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Brewers, Segura considering mechanical changes

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

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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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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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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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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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Peralta goes for 16th win in opener vs. Giants

Crew hurler faces off with Vogelsong, who seeks elusive home win

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After losing two out of three to the Padres, the Brewers are staying out west a little longer -- and they don't mind.

They won five out of the six games they played against the Dodgers this season, and after taking two of three from the Giants earlier this month, they'll look to extend that success against the National League West in San Francisco this weekend.

"It always helps when you're able to beat any team and then play them again," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "If a team sweeps you and then you have to play them again, you're thinking, 'OK, what's going to happen this time?' So it always helps.

"We played a good series against them. It's like coming in to play [the Padres]; we know we're always going to have a tough time, so somewhere along you want to beat them some games so you know, 'OK, we're going to have a tough time, but if we play our type of game, we feel like we can win.'"

There could be some low-scoring battles in a series of two playoff contenders, as all six starting pitchers have ERAs at 3.78 or better. The best matchup could be Sunday, when Kyle Lohse matches up with Madison Bumgarner.

"Bumgarner is really good," Roenicke said. "Sometimes I look at the numbers and then I'm watching him pitch thinking, 'How does anybody hit this guy?' When he is on, he is unbelievable."

On Friday, Wily Peralta will be aiming for his Brewers-best 16th victory. He's coming off a rough start against Pittsburgh his last time out, allowing seven runs on seven hits in five innings. But Peralta pitched well against the Giants on Aug. 7, blanking San Francisco through 6 2/3.

On the bump for the Giants will be right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, who is 7-9 with a 3.78 ERA on the year.

Vogelsong has pitched well in his home ballpark this season with a 3.22 home ERA, but he hasn't had the support of his offense. He wasn't won at home in seven starts, since May 24.

He's looking to help the Giants narrow a 4 1/2-game gap in the NL West, while Peralta and the Brewers will try to pad their 1 1/2-game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central.

Giants: Panik could solidify No. 2 spot
Giants manager Bruce Bochy indicated that Joe Panik's appearance in the batting order's No. 2 spot for Thursday's series finale against Colorado could be part of an ongoing audition, not just a product of mixing and matching.

This marked Panik's 10th start in which he batted second, so it was nothing new. He occupied that spot because Hunter Pence, San Francisco's regular No. 2 hitter, dropped to the fifth spot with Michael Morse receiving a rest. Bochy explained that he didn't want a batting order that was thick with rookies in its bottom half; catcher Andrew Susac and shortstop Matt Duffy hit seventh and eighth, respectively. Hence, the experienced Pence hit fifth for the 11th time this year, and first since April 18.

As Pence's presence in the second spot for most of the season suggests, Bochy is not stuck on the notion of filling that role in traditional fashion. However, he hinted that he'd prefer somebody at No. 2 who can spray the ball to all fields, hit behind runners and execute the hit-and-run. Not only does Panik fit that profile, but Bochy also added that Panik "eventually" could settle into the No. 2 hitter's role.

"I like a two-hole hitter who can do some things," Bochy said, though he emphasized that the type of No. 2 hitter he employs in the future will depend on how that hitter can complement the rest of the lineup.

Brewers: Garza to bypass rehab game
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 five to six innings for us," Roenicke said. "If he goes three to four [innings], we're fine because of what extra arms we'll have up."

Worth noting:
• Vogelsong is 3-3 with a 5.48 ERA in 13 games (eight starts) against the Brewers in his career.

• Brewers right-hander Jimmy Nelson was named Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year Wednesday. He went 10-2 with a 1.46 ERA for Triple-A Nashville.

{"content":["team_preview" ] }

Garza to throw simulated game, bypass rehab

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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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Umpires quickly overturn play at first in eighth

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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.

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Nelson struggles, Crew misses chance to gain ground

Defensive and baserunning miscues don't help Brewers' cause

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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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Taylor headlines Crew's AFL picks

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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.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

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" ] }

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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{"content":["replay" ] }

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.

{"content":["replay" ] }

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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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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Fiers cools off Bucs as Crew extends NL Central lead

Righty hurls seven strong innings; Brewers up on Cards by 1 1/2 games

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Fiers cools off Bucs as Crew extends NL Central lead play video for Fiers cools off Bucs as Crew extends NL Central lead

MILWAUKEE -- In all three games against the Pirates this weekend, the Brewers took an early two-run lead, only to see it disappear in the next frame. The first two instances resulted in blowout losses for the Brewers, and on Sunday, Milwaukee fans could have been forgiven for feeling déjà vu when Starling Marte tied the game with a two-run home run in the second inning.

But on Sunday, the Brewers did what was necessary to keep it from becoming three straight losses. The offense added on runs immediately, and Mike Fiers made the lead stick with another strong start as Milwaukee avoided a sweep from its division rivals with a 4-3 win at Miller Park.

The win extended the first-place Brewers' lead in the National League Central to 1 1/2 games over the Cardinals, who fell to the Phillies. It also kept the third-place Pirates at arm's length, five games behind Milwaukee, and ended this homestand on a winning note heading into a nine-game road trip.

"I think it was a big win. It's a big win because of these guys and it's a big win heading into the road trip," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "We've done that a lot. We've had some bad stretches, then all of a sudden, we finish with a nice game to give us some momentum going into wherever we're going."

After Yovani Gallardo and Wily Peralta posted shaky starts on Friday and Saturday, respectively, the newest member of the Brewers' rotation acted as a stopper with another stellar outing. Fiers threw seven innings, allowing only two runs on two hits and striking out seven, with Marte's blast the only blemish.

