game decisions for the two wouldn't necessarily be dictated by platoon.

Broxton started the season as the Reds' closer with Aroldis Chapman on the disabled list, but has primarily served as a setup reliever since Chapman's return on May 10.

"My whole career, I've pitched anywhere from seventh to the ninth," said Broxton, who was also the Dodgers' closer for parts of three seasons. "I've got experience in all the roles. Whatever [Roenicke] needs, I'm going to go out there and do my best."

The 10-year veteran was dealt on Sunday's waiver-trade deadline from the Reds for two players to be named later.

Broxton's addition also proves worthy in their long-term bullpen plans with the possibility of Rodriguez leaving via free agency.

Broxton is currently in the second year of a three-year, $22 million deal that has a mutual option clause for 2016.

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Crew hopes Gallardo can get club back to top of divison

Crew hopes Gallardo can end skid vs. Cubs ace Arrieta at Wrigley Field

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Crew hopes Gallardo can get club back to top of divison play video for Crew hopes Gallardo can get club back to top of divison

In contest between a division leader and a last-place club on Monday, the the fifth-place club came out ahead, as the Cubs defeated the then-first-place Brewers.

Chicago will look to continue to play spoiler on Tuesday in the second of three games against Milwaukee when they send Jake Arrieta to the hill against Yovani Gallardo.

The Cubs' schedule going forward will give them many opportunities to alter other teams' playoff hopes, as they play the Brewers, Pirates, Cardinals and Dodgers this month, all of which are looking for a spot in the playoffs.

The Brewers, on the other hand, are just looking to hold on to their spot.

Milwaukee has had at least a share of first place in the National League Central every day since April 5, but after the Cardinals defeated the Pirates and the Cubs held on to win, the Brewers fell out of first.

The Brewers hope Gallardo can be the stopper they need. Over his last four starts, Gallardo boasts a 1.73 ERA. In his last start on Sunday against the Padres he tossed six shutout innings, but ended up with a no-decision in the 3-2 loss.

In the meantime, the Cubs are using this last month get a look at their future, giving Major League opportunities to players like Javier Baez and Jorge Soler.

"You're competing against them and getting your eyes on the club and seeing how they're performing, what is it they're doing," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "It'd be foolish for anyone to face clubs that are doing well and not take a step back and try to understand what's making them tick.

"Maybe there are things we see that we can share with them, or they see, and say, 'Hey, this guy did that pretty good' or 'That was a pretty good at-bat.' You're always learning. It's good to see it. ... Ultimately, how we take this challenge for the next month will be really important and we can get a lot of knowledge from it."

While the young players are getting the most attention, Arrieta is putting together an impressive year in his fifth big league season. The right-hander is 7-5 with a 2.88 ERA in his second season with the Cubs. While he struggled in his last outing against the Reds, he looked strong when he faced the Brewers on Aug. 11. He gave up two earned runs over 7 1/3 frames in the tough-luck loss.

Cubs: Rizzo sits again
First baseman Anthony Rizzo missed Monday's game, sitting out his sixth straight day due to lower back tightness.

Rizzo left the Cubs' game against the Reds on Aug. 25 after a rain delay and hasn't played since.

"He's still day to day, he's still a little stiff," Renteria said on Monday. "If it doesn't clear up, maybe we'll get an MRI to make sure everything's OK.

"He's doing fine. We're just limiting him to make sure once he gets back on the field he doesn't have a setback."

Rizzo, who was named to his first All-Star Game in July, leads the team in home runs (30) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.889).

Brewers: Gomez out with wrist injury
Outfielder Carlos Gomez was out of the Brewers' lineup on Monday after he left Sunday's game against the Giants with a left wrist injury.

Although manager Ron Roenicke said X-rays of Gomez's wrist were negative, he added that Gomez would likely also have his wrist looked at in an MRI.

I'm encouraged today," Roenicke said. "You would think if it was really bad, it'd be worse today than it was yesterday."

However, Roenicke indicated that Gomez would miss more than one game.

"Hand or wrist is not good for him," Roenicke said. "There's no easing back on swings, and the way he plays, his whole game depends on him being physically close to 100 percent."

Worth noting
• With rosters expanding and Triple-A Iowa's season ending on Monday, the Cubs plan to call up six players to join the team, though Renteria did not reveal who those players would be.

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Brewers call up five, including Monday starter Nelson

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Brewers call up five, including Monday starter Nelson play video for Brewers call up five, including Monday starter Nelson

CHICAGO -- The Brewers' September callups included one new player and a quartet of returning ones, including a starting pitcher for Monday's series opener against the Cubs.

The moves involved five players:

• Right-hander Jimmy Nelson was recalled from Class A Brevard County and started Monday's opener at Wrigley Field after spending the weekend on the roster of the Brewers' Florida State League club, a paper move that allowed the big league team to add a bullpen arm.

• Right-hander Matt Garza and left-hander Wei-Chung Wang were reinstated from the 15-day disabled list. Garza had been sidelined by a left oblique strain since the first week of August and is scheduled to rejoin the rotation on Wednesday. Wang, a seldom-used Rule 5 Draft pick, had been on the DL since July with what the Brewers termed left shoulder tightness.

"He's available to pitch for us," manager Ron Roenicke said of Wang on Monday. "Marco [Estrada] should be available today, so we should have a couple long men available. That'll be important for those guys probably especially with Garza on Wednesday."

• Logan Schafer was recalled from Triple-A Nashville in time to bolster a potentially depleted outfield corps. Starting center fielder Carlos Gomez said he felt a pop in his left wrist during a swing in Sunday's loss to the Giants, and while X-rays were negative, he didn't play in Monday's game. Schafer has batted .183 in 119 Major League plate appearances this season and was demoted to the Minors when the Brewers traded for Gerardo Parra on July 31.

"Now with [Gomez], it probably becomes more important," Roenicke said of Schafer's role. "We didn't expect that to happen. He's a great defender. Always helps to have a guy that can go out and play all the positions. Like Parra, Parra plays any of them and does a great job at all of them."

• The newcomer is catcher Matt Pagnozzi, whose contract was purchased from Nashville to be an emergency catcher for the final month. To create space on a full 40-man roster, the Brewers shifted injured infielder Jeff Bianchi to the 60-day DL.

"It really gives us covering if [Martin Maldonado] is catching one day and [Jonathan Lucroy] is on the bench," Roenicke said. "If the fifth inning is important to pinch-hit, I'll pinch-hit Luc knowing there's another catcher there."

Pagnozzi is the nephew of former Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi, and has logged big league time in his own right for the Cardinals, Rockies, Pirates and Astros.

The Brewers on Monday were also joined by reliever Jonathan Broxton, acquired Sunday in a trade with the Reds. Broxton will set up for closer Francisco Rodriguez.

"It's nice to have when you're trying to win a division to have another arm with a guy that's not going to be concerned about what's going on in tight games," Roenicke said. "And he's had a real nice year so far. I'm hoping it's a great piece for us."

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{"event":["prospect" ] }

Brewers prospect Coulter launches two homers in loss

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Brewers prospect Coulter launches two homers in loss play video for Brewers prospect Coulter launches two homers in loss

Catcher Clint Coulter, the Brewers' No. 7 prospect, hit two homers Monday to tie Class A Wisconsin's franchise record with 22 home runs this season. It wasn't enough to lead the Timber Rattlers to victory, however, and they lost, 11-5, at Beloit.

Coulter homered in his first two plate appearances of the game and finished the day 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs. He now shares Wisconsin's home run record with Khris Davis and Victor Roache, the Brewers' No. 9 prospect. Davis set the record in 2010 and Roache matched it last year.

While the Timber Rattlers ended the regular season with a loss to fall to 72-67, they had already qualified for the Midwest League playoffs. Wisconsin will begin the playoffs Wednesday at home against Kane County at 6:35 p.m. CT.

Coulter finished the regular season hitting .287/.410/.520 in 126 games. His .930 OPS led the Midwest League and he tied for the league's home run crown. Last week, he was named to the Midwest League's postseason All-Star team as the designated hitter.

Coulter, the 27th overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, came back strong this year after a disappointing 2013. Injuries limited him to 70 games at three levels of the Minor Leagues and he hit a combined .244/.314/.400 with seven home runs in his first full professional season.

{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] }

Struggling Brewers see Central lead vanish

Lohse gives up seven runs as Milwaukee falls into first-place tie

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Struggling Brewers see Central lead vanish play video for Struggling Brewers see Central lead vanish

SAN FRANCISCO -- Stuck in the grip of a terrible trip, the Brewers have found company atop the National League Central.

Milwaukee was fated to begin September in a tie with St. Louis after losing a fifth straight game Sunday, 15-5 to the surging Giants at AT&T Park. A cruise through California that began with a 10-run romp in San Diego has continued with the Brewers managing 11 total runs in the following five games, four of those runs coming Sunday after the score was already lopsided.

