The Mets needed only three hits to take the opener of this two-game series.
That's because the Brewers didn't score until Mets fans were dropping boos on embattled closer Frank Francisco in the ninth inning. Francisco was working with a 3-0 lead after Ramirez, the Brewers' third baseman, dropped the baseball during a rundown the previous half-inning and allowed Mets star David Wright to score what looked like a key insurance run.
"That wasn't the play. The big chances were early, when we didn't score," Roenicke said.
Other teams had less trouble scoring against Batista, who had surrendered eight earned runs over nine innings in his previous two starts, and 24 hits plus 15 walks in 18 1/3 innings overall this season.
But he carved through the Brewers' lineup for seven innings, scattering four hits and stranding a man in scoring position three times including the first inning, when he struck out Corey Hart with runners at first and second base. In the second, the Brewers put the leadoff man at third base with a single and a two-base error, but Taylor Green was out between third and home when Cesar Izturis' suicide-squeeze bunt stayed too close to home plate.
The Brewers finally got things going in the ninth against Francisco, whose status as closer had been reaffirmed by Mets manager Terry Collins before the game. Ryan Braun singled, stole second base and scored on Hart's hit. Green walked, representing the tying run.
But Brooks Conrad struck out, falling to 0-for-15 since his promotion from Triple-A. Pinch-hitter George Kottaras flew out to end the game.
Green and Conrad began the season at Triple-A Nashville, but started Monday because of injuries to first baseman Mat Gamel and second baseman Rickie Weeks. Izturis began the year on the bench but is now the regular shortstop after Alex Gonzalez went down with a season-ending knee injury.
"I'm still OK with what we have," Roenicke said. "We can't get it going as a team. We get runners in scoring position, and we're not taking the at-bats I know we can do."
The Brewers were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, the lone hit Hart's run-scoring single in the ninth. The Mets were 1-for-10 in the clutch, but got their hit in the first inning.
"You need to get it early," Roenicke said. "When you have chances early, you need to get to the starter. All of a sudden, that confidence that he has isn't there anymore, and then you have a chance to get a bunch of runs off of him.
"We need to come out early and we need to get some points off some guys, and then see what happens after that. I know what happens. They're different pitchers. When you get to them early, they're different pitchers."
While the Brewers were letting Batista off the hook for his early baserunners, Gallardo struggled to find the strike zone. He had five strikeouts and five walks by the end of the third inning, and finished with six strikeouts and six walks in six innings on 109 pitches, 61 of them strikes.
"It was one of those days that I kind of felt too good," Gallardo said. "I think I was overthrowing it a little bit. For all the walks, I was trying to overthrow the curveball instead of letting it do what it does on its own."
The Mets turned two first-inning walks into a run with Daniel Murphy's two-out single. They made it 2-0 in the sixth on Ronny Cedeno's successful suicide-squeeze bunt, stealing a page from the Brewers' playbook.
"I was just trying not to jump over there like a maniac and give it away," said Murphy, who scored from third base. "I play this game a little wired as it is. 'Teuf' [Mets third-base coach Tim Teufel] told me it was on, and I just tried to relax a little bit. Ronny did a great job pushing that thing back to the second baseman. It gave them no chance. It was awesome."
Said Gallardo: "In that situation, you get it down on the ground, it's tough to get the guy out at home. I think we all knew it was going to be something like that, but Cedeno made it work."
The Brewers entered the night with five squeeze bunts in as many attempts, most by far in the Majors. But their perfect record was blemished in the second inning, when Green reached third base. After Conrad struck out, Green broke home on a suicide-squeeze attempt, but Izturis' bunt was too short and Green had to retreat. He was tagged out.
Gallardo then struck out, and a promising inning was over.
The Brewers and Mets will finish their brief series on Tuesday night. Then it's on to Houston for the Brewers, who are 15-20 and desperately trying to get things going.
"I don't think anybody is worried," Gallardo said.