6/2/2013 6:30 P.M. ET
Brewers excited about Lucroy's hot streak
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Two home runs in Friday's series opener against the Phillies and another on Saturday gave the Brewers hope that catcher Jonathan Lucroy is finding his groove at the plate.
Lucroy entered Sunday's series finale riding a seven-game hitting streak, during which he was 12-for-26 with six RBIs and had boosted his batting average from .221 to .259. This weekend marked the first time in his career that Lucroy had homered in back-to-back games.
"It's a nice thing to have him, whether it hitting behind [Aramis] Ramirez in the five-spot or behind [Carlos Gomez] in the six-spot," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Luc, I thought probably a week ago, had started having better at-bats."
Roenicke's eyebrows really raised on Friday, when Lucroy put the Brewers on the board with an RBI double high off the wall in the second inning, drove in another run with a single amid a four-run fourth and homered in the fifth and again ninth as part of a career-high five-hit performance.
"Jerry [Narron, the Brewers' bench coach] and I looked at each other and said, 'Wow, those are nice swings,'" Roenicke said. "There's a difference in him when you see that he's on time with everything; he's not fighting to put it in play. He's at that point right now. Hopefully, this will last for a while."
"It's been tough my first two months, battling it out, not really feeling that well, not really competing as well as I think I should," Lucroy said. "I wasn't striking out, I was having good at-bats, but the balls weren't finding holes and I wasn't hitting the ball as hard as I should when they miss some pitches. Here, this past week, I feel a lot better and hopefully I can continue it."
Lucroy's eighth-inning grand slam overturned
PHILADELPHIA -- For a few fleeting moments in the eighth inning Sunday, Jonathan Lucroy had homered for the third straight day, this time a grand slam. Then the umpires went to the video tape.
In the first use of replay review this season involving a Brewers batter, Lucroy's slam was turned into a three-run triple by an umpiring crew led by Tom Hallion. Lucroy was eventually stranded at third base, and the Brewers went to the bottom of the eighth inning trailing by three runs in what became a spirited 7-5 loss to the Phillies.
Neither Lucroy nor Brewers manager Ron Roenicke mounted an argument.
"I thought it was the right call," Roenicke said. "They said it has to clear that little fence there, and to me, it looked like it hit the little fence. My eyes aren't that good, but that's what it looked like."
"It didn't go out," Lucroy said.
The Brewers trailed, 7-0, entering the eighth before staging a rally against Phillies starter Cliff Lee. He'd allowed only three hits through seven innings before surrendering four singles and a run in the eighth, exiting in favor of right-handed reliever Justin De Fratus with two outs and two runners on.
Aramis Ramirez walked to load the bases for Lucroy, who homered twice in Friday's series opener, added a key insurance homer Saturday and entered Sunday batting .462 over a seven-game hitting streak that was on the line entering his final at-bat. He fouled off four consecutive two-strike pitches, then connected with a slider and sent it down the left-field line where the ball caromed off the top of the outfield fence.
The initial call was home run, but after a lengthy review, Hallion emerged with a reversal.
"It hit the top of that wire fence and kicked hard to the right back into play," Hallion said. "I had thought it hit the back green [wall beyond the fence], but it hit the top of that fence and kicked right. So once we realized it was not a home run, I had the crew ... put together where the ball went to, who picked the ball up, and then we just put the runners where [their best judgment said they should be]."
The outfield fence at Citizens Bank Park is particularly tricky. It consists of a green padded wall topped by two metal fences with a flower bed in between. A hit that lands in the flower bed is a home run, but Lucroy's struck the railing in front of the flowers and caromed back into play.
Illustrating one of the challenges of instant replay in baseball, Hallion said positioning the runners took time.
"The easy part was seeing where the ball hit and seeing that it was not a home run," Hallion said.
"He ruled it a triple. In our yard, I don't know," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "First of all, you can't argue with the decision anyway. At the same time, I look at it and I was hoping it was a double. It would save two runs that way [as opposed to a grand slam]. It didn't happen. It's just the way it went. It turned out OK for us."
Schafer works to feel comfortable coming off bench
PHILADELPHIA -- Playing off the Brewers' bench has been much more difficult than Logan Schafer ever expected, but he's discovered a philosophy to help out.
"Comfort is something that you have to create," Schafer said. "Even when you're not feeling comfortable, you have to imagine yourself feeling comfortable. If not, you have really no chance."
Schafer has been a regular starter his entire baseball life, but now finds himself the fourth outfielder on a club with three entrenched starters: Ryan Braun in left field, Carlos Gomez in center and Norichika Aoki in right. Schafer has scrounged 10 starts in the Brewers' first 55 games, and short of an injury, he does not figure to see increased playing time in the near future.