Coming off the mound in the seventh inning, Fiers was visibly pleased with what he had just done.

"I'm just so pumped up to be up here and contribute to this team," Fiers explained. "To come out with a lead is even bigger. I held them to two runs, and for us to have a lead at that point was just awesome. ... It just felt like I was pitching, especially after the home run. I came back and pounded the strike zone and got after guys, too, so I didn't really fold after that either. Just a lot of things were going right for me."

In four starts in place of the injured Matt Garza, Fiers has been fantastic, allowing a total of 10 hits and four walks while striking out 32 over 28 innings. Over those starts, he carries a 1.29 ERA and a 0.50 WHIP, and he's earned four wins in the process. He became the second pitcher in baseball this year to post four straight starts of six innings or more with three hits or fewer allowed in each, joining Johnny Cueto on the list.

"That was really good again," Roenicke said. "He's staying aggressive, he left the one changeup up [on Marte's home run], but aside from that, he was outstanding. He's pitching great. His fastball has been great. He's locating it, it's got life on it. Then he mixes in the changeups and the curveballs. It's tough to figure out what he's going to do."

"You don't have to throw hard, [it's] all about location," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "Downhill angle ... that's the No. 1 weapon he's got. He gets on top of the ball, he worked the ball extremely well to the right side to right-handed hitters and used the curve on and off. The cutter played. Mixed his pitches extremely well, stayed out of the middle of the plate."

The news was good for the Milwaukee offense as well. The four runs don't jump off the box score, but they all came with two outs, a situation the Brewers struggled in on Saturday night.

The Brewers started the scoring in the first when four consecutive two-out singles by Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Scooter Gennett and Mark Reynolds led to two runs. Fiers recorded the first two outs of the second inning but walked Pedro Alvarez. Marte's blast in the next at-bat evened the score at 2.

But the Brewers did what they were unable to do on Friday and Saturday by answering right back in the bottom of the inning. Despite starting the frame with two outs and nobody on, the Brewers were able to put together another two-run rally, started by a Carlos Gomez double. Jonathan Lucroy singled him home, Braun followed with a walk and Ramirez hit an RBI single.

"Any time you can do that, it changes the momentum from the other side," Roenicke said of the second-inning rally. "It's really important. Whenever we tack on runs, it's important for that pitcher to come out and put up a zero. Sometimes it doesn't happen, so when you bounce back and tack on another run, that's big."

Fiers obliged with five more strong innings. Jeremy Jeffress pitched a scoreless eighth and Francisco Rodriguez worked around an Andrew McCutchen home run to record his 39th save of the season.

After two frustrating days, the relief in the clubhouse was nearly palpable.

"I think we've dealt with adversity well this season," said Braun. "It is such a long year that inevitably you are going to deal with ups and downs as a team. We've done a really good job of just turning the page and recognizing we can't go back on things that have already happened. We obviously didn't play very well the first two games this series. Today was extremely important, and we found a way to get a huge win."

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{"content":["injury" ] }

Garza shows progress in bullpen session

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Garza shows progress in bullpen session play video for Garza shows progress in bullpen session

MILWAUKEE -- The injured Matt Garza took a big step toward returning to the Brewers as he threw his first bullpen session Sunday since being placed on the disabled list with a strained left oblique on Aug. 5.

Though it was a lighter session than normal, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was encouraged with the results.

"It went really well," said Roenicke. "He threw all his pitches and didn't feel anything, so that's really good. He's going to go harder Tuesday, and we've talked about what the next step is from there."

Roenicke has suggested that the next step would likely be a Minor League rehab assignment, and he confirmed Sunday that Garza would not be able to join the Major League club for at least five days after that Tuesday bullpen session.

The team has been targeting an early September return, and the timeline presented Sunday made that sound realistic.

When Garza returns, the Brewers may have a tough decision to make about who will leave the rotation. Roenicke has said that Garza will definitely be one of the five pitchers. His replacement, Mike Fiers, has been stellar in his first four starts this season, allowing 10 total hits through 28 innings.

Roenicke did not commit when asked whether Fiers would stay in the rotation once Garza returns.

"I don't know. Hey, he's pitching great. That's all we can say for now," Roenicke said. "Hopefully, he does it again his next outing, and then we'll figure it out."

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

Brewers mum on plan for Wang, September callups

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Brewers mum on plan for Wang, September callups play video for Brewers mum on plan for Wang, September callups

MILWAUKEE -- A night after Brewers reliever Wei-Chung Wang was transferred from Class A Wisconsin to Class A Advanced Brevard County on his Minor League rehab assignment, Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke wasn't ready to publicly commit to a plan for the rest of the left-hander's season.

Wang, a Rule 5 Draft pick, was with Milwaukee from Opening Day until he was placed on the disabled list July 11 with left shoulder tightness. Because of his inexperience, Wang appeared only 13 times during the Brewers' first 93 games and compiled an 11.12 ERA.

Wang has transitioned back to a starting role during the rehab stint, most recently pitching 6 1/3 innings and allowing one run on three hits for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers on Friday. With rosters expanding in September, Wang could rejoin the team without necessitating a corresponding roster move, but Roenicke wouldn't say whether the team was planning to recall him or shut him down for the season.

Similarly, he was mum on who else the team might call up for the September playoff push.

"I don't know if it's necessarily a secret, it's just we haven't talked about what we're doing exactly to make it public," Roenicke said. "We know who we're going to probably bring up, but I'd rather not say."

He did note that he didn't want to bring up players who would just ride the bench.

