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Many theories, few answers for Brewers' slump

Hitters' penchant for swinging at first pitch of an at-bat among possible causes

Many theories, few answers for Brewers' slump play video for Many theories, few answers for Brewers' slump

PITTSBURGH -- Before the reporter could finish a question about the Brewers' recent offensive inconsistencies, manager Ron Roenicke interrupted.

"No, we're pretty consistent, actually," Roenicke said with a smirk.

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The point is well taken. On their make-or-break road trip, the Brewers have surrendered only 12 runs -- but they have scored just eight times while losing four of six games to fall to the brink of elimination. Hitting coach Johnny Narron cited the playoff-caliber opponents in St. Louis and Pittsburgh, but Milwaukee's scoring slide has gone on much longer.

On June 30, three months into the six-month Major League season, the Brewers were 18 games over .500 and 6 1/2 ahead of their closest division rival. They were the National League's second-best offense below 5,000 feet -- trailing only the high-altitude Rockies in runs per game (4.56), home runs per game (1.05) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.739). The Rockies and Brewers were the only NL teams hitting better than a homer per game.

Brewers' offense by half (NL rank)
Through 6/30 Category Since 7/1
4.56 (2nd) Runs per game 3.47 (14th)
1.05 (2nd) Home runs per game 0.81 (6th)
.261 (2nd) Batting average .241 (13th)
.739 (2nd) On-base pct. plus slugging pct. .675 (9th)
3.66 (15th) Pitches per plate appearance 3.62 (15th)

But from July 1 through Sunday, when the Brewers were shut out by Pirates starter Vance Worley and closer-for-a-day Tony Watson, Milwaukee was 14th of 15 NL teams with 3.47 runs per game, ninth with a .675 OPS and sixth with .81 home runs per game.

Since the start of July, no Brewer with at least 100 at-bats is batting at least .300. The Pirates have four such players. The Brewers' .283 batting average on balls in play during second half suggests a degree of bad luck, but it does not account for the completeness of the Brewers' offensive outage.

"I really wish I knew why, because obviously we would be doing it a lot different," said catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who batted .334 through June 30 and has hit .268 since. "You can't really put your finger on it. I guess this late in the season, all of the scouting reports are out and all the numbers are there, as far as what guys are most consistent at, what they're best at, what they're worst at. I guess we're being exploited to the fullest extent of our weaknesses. That's the only thing I can think of."

The larger question already under consideration by general manager Doug Melvin and the baseball men under him is this: Is it a matter that must be addressed before the Brewers take the field for 2015, or is inconsistency simply the price the Brewers pay for having so many free swingers who, when they're hot, are among the most dangerous players at their positions?

Roenicke suggested the former.

"I'm sure it will be talked about," Roenicke said. "The personnel that I write down on this lineup, I think, should be pretty good offensively. I don't know why lately it hasn't been. Maybe we need to figure out, especially with the young guys, 'How do we go about creating more runs?' Do we need to be more patient? I've talked about the first-pitch swinging a lot, and I know that's who we are. It's not something that I like; it's just the personnel we have. Maybe we can be better at that."

All season, the Brewers have been baseball's freest swingers. It was a major storyline during their 20-7 start, when center fielder Carlos Gomez described the team's approach to The New York Times as, "It has to be, like, wayyy a ball for us to not swing."

That trait has remained steady. Through June 30, the Brewers saw the fewest pitches per plate appearance in the Major Leagues (3.66). Since July 1, the Brewers are still last in that category, at 3.62. The Rockies and Brewers were the only teams in baseball as of Monday to swing at more than half of their opponents' pitches, and they also were first and second in swinging at pitches outside the strike zone.

But the trouble with blaming the Brewers' inconsistencies on the fact that they "don't take enough pitches" is embodied in Oakland, where the A's have endured a similar second-half collapse. During each half, the A's have ranked in the top 50 percent of Major League teams in patience at the plate, but they fell from an MLB-best 5.15 runs per game in the first half to 3.84 runs per game since.

"If you want to go look at batting averages on first pitches, it's pretty high," said Melvin. "You can take a lot of pitches, and it doesn't guarantee you're going to hit. Yeah, you'd like to be better, but I don't think that's the answer."

On the first pitch, the Brewers are eighth in the Majors with a .355 batting average and fifth with a .964 OPS. Only Jose Altuve of the Astros has more one-pitch at-bats this season than Gomez (148 to 118). Gomez leads the Brewers with a .424 batting average in first-pitch outcomes. After 0-1, he hits .270.

