Strike zone eludes Gagne in opener
Brewers closer blows save, but comes away with lucky win
CHICAGO -- They were right there for the taking, but Brewers closer Eric Gagne brushed away the excuses on Wednesday."It was muddy, but everyone else had to go through it," said Gagne, two days after both his Brewers debut and the worst blown save of his career. "I just didn't throw strikes." Gagne, who did not stick around long enough to address reporters after he surrendered three runs in an eventual 4-3 Opening Day win over the Cubs, did so on Wednesday before the second game of the series. He fielded questions about the slick mound at Wrigley Field, a result of two separate rain delays Monday, and about the problem of his prescription glasses fogging up. He called those factors "little outside things." The real reason for his struggles, Gagne said, boiled down to not throwing enough strikes. "I'm not disappointed, because my stuff was good, my arm felt good -- everything felt good," Gagne said. "That's the big leagues. You walk people and you fall behind, they're going to hit it. That's what happened." "He's not going to make excuses," manager Ned Yost said. "He was a bit uncomfortable, because he was slipping on every pitch and his glasses were fogging, but he's not going to make an excuse." Handed a 3-0 lead in the ninth, Gagne started with a 93-mph fastball to Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee, who singled four pitches later, then walked Aramis Ramirez on four pitches. Gagne threw three more balls to Japanese import Kosuke Fukudome, who then hit a 3-1 pitch to center field and tied the game at 3. The damage was limited to those three runs, and Gagne emerged as the lucky winner when the Brewers scored in the top of the 10th for a 4-3 victory. He slipped out a back door of the visitors' clubhouse at Wrigley Field, because a crowd of reporters was gathered at the front door interviewing other players. The conditions surely contributed to the command woes. While Gagne warmed up in the top of the ninth inning, Brewers bullpen coach Bill Castro called out members of the grounds crew to dry the mound down the right-field foul line. The slick surface, both in the bullpen and on the main mound, meant Gagne could not land properly on his follow-through. "For me, that's a big deal," Gagne said. "There are pitchers who don't need that. But it's hard for me when you slide off the mound." Gagne said he had acquired a spray designed to keep his eyewear clear, and sunny skies over Chicago on Wednesday meant the mound was in perfect shape for the second game of a three-game series. Yost said he would go to Gagne again if the situation called for it, despite the fact his closer needed 31 pitches to get through his first regular-season outing since inking a $10 million, one-year contract with Milwaukee. Most closers will say following a blown save something along the lines of, "Forget about it. Move on." Not Gagne. "You never forget," he said. "People who say they forget, that's what they're trying to do. You don't forget, you try to learn from it, try to take the positives out of it. "The good thing is we won the game. That's what makes it easy. If you look at all the blown saves in my career, a lot of them are wins in the end. It's a lot easier to go home when you win ballgames."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.