A sloppy loss sealed a second straight sub-.500 month and, coupled with the Cardinals' come-from-behind win over the Cubs, left Milwaukee in danger of falling out of first place for the first time since the morning of April 5.

Losing pitcher Kyle Lohse was hard on himself but easier on his team.

"What are we, tied for first? First of September tomorrow? That's where it's fun," he insisted. "If you tell the team at the beginning of the year that's where you'll be, no matter how you got there ... this is what it comes down to."

The Brewers and Cardinals are each 73-63, and the Pirates lurk only two games back entering a critical series this week in St. Louis.

The Brewers, meanwhile, headed to Chicago to tangle with a Cubs team recently rejuvenated by top prospects. The series begins Monday afternoon with rookie right-hander Jimmy Nelson on the mound for the visitors.

On Sunday, after scoring in the top of the first inning, little went right for the Brewers. Ryan Braun missed a fly ball in a tricky part of right field in the second inning and Rickie Weeks dropped a wind-blown popup in the fifth. Both misplays led to Giants runs against Lohse, who was tagged with seven earned runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. Relievers Alfredo Figaro, Will Smith and Brandon Kintzler combined to surrender seven more runs in a disastrous seventh.

The Brewers also lost their center fielder and leadoff hitter. Carlos Gomez exited with a sore left wrist after dropping his bat after a third-inning strikeout and is "doubtful," according to Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, to play Monday.

The rest of the team will try to rebound after being swept for the first time since prior to the All-Star break. Even after scoring in each of the final three innings, the Brewers were outscored by the Giants in the series 31-8 and outhit 46-17.

"It was just a bad series," Roenicke said. "We didn't do anything well. We didn't pitch well, we didn't play defense and we didn't swing the bat well."

The Giants did all three on the way to winning their sixth game in a row. Their run and hit totals were the second-most they've collected in a three-game series at AT&T Park. On Sunday alone, the Giants tallied 10 extra-base hits.

"It's something special what we just put up on the board against a first-place team over there," said Giants catcher Andrew Susac, a backup to Buster Posey who had a single, two doubles and three RBIs. "They're no slouches. We faced three quality arms and hit them pretty good."

Said Lohse: "I'll just make it simple for you: It was terrible execution."

San Francisco's seventh-inning outburst sealed the game, but the more telling sequence may have occurred in the bottom of the fifth. In the span of only a minute or two, Weeks whiffed a popup, the Cubs-Cardinals score went final on the out-of-town scoreboard and Pablo Sandoval hammered a two-run home run off Lohse that sailed to the right-field arcade for a 6-1 Giants lead.

Against Madison Bumgarner, that was a giant deficit. The left-hander surrendered a first-inning run on Braun's double-play grounder, but nothing after that through six effective innings. Bumgarner was charged with a run on five hits and a walk, struck out seven batters and exited the game after 96 pitches with a 7-1 lead.

Martin Maldonado and Braun hit late solo homers for Milwaukee, and the Brewers added two more meaningless runs in the ninth to finish 13-14 in August.

Since going 20-8 in March and April, they are 53-55, yet have held at least a share of first place every day. That status will be on the line Monday.

"Nobody told us it was going to be easy," Gomez said. "You just respect [the Giants] -- they came after us and did damage. They won the whole series. You put it in the past and come to your own division and play well again."

Gomez was referring to the fact that 22 of the Brewers' final 26 games are against NL Central rivals.

Of getting swept, he added, "That can motivate you, too. [Two weeks ago], we swept the Dodgers and they didn't expect that. We didn't expect this, too. This is how the game is. You move forward and forget about it."

Roenicke expressed confidence.

"We're still OK," he said. "We can turn this thing around in a hurry and have a good next series. Then you go on from there. We still have a long ways to go and we know it. You are always disappointed when you have a series like this, especially after playing [the Giants] tough in our ballpark. We just fell apart."

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{"content":["injury" ] }

Brewers slot Garza to return against Cubs

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Brewers slot Garza to return against Cubs play video for Brewers slot Garza to return against Cubs

SAN FRANCISCO -- Matt Garza will rejoin the Brewers' rotation Wednesday at Wrigley Field, one calendar month after coming out of a start in St. Louis with a left rib-cage strain.

Instead of saying whose spot Garza will take, manager Ron Roenicke suggested the Brewers may stick with six starting pitchers for at least one turn through the rotation in September. The team is at the start of 17 games in as many days and does not have a scheduled off-day until Sept. 15.

"If we do it for one time through, it works out pretty good," Roenicke said. "And it gives some guys six days' rest at the end. I still think we look good out there as far as physically, but at the end of the season you never know. So if an extra day helps, maybe we'll do it that way."

Jimmy Nelson, who was optioned to Class A Brevard County in a paper move Saturday that allowed the Brewers to bring in bullpen help, is scheduled to travel to Chicago on Sunday ahead of an afternoon Labor Day start against the Cubs. Yovani Gallardo is scheduled to start Tuesday before Garza's turn Wednesday.

Statistically speaking, extra rest has been a wash this season. Brewers starters are 33-22 with a 3.61 ERA and a 1.186 WHIP in 74 games with four days off between starts. Entering Mike Fiers' outing Saturday, they were 33-19 with a 3.73 ERA and a 1.257 ERA in 60 games on extra rest.

"Plus, if all the guys are throwing well, it's kind of hard to say, 'Hey, you're out of there,'" Roenicke said. "So that's why we look at it and see what we think is the best."

One more factor: Giving Nelson another start after Monday would push Gallardo's subsequent start to Sept. 8 against the Marlins, meaning Gallardo would miss a four-game series against St. Louis at Miller Park. He is 1-11 with a 6.45 ERA in 17 career starts against the Cards, including no decisions and a 6.35 ERA in two starts this season.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Crew acquires Broxton, satisfies setup need

Milwaukee exchanges two players to be named in trade with Reds

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Crew acquires Broxton, satisfies setup need play video for Crew acquires Broxton, satisfies setup need

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Brewers have found the bullpen help they'd been seeking for two months, and it came from within their own division.

In acquiring Jonathan Broxton from the Reds on Sunday for two players to be named, the Brewers filled a need for a tested right-hander to help set up Francisco Rodriguez, a role that has bounced between a number of different players since Rodriguez was installed as the closer on Opening Day.

Broxton won't join the Brewers until Monday in Chicago, but because he was in the organization before the end of August, he will be eligible for the postseason roster should the Brewers get that far. They entered Sunday on a four-game losing streak, clinging to a one-game lead over the second-place Cardinals and a two-game lead over the third-place Pirates.

"We're playing too well to panic about a few games," said Zach Duke, who finished last season with Broxton in Cincinnati, "but any time you can upgrade the talent on your team, that's good thing."

Broxton, 30, owns a 1.86 ERA and seven saves in 51 appearances for the Reds this season, mostly pitching ahead of shutdown closer Aroldis Chapman. He has stranded 10 of his 14 inherited runners and has kept the opponent scoreless in 43 games, but has struggled some recently. In his last seven games, totaling 6 1/3 innings, Broxton has allowed five earned runs, 11 hits and four walks.

He is signed through the end of next season, with a 2016 option that converted from a club option to mutual the moment he was traded.

The Brewers will owe Broxton $9 million next season, and the 2016 option is also for $9 million, with a buyout that increased from $1 million to $2 million Sunday because he was traded. Broxton, a former closer for the Dodgers and Royals, would be the leading contender to fill that role in Milwaukee next season should Rodriguez depart via free agency.

More immediately, "if our next 30 games are all one-run ballgames, we're covered a little bit," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said.

After the Brewers won a waiver claim for Broxton, Melvin and Reds counterpart Walt Jocketty had until noon CT to complete their first trade since Jim Edmonds went to the Reds in August 2010. The teams have already agreed upon one of those players, Jocketty said, and the other will come from a list of candidates. Melvin indicated the deal would be complete before the end of September.

The Brewers already had an opening on their 40-man roster, which is now full.

They had been trying to bolster the bullpen for months, with Melvin checking in on a long list of targets including Joaquin Benoit of the Padres, LaTroy Hawkins of the Rockies, Chad Qualls of the Astros, Koji Uehara of the Red Sox and Addison Reed and Brad Ziegler of the D-backs, among others.

Manager Ron Roenicke prefers set bullpen roles, so Broxton figures to pitch mostly in the eighth inning, though Roenicke said Will Smith could continue to see action in that situation when a left-hander is called for. Smith has played a significant role this season in helping the Brewers overcome Jim Henderson 's shoulder injury, Tyler Thornburg 's elbow injury and Brandon Kintzler 's periodic struggles.