"It needs to be a reason why we're bringing guys up," Roenicke said.

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

Brewers prospect Goforth has tools to be closer

Undersized right-hander makes up for a lack of size with good mechanics

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Brewers prospect Goforth has tools to be closer play video for Brewers prospect Goforth has tools to be closer

Right-handed pitcher David Goforth certainly doesn't have the physique of a power pitcher. The Milwaukee Brewers' No. 16 prospect is a stocky 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds. But he has a big, big arm.

Goforth was a basketball and baseball player at Neshoba Central High School in Philadelphia, Miss. Beyond pitching, he was an offensive force, hitting .430 with 11 home runs and 65 RBIs in his senior year.

Goforth's abilities took him to the University of Mississippi, where he skipped a year of play as a redshirt freshman for the Ole Miss Rebels. In his first two seasons on the mound, he worked both as a starter and as a reliever. The Cleveland Indians selected Goforth in the 31st round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. Instead of signing with the Indians, he returned for his junior season at Ole Miss and worked on making some changes in his delivery as well as gaining more experience on the mound.

The following June, the Brewers drafted Goforth in the seventh round. The additional collegiate experience had paid off in a higher selection for the right-hander.

I first scouted Goforth in the 2013 Arizona Fall League, which was the third season of his pro career, when he pitched for the Surprise Saguaros. Working exclusively out of the bullpen, he was a member of the West Division Fall Stars team that beat the East in early November. Goforth started the final inning of the game, working a flawless two-thirds of an inning.

Goforth also helped his team win the league's championship game, cleanly closing it out. Overall, he was one of the league's best relief pitchers. Goforth finished the regular season with four saves in 12 innings pitched. He had an ERA of 3.75 and WHIP of 1.25, striking out 15 and walking four. The only real blemish was the two home runs Goforth yielded.

In only his fourth full season, Goforth has already pitched at every level of the Brewers' organization with the exception of Triple-A. He finished last season at Double-A Huntsville, where he is now assigned. Goforth has consistently thrown to an ERA just over 3.0 in his brief career. He's especially tough on right-handed hitters, using that slider-cutter combination to his advantage.

This year, I saw Goforth in the Double-A Southern League All-Star Game held in Chattanooga, Tenn., this past July. He earned his trip to the game due to his 14 saves at Huntsville by midseason. Goforth pitched one inning in the game, giving up a hit and a run while walking one and striking out one.

Goforth has a wide variety of pitches that allow him to work out of the rotation or from the bullpen. He relies on his 96 mph fastball and a 95 mph sinker as his main weapons. Both have excellent late life and induce swings and misses. Goforth also throws a nasty slider and an even better cutter. I've also seen him use a changeup and curveball, but not as often as the fastball-cutter-slider mix.

Goforth uses the entire plate, changing the eye level of the hitter by changing speeds and locations. His fastball command is good, and from the strides I've seen, his control will get even better. Goforth knows how to pitch and compensates for a lack of size with good mechanics. His slider-cutter command is very good, and both pitches serve to keep hitters off balance.

I view Goforth more as a reliever than as a starter. I think he can really shut down the opposition -- with increasingly greater velocity from pitch to pitch -- better from the bullpen. Goforth has little to lose by letting everything go and going right after hitters for an inning as opposed to pacing himself to go deep into games. He has the pitches and the mound presence and demeanor to close games.

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After cruising early, Peralta unravels in loss to Bucs

Right-hander allows eight runs as Crew's lead in NL Central shrinks

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After cruising early, Peralta unravels in loss to Bucs play video for After cruising early, Peralta unravels in loss to Bucs

MILWAUKEE -- The game-changing blast came at the unlikeliest of times, given that the man standing on the mound had been unhittable lately, while the one at the plate hadn't been hitting much of anything. But the numbers didn't stop Pedro Alvarez from turning a 97-mph fastball from Wily Peralta into a three-run home run to left field in the fourth inning, setting off a Brewers unraveling in an eventual 10-2 loss on Saturday night at Miller Park.

For the second consecutive night, an early Milwaukee lead turned quickly into a huge deficit, leaving Brewers manager Ron Roenicke without an explanation.

"I thought he was throwing the ball well," Roenicke said. "He came out the first three innings, looked good, and then we get two quick outs and it opens up."

The surprising home run and subsequent meltdown put the Pirates in a position to grab what would be a surprising series sweep on Sunday. The Brewers came into the weekend looking to bury the struggling third-place team in the race for the National League Central crown, but the first two games of this series have suggested that Pittsburgh isn't ready to fade just yet. With the Cardinals' win in Philadelphia, the Brewers now hold just a half-game lead on St. Louis, while the Pirates are now four games back.

"I'm surprised we've played two games like this against anybody," Roenicke said. "When you don't play good baseball -- it doesn't matter whether it's Pittsburgh or who it is -- you're not going to win. They're a good team."

The Brewers have now lost three straight games by four runs or more, the first time that's happened all season.

For the second consecutive night, the Brewers were unimpressive on the mound and at the plate. Peralta allowed seven earned runs, matching the total from his past five starts combined. The offense stranded six runners in scoring position through the first four innings and scored only two runs on 12 hits.

Peralta, who allowed eight total runs, entered the game with a 6-1 record and a 1.59 ERA over his last seven starts. He cruised early on Saturday, not allowing a hit through 3 2/3, before he unraveled in the fourth by allowing a walk to Neil Walker, a double to Russell Martin and the three-run blast to Alvarez.

