Hendrickson tagged for three runs after five scoreless
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
Manager Ned Yost consoles starter Ben Hendrickson as he leaves the game in the sixth after allowing the Cubs three runs. (Morry Gash/AP)
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' most highly touted pitching prospect made his Miller Park debut, but otherwise it was the same old story.
Hendrickson lost for the fourth time in four starts and the Brewers offense was again missing in action for Thursday's 4-0 loss to the Cubs in front of 42,443 fans.
Sammy Sosa hit a two-run home run to back Chicago's Carlos Zambrano (10-6), who pitched eight scoreless innings, struck out eight and combined with Kyle Farnsworth on a five-hit shutout. Milwaukee has been blanked nine times this season.
"We gotta get more hits. We gotta get more runs. We have to get the offense going," said Brewers shortstop Craig Counsell, repeating a familiar refrain.
"It's a broken record, but it's as simple as that."
Little has been simple for the Brewers' offense since the All-Star break. The team is 4-11 since the break while batting 11-for-110 (.100) with runners in scoring position. On Thursday, Brewers hitters went 0-for-9 in run-scoring chances.
Craig Counsell / SS
Weight: 185 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R
Three of those opportunities came in the first inning, when Scott Podsednik and Counsell hit consecutive singles. Zambrano settled in and struck out Geoff Jenkins, Russell Branyan and Lyle Overbay to escape damage.
"We had our chance to score a run there and take the lead and give Hendrickson a little bit of a cushion," Yost said. "We just couldn't get it done."
Milwaukee also had runners at first and second with one out in the third inning, when Hendrickson singled for the first hit of his career, and got a leadoff double from Counsell in the sixth but failed to score.
"He's a guy that, when he gets in trouble, he all of a sudden finds another level," Yost said of Zambrano. "He'll throw 91, 92 and then all of a sudden it's 96, 97. He gave them eight strong innings."
The Brewers lost three of four in the series, played entirely in front of sellout crowds. The four-game attendance total was 167,136, besting the previous Miller Park four-game series record set in June and July 2001 against the Astros.
Milwaukee has dropped nine of 11 games since splitting a four-game series with the Cubs at Wrigley Field to start the second half. The stretch has included a pair of four-game losing streaks, and Thursday's loss left the Brewers three games below .500, matching their low point of the season.
"I kind of believe you make your own momentum," Yost said. "I really do. I think you go out every day and you have to take advantage of situations. Right now, we create situations but we don't take advantage of them. That's a little hill we're going to have to get over here, soon."
"Every time he's gone out he's gotten a little bit better. He pitched pretty good today."
-- Ned Yost on Ben Hendrickson
Hendrickson (0-4) allowed two hits in five shutout innings before the Cubs unloaded on him leading off the sixth. Tom Goodwin and Todd Walker hit consecutive doubles to break the scoreless tie before Sammy Sosa slugged a two-run home run, his 22nd.
"I threw him a 3-1 changeup and it just caught the middle of the plate," said Hendrickson, a curveball specialist who earned a call-up after going 8-2 with a 2.28 ERA at Triple-A Indianapolis.
That was it for Hendrickson. In five-plus innings Thursday he allowed three runs on five hits, walking three and notching two strikeouts.
"He's getting better every time out and that's what we expect out of our young guys," said Yost. "We know at times they're going to struggle a little bit but we want to see a little bit of improvement from start to start. Every time he's gone out he's gotten a little bit better. He pitched pretty good today."
Said Cubs manager Dusty Baker: "For a rookie, he threw pretty good and we finally got to him and finally figured him out."
In his last two starts, Hendrickson has allowed six earned runs in nine total innings, lowering his ERA from 11.25 to its current 8.47. Not great, but better.
"I'm getting more comfortable and more confident out there," he said.
The Cubs added a run later in the sixth inning when Aramis Ramirez doubled against Dave Burba for a 4-0 lead.
Geoff Jenkins / LF
Weight: 215 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R
Geoff Jenkins finished 0-for-4 and watched his batting average drop to .249. Since signing a three-year, $23 million contract extension in Spring Training, Jenkins has 14 home runs and 53 RBIs.
Yost was asked if he would consider moving Jenkins out of the three-hole.
"It's not like we have a ton of options," Yost said. "When he does get hit he's capable of carrying us. That's what we're betting on."
Jenkins, Branyan, Overbay and No. 5 hitter Ben Grieve combined to go 0-for-15 with five strikeouts. Overbay has five hits in his last 35 at-bats (.143) and his season average is down to .326.
"It's very frustrating for everybody right now because we're getting such good pitching, great defense. We've got two of the three components it takes to win. We're just not hitting with runners in scoring position and we're not driving in runs."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.