"I like the pieces we have in our bullpen but [in Broxton] we're talking about a guy that's a pretty special guy," Roenicke said. "He's got great stuff, he competes well, he's a good teammate and I think it puts another piece there where I can pitch guys exactly how I want to.

"When we lost Henderson, things changed. The guys did a great job. Will Smith jumped in, did a great job. Duke did a great job. We picked up [Jeremy] Jeffress and he steps in and does a great job. But this is different. This is a guy that's proven. He's done it before, he's closed before, he's set up before, and now I have another piece that I can put together and maybe do the matchups a little bit better than I've been doing them."

News of the trade was met warmly in the Brewers clubhouse, and with a touch of surprise.

"You never know what's going to happen in your division," said Roenicke, who was approached several days ago by Brewers special assistant Craig Counsell about the possibility of a Broxton trade. "We trade [John] Axford last year to the Cardinals, which I know wasn't easy for Doug to do. But sometimes, when it makes sense to everybody, it works."

Said catcher Jonathan Lucroy, "You can tell they're trying to make something happen. They're trying to bolster the bullpen, and that's great. We're trying to get better, and that's important. As an everyday player, it's nice to see that."

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Brewers escape no-hitter but lose division ground

Reynolds' single in eighth ends Peavy's bid; Fiers takes loss

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Brewers escape no-hitter but lose division ground play video for Brewers escape no-hitter but lose division ground

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two weeks ago in California, the Brewers found the emotional, if not mathematical, high point of their season. A three-game sweep of the first-place Dodgers boosted the Brewers 15 games over .500 and three games up on the rest of the National League Central, prompting All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy to speculate aloud about a rematch in the playoffs.

On Saturday, in the midst of a dismal return to the Golden State, that day seemed a distant memory.

Hitless before Mark Reynolds flared a broken-bat single over second base with one out in the eighth inning, the Brewers fell to Jake Peavy and the Giants' bullpen, 3-1, at AT&T Park. Fans bundled in orange and black hoping to see the Giants' second no-hitter this season settled instead for watching the home team hand Milwaukee a fourth consecutive loss.

The Brewers threatened in the ninth, getting a run on Ryan Braun's RBI single and bringing the go-ahead run to the plate, but their lead in the NL Central shrunk to one game over the Cardinals and two games over the Pirates.

"We've got one game left here and then we head back and play the Central pretty much the rest of the way," Reynolds said. "Pitchers we're real familiar with, ballparks we're real familiar with. These teams aren't going to give it to us. We've got to keep playing good baseball."

That means they need to start hitting again. During the four-game losing streak, the Brewers have scored six runs, batted .165 (20-for-121) and struck out 38 times.

Are they pressing?

"We're not there yet," manager Ron Roenicke said.

It gets no easier for Milwaukee on Sunday against Madison Bumgarner, the Giants' left-handed ace who took a perfect game into the eighth inning against the Rockies in his last start and settled for a one-hit shutout.

Peavy proved just as formidable. In 7 2/3 innings, he allowed three walks, one hit and a hit batsman. He struck out eight batters and carried a no-hitter past the seventh inning for the first time in 13 Major League seasons thanks in part to some sensational defense.

The best play came from shortstop Brandon Crawford in the seventh. With Peavy's pitch count climbing and Scooter Gennett batting, Crawford went to his left, diving to stop a single from rolling into center field and then flipping the baseball to second baseman Joe Panik for the first half of an inning-ending double play.

Asked whether he thought Crawford had any chance to get there, Gennett said, "If I didn't know him, no, but that guy can pick it. ... I can't say I was happy to see it."

In the eighth, third baseman Pablo Sandoval fielded a bouncer along the third-base line and made a long throw to retire Khris Davis. But Reynolds followed by getting just enough of a 1-and-2 fastball high in the strike zone to bloop it into right field for Milwaukee's first hit.

That rally fizzled, and the Brewers were able to muster their only run in the ninth.

"Any time you beat a team that's in first place and as good as the Brewers, you feel good about your night," Peavy said. "You really have to set the tone against that team, with the energy they play with, thanks to guys like Carlos Gomez. They get on base early and it creates for a long night if they catch their rhythm."

Peavy prevented that in a crafty way. Roenicke and others noticed that he threw a high percentage of sliders in the early innings, when the hitting background was still splashed in sunlight. Peavy struck out six of the first nine batters he faced, including the 2,000th strikeout of his career.

The Brewers reckoned those sliders were part of a plan.

"Oh, for sure," Reynolds said. "They know where they're at. With the sun in the backdrop, all you see is just a black ball coming at you. You can't see laces, you can't see spin. I think their hits in the first couple innings were on fastballs, too. So if it's straight, you've got a chance. That's just the way it is."

Brewers starter Mike Fiers (4-2) took his first loss as a big league starter this season after allowing three runs on seven hits in seven innings. It marked the third consecutive start that Fiers delivered seven full innings, but he was defeated by a three-run Giants rally in the fourth inning that began with three successive hits including Michael Morse's two-run double.

Fiers has pitched at least seven innings in four of five starts since rejoining the team in early August in the wake of Matt Garza's rib-cage strain. Each of those outings has met the definition of a quality start.

"[Peavy] just outpitched me, he beat me, and it's tough to say but I have to be better in that situation, in a game like this," Fiers said. "Yeah, the line score shows I pitched all right, but I just have to be better."

Gennett stopped short of calling Saturday's near no-hitter a low point of the season.

"I wouldn't say that," said Gennett, pointing to a lull in May as worse. "We're still hitting the ball, we're just not finding too many holes. I think when you lose a few games in a row, you want to go out there and put up four in the first inning. You're pressing a little bit. Once we let the game come to us and relax and play our normal game, we should be fine."

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Gomez's catch restored after video review

Brewers win challenge in sixth, but ninth-inning out call on Braun confirmed

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Gomez's catch restored after video review play video for Gomez's catch restored after video review

SAN FRANCISCO -- Seeking a small success while they were still looking for a hit against Giants starter Jake Peavy, the Brewers found one via replay.

The umpires at AT&T Park initially ruled Giants slugger Michael Morse safe when Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez caught a one-out fly ball in the sixth inning and then dropped it. Roenicke challenged that call, and after a brief review, the ruling was overturned, with Major League Baseball's Replay Command Center ruling that Gomez dropped the baseball while he was transferring it from his glove.

The matter is covered in Rule 2.00, which reads in part that, "If the fielder has made the catch and drops the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch, the ball shall be adjudged to have been caught."

At the start of this season, umpires and replay officials had been instructed to follow a more strict interpretation of the transfer rule, requiring fielders to cleanly remove balls from their gloves before an out was recorded. But the Playing Rules Committee announced in late April a change, saying outs should be called even if the ball slips out of a fielder's throwing hand while removing it from his glove.

"We've had an outcry," Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, said on MLB Network at the time. "Clubs and players have been upset because of the calls umpires have made. ... We listened to the clubs. We listened to the players. We're just going to change the interpretation of the same rule."

Roenicke challenged another call in the ninth inning and lost. With Ryan Braun aboard, Milwaukee's Aramis Ramirez hit a grounder to Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who threw wide of second. Umpire Quinn Wolcott ruled Panik held the bag but Roenicke asked for a second look. The call was confirmed after a 19-second review.

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Figaro called up to bolster Brewers' bullpen

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Figaro called up to bolster Brewers' bullpen play video for Figaro called up to bolster Brewers' bullpen

SAN FRANCISCO -- Triple-A Nashville's Alfredo Figaro was fast asleep when his phone rang at 1:30 a.m. Saturday. He didn't recognize the number, so Figaro hung up.

When the same number immediately called back, Figaro answered.

The voice on the other line said, "You're going to The Show."

It was Sounds manager Rick Sweet, passing along the news that the Brewers, after being blown out by the Giants at AT&T Park, needed bullpen help. Figaro was summoned to temporarily take the roster spot of Jimmy Nelson, who was optioned to Class A Brevard County in a paper move but will still start against the Cubs on Monday, the date rosters expand.

Figaro's third stint with the Brewers came two days earlier than planned. He would have been one of the Brewers' September callups Monday anyway.

"My teammates asked me, but nobody told me anything so I just started packing my stuff," Figaro said. "I already had my stuff packed to go home."

Instead, his season will continue with a team trying to win a spot in the postseason.

"[We] needed an arm," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, who had to burn three relievers including long man Marco Estrada in Friday's 13-2 loss. "We didn't have any length at all."

Figaro had a 3.71 ERA in 40 relief appearances and two starts at Nashville and last pitched Wednesday, allowing two earned runs in 2 1/3 innings. In two previous big league stints (one in late April and another in June), Figaro appeared in only two games.