Prior to that home run, Alvarez hadn't hit a long ball since July 11 and had been batting .190 with four RBIs since the All-Star break. Before the night was through, Alvarez would add another home run, an exclamation point on Peralta's dreadful night.

"If you make bad pitches, he's a good mistake hitter, which Major Leaguers usually are," Roenicke said of Alvarez. "This guy can do a lot of damage. He still had 15 homers going into the game, and a great year last year. He's always dangerous."

A five-run Pittsburgh rally in the fifth started with an error by Scooter Gennett, the Brewers' fourth in two nights. Andrew McCutchen hit an infield single, Walker doubled and Martin cleared the bases with a three-run home run to left.

Alvarez followed with a solo shot, making it the first time Peralta has given up three home runs in a game.

"When I got the lead, I wasn't able to maintain it, and you know, this is an important series for us," Peralta said. "If I get the lead early, I'm supposed to be the stopper right then, trying to give the team a chance to win."

Offensively, the Brewers put two runs on the board early with Gennett's home run and Khris Davis' RBI double. But they missed chances to score many more, stranding eight on base through the first four innings, including six in scoring position.

It seemed no one could get a timely hit. In the second through fourth innings, Elian Herrera, Peralta, Carlos Gomez, Lyle Overbay, Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez all came to the plate with two runners in scoring position. None of them recorded a hit.

"We definitely had our chances," Roenicke said. "Our big boys were up when we needed them up, and [Pittsburgh] got the big hits, and we didn't. We had chances.

"They outplayed us. That's all there is to it."

After the letdown in the fourth -- when Braun popped out with the bases loaded and one out and Ramirez struck out -- the Pirates' five-run fifth took the life out of the building, and the Brewers didn't strike again.

Saturday's loss guarantees that the Pirates will gain at least one game on the Brewers this weekend, and they could gain three with a win on Sunday. After winning 10 of their first 13 games against Pittsburgh this season, Milwaukee is in danger of being swept by the Bucs. The Brewers' three-game skid comes on the heels of a five-game winning streak that included a sweep of the NL West-leading Dodgers.

For the second consecutive night, Roenicke left his team with the same message: time to turn the page quickly.

"I say it a lot -- it doesn't matter when it is or who it's against, you don't ever want to play this kind of ball," Roenicke said. "Yesterday probably worse than today, but there's too many things that we're not doing right that we need to do, and we will. We'll hopefully come out tomorrow and play a good game and see what happens."

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{"content":["replay" ] }

Crew would like explanation on Friday's review

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MILWAUKEE -- After losing a replay challenge in the sixth inning of Friday night's 8-3 loss to the Pirates, the Brewers will be making their second inquiry in the past month with Major League Baseball to seek further clarification on a reviewed call.

In the past, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has said that he's a fan of the replay system, which is in its first year. But he has expressed frustration with the lack of explanation on close calls, and that sentiment was evident again before Saturday's game against Pittsburgh.

Friday night's challenge came with runners on first and second with two outs. Rickie Weeks hit a ground ball to shortstop Jordy Mercer, who threw to third baseman Josh Harrison to force out Aramis Ramirez. But Harrison was off the base when he received the ball and had to scramble to reach the bag. Roenicke challenged whether Ramirez beat Harrison to the bag with his slide, but the call stood, meaning there was not conclusive evidence to overturn it.

Under the current system, managers who take the field to argue after replay face ejection, so Roenicke was not able to ask what the replay officials in New York ruled on.

"I would have liked to have heard from New York as to what they saw," Roenicke said. "I don't think that's an obvious call. To say, 'Oh, they really blew it,' I wouldn't say that. But if you piece together two different angles that you can see, you can deduct he was safe. They told us in the review headquarters in New York, they told us that they do piece together two shots. They could have pieced together and come up with a better call."

Roenicke said Brewers general manager Doug Melvin had put in a request with the league to get further explanation. The team did the same back in July, when they disagreed with a hit-by-pitch call in a game against the Reds. Zack Cozart was awarded first base, though replays indicated the ball may have hit his bat before it hit his hand.

"They did give us a reason, it just wasn't the right reason," Roenicke said of the MLB explanation of that call.

Roenicke acknowledged that it would be difficult for umpires to explain the rationale for every reviewed call on a microphone, as is done in NFL games, because of how many baseball games there are every season and the delay it would create. But he said he'd like to be able to get an explanation from New York closer to real time, perhaps after the game in question.

"If we do that every single day with all the teams that play, it probably is a little overwhelming," Roenicke said. "But I think there's times when the audience should know what's going on and what they saw. And New York, I'm sure, doesn't want to be put on the spot to have to make that call and why they called it.

"I don't like the way it is, but we're still trying to tweak things. They understand. They're listening to us and what our concerns are, and we're trying to arrange it so we can get everything right."

{"content":["replay" ] }

Segura held out of starting lineup, enters in sixth

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MILWAUKEE -- A night after committing two uncharacteristic errors at shortstop, Jean Segura was out of the Brewers' starting lineup on Saturday in what manager Ron Roenicke said was a mental day off.

However, Segura entered the game against the Pirates as part of a double switch in the top of the sixth inning.

Roenicke said the benching was not a reaction to Friday's errors, but acknowledged that he has been keeping close tabs on the mental state of the second-year shortstop, who has had a tough season on and off the field.

"Sometimes just the mental part of it, he needs to be in there more with energy," Roenicke said. "I told him that when I thought I was seeing a little bit something different in him, that I was going to give him a day off."

After a breakout first half last season that earned him an All-Star selection, Segura scuffled offensively in the second half of last year and has continued to struggle throughout this season. He was batting .232/.270/.316 entering Saturday, though he's maintained his strong defensive presence.

