Brewers drop third straight to Cubs
Davis struggles with control as Chicago takes series
MILWAUKEE -- Tough to read, these Brewers.
Some days they look like legitimate contenders, with more home wins -- 29 -- than any team in the National League, including 23 come-from-behind efforts. They rebounded from an eight-game losing streak in late May and early June and won 18 of their next 30 games, gaining seven games on the division-leading Cardinals and generating some serious buzz in the Brew City.
Then, some days are like Friday. And Saturday. And Sunday. Three consecutive ugly losses to the formerly reeling Chicago Cubs, including Sunday's 11-4 loss. All three games were sellouts, and the Brewers fans among the bipartisan crowd of 41,528 on Sunday left wondering what in the world this team has in store after the All-Star break.
"I see it that way, too," said left-hander Doug Davis, who reverted to his old command issues in Sunday's loss. "I don't know what it is. I don't know how to explain it. It's just about picking guys up."
Yes, they expect to get a pickup after the All-Star break when Tomo Ohka returns from a shoulder injury, and Ben Sheets is not far behind. But some Brewers, including Davis, have been vocal that the team should have fared better in the first half with the talent it's got.
After Chris Capuano pitched a six-hit shutout to beat the Cubs in Thursday's series opener, the Brewers were outscored in the final three games of the series, 21-7, and out-hit, 36-22. Brewers hitters struck out 30 times in the three losses.
"The break is going to be good for us," said Brewers manager Ned Yost, who planned to head home to Atlanta for three full days away from baseball. "We've got guys struggling at the plate, and this will give them a chance to step back and relax for a couple of days."
His take on the Brewers' roller-coaster first half?
"I feel like we've kind of just kept our heads above water," Yost said. "That's about all I can say that we've done."
Yost pointed to an "inconsistent" offense, a defense that's "gotten better" and a bullpen that's "been good for spurts, and then not good for spurts." But the main reason for the team's unpredictability has to be the starting rotation. The Brewers are 5-17 in games started by replacements for Ohka and Sheets, and yet they went into the break 44-46, overall.
"We just have to get Tomo and Benny back," Yost said, "and I think it's going to really settle everything down."
On Sunday, Carlos Lee tied a franchise record with his 26th home run before the All-Star break, but it was too little, too late. Davis (5-6) allowed seven runs on seven hits and six walks in 5 1/3 innings.
Cubs outfielder Jacque Jones had three hits and scored three runs to back left-hander Glendon Rusch (3-7), who made an emergency start in place of the injured Mark Prior (left oblique) and held the Brewers to two runs over five innings.
"He just got outs," Yost said of Rusch, a former Brewer. "Nothing special."
The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning against Davis, but the Brewers answered right back in the second. Prince Fielder put the Brewers on the board with a two-out, RBI single, Fielder's fifth hit in his last 45 at-bats and his first RBI since July 4.
The Brewers took a 2-1 lead in the third inning when Rickie Weeks led off with a solo home run, his first since June 21, but the Brewers ran themselves out of the rally when Fielder struck out and Geoff Jenkins was thrown out on a botched hit-and-run.
"The count was 3-for-2 there, and we just had a lot of confidence that Glendon was going to throw a fastball and Prince was going to put the ball in play," Yost said. "The last thing we figured right there was Prince not putting the ball in play."
Fielder was just as unhappy.
"It was Ball 4," Fielder said of Rusch's full-count pitch. "I just swung at a bad pitch."
Chicago struck quickly when Davis returned to the mound. Aramis Ramirez hit the first pitch of the fourth inning for a solo home run. Michael Barrett walked and moved to third on Jacque Jones' ground-rule double. Matt Murton followed with a sacrifice fly that gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead and pushed Jones to third base. Ronny Cedeno then surprised the Brewers with a suicide-squeeze bunt.
The Cubs padded their lead in the sixth with help from Davis, who walked three of the first five hitters he faced in the inning, including pinch-hitter Phil Nevin with the bases loaded. Juan Pierre followed with a two-run double for a 7-2 Cubs lead.
"Walks will kill you, and they killed us today," Davis said.
"[I was] just erratic, trying to do too much," said Davis, who had not walked more than three batters in any of his nine previous starts. "Trying to be too perfect instead of going right after them. I've made this mistake I don't know how many times. It seems like it keeps coming back to me."
The Cubs had a 9-2 lead when Lee belted his booming, two-run home run, tying Jeromy Burnitz (1999) for the most homers by a Brewers hitter before the break. Lee left after the game, along with Capuano and Derrick Turnbow, to represent the Brewers in the All-Star Game in Pittsburgh.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.