Crew sets record early, then holds on
Ten-run first vs. Nats a high-water mark for opening frame
WASHINGTON -- By the time the Brewers' 11-7 victory over the Washington Nationals on Sunday was finally over, it seemed like a lifetime ago that Milwaukee had hung 10 runs on opposing starter Jason Marquis.
What should have been a laugher and a perfect springboard into the final leg of a three-city road trip got a lot closer than the Brewers wanted, needed or expected in almost 3 1/2 hours.
Left-hander Doug Davis couldn't stand the prosperity, the Brewers allowed their foes five or more runs for the 11th time in 12 games, and closer Trevor Hoffman had to warm up in case he was needed to snuff out a rally.
But coming off Saturday's shutout loss, their fourth defeat in five games, the Brewers weren't going to be too picky about their path to victory.
"It's just nice to win a game, more than anything," said left fielder Ryan Braun.
So, with glass-half-full optimism, Milwaukee will jet to Pittsburgh and focus on a huge positive: A record-setting first inning that negated whatever they allowed the Nationals to accomplish after that.
"We were just kind of laughing about how it shows what a crazy game baseball is," said shortstop Craig Counsell. "We couldn't buy a hit yesterday, and then the floodgates open the very next day. Obviously, it's great to put an inning like that together."
Counsell had the big hit in the frame, Milwaukee's most productive inning since a 10-run binge in the fourth inning of the final game of the 2001 season, a 15-5 home win over the D-backs. It marked the fifth time in 40 years that the Brewers had achieved double digits in one inning. Counsell's third career grand slam got them there, capping off a torrid start that saw the Brewers chase Marquis, who did not retire any of the seven batters he faced.
"Those innings are few and far between, so when they do come along, you've got to enjoy them," Braun said. "Obviously, as a hitter, you do look forward to getting up there when it seems like everything's falling, when it seems like we're getting all the borderline pitches, when it seems like everything we put into play finds a hole."
A leadoff infield single by Rickie Weeks was followed by sharp singles by Counsell and Braun, loading the bases. Marquis (0-3) hit Prince Fielder on the back foot, forcing in a run, then walked Casey McGehee on four pitches, plating another. Jim Edmonds got plunked on the back foot to make it 3-0, and Gregg Zaun lined an opposite-field single to left, plating two more. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman couldn't find the handle on Carlos Gomez's infield chopper as McGehee scored. Then, Davis flied out to center, driving in a run for a 6-0 lead before he'd thrown a pitch.
Weeks walked, and Counsell -- who hadn't hit a grand slam since accomplishing the feat for his first two Major League homers off St. Louis' Todd Stottlemyre (Aug. 24, 1997) and Philadelphia's Tyler Green (April 14, 1998) -- connected off a 1-0 cutter from reliever Miguel Batista, lofting the ball over the right-field wall.
Whatever angst was left over from the shutout endured Saturday afternoon at the hands of 35-year-old Nationals right-hander Livan Hernandez quickly dissipated.
"I don't know if I've been in a 10-run inning on the for [side]," Brewers skipper Ken Macha said. "I know I've been on the against."
Davis didn't exactly cruise through the first four innings, but he seemed in control with a 1-2-3 fourth. Then came the fifth, when the Nationals strung together five straight singles before Davis got cleanup man Adam Dunn on a grounder to Fielder and coaxed a lazy fly off the bat of Josh Willingham. Ivan Rodriguez followed with a single, Justin Maxwell walked and Adam Kennedy's two-run single made it 10-5.
Out came Macha and out went Davis, who was charged with five runs on 11 hits and a walk over 4 2/3 innings, falling one out short of qualifying for his first victory of 2010.
"Not to be able to get the decision when we have a 10-run lead in the first is a different kind of frustration," Davis said.
When it was suggested that pitching with a large lead can present a different kind of challenge, Davis didn't disagree.
"It's in the back of your mind, 'I've got 10 runs, just don't walk anybody, let them hit the ball,'" he said. "You end up aiming the ball, getting behind and end up walking them or giving up hard-hit balls. That wasn't really the case here. It just seemed like the fifth inning, things happened quick. Whenever they hit the ball on the ground, it seemed like it was in a hole -- somewhere -- or a fisted hit to center field. You look up and there's a three spot within 10 or 15 pitches."
Pinch-hitter Ian Desmond's two-run double got Washington within 10-7 with two down in the seventh, but center fielder Carlos Gomez stifled the rally when he threw Desmond out at the plate for the third out of the inning after Kennedy's single. Desmond tried to barrel over Zaun at the plate, but the catcher withstood the collision.
Both seventh-inning runs were charged to winning pitcher Claudio Vargas (1-0), who worked two innings in relief of Davis, who was left wondering despite a much-needed team victory.
"You want your team that they're going to have a chance to win every day that I go out there," Davis lamented. "Me going out there and not going five, it's tough to handle when [they wonder], 'What Doug Davis are we going to find today? He hasn't been very consistent.'"
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.