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Brewers battered but don't lose ground to Cards

Peralta hit hard for six runs in loss to Giants; Estrada also struggles

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Brewers battered but don't lose ground to Cards play video for Brewers battered but don't lose ground to Cards

SAN FRANCISCO -- Once again, the out-of-town scoreboard brought the Brewers good news from back east: The Cardinals had lost.

Once again, the Brewers couldn't capitalize.

An opportunity-laden trip to the West Coast continued to cause frustration for the National League Central leaders. Wily Peralta lasted for only three innings of a 13-2 loss at AT&T Park that began with boxing champ Manny Pacquiao throwing a ceremonial first pitch before the Giants scored an early knockout.

"This was gone, basically, pretty early," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "We got a run early and you hope you can bounce back, but once it gets to that point, you're trying to survive with your pitching staff."

By the time the Cubs finished their victory over the Cardinals in St. Louis, Roenicke and the Brewers were already in survival mode. They trailed 3-0 after the first inning, 6-1 when Peralta exited after the third and 13-2 after the fifth as the Giants piled on against reliever Marco Estrada.

The Giants, winners of four straight games, finished with 19 hits. That matched the season high for a Brewers opponent.

But since the Brewers and Cardinals have each lost three in a row, Milwaukee's lead in the NL Central remained stuck at 1 1/2 games over second-place St. Louis. Pittsburgh suddenly lurks only three games back.

"I don't think a lot of us are paying attention to that stuff," said Estrada. "We know we're still in first place, and that's all that matters. A game like today, and even the series before [in San Diego], it's something you don't want to go through and you don't want to do -- you want to gain as much ground as possible. But every team goes through these types of games.

"All we can do is forget about it and worry about [Saturday]. If we come out swinging and pitch great and come out with a 'W,' these last three games won't even be brought up again."

Peralta's three-inning start was his shortest this season, and he threw only 45 strikes among his 80 pitches. The big right-hander was charged with six earned runs on nine hits, including eight singles -- six of which rolled through the infield or, in the case of Hunter Pence's RBI infield hit off Peralta's glove in the second inning, didn't leave the infield at all.

"I fell behind on pretty much everybody, and that's what you're going to get," Peralta said.

Peralta was the first pitcher in the Major Leagues to win 14 decisions on Aug. 7 and was one of only three pitchers with 15 wins when he beat the Dodgers on Aug. 17. But in his past two starts, Peralta has surrendered 14 runs (13 earned) on 13 hits in eight innings.

"These past two starts have been terrible," he said.

"I don't know," Roenicke said, shaking his head. "We need to get him right, get him back where he's going deep in games and obviously keeping the run total down."

By the time a Brewers pitcher (Tom Gorzelanny) finally worked a scoreless inning in the sixth, the game had produced some eye-popping oddities:

• Buster Posey was out of the game before the final out of the sixth inning yet matched his career high with five hits. His only other five-hit night came in a 16-inning game.

• Posey and Pence combined for eight hits and six RBIs in their first nine at-bats. The top three hitters in San Francisco's order (Angel Pagan, Joe Panik and Posey) had 11 hits and seven runs scored before the game reached the seventh inning.

"We placed some balls in the right spots early," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Occasionally you're going to have a game like this."

• Estrada required 74 pitches to complete only two innings. He threw 38 pitches in a two-run fourth inning that featured a bases-loaded walk, and 36 more pitches in a five-run fifth that included two Giants triples and Gregor Blanco's two-run home run. It was the 29th home run off Estrada this season, most in the Majors.

Estrada was charged with seven runs (five earned) on six hits and two walks.

"It was just one of those days, no matter what you threw they were finding a way [to hit it]," Estrada said. "Wily made some really good pitches and they found a hole through the infield. I made a few good pitches, and they would find a hole, then with runners on, they would come up with a big hit. It's one of those days you have to forget about."

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Brewers unlikely to make last-minute trade

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Brewers unlikely to make last-minute trade play video for Brewers unlikely to make last-minute trade

SAN FRANCISCO -- With about 48 hours remaining to acquire players and have them eligible for the postseason roster, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said Friday he did not anticipate any last-minute trade activity.

"You never know, but probably not," Melvin said.

Players must be on an organization's roster by 10:59 p.m. CT on Sunday to be eligible for postseason play, and the Brewers have been open to making additions all month. They reportedly won a waiver claim for Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau, who would have bolstered a position at which the Brewers have the National League's lowest OPS, but the sides were unable to find common ground on a trade, so the Rockies pulled Morneau back off waivers.

The Brewers also made multiple attempts to claim a late-inning reliever on the waiver wire, with little success by virtue of their position near the top of the National League standings, Melvin said.

"Then there's a lot of times teams put guys on waivers, look at it, and if they're not getting something that's attractive to them, they just wait and say, 'Let's try next year,'" Melvin said. "That's the same thing we did last year when we weren't sure we were going to make the postseason. Let's just keep our guys and go at it next year.

"We might even be a team that teams look at [and say], 'Look at the Brewers last year to this year. They pretty much kept everybody, added one piece and that's it.'"

The big piece was free agent right-hander Matt Garza. With the rest of last year's 74-win team mostly intact, the Brewers have led the NL Central every day since April 5.

"Just because a guy is requested on waivers, there's not a high percentage chance you can make a deal," Melvin said. "Nothing against other GMs, that's just the way it is."

Melvin and the Brewers plan to promote multiple relievers when rosters expand Monday, and manager Ron Roenicke said he would allow players to pitch themselves into meaningful roles as September unfolds.

"You know, the bullpen got us into this position that we're at," Melvin said. "You just have to hope that they can continue to pitch in situations to get us there. A lot of clubs are struggling for bullpen help; that's another reason so many guys got claimed [before they reached the Brewers' position]."

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Garza ready to rejoin Brewers rotation next week

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Garza ready to rejoin Brewers rotation next week play video for Garza ready to rejoin Brewers rotation next week

SAN FRANCISCO -- After watching Matt Garza face hitters Friday for the first time since the right-hander suffered a rib-cage strain earlier in the month, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke declared, "He's ready to go."

Garza will rejoin the Brewers' starting rotation sometime next week, though Roenicke held off announcing the date Friday afternoon. He wants to be sure Garza bounces back from a 47-pitch, three-inning simulation against Brewers batters Mark Reynolds, Martin Maldonado and Elian Herrera.

"We'll make sure that there's no ill effects from getting after it -- because he did get after it," Roenicke said.

Never mind that AT&T Park was empty and there was no one keeping score.

"It was more anxiety than anything, but I felt great," Garza said. "If you don't have that, then why keep playing? It lets you know you're alive. You let that adrenaline kick in when it goes. That's why it's fun to get back on the mound."

Roenicke said Reynolds broke two bats hitting against Garza, who could tell his teammates were trying to take him deep.

"We've got a tight clubhouse and that would be something to talk about the rest of the year, like, 'Ha, I got you!'" Garza said. "It was fun. The intensity level was there. Like I said, I was happy to be out there."

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Brewers, Segura considering mechanical changes

Besides offensive decline, shortstop has dealt with personal tragedy this season

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Brewers, Segura considering mechanical changes play video for Brewers, Segura considering mechanical changes

SAN FRANCISCO -- As shortstop Jean Segura struggles through his second full season in the Major Leagues, the Brewers are mulling sending him home with an offseason homework assignment. Some in the organization believe that a fundamental change to his hitting mechanics could help restore the offensive production that sent Segura to the 2013 All-Star Game.

"Most guys don't hit the way he does," manager Ron Roenicke explained earlier this month. "He's spread out. He's balanced 50-50, which most hitters are not; they always have a little weight back. They always gather and go back; he doesn't. He's got real quick hands and he tries to hit that way."

Segura, who taught himself to hit in the Dominican Republic and characterized this season as his first prolonged slump, has always swung that way.

Here is Segura in the 2012 Futures Game, a few weeks before the Brewers acquired him from the Angels:

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And this May against the Mets:

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In both instances, his feet remain planted, unlike many hitters who lift their front leg as a balance and timing mechanism when they begin to swing. Instead of generating power with his lower body, Segura's comes from his hands.

"There's some things, mechanically," Roenicke said, "that I think we can do with him to make him more consistent."

Some of those things have already been shared with Segura, who will carry a .237/.277/.320 slash line into Friday's important series opener against the Giants at AT&T Park.

That marks a serious production drop from the beginning of Segura's tenure with the Brewers. Acquired in the Zack Greinke trade before the 2012 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Segura won the Dominican Winter League batting title that offseason before he was installed as Milwaukee's Opening Day shortstop for 2013. He hit .325/.363/.487, alternatively legging out infield singles and driving pitches to the opposite field for extra bases, and he won a surprise spot on the National League All-Star team.

