Mench's homer lifts Brewers to victory
Turnbow turns in one of four scoreless innings from bullpen
MILWAUKEE -- A Chris Capuano win was the only thing missing from what turned into Comeback Night at Miller Park.
That much-needed milestone will have to wait. On Tuesday the Brewers scored a 4-3 win over the Dodgers and overcame a so-so start from Capuano with a go-ahead home run from Kevin Mench and a clean eighth inning from Derrick Turnbow, marking fresh starts for two players who are trying to forget about the second half of 2006.
"Those second halves, they're forgotten," manager Ned Yost said. "They're old news. We don't even think about it. ... These guys are good players. We knew that Mench would rebound. We knew that Turnbow would rebound. Or we had a good idea of it."
Tuesday offered some regular-season proof.
Dodgers starter Randy Wolf (0-1) was saddled with the loss after surrendering a sixth-inning, two-run home run to Mench, who struggled after a surprising trade from Texas last summer and complained about the Brewers' platoon plans this spring.
Brewers lefty reliever Brian Shouse (1-0) threw two pitches and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning. Matt Wise worked a scoreless seventh, and then the Brewers turned to Turnbow, who posted a 13.06 ERA over his final 27 appearances last season and lost the closer's job. Turnbow breezed through a clean frame, throwing just eight pitches, and new closer Francisco Cordero notched his first save.
"The guys keep doing the little things so well," said Capuano, who left the game after five innings trailing, 3-2. "Tonight, I feel like I didn't pull my weight as well as I could have, but they're playing so well we were able to win the game."
Including his first two plate appearances on Tuesday, Mench had gone a career-high 120 at-bats without a home run. But he connected on a first-pitch slider from Wolf, hitting a line drive over the left-field wall that scored Johnny Estrada. The new Brewers catcher had reached on an infield single and finished 2-for-3 with two runs for the second straight game.
"I was hoping it was going to get up. I thought it was going to hit the fence," Mench said of his line-drive homer. "I went from the crowd's reaction."
Cheers were hard to come by last season for Mench, who had not homered since last July 30. He finished that month with 25 hits and 13 RBIs between the two teams, then matched those totals over the final two miserable months with Milwaukee, hitting .211 in August and .233 in September.
So Yost informally announced over the winter plans for a platoon. Jenkins batted .133 against left-handers last season while Mench hit .303, which happened to also be his career mark against southpaws. It made sense, Yost said, to use Mench in those games.
Both players were clear about their distaste for that plan. But Mench changed his tune Tuesday night.
"We all can play," Mench said. "We all want to play, and we're going to jump at every opportunity to make the most of it. If that requires us to pinch-hit here or there, then we'll do it."
The score remained 4-3 in the eighth, when Turnbow got a scare from the first hitter he faced. But Matt Kemp's drive to deep center field was hauled in by Bill Hall, and Turnbow got Wilson Betemit on a groundout. Turnbow then froze pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson with a strike-three slider, a pitch that was particularly inconsistent last season.
"It was huge," said Turnbow, who did not allow a run in 10 of his 11 Cactus League games. "It's not even a comparison to Spring Training. I was just trying to carry over what I was doing in spring to the season, but the regular season is definitely a lot different."
Said Cordero: "I'm happy about it because I believe he's back on track, and he's going to do his job like he has in the past. ... I'm blessed. I'm happy to have a setup guy like Turnbow here. He's another closer."
Capuano labored, throwing 95 pitches in five innings but holding the Dodgers to three runs on five hits. The teams were tied at 2 in the fifth inning when Capuano surrendered a solo home run to Russell Martin, the 12th time in his last 16 starts, dating to last season, that Capuano has served up at least one long ball.
"I was lucky that the team played so well," Capuano said. "My defense picked me up and helped me get five innings at least, and to keep the team in the game. I didn't feel good. I thought it was kind of a bad outing. If I can keep the bad outings to a minimum, I'll be happy this year."
The Brewers overcame a baserunning gamble in the third inning. With Mench at first base on a fielder's choice and Hall at third, they tried a delayed double steal. Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent took the throw and fired back home to Martin, who tricked Hall into thinking the throw would be late. Hall was tagged out just before stepping on home plate.
"We thought we'd take a shot right there," Yost said. "We had the two right guys in the right position. The count was in our favor, and they executed perfectly. If they miss by half a beat, we score a run right there."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.