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04/16/09 12:34 AM ET
Brewers break out of funk
Cameron homers twice, Looper solid vs. Reds
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers figured a night like this was coming. It still felt good when it arrived.
Mike Cameron homered in each of his first two at-bats and scored again in Milwaukee's five-run sixth inning, as the Brewers slugged their way to a 9-3 win over the Reds at Miller Park on Wednesday and avoided a Cincinnati sweep.
Cameron finished 3-for-3 with three runs scored and three RBIs. Bill Hall hit a go-ahead double in the decisive sixth inning, Jason Kendall drove in two more with a double of his own and Rickie Weeks added a two-run shot to snap the team's four-game losing streak.
"Our breakout game," declared Hall, who joined Cameron, Weeks and the rest of the Brewers in wearing No. 42 for Jackie Robinson Day. "We've been waiting for this game since the season started. We haven't swung the bats like we're capable of doing. Hopefully today was an indication of what's to come."
That goes for the pitching staff, too. The Brewers entered the night having issued a Major League most 42 walks in eight games, but starter Braden Looper (1-0) walked only one batter on the way to his first Brewers win.
Snapping the losing streak gave players something good to think about during their off-day Thursday. Up next is a tough, three-city road trip to New York, Philadelphia and Houston.
"We had lost four in a row or whatever it was, but one win kind of helps you forget about it," Looper said. "Hopefully now we'll get on a roll of winning games."
Looper limited the Reds to three runs on six hits in six innings for the second consecutive quality start by a Brewers pitcher. He benefited from the offensive outburst in the bottom of the sixth, a rally sparked by Prince Fielder's leadoff double against Cincinnati starter Micah Owings (0-1), who was making his Reds pitching debut.
Enter reliever Jared Burton, who retired Corey Hart on a botched bunt but then walked Cameron, who had already hit solo home runs leading off the second and fourth innings. Hall followed with a high fly ball that glanced off left fielder Chris Dickerson's glove and nearly skipped over the wall for a three-run homer. Instead, Hall settled for an RBI double.
Hall scored on Kendall's two-run double down the left-field line, and Kendall subsequently scored on Weeks' opposite-field, two-run home run to right field.
"The guys really picked me up that next inning," Looper said.
Cameron said he could feel it coming.
"Everyone here knows that we have a good team, it's just a matter of going out and executing," Cameron said. "It's good for the team to get off the schneid."
Cameron boosted his batting average to .370 with a 3-for-3 night, and he leads the Brewers with 22 total bases. Most notably, he does not lead the team in strikeouts (he's whiffed four times, versus seven walks) after striking out 142 times last season in just 120 games.
He was also solid in Spring Training games, batting .267 with a .366 on-base percentage. Manager Ken Macha has been pleased with the veteran's plate discipline, especially when Cameron lays off high fastballs.
"I was working on some things, and have just been able to take it into the games," said Cameron, who adjusted his hands. "Be ready to hit every single pitch. ... It's worked pretty well for me. I feel pretty comfortable at the plate right now."
Looper appeared comfortable, too. He blanked the Reds on three singles through four innings before they rallied for one run in the fifth inning and two more in the sixth on a Chris Dickerson two-run home run that tied the game at 3. It came one pitch after Looper hit Reds leadoff man Willy Taveras on the hand with a pitch.
It was difficult to tell which pitch bothered him more -- the one that struck Taveras or the one that Dickerson hit over the right-field fence. It sounded like the latter.
"Probably a bone-headed pitch more than anything," Looper said. "But I felt like I threw the ball well, especially against that team. They've got a really good lineup. It's an underrated lineup in this league. With [Joey] Votto and [Jay] Bruce and [Brandon] Phillips, the heart of their lineup is pretty good."
Looper was tended to by Brewers trainers in the second inning after he tagged out Bruce on a grounder back to the mound, but he said he only slightly twisted his right knee. Looper remained in the game and might be finally hitting his stride after missing about two weeks in Spring Training because of a rib-cage injury.
"I felt real good out of the gate," Looper said. "Probably the best I've felt all spring. I had real good command of all my pitches and then kind of lost it at the end. "
Relievers Mark DiFelice, Mitch Stetter and Todd Coffey limited the Reds to one hit over the final three innings to preserve Looper's first Brewers win. Only one problem: Looper didn't get a game ball.
"Maybe Coffey's still got it," Looper said with a shrug.