But in 697 plate appearances since then -- the second half of 2013 and '14 so far -- Segura has a slash line of .238/.274/.318, with the third-lowest OPS (.592) of 201 qualifying Major League players in that span. In 300 additional plate appearances, Segura has only four more extra-base hits then he collected during the first half of last season. His success rate on stolen bases has also plummeted, from 27-for-32 during the first half of '13 to 33-for-50 since, which could be connected to Segura's confidence.

The Brewers believe Segura is best served waiting until the offseason to make more significant adjustments, though it has yet to be determined whether he will play winter ball. Last year, Milwaukee blocked Segura from participating, believing he needed an offseason of rest.

At the same time, former Brewers infielder Juan Francisco was working in the Dominican Winter League on a similar change related to his timing, at the suggestion of Milwaukee hitting coach Johnny Narron.

"When we decide that, it's also communicating with the hitter," Narron said. "They're faced with going out there every day and competing, and while they're competing, we don't want them on the infield or the outfield or at the plate to be thinking about stuff. You can't do it. You have to go out there and perform. It has to be muscle memory, something you're comfortable with and confident with."

Comfort has been fleeting for Segura of late, on and off the field. Brewers officials are sensitive to the fact that he was confronted with personal tragedy just before the All-Star break, when Segura's infant son passed away suddenly in the Dominican Republic. Segura rejoined the team on July 18 and told Roenicke and Brewers general manager Doug Melvin that he wanted to play regularly.

Segura's OPS is actually up since the All-Star break, with a .281 batting average on balls in play that suggests some bad luck. He has also played a high-level shortstop, with a handful of exceptions, including one costly error and nearly another in Tuesday's loss to the Padres. On Wednesday, Elian Herrera drew a start in Segura's place.

If Segura plays consistent defense, Roenicke has argued, it helps offset his inconsistent offense.

"I talked to him, and he knows he has some good at-bats, but he just can't figure out why he can't consistently do that," Roenicke said. "He'll have a good one, and then the next one will be just like he's lost. Then later, he'll maybe have a good at-bat again. That's what's been frustrating with him, the inconsistency.

"We've seen the flashes of where he is, and whether it's him not having the confidence to do what he did at the beginning of last year, whether it's the pitchers making adjustments to him; infielders, I know, have made adjustments, they're playing him shallower because he beats out so many infield hits. It's probably a combination of everything. Lately, we know the off-the-field issues are tough for him. There's a lot going on."

Segura acknowledged as much.

"I think it's mental," he said. "I've seen my videos. I don't think anything is 'backward' or wrong. I think it's just swinging at strikes; swinging at pitches I'm supposed to swing at. I've been hitting the ball hard, but they never fall."

That said, he is open to change if Brewers coaches believe it's best. Segura has already been studying the mechanics of other hitters, from teammate Aramis Ramirez to 2012 NL MVP Award winner Buster Posey and perennial American League MVP Award candidates Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout, to see how they load up for swings.

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"When you're struggling, you need to find something that works for you," Segura said. "I'm trying to do it a little bit, trying in the cage, trying in [batting practice]. In the games, you can't take too much in your mind. But if I do it enough in BP, it may come natural in the game."

Then Segura directs the conversation more broadly.

"It's tough, inside, outside," Segura said, referencing off-the-field matters. "I've got too much going on in my head. I'm trying to get away from those negative things, try to do the best I can to help the team win ballgames.

"If I'm here, it's because they need me. This is a business. If they didn't need me, they'd kick me out of here. I'm just trying to do the best I can."

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Crew falls in extras, misses chance to pad Central lead

Gallardo goes six scoreless, but doesn't record a strikeout

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Crew falls in extras, misses chance to pad Central lead play video for Crew falls in extras, misses chance to pad Central lead

SAN DIEGO -- For the second straight night, a chance to create some distance from the rest of the division slipped past the National League Central-leading Brewers.

The significance of that did not slip past Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez.

"This one definitely hurts," said Rodriguez, who surrendered a tying home run in the ninth inning of what became a 10-inning, 3-2 loss to the Padres. "There's no question about it. It really hurts, regardless of what happened in the other city."

The other city was Pittsburgh, where the Pirates did the Brewers a favor by beating the Cardinals for the second straight day. The Brewers were aware of that outcome hours before taking the field for their own series finale at Petco Park and nearly capitalized, only to see Padres catcher Rene Rivera lead off the ninth with the tying shot off Rodriguez and a winning single off Zach Duke with two outs in the 10th.

As a result of Rivera's muscle, Milwaukee's lead in the NL Central remained 1 1/2 games over the Cardinals.

"We're in the driver's seat right now," said Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo as the team hurriedly packed for San Francisco. "If we go out there and take care of the things we have to do, everything else is going to fall into place. We can't be watching the [teams] behind us."

Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke spent the final inning of the game in the clubhouse after being ejected by plate umpire Mark Ripperger for protesting the strike zone in the ninth inning. Rodriguez, working with a 2-1 lead and vying to be the first NL closer to reach 40 saves, tried to shoot the outside corner with consecutive fastballs that were called Balls 1 and 2. It was a dramatic departure, Roenicke argued, from Ripperger's zone earlier in the game, and forced Rodriguez to come back inside with another fastball, which Rivera rocketed to the left-field seats.

"We go in with a one-run lead in the ninth and we feel great with Frankie, and they tie it up," a disgusted Roenicke said.

Rodriguez's 12 home runs allowed match his total from 2003, his first full season in the Major Leagues. He escaped further damage and ended the ninth inning with a strikeout, the 1,000th of his career.

Duke found trouble in the 10th inning after walking the leadoff man. With two outs, Rivera sent a winning single to center field.

"This is a good team. Those guys are battling for a division title," Padres manager Bud Black said of the Brewers. "I know their manager very well, he's very competitive. They've got some veteran players over there who understand where they are. And for us to win two out of three -- and they're a good road team, you look what they do on the road. Good game last night, good game tonight. It was good to see us bounce back these last two."

Runs were hard to come by during a series finale that was scoreless into the seventh inning, with Brewers starter Gallardo working six scoreless innings in the first zero-strikeout game of his career, and Brewers shortstop Elian Herrera keying a two-run rally with a double in the seventh.

Padres right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne set a career high with nine strikeouts over seven innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits.

Gallardo, meanwhile, struck out none for the first time in his 209th Major League game, but kept San Diego off the scoreboard for six innings, despite three walks. He surrendered only three hits, and was denied in a bid to become the Brewers' all-time leader in strikeouts. At 1,202, Gallardo remains four shy of Ben Sheets' club record.

Both starting pitchers were particularly tested in the fifth inning, when each club started with runners at the corners and nobody out -- but came up empty. Gallardo needed 35 pitches for his half of that frame.

"He got by this game," Roenicke said. "He did a good job not letting them score runs, but he had no feel for his curveball. I don't know if he threw a good curveball today. He did a great job of pitching with his fastball and slider, but he didn't have all his pitches."

The zero strikeout game was particularly surprising considering Gallardo has whiffed at least six batters in more than half of his career appearances. Among pitchers who have logged at least 1,000 innings, he entered the night ranked 20th in baseball history with 8.61 strikeouts per nine innings.

The last to leave a quiet clubhouse on Wednesday was Rodriguez, who vowed to shake off his fifth blown save.

"That's a tough one, I'm not going to lie," Rodriguez said. "I'm probably not going to be able to close my eyes tonight just thinking about it. But we still have a tough series coming up [in San Francisco]. We have to be sure to be ready Friday."

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Rockies, Brewers unable to complete Morneau deal

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Rockies, Brewers unable to complete Morneau deal play video for Rockies, Brewers unable to complete Morneau deal

The Rockies and Brewers almost found a way to send Justin Morneau back into a pennant race.

Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported Thursday that the Brewers and Rockies discussed a trade that would have sent Morneau to Milwaukee, but ultimately couldn't reach an agreement. Milwaukee successfully claimed Morneau off waivers but couldn't assemble the right pieces to convince Colorado.

Morneau is currently leading all NL players with a .317 batting average, and he's clubbed 14 home runs in 112 games for Colorado. The Brewers are playing veterans Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay at first base.

Morneau, a four-time All-Star and the 2006 AL Most Valuable Player, has regained his form after a few seasons affected by concussions. The veteran has played in the playoffs in three seasons, twice with Minnesota and last year with the Pirates after being acquired in August.

Morneau, 33, signed a two-year contract with the Rockies last December that includes a mutual option for 2016. Morneau has batted .310 with a .345 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging mark at Coors Field and .325 with a .376 on-base and .500 slugging on the road.