Those on-field struggles were dwarfed by the sudden death of his 9-month-old son on July 12.

Though Segura has recently told Roenicke that he's doing fine, the manager has been careful to continue monitoring his mental state and giving him days off to take some pressure off.

"I talked to him the other day. He said everything is fine," Roenicke said. "He's going to go through some times when he's kind of a little moody, which you understand. It's hard. He's not playing as well as he thinks he should. I told him when I see things, that I will give him a day.

"He's not a guy that is going to come in and let me know. I always go to him. Not necessarily always in my office, but I'll go talk to him in the field and see how he's doing. He's been honest, so I expect him to continue doing that."

Though Segura's second year as a starter has been particularly draining, Roenicke expressed faith that he would be able to fight through his current struggles.

"It is hard to say where he is going to be the next few years. But he's better than what he has shown this year, defensively and offensively," Roenicke said. "I think it has been a tough year for him. They talk about the second year is always tough. Well, we are seeing it with him. Hopefully, he bounces back here and we start seeing the guy that we think is going to be really good at shortstop for a long time."

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Brewers' sloppy play leads to defeat to Pirates

Gallardo loses as club makes three errors, allows five unearned runs

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Brewers' sloppy play leads to defeat to Pirates play video for Brewers' sloppy play leads to defeat to Pirates

MILWAUKEE -- The errors committed by Jean Segura and Aramis Ramirez in the first two innings of Friday's game against the Pirates weren't just rare occurrences -- they turned out to be signs of things to come in a sloppy 8-3 Brewers loss at Miller Park.

The Brewers struggled in all three phases of the game as they allowed five unearned runs to the Bucs. Starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo was shaky and the defense behind him didn't look much better as the Brewers saw a two-run first-inning lead quickly slip away through a combination of walks and sloppy fielding.

"Yovani didn't throw the ball well, but we never really gave him a chance to get into a rhythm," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "The first five runs they scored, we gave to them. You can't do that. I don't know how he would have pitched. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if he was able to get into a rhythm. Unfortunately, we didn't make plays and he never got the chance."

Meanwhile, a slumbering offense couldn't take advantage of six walks from Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke, mustering only two hits over his six innings. The combination led the Brewers to their second straight loss following a five-game winning streak.

The Pirates climbed within five games of the first-place Brewers. Milwaukee also was unable to extend its lead on the second-place Cardinals, who lost to Philadelphia.

The Brewers took an early two-run lead on a Ryan Braun's 16th home run of the year in the first inning, but things unraveled quickly to the tune of three unearned runs in the next frame.

Russell Martin started the inning with a grounder to Ramirez at third, and his throw to first sailed over the head of Mark Reynolds. Gallardo walked the next two batters to load the bases, and a Jordy Mercer sacrifice fly and Josh Harrison double -- which bounced off the bare hand of Braun at the right-field wall -- gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead.

"He could have caught it. It wasn't an easy play," Roenicke said of Braun's play on the double. "It's a long way to run on the track -- it's a big warning track. It looked like he didn't know exactly where he was on the track and he thought he'd have to go up against the wall, but he had another step."

The Brewers would not see the lead again as Gallardo's troubles continued throughout the night. The righty did not have a clean inning during his five frames. The Bucs added a run in the third on a Neil Walker RBI triple, one in the fourth on a Harrison RBI single and another in the fifth on an Andrew McCutchen leadoff home run.

In total, Gallardo allowed six runs (three earned) on eight hits and three walks.

"The command wasn't there, especially in that second inning," Gallardo said. "I was not throwing balls where I wanted to, and obviously they were up in the zone. Those kinds of things can't happen.

"No matter what the situation is, I still have to be out there making pitches. I was able to get two outs in the second inning and threw a fastball up in the zone to Harrison. I just have to keep the ball down in the zone no matter what happens behind me and keep doing that throughout the game."

The Brewers' offense, meanwhile, went silent after Braun's first-inning blast. Locke threw only 44 of his 91 pitches for strikes, but Milwaukee couldn't come up with any timely hits to take advantage of his wildness.

"We didn't get a lot of hits off Locke, but we had a lot of baserunners out there," Roenicke said. "We just didn't get the big hit when we needed it. Brauny got the big one in the first inning, but after that, we didn't get one."

The best chance for the offense came in the sixth inning, when Locke issued two-out walks to Ramirez and Khris Davis. Rickie Weeks hit a bouncer to the shortstop, Mercer, who threw to Harrison at third to force out the sliding Ramirez.

Ramirez was called out, and Roenicke challenged as replays showed that Harrison was not on the base when he received the ball and that Ramirez may have beaten him to the bag. After a review of two minutes and 33 seconds, the call stood, ending the inning.

An overturned call would have put Reynolds, who has 21 home runs, at the plate with a chance to tie the game. Roenicke said he strongly felt that Ramirez was safe and will ask Major League Baseball for further explanation.

Segura started the eighth with another error that led to two more unearned runs. Later in the inning, Harrison sealed the Pirates' win with a two-run home run, his 11th of the season. He finished the night with a career-high five RBIs.

The night was an about-face from how the Brewers had played on their recent five-game winning streak, and afterward, Gallardo said it was a night they had to put behind them quickly.

"That's what we have to do. We all know that," Gallardo said. "Every guy in this clubhouse understands games like that are going to happen. It is just a matter of moving on and preparing for the game the following day."