Melvin, who is an unabashed believer in ballpark effects and the significance of hitting for power -- he points to the runaway Orioles as an example -- is more concerned that the Brewers are hitting home runs at a much lower rate than earlier this season, and especially compared to past seasons. The team's pace is for 151 home runs, which would be its lowest total since 2004.

Melvin cited personnel as one factor; Prince Fielder left via free agency following the 2011 season, and Corey Hart wasn't healthy in 2013 before following Fielder out. Rickie Weeks would have a higher homer total this season, but he's been replaced by Scooter Gennett as the everyday second baseman. Ryan Braun and Gomez have seen their power affected in the second half by nagging physical issues, and Mark Reynolds by a prolonged hitting slump.

But the in-season drop is more difficult to explain. Typically, the ball flies better in the second half at Miller Park.

"I don't know why the change," Roenicke said. "We were always this [modest on-base percentage] team, but because of the drop in home runs, we're not scoring as much."

Melvin is in the process of seeking opinions from his baseball-operations staff, which runs the gamut from old-school scouts to new-school analytical experts. There are reasons to believe 2015 could see the return of a potent Brewers offense. Braun has a year of shouldering boos under his belt, and he could be better if he is able to get healthy and stop chasing pitches in an effort to make things happen. Gennett and left fielder Khris Davis are viewed as professional hitters who could improve their discipline. First base, again, will be open, offering Melvin an opportunity to fill the position with additional consistency.

For now, "You just have to keep pushing," Narron said. "You have to keep trying to make things happen. You have to do the little things. You just have to stay confident. When the pressure's on, you just have to push past that pressure."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers' playoff hopes dealt blow in loss to Bucs

Milwaukee 4 1/2 games out of Wild Card spot after being shut out

Brewers' playoff hopes dealt blow in loss to Bucs play video for Brewers' playoff hopes dealt blow in loss to Bucs

PITTSBURGH -- Mathematically, the Brewers remain alive for a postseason berth. Realistically, even the most optimistic man in the clubhouse had to admit the odds are nearing zero.

With the offense again missing in action on Sunday, Pirates catcher Russell Martin's seventh-inning single beat the Brewers, 1-0, in the regular-season finale at PNC Park. The Brewers fell 4 1/2 games behind the Pirates for the National League's second Wild Card berth.

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"It looks bad, but as [long] as you have a chance, you still continue to fight for it," said Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez, who owned up to a costly baserunning mistake in the ninth inning. "There's still six games to play, and we won, early in the season, nine games straight. Why can we not win six games straight?"

Even if they do, the math is daunting. A combination of three Brewers losses or Pirates victories will eliminate Milwaukee. If the Brewers run the table against the Reds and Cubs this week, the Pirates -- winners of 13 of their last 16 games -- would need to lose five of their remaining seven to force a play-in game at Miller Park.

Those calculations are moot if Milwaukee does not start scoring. Brewers pitchers have surrendered only 12 runs in the first six games of this do-or-die road trip, but Brewers hitters have scored only eight in that same span -- covering 61 innings at-bat. The result is a 2-4 record on a trip that continues Tuesday in Cincinnati.

"You're looking at postseason situations," hitting coach Johnny Narron said. "If you look at the scores, there wasn't a lot of runs scored by anybody in St. Louis or here. So it's just battling, and it's the pitchers putting their best stuff out there and the hitters putting their best stuff. That's big league baseball.

"But like I said, you go back and look at the scores, it's for both sides. It just didn't fall in our favor. You're facing teams that are potentially going to be or are going to be in the playoffs, so you're going to have your better pitchers. That's what your're confronted with. It's not like you're playing somebody out of contention and their callups are pitching."

A day after the 69th 1-0 victory in Brewers history, runs were similarly hard to come by in Sunday's series finale. Milwaukee starter Wily Peralta allowed only two infield singles through his first six innings -- both belonging to Pirates leadoff man Josh Harrison -- before Andrew McCutchen's infield hit sparked the winning rally in the seventh.

McCutchen took second base when a high pitch ticked off catcher Jonathan Lucroy's glove for a passed ball, then took third on a slider in the dirt that went for a wild pitch. With one out, Martin, the Pirates' hero on Friday, gave them their first hit past the infield -- a sharp single to center field for a 1-0 lead.

"That's a tough loss for us, for everybody as a team, you know?" said Peralta, who was charged with a run on five hits in seven innings, on 87 pitches. "This was an important series for us. We pitched good. Not much hitting. But like I said, this was an important series and we should have won this. We know that. We should have won."

Brewers batters, meanwhile, found themselves shut down by right-hander Vance Worley, who had not exceeded five innings in either of his previous September starts, and entered the day 0-3 with a 5.48 ERA in four career starts against Milwaukee.