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Roenicke criticizes umpire after ejection

Mild-mannered manager's temper flares over balls and strikes

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Roenicke criticizes umpire after ejection play video for Roenicke criticizes umpire after ejection

SAN DIEGO -- Typically mild-mannered Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke directed outrage toward a young umpire following a 10-inning, 3-2 loss to the Padres on Wednesday that denied the first-place Brewers extra breathing room in the National League Central.

Roenicke offered a biting critique of plate umpire Mark Ripperger, a 34-year-old Triple-A callup who ejected Roenicke in the bottom of the ninth inning after Padres catcher Rene Rivera hit a tying home run. The homer came against Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez, who fell behind in the count after he tried to shoot the outside corner with consecutive fastballs -- in spots, Roenicke argued, that had been called strikes all night.

But Ripperger called both pitches balls, and when Rodriguez came back over the plate with another fastball and Rivera hit it into the left-field seats, Roenicke's frustration boiled over.

"This is the thing that bothers me," Roenicke said. "This is the same umpire that we had before, and he is terrible behind home plate. He calls pitches that aren't even close. The catcher sets up six inches off the plate and he calls them strikes. I should have been kicked out the last time that we saw him [on July 26 at Miller Park for a game against Jon Niese and the Mets]. I'm tired of sitting here watching the catcher set up off the plate and hitting his glove and [Ripperger] calling it a strike. They are balls.

"So Frankie misses, OK, it is off the plate [an inch or two] the first one, he calls a ball. He's been calling it [a strike] all night. The next one was a little further off, but he's been calling that also. Just call the same pitches, but they are balls. I should have been kicked out in probably the second inning today. It is the same guy."

In part because Ripperger is not a full-time Major League umpire, crew chief Ted Barrett provided a response to Roenicke's criticism.

"It's pennant-race baseball, and tempers get heated," Barrett said. "Wins are critical, and we understand that as umpires."  

Barrett said the crew would receive a report grading Ripperger's ball/strike calls as early as Tuesday, as part of Major League Baseball's Zone Evaluation system. 

"We'll go over that and evaluate it and see if there were pitches missed," Barrett said. "If there were, we'll figure out how we can get them right, [perhaps] adjust our stance. We'll see what we're getting right, what we're getting wrong. Without seeing it, I have no idea standing at first base." 

Of that evaluation system, Barrett said, "It's not perfect, but it's a pretty good training system for us. It's a good chance to see what pitches we're getting right, what we're getting wrong and what we need to work on."

The blown save was Rodriguez's fifth this season, and denied his bid to be the NL's first closer to reach 40 saves.

He was measured in his response to questions about the strike zone.

"I don't think it's really appropriate to sit here after this game and question the umpires' calls," Rodriguez said. "The bottom line is still that I have to make quality pitches at the end. I gave up that homer to lose the lead. Would one pitch have changed everything in that sequence? Definitely. But he called a ball, so it was a ball."

Rodriguez admitted that in a 2-0 count, he was forced to throw Rivera a fastball "right down the middle."

"I get the call I was supposed to, I'm ahead in the count 0-1," said Rodriguez, who said that on 2-0, his mindset was, "Go ahead, here, I have to challenge."

"In the big leagues, we're taught to be consistent," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "That's what keeps us here. Our jobs require us to be as consistent as possible. Consistency is the key word, and it needs to be what everyone strives for."

Ripperger's perceived inconsistency is what irked Roenicke. He pointed to the seven-inning performance of Padres starter Odrisamer Despaigne, who set a career high with nine strikeouts.

"He was rolling because the umpire was giving him six inches off the plate. That's why he was rolling," Roenicke said. "That's a huge difference when a pitcher can throw that far off the plate. We swing the bat more than anybody in baseball. If we're taking pitches, they are balls. We swing. I went back and looked at pitches after the first inning and I couldn't believe the pitches the guy was calling. But it is the same thing that he did the last time to us.

Asked whether those outside pitches were evenly called for both side, Roenicke argued it was "Absolutely uneven, but you know something, we weren't hitting that spot he was giving them pitches on. They are getting more pitches because their catcher is setting up and their pitcher is hitting the spots that are off the plate."

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Garza to throw simulated game, bypass rehab

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Garza to throw simulated game, bypass rehab play video for Garza to throw simulated game, bypass rehab

SAN DIEGO -- Bypassing a Minor League rehab assignment, Brewers right-hander Matt Garza is scheduled to pitch a simulated game on Friday in San Francisco before rejoining the big league starting rotation sometime next week.

"I won't say an exact date that we're thinking," manager Ron Roenicke said in announcing the plan, "but if [Friday] goes well, we should be able to get him back out there."

Garza, who has not pitched since he strained a left rib-cage muscle in St. Louis on Aug. 3, will throw 45-50 pitches in Friday's session. The plan for his comeback is being influenced by the Brewers' schedule, according to Roenicke. That the team is in the middle of a west-coast road trip complicated the idea of sending Garza to an affiliate, and the fact rosters expand when the calendar flips to September on Monday simplified the task of getting Garza back into game shape.

"It helps us because we're not worried about him having to pitch a game and go 5-6 innings for us," Roenicke said. "If he goes 3-4 [innings], we're fine because of what extra arms we'll have up."

Garza threw an aggressive bullpen session Tuesday and reported no significant soreness to pitching coach Rick Kranitz on Wednesday.

Assuming no setbacks, Garza could rejoin the rotation as early as next Tuesday or Wednesday in Chicago, though Roenicke was reluctant to announce any pitching plans for that series because Garza's return will impact another current starter.

Garza's return would bolster the staff if he regains the form he showed before getting hurt. He surrendered only two earned runs in 21 innings over his three most recent starts.

"Anytime you have guys on the DL, you want to get back to full strength," Roenicke said, adding, "I know the guys who have filled in have really done a great job for us. [Mike] Fiers kind of taking [Garza's] spot and Jimmy Nelson, who came in. … Those guys have done a great job for stepping in and pitching in really some big spots."

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Nelson named PCL pitcher of the year

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SAN DIEGO -- In an acknowledgement of his early-season dominance for Triple-A Nashville, Jimmy Nelson was named Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year Wednesday despite the fact he's been in the big leagues since before the All-Star break.

Nelson, 25, was the second Brewers farmhand in as many seasons to win the award, after Johnny Hellweg won last year.

"It's an honor," Nelson said. "It's pretty cool that the Brewers have gotten it the last couple years. It shows that we have some guys developing in our system.

"We had a few guys on that team that did well -- me, [Mike] Fiers did well and [Brad] Mills was dealing, too. It was a good staff and we all kind of pushed each other a little bit. Kind of like we do here."

In 17 outings for Nashville, Nelson was 10-2 with a 1.46 ERA. He struck out 114 batters with only 32 walks in 111 innings.

At the time of his July 11 promotion to the Brewers, Nelson led all of Minor League Baseball in ERA and opponents' batting average (.179), ranked third in strikeouts, and was tied for the PCL lead in victories.

Nelson was a near unanimous choice for the pitcher of the year honor in voting by field managers and representatives from the media in each city across the league. The only other player to receive a vote for the award was Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks.

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{"content":["replay" ] }

Umpires quickly overturn play at first in eighth

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Umpires quickly overturn play at first in eighth play video for Umpires quickly overturn play at first in eighth

SAN DIEGO -- Judging by his immediate reaction, Brewers first baseman Lyle Overbay knew a key call in Wednesday's game against the Padres would be overturned well before the umpires got their first look.

With a runner aboard and left-hander Will Smith and the Brewers nursing a one-run lead, Padres three-hole hitter Seth Smith hit a grounder to Overbay that pulled the veteran from the bag. He had to hustle over to attempt a tag, and first base ump Ted Barrett initially ruled Smith safe, drawing a strong reaction from Overbay.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke challenged the call, and, after only 41 seconds, it was overturned.

{"content":["replay" ] }

Nelson struggles, Crew misses chance to gain ground

Defensive and baserunning miscues don't help Brewers' cause

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Nelson struggles, Crew misses chance to gain ground play video for Nelson struggles, Crew misses chance to gain ground

SAN DIEGO -- With Matt Garza on the mend, rookie right-hander Jimmy Nelson did not exactly strengthen his case for a September spot in the Brewers' starting rotation.

In Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Padres at Petco Park, Nelson needed 93 pitches for five innings. In the only inning he retired the side in order, Nelson spent 17 pitches. A light-hitting opposing pitcher doubled to begin a three-run Padres rally in the third that included a careless error charged to shortstop Jean Segura. An inning later, Nelson walked that opposing pitcher with two outs.

Considering that opponent was Padres ace Tyson Ross, a right-hander riding the longest streak of quality starts in San Diego's franchise history, Nelson and the Brewers were in trouble.

"You see the stuff that [Ross] has, and if he's on with his command, you're going to have a tough night," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Great fastball and a great slider. Throws his slider 3-and-0, 3-and-1 -- it doesn't matter, his command is just as good with it. When you're facing a guy that tough, you're not going to get much."