Schafer has been making the most of rare starts, delivering a career-high three hits as a fill-in for Aoki in Minnesota on Thursday and three more while starting for Gomez in Philadelphia on Saturday.
"No doubt [Schafer is making a case for playing time], but how do you do it?" manager Ron Roenicke said. "You've got those three guys who are all having good years. I'll try to get Logan in more, but we're trying to figure out how to do that."
Schafer is above average at all three outfield positions and is the Brewers' emergency third catcher, even though he throws left-handed. He uses a Roenicke glove from the early 1990s, when Roenicke was on the Dodgers' coaching staff and would occasionally catch pitchers' bullpens.
Looking to further increase his versatility, Schafer asked director of clubhouse operations Tony Migliaccio if he had any left-handed first baseman's gloves. Migliaccio rummaged through a trunk at Miller Park and came up with one that once belonged to Bob Hamelin, the former American League Rookie of the Year who played his final Major League season with Milwaukee in 1998.
The black leather glove is barely broken in, probably because the gold stitching is missing an E and reads, "Bob Hamlin." Schafer began to break it in Sunday morning when he took ground balls at first base during the Brewers' batting practice.
"We just keep them because, you never know," said Migliaccio, who has a Brian Shouse and a Tom Lampkin among his collection.
The Brewers have gotten little production from first base this season, and Corey Hart is still working back from knee surgery. But Roenicke and Schafer both characterized the experiment as "just in case."
"It's just 'super emergency,'" Schafer said. "It's not something anyone is thinking about doing."
Schafer was 6-for-25 (.240) as a pinch-hitter entering Sunday and has received counsel from a number of veterans, including former infielder-turned-front office man Craig Counsell. Schafer's mindset is the same it was when he batted leadoff in the Minor Leagues: get on base.
"It's been a new role for me, coming in and being a bench guy here, helping out and getting much fewer at-bats than I'm typically used to," Schafer said. "It's not an easy role. It's harder than I thought it would be coming into the year. But I enjoy the challenge. It's fun."
Roenicke follows up on missed pick-off call
PHILADELPHIA -- A day after the Brewers' most fortuitous break of the season, manager Ron Roenicke had seen a video replay of the pickoff that wasn't. But he disputed the notion that umpire Mike Estabrook's missed call on Saturday gifted the Brewers a victory over the Phillies.
The play came during the bottom of the ninth inning when, with the Phillies trailing by a run and pitcher Kyle Kendrick pinch-running at second base, Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez wheeled around and fired a pick-off throw to shortstop Jean Segura covering the bag. Estabrook called Kendrick out, unable to see amid the tangle of bodies that Segura had never caught the baseball.
That call looked even bigger when the batter, Cesar Hernandez ripped a double to right field. Rodriguez ultimately escaped, sealing a 4-3 Brewers victory.
"Yeah, it changed the game, but that also changes the way you pitch, too," Roenicke said. "If that runner is on base, I doubt that Frankie makes the same pitch to the next guy. All of a sudden, a base hit is going to score that run. Instead, with nobody on, you can go at a guy more. So things change completely. It's hard to just say, 'The next guy gets a double so this guy would have scored.'
"You look at the game and, gosh, it shouldn't have been that close. We had a lot of missed opportunities that we should have had more runs."
Estabrook was not the only one who missed the call. From the mound, Rodriguez had no idea that Segura did not catch the baseball. Ditto for Roenicke in the dugout.
"And the baserunner never said anything," Roenicke said. "I certainly couldn't see it from the dugout, not that I would have run out there and said, 'Hey, he dropped it.'"
• As Roenicke forecast the day before, Segura got a day off Sunday. He is "banged up," the manager said, including a sore left hand from being hit by a pitch last week.
Third baseman Aramis Ramirez also sat out, following a trend of resting for most day games after night games. He continues to play at far less than full strength after missing a month with a sprained right knee, and he was tested Saturday when Ramirez was thrown out at home plate trying to score from first on a double.
"Any time he slides, there's a little issue there," Roenicke said Sunday morning. "Yesterday was a pretty safe slide, and we've talked to him going home, just sliding outside and trying to tag [the plate]. Any time there's [a slide], there's a little setback. I haven't talked to him yet today to see how he's doing, [but] during the game, he was fine. But he felt it."
• Class A Brevard County placed pitching prospect Drew Gagnon on the disabled list Sunday, but Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said the matter was not serious. Gagnon was struck on the right wrist by a line drive, but he suffered no broken bones and is scheduled to pitch again Thursday.
Taking Gagnon's spot on the active roster was another right-hander, Cody Scarpetta, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery. He was a top prospect before getting injured.