Brewers unable to solve Padres' Suppan

Brewers unable to solve Padres' Suppan

Brewers unable to solve Padres' Suppan
SAN DIEGO -- Sorry to say it again, Brewers fans, but this time it's true:

Soup pitched great.

Former Milwaukee manager Ned Yost was famous for uttering that phrase, even on the nights Jeff Suppan did not pitch great during his three-plus seasons with the Brewers. But Wednesday, pitching for the Padres, Suppan shut down a sputtering offense with the sort of form that led him to Milwaukee in the first place.

Suppan pitched five shutout innings after a promotion from Triple-A, dealing Yovani Gallardo and the Brewers a 5-0 loss in their series finale at Petco Park.

"I had a lot of emotions coming in and good nerves," Suppan said. "But my job was to get my butterflies to fly in formation."

Suppan coaxed his butterflies into flying just right, but he kept the Brewers on the ground. He recorded 11 of his outs on ground balls, two on strikeouts, one on an infield popup and only one -- Rickie Weeks' lineout to center field in the third inning -- on a fly ball.

The Brewers were shut out for the second straight game after scoring eight times in Monday's opener. They hadn't been blanked in back-to-back games since Sept. 10-11, 2010, against the Cubs.

"[Suppan] didn't surprise me at all. He's had plenty of success in the big leagues," said Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun, who was 0-for-3 before exiting in the sixth inning with a sore Achilles tendon.

"It was disappointing," Braun said. "It would have been nice if we got to him, but it didn't surprise me, by any means."

Manager Ron Roenicke, on the other hand?

"Yeah, I was surprised," Roenicke said. "I think we ought to be scoring runs off everybody. [Travis] Ishikawa had a couple of nice at-bats that he squared up [the baseball] and they were two double plays. They're good at-bats. But we need to get it going."

The Padres went ahead with a three-run third inning, and by the time Braun left in the sixth, Suppan's day was done. He surrendered four hits and a pair of walks, one intentional, but kept the Brewers off the board to further bolster his resume against Milwaukee. Suppan is now 13-2 with a 3.20 ERA against the Brewers in 21 starts and two relief stints. Most of that damage came when he pitched for the Pirates and Cardinals from 2003-06, performances that in part led the Brewers to sign Suppan to a four-year, $42 million pact on Dec. 24, 2006, that, at the time, marked the richest contract in club history.

Suppan would go 29-36 with a 5.08 ERA in a Brewers uniform before the team released him with nearly four months left on that deal. He finished the 2010 season with the Cardinals, spent all of 2011 with the Royals' Triple-A team and signed another Minor League deal with the Padres last winter. He pitched Wednesday in place of injured left-hander Cory Luebke.

This was the same Suppan who surrendered nine earned runs and 17 hits in 6 2/3 innings over two starts at Triple-A Tucson. He had a significantly easier time against the Brewers, working three 1-2-3 innings and working around two hits in the other two.

In both of those innings, the second and the fourth, Suppan found himself in bases-loaded jams. He escaped the first of those trouble spots by striking out Gallardo, and the second by inducing an Ishikawa double play. It went first base to second base back to first, where Suppan covered the bag for the final out.

"For some reason, we just haven't been able to get that big hit," Gallardo said. "We all know we're going to turn it around. The hitters are going to turn it around, as well as [the pitchers]. We've been struggling, too."

The Padres got to Gallardo in the third inning, sparked by an infield hit that Gallardo deflected to second baseman Rickie Weeks. Will Venable became the first of six Padres to reach safely in the inning -- three on hits, three more on walks -- as San Diego batted around. Former Brewer Mark Kotsay delivered the decisive run for the second straight day, this time with an RBI double. Cameron Maybin added a two-out, two-run single.

"It just seems that it's always that one inning that things don't go the way I want it to," Gallardo said. "If either I catch [Venable's hit] cleanly or get out of the way and let Rickie handle it, it's a whole different story."

That's not to say Gallardo was entirely the victim of bad luck. His command was off throughout the inning, particularly on a handful of fastballs that drew catcher Jonathan Lucroy out of his crouch.

"I kind of got away from my game, trying to be too fine, trying to get the inning over with one pitch instead of focusing one pitch at a time," Gallardo said.

The Padres tacked on two runs in the eighth inning to spoil Vinnie Chulk's Brewers debut, but that was just piling on. Relievers Ernesto Frieri, Luke Gregerson and Dale Thayer finished the shutout and preserved Suppan's victory.

The Brewers fell to 11-14, and as players packed up in the visitor's clubhouse, they sat five games behind the National League Central-leading Cardinals. St. Louis was blowing out Pittsburgh at that moment, bidding to push Milwaukee another half-game behind in the standings.

"This isn't the way we drew it up," Braun said. "But I think all of us, for the most part, have been around long enough to recognize there's a lot of baseball left. We're too far into the season to continue to say, 'It's early.' The reality is, we just haven't played well yet. Really, we have to play better in all facets of the game."

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