The loss snapped the Brewers' five-game road winning streak and denied an opportunity to add to their advantage over second-place St. Louis in the National League Central, which remained 1 1/2 games.

Nelson was charged with four runs (two earned) on five hits in five innings, with two walks and a career-high seven strikeouts. After delivering five consecutive quality starts from July 22-Aug. 15, Nelson has surrendered eight runs (six earned) and 14 hits over 10 2/3 innings in his last two outings.

He had little help from teammates Tuesday. Against Ross, the Brewers ran into aggressive outs on the basepaths to end the fourth inning, when Khris Davis was out at second base trying to advance on a ball in the dirt, and the fifth, when Segura was caught trying to steal second with the pitcher's spot already cleared.

Ross won for the fifth time in his last seven decisions after holding the Brewers to one run on four hits in 6 1/3 innings. Three Padres relievers finished the job.

"He's got an incredible arm," Scooter Gennett said. "He's nice and smooth and relaxed, and then once he starts throwing the ball, his arm's so quick that it adds the deception factor. He's got a good slider, a good fastball, and coming from a 6-foot-7 body, it's not the easiest thing to hit in the world. I think we got in certain counts there -- hitting counts -- that we just didn't take advantage of." 

Only one Brewer collected multiple hits (Segura), and Gennett accounted for Milwaukee's only run with a double in the fourth inning.

"That was a heavy right-handed group," Padres manager Bud Black said of the Brewers, "so you saw a lot of sliders tonight. [Ross'] fastball command was there early then it looked to leave him, then you saw a heavy volume of sliders. And you've got a right-handed lineup susceptible to the ball down and away."

The Brewers also proved susceptible to a critical defensive miscue in the Padres' three-run third inning, which wound up deciding the game. It started with Ross, a lifetime .174 hitter as the day began, poking a fastball into the right-field corner for a double. Ross scored on Abraham Almonte's one-out single, and Almonte advanced on Seth Smith's slow roller to second base when Segura, leaping to avoid the charging runner, whiffed Gennett's feed for an error.

Segura suggested the ball deflected off Almonte's hand.

"It looked like it," Segura said. "I don't know exactly, but I think so. I just missed it."

That play led to two unearned runs and a 4-0 Padres lead. It nearly was worse, but first baseman Mark Reynolds made a nice adjustment on Segura's off-target throw to record the final out of the inning.

Nelson shouldered responsibility.

"I have the ability to get out of the jam in that inning that kind of blew up on us," he said. "If I execute a few pitches there, we're out of that jam with minimal damage. That's the job as a starter, minimize damage. I have to do a better job of that next time."

Nelson's next turn in the rotation would come Monday in Chicago, though the team's official list of probable pitchers does not stretch that far. Garza, on the disabled list with a rib-cage strain, threw a successful bullpen session Tuesday afternoon and is ready to face hitters.

Roenicke said he would reveal the plan for Garza's next step before Wednesday's series finale in San Diego.

Nelson, meanwhile, continues his development.

"He struggled off and on with the fastball and the slider, made some good pitches with both of them," Roenicke said in assessing Nelson's outing against the Padres. "Made back-to-back great pitches on 3-and-2 fastballs down and away to right-handers. But every pitch, you didn't know if he was going to be around the zone or not. … He still hung in there, still kept us in the game."

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{"event":["prospect" ] }

Taylor headlines Crew's AFL picks

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Taylor headlines Crew's AFL picks play video for Taylor headlines Crew's AFL picks

SAN DIEGO -- Top prospect Tyrone Taylor and Rule 5 Draft pick Wei-Chung Wang were among the eight Brewers farmhands named Tuesday to preliminary rosters for the upcoming Arizona Fall League.

Taylor, 20, an outfielder who ascended to the top of MLB.com's list of the top 20 Brewers prospects when Jimmy Nelson graduated to the Majors, was one of four Brewers position players picked to play for the Glendale Desert Dogs.

The others are infielder Hector Gomez, first baseman Nick Ramirez and catcher Shawn Zarraga, who will be a taxi squad player eligible to play on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Wang, a 23-year-old left-hander who made only 13 appearances in four months with the Brewers before he was placed on the disabled list, will be joined by right-handers Brooks Hall, Ariel Pena and Tyler Wagner on the Desert Dogs' pitching staff.

The AFL bills itself as a stepping-stone to the Major Leagues, with about 60 percent of participants reaching baseball's big stage. The six-team league, owned and operated by Major League Baseball, plays six days per week in five Cactus League stadiums in the Phoenix area. Players from the Brewers, Dodgers, Orioles, Tigers and White Sox make up the Desert Dogs' roster.

"I think it should be a confidence-builder, being selected by your organization," said current Brewers outfielder Khris Davis, who played in the AFL in 2012.

Most AFL participants are coming from Double-A or Triple-A, but each organization is allowed two exceptions for Class A players. That's how Taylor made the cut; he entered Tuesday with a .275/.327/.396 slash line at Class A Advanced Brevard County.

For Wang and Hall, the AFL will offer an opportunity to make up for time lost to injuries. Hall, who is on Milwaukee's 40-man roster, has not pitched since April because of attached bone spurs in his pitching elbow, but assistant GM Gord Ash said Hall has had no recent setbacks and should be ready to pitch competitively in the AFL.

Gomez has been on the DL with a hamstring injury, but the Brewers hope he'll be back in action for Triple-A Nashville by Sunday or Monday.

The Fall League openers are scheduled for Oct. 7.

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Aramis, Braun homer as Brewers rout Padres

Bats back Lohse as Crew keeps Cards out of striking distance

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Aramis, Braun homer as Brewers rout Padres play video for Aramis, Braun homer as Brewers rout Padres

SAN DIEGO -- For a month and a half now, every time the Brewers appear poised to fall from the top of the National League Central, they've found a way to stay.

The pattern continued on Monday night in a 10-1 rout of the Padres at Petco Park, with a healthy Kyle Lohse rejoining the rotation and a red-hot Aramis Ramirez continuing a torrid August for a Brewers team that appears unwilling to let go of first place in the NL's tightest division.

Leaders of the Central every day since April 5, the Brewers needed the win to remain 1 1/2 games ahead of the surging Cardinals, who won earlier in the day for the ninth time in 12 games. St. Louis pulled to within one-half game over the weekend before Milwaukee scored back-to-back victories against Pittsburgh and San Diego.

"I think there's times that guys know games are important to win," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Monday afternoon. "It's not like you try any harder, but I think when we have a couple sloppy games they know, 'Hey, let's go. We're not that type of team.'"

If that was the statement they intended to make, the Brewers did so loudly against a Padres pitcher -- left-hander Eric Stults -- who had not lost in August. Against Stults and three relievers, the Brewers had at least one hit in eight of nine innings, and scored a run in six frames.

Ramirez, who finished a triple shy of the cycle, drove in three runs, as did outfielder Gerardo Parra, who didn't enter the game until the seventh inning. Ramirez and Ryan Braun each homered, as six Brewers batters drove in at least one run, eight players scored at least one run, and every starting position player but .302 hitter Jonathan Lucroy collected at least one hit, and he walked twice and scored a run.

"It's a lineup where you've got to execute pitches, and if you don't, they're going to do damage," Stults said.

The Brewers, with 16, collected at least that many hits for the fifth time this season, and they scored double-digit runs for the first time since an 11-2 win over the Cardinals in the final game before the All-Star break.

All of that offense benefitted Lohse, who scattered four hits and four walks but surrendered only one run in six hard-fought innings. It was Lohse's first start since Aug. 13, when he was forced from an outing at Wrigley Field by a right ankle injury suffered three starts earlier in St. Louis that had been affecting his delivery.

The opposite happened on Monday, when Lohse said he felt too strong for his own good.

"I'm not used to having almost two weeks off late in the season," he said. "Everything else has been feeling really good, I just needed that little break to get ahead of the ankle soreness. Once I got out there and kept missing with the fastball, it was a little frustrating, but I knew what I was doing wrong. It was a matter of staying back and not trying to force the fastball in there."

Lohse showed some signs of that frustration. He exclaimed loudly after issuing the second of two walks in the first inning, but escaped in part by picking off Will Venable at second base. In the Padres' one-run second inning, Lohse made a smooth defensive play for an out at the plate that would stand as called after a review, then he struck out Venable with the bases loaded to preserve what was a 1-1 tie.

From there, Brewers hitters reclaimed a lead and Lohse settled in. He retired the side in order in the third, fourth and fifth innings, then worked a scoreless sixth with help from catcher Martin Maldonado's pickoff of Seth Smith at second base.