Worley blanked the Brewers over eight innings on four hits, retiring the final 13 men he faced following Ryan Braun's fourth-inning single.

Worley needed only 82 pitches for his eight innings. He did not walk a batter, and struck out five. With closer Mark Melancon unavailable, Tony Watson worked around a bunch of trouble in the ninth inning, getting help when Gomez got caught in a rundown between second and third base for the first out. Watson retired Braun with two runners aboard to end the game.

"We kept battling," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We just kept thinking we're going to find a way to get something done, and we kept scratching and clawing."

The Brewers are off Monday while the Pirates begin a four-game series in Atlanta, to be followed by three games in Cincinnati.

"It sure doesn't look good," Roenicke said. "They [the Pirates] are a good team. They're playing well, and you don't expect them to not play well here the last [seven] games. And we've got to basically win it out. That's not easy to do."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Gomez's baserunning mistake proves costly in ninth

Gomez's baserunning mistake proves costly in ninth play video for Gomez's baserunning mistake proves costly in ninth

PITTSBURGH -- The mistake, Carlos Gomez said after a loss that severely hampered the Brewers' bid for the postseason, was not leaving second base. It was stopping on the way to third.

With the Pirates ahead, 1-0, and closer Mark Melancon unavailable after pitching three straight days, the Brewers had some chances in the ninth against left-hander Tony Watson. Gomez led off with a single -- giving Milwaukee its first baserunner since the fourth inning -- and took second when pinch-hitter Rickie Weeks hit a chopper over the mound, with Watson's throw popping out of the first baseman's glove.

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The super-aggressive Gomez, seeing Josh Harrison wander off third base on the play, broke off second. But then he stopped and was retired in a rundown.

"I think I have a chance to make it to third if I didn't stop," Gomez said. "If I continue to run, it's really easy to make it to third because everybody broke to that ball. Nobody was on third. I don't know why I stopped."

He added: "A baseball player, an athlete, sometimes you 'want,' and your body doesn't react. It's a mistake, and hopefully I learn from it."

Jonathan Lucroy followed with a popup to shortstop for the second out of the inning, but Watson gave the Brewers one last gasp when he hit Aramis Ramirez with a pitch. With the tying runner in scoring position, Ryan Braun flew the first pitch to center field, ending the game and dropping the Brewers 4 1/2 games behind the Pirates with six to play.

Said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke of the critical baserunning mistake: "In a one-run game -- every out is important, every run is important."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Lucroy: No signal made to plunk McCutchen

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PITTSBURGH -- Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy on Sunday morning dispelled the theory that he signaled for the second plunking of Pirates slugger Andrew McCutchen in Saturday's 1-0 win over the Bucs.

Brewers starter Matt Garza, who was ejected after hitting McCutchen twice in the span of three innings, said anyone who believes he would do so the second time with a 1-2 count and two outs in the fifth inning of a scoreless game was an "idiot." That didn't stop a video clip from spreading around social media of Lucroy touching his facemask, then tugging on the left sleeve of his undershirt, before Garza threw that pitch.

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"I don't know if people don't watch the games, but I do it all the time," Lucroy said. "My sleeve gets caught around my elbow and I pull it up. You can go back and watch film from the first game of the season, and I was doing it.

"Look, you're going to see what you're going to see as a fan. And whoever thinks that -- I'm not really worried about it. I don't even need to say anything, because I'm in the right, so that's it."

Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke went further.

Asked whether Lucroy's sleeve tug meant anything, Roenicke said, "It means exactly what Garza quoted last night when you guys asked him about hitting McCutchen -- if you think that, you're an idiot. If you're thinking he's calling for that, you're an idiot. It was a great quote, and it's appropriate for anybody who thinks 'Luc' was doing that."

Roenicke suggested there was too much at stake for both teams to have any spillover into Sunday's season series finale.

"They understand that Garza wasn't hitting him on purpose. There's no doubt," Roenicke said. "That's a smart crew over there. They understand. But they also understand that they've got a guy that they can't lose out of their lineup again. I get that. I understand it. So I understand why they're upset about it; we would be too. Regardless of whether it's on purpose or not, it still can put your guy out of the game.

"They hit Carlos Gomez twice the day before that. We knew that wasn't on purpose. One was on the foot, and one on the elbow. They pitch Gomez inside, they're going to hit him. Gomez has been hit more than McCutchen has."

Roenicke also was aware of the fact Pirates pitchers had hit 85 batters this season entering Sunday -- 20 more than any other team in the Major Leagues (the Phillies and White Sox were tied for second). Brewers pitchers had hit the third-fewest number of batters (41) in the National League.