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{"content":["injury" ] }

Lohse set to start series opener in San Diego

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MILWAUKEE -- After Kyle Lohse threw a successful bullpen session at Miller Park on Friday, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke announced that the right-hander would be the team's starter for the series opener in San Diego on Monday.

Lohse skipped his most recent turn in the rotation due to a sore right ankle that had been hampering his mechanics over his last few starts. Lohse rolled his ankle Aug. 2 in St. Louis and aggravated the injury in an Aug. 13 start at Wrigley Field, and with two off-days this week, the Brewers were able to skip him without bringing another starter into the rotation.

Roenicke said Lohse "threw the ball really well" in Friday's session, and the right-hander agreed.

"I was able to throw everything that I needed to," Lohse said. "I'm back to pretty much normal. I was able to get the push and balance that I needed that I wasn't able to get. I was just adjusting pitch to pitch, compensating with my upper body. It's all good."

Each pitcher in the rotation will then resume their normal order after Lohse, starting with Jimmy Nelson on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Roenicke said that Matt Garza would throw a bullpen session on Sunday. Garza was placed on the disabled list on Aug. 5 with a left oblique strain and has been working his way back slowly.

If Sunday's session goes well, Garza would throw one more bullpen and then the team would look to send him on a rehab assignment, Roenicke said. He said the righty is still on track for an early September return.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Axford returns to Miller Park with division foe

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Axford returns to Miller Park with division foe

MILWAUKEE -- Once a fixture in the Brewers' clubhouse, John Axford was back in the Miller Park visitors' clubhouse Friday, pitching for his second divisional rival in as many years.

Axford, who spent five and a half years in the Brewers' organization, returned as a Cardinal last year after the Brewers traded the righty to St. Louis. After winning the National League pennant with the Cardinals, he signed with the Indians, who dealt him to Pittsburgh on Aug. 14. On Friday, he returned looking to help the Pirates cut into the Brewers' lead in the National League Central.

"I wasn't expecting to be in the NL Central this year, but obviously crazy things happen in this game. Things change," Axford said. "It's definitely great to be back in the hunt. You have that second Wild Card, it opens things up quite a bit. You never know what can happen. Hopefully, things work out well here this year, too."

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said he was happy to see the reliever, who accumulated 106 saves for the Brewers from 2009-12, including a league-leading 46 for the 2011 NL Central championship team.

"I always follow him. He's a real likable guy and works hard," Roenicke said. "He's very professional. I'm always interested to see how he's doing. He can still pitch. He's got a great arm."

Now on his third team within the division, Axford acknowledged he's gathered some knowledge to help him through the Brewers' lineup.

"When you're a teammate, you tend to not look at it quite as much that way," Axford said. "There's certain guys you definitely do because you wonder how you'd get them out if you faced them, with how good some of those guys are over there. But you get to know them over the years, and hopefully I can use that to my advantage, and I'm sure they're going to do the exact same with me, through watching me for so many years."

He joked of a possible game plan: "Maybe I'll just throw all changeups, since I don't at all."

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Lucroy in thick of NL MVP Award conversation

Doubles machine posting record-breaking numbers at premium position

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MILWAUKEE -- Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy wants no part of the question, but we posed it anyway.

Does he consider himself a contender for the National League Most Valuable Player Award?

"Someone else was asking me that the other night, and I said, 'Look, man, I don't care,'" Lucroy said. "It doesn't matter right now. None of that stuff is going to come if we don't win. That's cool, great and dandy, whatever. That's great for an individual.

"Honestly, I want that ring, man. That's what I want. Period."

The Brewers will continue their quest for that ring on Friday with a chance to help sink the struggling Pirates. But with just shy of six weeks remaining in the regular season, the individual awards races are also heating up around baseball.

Whatever your preferred metric, Lucroy is at minimum in the conversation for the NL MVP Award.

By wins above replacement, a measure of Lucroy's value over someone from the Minor Leagues or the bench, Lucroy (5.2) ranks fourth in the Baseball-Reference.com ranking, behind Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (6.2) and three hitters: the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton (6.1), the Braves' Jason Heyward (5.9) and the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki (5.6). Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto and Lucroy are tied with a 5.2 bWAR.

Lucroy is in similar position in WAR as measured by Fangraphs.com, tied for fourth with Heyward at 4.7, trailing Kershaw and Stanton (5.2) and teammate Carlos Gomez (4.8).

Fangraphs.com WAR Ranking 
Player Team fWAR
Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 5.2
Giancarlo Stanton Marlins 5.2
Carlos Gomez Brewers 4.8
Jason Heyward Braves 4.7
Jonathan Lucroy Brewers 4.7
Andrew McCutchen Pirates 4.6
Jhonny Peralta Cardinals 4.6

Lucroy also fares well in win probability added, a cumulative measure of a player's positive and negative impact on individual plays in a game. Lucroy is seventh there, trailing Stanton, the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen, the Giants' Hunter Pence, the Pirates' Neil Walker, the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright and Kershaw.

That Lucroy is the only catcher on any of those lists, and the only position player currently toiling for a first-place team, raises a series of questions for members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, whose vote determines each league's MVP:

• Has Kershaw been so spectacular this season that he warrants both the NL MVP Award and the NL Cy Young Award? No NL pitcher has won both since Bob Gibson in 1968, though it's been more common in the American League, where Justin Verlander was the last to win both in 2011.

• Has Stanton been so productive in traditional categories (he leads the NL with 32 home runs and 89 RBIs) that he warrants the NL MVP Award regardless of the Marlins' postseason fate? They are 63-63, four games out of the second NL Wild Card spot. Only twice in the past nine seasons (Cardinals' Albert Pujols in 2008 and Phillies' Ryan Howard in '06) has an NL MVP Award winner's team not made the playoffs.