"That's huge for us," Braun said of Lohse's return. "He's been so consistent at the top of our rotation really the last two years and having him back is just a huge boost, I think, to the whole team and certainly to the starting rotation."

"I was happy to see him get back in that rhythm again," Roenicke said. "When he's good, you can see the rhythm he is in."

The same could be said for Ramirez, who went 3-for-5 and boosted his August batting average to a Major League-best .427 (33-for-82).

"We were talking about it -- I don't think there's been a ball he hasn't squared up for a while," Lohse said. "He's seeing the ball really well. It's fun to watch, because he's been doing it for a while. That's the guy that I used to face that I hated facing. Usually I'd just walk him, get the next guy."

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{"content":["injury" ] }

Braun bruises quad against Padres

Brewers slugger exits opener early as a precaution

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Braun bruises quad against Padres play video for Braun bruises quad against Padres

SAN DIEGO -- A first-inning collision on Monday night led to a seventh-inning exit for Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun, who said he hoped to be back in the lineup when a series against the Padres continues Tuesday at Petco Park.

Braun took a knee to the left quadriceps from Padres first baseman Jake Goebbert as Goebbert reached for a wide throw and Braun legged out an infield single at the start of the Brewers' 10-1 win. Braun remained in the game to collect three hits including his 17th home run, but with the bases loaded and the Padres working on a rout in the seventh inning, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke replaced Braun with backup outfielder Gerardo Parra.

"I didn't want to come out; I was OK," Braun said. "Just a little banged up. It was pretty painful knee-to-knee contact. It didn't feel good for me and I know it didn't feel good for him, either. It was kind of one of those fluke plays that happens from time to time."

Braun compared the sensation to a charley horse.

"Some swelling; kind of feels like I got hit by a pitch," Braun said. "But hopefully I'll be OK."

{"content":["injury" ] }
{"content":["injury" ] }

Rehabbing Garza ready to face hitters

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Rehabbing Garza ready to face hitters play video for Rehabbing Garza ready to face hitters

SAN DIEGO -- After what pitching coach Rick Kranitz described Tuesday as a "superb" bullpen session, Matt Garza was ready to face hitters.

Whether those hitters are stepping to the plate in a simulated game, a Minor League game or a Major League game remained to be revealed, but the bottom line for Garza was another big step toward the end of his stint on the disabled list for a rib-cage strain.

"It was superb. It was high intensity," Kranitz said. "It was exactly what we needed to see."

Said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke: "I'd say he's ready to go out somewhere. I'm pretty confident in what I saw today, but we'll wait and see [Wednesday], talk to him. … We've had different discussions on which way to go with it, whether you do a simulated or a rehab [assignment]. We've run them all by [Garza], and talked to Doug [Melvin, Milwaukee's GM] about it. We think we've come up with a good plan." 

Garza has been sidelined since feeling a muscle grab along his left side during an Aug. 3 start in St. Louis. He took two weeks off from throwing before beginning an accelerated program that brought him to Tuesday's 35-40 pitch mound session.

"I've done it before so I know when not to push and when you can push it," said Garza, who was on the DL at the start of last season with a similar injury. "Right now, we're not at a time where we have to push it, so that's a positive thing. The guys [athletic trainers] are doing a great job, and it's just, come back healthy and strong and ready to go."

Because Garza's return coincides with the expansion of rosters, the Brewers have the option of restoring him to the rotation more quickly than they could at earlier stages of the season. Even if Garza is on a limited pitch count, the team will have plenty of bullpen reinforcements.

Garza will have all of September to work back to full strength before what he and the Brewers hope is a run into the postseason.

"I'd rather have all of August and September," Garza said, "but I'll take what I can get."

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Two reviews go Brewers' way against Padres

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Two reviews go Brewers' way against Padres play video for Two reviews go Brewers' way against Padres

SAN DIEGO -- Twice in the first four innings on Monday night, instant replay helped Brewers starter Kyle Lohse keep the Padres at bay.

Lohse, making his first start in 12 days, had just walked a batter in the second inning to put runners at first and third with one out in a 1-1 game. Eric Stults, the opposing pitcher, dropped a bunt to the first-base side of the pitcher's mound for Lohse, who threw home to catcher Martin Maldonado for an out.

Padres manager Bud Black emerged for a word with plate-umpire Paul Schrieber before the third-base ump, Ted Barrett, initiated a crew-chief review of the play to ensure Maldonado did not violate Rule 7.13, instituted this season to lessen the instances of home-plate collisions.

After a review of nearly four minutes, the call was allowed to stand as called.

"Oh my gosh," Lohse said. "As long as they get them right, I don't mind [the delay]. It seemed like it took a little extra time to get some calls. … I understand they're looking at it from every angle to try to get the call right. I don't want to be out there too long, but I'd rather they get them right than they go the other way."

In the fourth, Lohse benefited from replay once again. San Diego's Chris Nelson was originally to have legged out an infield single after hitting a ground ball to second base, but Brewers manager Ron Roenicke used his challenge and, after a review of only 36 seconds, the call was overturned.

Nelson's groundout sent the teams to the fifth inning with the Brewers leading, 3-1, in an eventual 10-1 win.

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Nelson open to bullpen role when Garza returns

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Nelson open to bullpen role when Garza returns play video for Nelson open to bullpen role when Garza returns

SAN DIEGO -- The Brewers are nearing the day they have more healthy pitchers than they have slots in the starting rotation. If that means someone has to go to the bullpen, Jimmy Nelson is open to the idea.

"Truthfully, it's so cliche, but whatever helps us win," said Nelson, scheduled to start against the Padres on Tuesday night. "Whatever helps us get to the playoffs and succeed in the playoffs. Whatever role it is, I just want to contribute to this team as best as I can, in whatever way that is.

"I just take the ball when I'm told to. It has to be [that mindset]. You can't start thinking about the outside stuff. It will get to you, and you'll lose your focus. You have to keep your focus." 

Nelson joined the Brewers' rotation after Matt Garza suffered a left rib-cage strain in early August and, including a start earlier this season in Miami, is 2-4 with a 4.15 ERA. The other candidate to be bumped from the rotation upon Garza's return is Mike Fiers, who is 4-1 with a 1.54 ERA in eight games, four starts.

Garza is scheduled to throw a more intense bullpen session on Tuesday before Nelson starts opposite Padres ace Tyson Ross. Because of an off-day later this week, Nelson's next scheduled start would be against the Cubs on Sept. 1, the same day rosters expand.

The extra arms could allow the Brewers to reinstate Garza in place of Nelson on Sept. 1, knowing Garza will be on a limited pitch count. Or, they could opt to send him to the Minor Leagues for a tuneup, and bring him back later in the first week of September at closer to full strength.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was not ready to reveal the club's plan on Monday.

"We'll wait because things change so much," Roenicke said. "Obviously a few days away, you start talking about it. We're not quite there yet."

Nelson has made 17 professional appearances in relief, including three last September, and said he also pitched out of the bullpen a bit at the University of Alabama during his freshman and sophomore seasons, including stints as a closer. He certainly has the arsenal for it, working predominantly with a fastball/slider combination and only occasionally throwing his third pitch, a changeup.

"I'm thinking about [Tuesday]," Nelson said. "That's all I can do. Try to win today, first, then try to win tomorrow. I'm trying to prepare myself for these hitters and taking care of business."

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Roenicke: Braun's struggles due to high chase rate

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Roenicke: Braun's struggles due to high chase rate play video for Roenicke: Braun's struggles due to high chase rate

MILWAUKEE -- Thanks to a .221/.268/.377 slash line through the first 19 games of August, Ryan Braun entered Sunday with a .275 batting average. For Braun, that number is notable. He's only finished two seasons in his career with an average below .300, finishing at .285 in 2008 and .298 in his suspension-shortened 2013.

While Braun has admitted to still being bothered by a lingering nerve issue in his right hand, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Braun's recent struggles have been more due to a lack of selectivity at the plate.

"It's still there, but physically, I think he's OK. He just continues to swing at bad pitches," Roenicke said. "They're pitching him in more, and he's chasing it more inside."

According to FanGraphs.com's plate discipline data, Braun has swung at 40.7 percent of pitches outside the strike zone this season, easily the highest rate of his career and far above his lifetime average of 33.3 percent.

While Roenicke acknowledged that Braun's not the only Brewer with an abnormally high chase rate, he conceded that the issue is particularly concerning with Braun, one of the team's best hitters.

He pointed to Braun's at-bat in the fourth inning of Saturday's 10-2 loss to the Pirates as a prime example. He came to the plate with the bases loaded and only one out, but Pirates righty Edinson Volquez jammed Braun inside with a 95-mph pitch, and Braun popped out weakly to the second baseman.

The Brewers didn't score after Aramis Ramirez struck out in the next at-bat, and the missed opportunity created a momentum swing in the game.

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