"The way [the Pirates] hit people, the way they pitch inside, they shouldn't be complaining about anything," Roenicke said.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Playoff hopes fading, Brewers turn to Fiers in Cincy

Milwaukee coming off tough series loss to contending Pirates

Playoff hopes fading, Brewers turn to Fiers in Cincy play video for Playoff hopes fading, Brewers turn to Fiers in Cincy

After losing two of three games in a crucial series against the Pirates, the Brewers will turn their attention to the Reds on Tuesday, trying to make a desperate push at the postseason. But they're now 4 1/2 games behind Pittsburgh for the National League's second Wild Card spot.

Mike Fiers will start for Milwaukee opposite Cincinnati ace Johnny Cueto following an off-day Monday. There was some concern that Fiers would be shaken after hitting Giancarlo Stanton in the face over a week ago, ending the outfielder's season. But in his last start, Fiers answered any questions one would have.

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Fiers took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Cardinals on Wednesday, and a shutout into the seventh. On the day, he allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits.

"Obviously, everyone knows what happened," said Fiers, referring to the Stanton incident. "But we've got games in front of us, important games, and this was an important one."

Cueto had an uncharacteristically poor start on Tuesday, allowed five runs on six hits in a 7-0 loss to the Cubs. He lasted just 5 2/3 innings and walked five.

But Cueto has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season, posting a 2.33 ERA, 3.56 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 0.98 WHIP.

Brewers: K-Rod now 10th on all-time saves list
Francisco Rodriguez tossed a six-pitch inning on Saturday to seal a 1-0 victory over the Pirates, picking up his 43rd save of the season and 347th of his career. That tied him with lefty Randy Myers for 10th all time.

With 11 more saves, Rodriguez will tie Troy Percival for ninth on the saves list. But that will have to wait until next season.

"I'm going to take it with a lot of pride, definitely," he said of Saturday's milestone. "Especially with my family here with me, enjoying this moment, it's priceless for me."

Reds: Latos won't pitch again in 2014
Reds starting pitcher Mat Latos began this season injured, and that's how he's going to end it as well. Latos, who has already missed two starts with a bone bruise in his right elbow, is not slated to get one final start this week before the season ends.

"We haven't gotten beyond the game of catch at this time. It hasn't been fluid or completely pain free," Reds manager Bryan Price said.

Latos finished his injury-shortened season with a 5-5 record and 5.25 ERA in 16 starts. He spent all last winter rehabilitating from October elbow surgery to remove bone chips. Just before Spring Training started, he tore meniscus cartilage in his left knee while throwing.

Another setback came when Latos strained the flexor mass tendon during a rehab assignment in the Minors. He did not return from the disabled list until June 14, but pitched well, for the most part, when he was healthy.

Latos will be third-year arbitration-eligible this offseason after earning $7.25 million in 2014.

Worth noting
• Cueto has a 3.22 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 15 career starts against the Brewers. He fanned 10 over eight innings on May 3 against Milwaukee.

• Devin Mesoraco hit his 40th career home run on Sunday and his 24th of the season with a three-run shot vs. the Cardinals. With 77 RBIs, Mesoraco is the first Reds catcher to tally more than 75 RBIs in a season since Ed Taubensee had 87 RBIs in 1999.

Stephen Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Pitching staff doing part to keep Brewers in hunt

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PITTSBURGH -- Even with one notably subpar stretch of starting pitching -- during which the team lost 16 of 19 games in late August and early September -- the Brewers are on pace for their second-best staff ERA in more than two decades. While aware that offensive numbers are suppressed this season throughout baseball, it is one of the realities giving general manager Doug Melvin some confidence heading toward 2015.

Milwaukee figures to head into next season with at least the top four spots in the starting rotation settled, including Yovani Gallardo, whose $13 million club option is all but certain to be exercised. Jimmy Nelson and Mike Fiers would be among the returning candidates for the final spot.

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"I don't think there's a need to go out and try to get another starter," Melvin said. "We probably have to look at our offense. That's the issue that's probably hurt us more."

Including Wily Peralta's one-run, seven-inning outing in the loss to the Pirates on Sunday, the Brewers' composite ERA is 3.69, which is the ninth-best mark in 46 seasons of franchise history -- despite only being good for 10th of 15 National League teams. Since 1992, the only better pitching season for the Brewers was 2011, when a rotation led by Gallardo and Zack Greinke, and a bullpen anchored by a lights-out John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez pitched the Brewers toward the NL Championship Series with a 3.63 ERA.

Put differently, this is the Brewers' second-best pitching season in the Miller Park era.