• Does Lucroy get bonus points for playing a premium position? That was one of several factors that helped Giants catcher Buster Posey get the edge over Ryan Braun in 2012.

"I mean, how often can you get a catcher that can do what he can do, defensively and offensively?" said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke.

The Brewers view Lucroy as elite, which is why they have only occasionally used him so far at first base, a position the team has had trouble filling since Prince Fielder departed via free agency following the 2011 season. When asked recently whether the club would consider moving Lucroy to first full-time in the coming offseason, when Milwaukee will again face a vacancy there, Roenicke's answer was "no."

"I agree, there's an argument for [a move someday]," Roenicke said. "The thing is, you take an All-Star catcher, you move him to first, he's not an All-Star anymore."

As a catcher, Lucroy's level of production is rare.

• Lucroy's .858 OPS is 10th in the NL, fueled not by home runs (he has 13, to go with a .303 average, the best walk-to-strikeout ratio in the NL and 59 RBIs) but by a knack for knocking doubles. He is bidding to become the first primary catcher in modern Major League history to lead his league in doubles, and he is currently the front-runner for both leagues with 42.

That's a record pace. Hall of Fame-hopeful Ivan Rodriguez holds the all-time doubles record for a player who spent at least half of his time at catcher in a season. Rodriguez hit 47 doubles in 1996. Lucroy is five away.

Most Doubles By a Catcher (Season)
Player Team Year Doubles
Ivan Rodriguez Rangers 1996 47
Yadier Molina Cardinals 2013 44
Joe Mauer Twins 2010 43
Jonathan Lucroy Brewers 2014 42
Brian McCann Braves 2008 42
Jorge Posada Yankees 2007 42
Brian Harper Twins 1990 42
Lance Parrish Tigers 1983 42
Terry Kennedy Padres 1982 42
Mickey Cochrane Athletics 1930 42

• Rodriguez hit 45 of those doubles while playing catcher, another MLB record. The NL record is 35 doubles as a catcher, set by the Cardinals' Yadier Molina last season. Lucroy has hit 35 doubles so far while playing the position (also six as a first baseman and one as a designated hitter). The Brewers have 35 regular-season games remaining.

Lucroy chalks up his knack for extra-base hits to his father, Steve, a former third baseman who passed up an opportunity to play professional baseball, Jonathan said, to get married and raise a family. He wound up playing professional softball instead.

"My whole life, I've tried to stay up the middle, go the other way," Jonathan Lucroy said. "I'll pull stuff every now and then. If a guy is pitching me in, I'll obviously make the adjustment. But for the most part, I don't like to deviate from my approach very much, so I try to hit the ball up the middle. If you're a little early, you pull it; if you're a little late, you go the other way."

That all-field approach has been the key to Lucroy's ascent as an offensive threat, Roenicke said Wednesday morning. When the conversation turned to the budding NL MVP Award race, a reporter suggested that Roenicke probably does not care about such matters at the moment.

"Yeah, you're right," Roenicke said with a smile.

"He's having a really good year. He's been a huge part of what we're doing. Later on, if you want to, we can get into that. But we've got a long way to go."

The "we" remains Lucroy's focus as well.

"It's so much easier for me as an individual to play when the team is good," Lucroy said. "Do you know how hard it is to play well when your team is not good? It's not easy. I care. I care very much, and I want to win, period."

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Streak ends as Nelson, Brewers can't contain Jays

Segura strikes early, Gomez homers, but rook, 'pen falter in fifth, sixth

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MILWAUKEE -- Jimmy Nelson's run of quality starts came to an end, and so did the Brewers' winning streak in a 9-5 loss to the Blue Jays at Miller Park on Wednesday.

A lead evaporated when Toronto scored two runs in the fifth inning and five more in the sixth to end Milwaukee's five-game winning streak and avoid what would have been a two-game Interleague Series sweep.

The go-ahead hit came against Brewers reliever Zach Duke, and Brandon Kintzler and Will Smith surrendered multi-run home runs as Toronto pulled away. But the loss fell to the rookie right-hander Nelson, who had met the definition of quality start -- six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs -- in each of his previous five outings. Against the Jays, he was charged with four earned runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings, with all of the runs and five of the hits coming amid the flurry of activity in the fifth and sixth.

"That's not going to work," Nelson said. "That's not going to get it done. I need to do a better job second and third time through. I need to mix my pitches up better and put guys away better. That's really it."

Nelson exited the game with the score tied at 3, two outs and a runner aboard in favor of Duke, who surrendered singles to both of the batters he faced, including Jose Reyes' go-ahead single. Duke exited for a right-hander, Kintzler, who surrendered a three-run home run to Jose Bautista that made it 7-3.

Colby Rasmus added insurance against Smith in the ninth inning that came after Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun couldn't come up with a sliding two-out catch.

Add them up, and seven of Toronto's nine runs scored with two outs in an inning.

"That's been hurting us a lot," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "We've been doing that, you know, more often than you really should. When you get two outs, you shouldn't put up a bunch of runs after that."

Said Duke: "If I make a little better pitch on 0-2 to Reyes, that's probably an out. It caught too much plate. It didn't cut it. He did a good job battling there. ... They're good. There's a reason they've been good all year."

