Crew seeks better production from heart of lineup

Crew seeks better production from heart of lineup

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' current run production problem is not nearly as dire as last season, when manager Ron Roenicke was without his three-, four- and five-hole hitters.

But it has a familiar feeling.

With usual three-hole hitter Ryan Braun on the disabled list with a strained right oblique, and cleanup man Aramis Ramirez fighting one of the worst slumps of his career, the Brewers struggled to score while dropping three of four games in Cincinnati for their first road series loss of the season. The Brewers scored three, three, two and two runs in those four games, while batting .186 as a team.

The middle of the lineup has something to do with that.

"No doubt about it," Roenicke said. "With 'Brauny' out of there and 'Rami' not driving in runs like he was earlier -- every time we had a guy in scoring position, he was driving him in."

Ramirez entered Monday's game against Arizona with two hits -- both homers -- in his last 40 at-bats, including an 0-for-28 drought that was the longest of Ramirez's career. Along the way, he missed two games after being struck by a pitch on the left elbow in St. Louis.

"He was a little bit off before he got hit in the elbow," Roenicke said, "but once he got hit in the elbow, it took him a while to get it back. [On Sunday], he didn't swing well, but the day before he did swing it well."

Ramirez is not the only Brewers' player who came home scuffling. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy had one RBI on the seven-game road trip before getting Monday off. Left fielder Khris Davis went 5-for-26 (.192) on the trip. Leadoff hitter Carlos Gomez's on-base percentage on the trip was .273.

Roenicke and his coaches have discussed whether there are things they can do to spark the group. One option was dropping Gomez to the three-hole, but he remained batting first Monday. Second baseman Scooter Gennett hit third.

"There are always discussions about how we can do it a little bit better," Roenicke said. "I don't know if there's ever a perfect answer."

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.