Roenicke was pleased with the output from a Brewers offense getting its first look at knuckleballer R.A. Dickey since 2011. Gerardo Parra started in left field for Milwaukee and had two extra-base hits against Dickey and two runs scored. Shortstop Jean Segura had two hits, scored a run and reached safely four times. Carlos Gomez hit R.A. Dickey's final knuckleball for a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning that closed the deficit to 7-5, but four Blue Jays relievers held the lead for the visitors.

Toronto had lost 10 of its first 14 games in August before winning Wednesday.

"Our bullpen pitched wonderfully, and that shouldn't go unnoticed today," said Dickey, who won despite allowing five earned runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. "I thought we did a good job. After I left the game, our bullpen shut them out, [and] it's great to [see the offense] put a crooked number up there. I feel like we've been overdue for that."

Gomez's sixth-inning homer was his 21st this season, tying Mark Reynolds for the team lead, which Reynolds nearly reclaimed when he hit a deep flyout to end the seventh inning with two runners on base in a two-run game.

The Brewers entered the day with a 2 1/2-game lead over the second-place Cardinals and a seven-game lead over the third-place Pirates in the National League Central. St. Louis and Pittsburgh were each scheduled to play separate games Wednesday night. The Pirates will be at Miller Park beginning Friday for a big three-game series.

"We're playing good baseball," Roenicke said "We didn't pitch that well a few innings there today; besides that, we're playing really well. I'm really happy to see what our offense is doing. The lineup's getting deep where everybody is helping us, and I think we have ... we have to be able to do that."

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Amid historic run, Fiers tries not to look at numbers

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MILWAUKEE -- The numbers that Mike Fiers has put up in his first three Major League starts in 2014 haven't just been impressive; they've been downright historic.

The 29-year-old righty has won all three of his starts, allowing a total of two earned runs over 21 innings. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Fiers is the fourth pitcher in baseball history to allow two earned runs or fewer and eight or fewer total hits while striking out 25 or more through his first three starts of a season. His company in that category? Tom Cheney for the 1963 Senators, Nolan Ryan for the 1970 Mets and Matt Harvey for the 2013 Mets.

In the middle start of his three, Fiers struck out 14 Cubs, putting himself in elite company as he took only six innings to do it. Only seven other pitchers had thrown that many strikeouts in as few innings, among them Ryan, Kerry Wood, Randy Johnson and Max Scherzer.

"We've been on a good run here," Fiers said when read those numbers. "I mean, winning games is tough as it is in this league, and to put up numbers like that, it just adds on top.

"I don't really like looking at the numbers. I just want to go out and clear my mind for every start and just think of it as it is. Just start with a clean slate. I think if you look too far into your stats and say 'I'm doing this, I'm doing that,' it gets away from staying with the basics and throwing strikes down the zone, changing speeds and keeping hitters off-balance."

The run has been reminiscent of what Fiers did in his rookie year of 2012, when he threw six innings or more while allowing two earned runs or fewer in 10 of his first 12 starts.

"When we saw him come up two years ago and he was so good, this is what he was doing," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "I do see him commanding the baseball better. Instead of just throwing the ball by a guy high, he's actually -- if [the catcher] is calling for it high and away -- he's hitting that spot. Before, we were just mixing up pitches and all his stuff was good, but I think he's commanding the ball better. That should make him a lot more consistent for what he does in the long range."

But down the stretch in 2012, Fiers faded. This time around, he feels he's better positioned to sustain this success, given what he's learned about the mental side of the game in his time since.

"Every start, every month, every year, I feel like I get better mentally and physically," he said. "Being up here, having the experience and taking what I'm doing right and seeing things I'm doing wrong and kind of changing those, getting better from it. It just helps, the experience."

For his part, Roenicke says he's happy to let the righty continue his hot streak.

"We don't want to tweak anything with him," Roenicke said. "I don't have conversations with him that much, other than to just ask him how he's doing. I don't bring up mechanics or anything. You just leave him be. You just let him go."

Fiers said maintaining an aggressive mindset will be the key to continuing his success.

"It feels the same [as 2012] in the fact that it feels like I'm being aggressive," Fiers said. "I think it got away from me a little early last year and maybe late in 2012, where I was trying to mess around too much and kind of giving hitters too much credit. These hitters are good, a lot of great hitters around here, but I've got to do what I can do. I can't worry about where they're going to hit the ball, what they're going to do. ... If I'm throwing all my pitches for strikes, I'm going to be fine."

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{"event":["prospect" ] }

Jungmann wins fourth straight decision

Brewers' No. 10 prospect throws six scoreless innings

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Jungmann wins fourth straight decision play video for Jungmann wins fourth straight decision

Right-hander Taylor Jungmann, the Brewers' No. 10 prospect, threw six scoreless innings Thursday, helping Triple-A Nashville defeat Fresno at home, 7-0, in Game 2 of a doubleheader. The Grizzlies took the first game, 8-4, splitting the twin bill.

Jungmann struck out seven batters, walked one and held Fresno to two hits. He threw 77 pitches and won his fourth straight decision.

Jungmann began the season with Double-A Huntsville before earning a promotion in May. He has made 17 starts with the Sounds and is 8-5 with a 4.22 ERA after Thursday's victory. He has struck out 86 batters and walked 38 in 89 2/3 innings.

Thursday also marked first baseman Hunter Morris' return to the Sounds. The Brewers' No. 17 prospect suffered a broken arm in late June and spent more than a month on the disabled list before going to the Arizona League and Huntsville for rehab.

Morris appeared as a pinch-hitter in the first game Thursday, grounding out in his lone plate appearance. He started the nightcap at first base and went 2-for-3 with a run and a double before being removed for a pinch runner in the fifth inning.

{"event":["prospect" ] }
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