Peralta's outing on Sunday marked the Brewers' 100th quality start of at least six innings and three or fewer earned runs, trailing only the Braves (107) and Nationals (101) in the Majors.

The bad news for the Brewers was that their offense remained in a deep funk in a 1-0 loss. The Pirates scored in only two innings in the series, and won two games. So far on their road trip, Brewers pitchers have surrendered only 12 runs in six games, but Brewers hitters have scored eight runs.

Is it surprising that the Brewers have lost four of the six with such quality pitching?

"Yeah, it is," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We've done a really good job pitching."

At least that bodes well for 2015.

"I think it's real important [to have that group returning intact for 2015] to what we're doing," Roenicke said. "We know we need starting pitching. If we're going to compete in this division, we have to be able to match these other guys. The four other teams in our division have good starters, and we'd better be able to pitch with them."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Schafer's sac fly in ninth helps Crew gain on Bucs

After Garza, Roenicke get tossed, Brewers pull within 3 1/2 of Pirates

Schafer's sac fly in ninth helps Crew gain on Bucs play video for Schafer's sac fly in ninth helps Crew gain on Bucs

PITTSBURGH -- Matt Garza was still fuming about his fifth-inning ejection, but a badly needed Brewers victory on Saturday night helped ease his frustration -- if only a bit.

Garza and manager Ron Roenicke were each tossed after Garza plunked Pirates star Andrew McCutchen twice in the span of three innings, and they had to watch on clubhouse televisions as the Brewers scratched out a 1-0 win at PNC Park that extended Milwaukee's involvement in the National League Wild Card race. The Brewers trail the Bucs by 3 1/2 games for the second Wild Card spot with seven to play.

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"Those guys, they picked me up," Garza said, a reference to the relievers who positioned the Brewers for the 69th 1-0 win in franchise history. "We came in and we fought all night, just like we did last night. And we're going to do the same thing tomorrow."

Relievers Marco Estrada, Jeremy Jeffress, Will Smith, Brandon Kintzler, Zach Duke and Francisco Rodriguez combined with Garza on a six-hitter, with Kintzler and Duke combining for an eighth-inning escape and Rodriguez tying for 10th all time with his 347th career save. Pinch-hitter Logan Schafer snapped the tie when he lifted a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning.

The Brewers snapped the four-game losing streak which has considerably dimmed their hope of playing in October.

"We had to win this game," Roenicke said. "That's all there is to it."

"We've got a lot of work to do -- a lot of work to do," Schafer said. "We gave away a couple of games on this road trip already, so we're just looking to win every game right now."

In each of the previous two games, an infield single by the opponent in the bottom of the eighth inning contributed to the Brewers losing a lead and, eventually, a game. That's just how Saturday's eighth inning began, with Pirates pinch-hitter Brent Morel reaching on a dribbler to third base off Kintzler to spark a threat that would load the bases with one out. But Kintzler retired Starling Marte on a lineout, and Duke got pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez on a groundout to push a scoreless tie into the ninth inning.

When Ryan Braun singled to spark a rally that culminated with Schafer's run-scoring fly ball off Pirates closer Mark Melancon, it gave the Brewers their eighth run in 52 innings on this road trip.

Garza was practicing excellent damage control before his night was cut short. He stranded a runner in each of the four full innings he pitched, including McCutchen at first base in the third inning after a first-pitch fastball struck McCutchen in the left arm with two outs. When Pirates pitcher Edinson Volquez buzzed Braun in the next half-inning, home-plate umpire Marty Foster issued warnings to both benches.

So when Garza struck McCutchen in the fifth, again with two outs, this time on a 1-2 count, Foster ejected Garza immediately. By rule, Roenicke was tossed, too.

"I think everybody knows he wasn't trying to hit [McCutchen], but the umpire is in a tough spot," Roenicke said. "You've given a warning. If you brush a guy, it's a little bit different. When you hit him up and in, I get why they had to make that call."

Garza was adamant.

"If people think I hit McCutchen on purpose, with a 1-2 count in a game like this, then you're just an idiot, OK?" he said. "Because a game like this, a starter doesn't go after a guy like that. It's a [1-2] count and I'm trying to pitch inside. Guy leans in, it hits him on the elbow, that's my day. So it is what it is, and I'm happy we pulled it out."

Estrada took over for Garza and continued the shutout Garza had started. In 4 2/3 scoreless innings, Garza scattered three hits and two walks, with six strikeouts.

Volquez posted matching scoreless innings through the seventh, allowing only three Brewers hits, with three walks and six strikeouts. He stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first four innings, and reliever Tony Watson did the same after taking over for Volquez in the eighth.

"Really, three of the last four games we could have won," Roenicke said. "I knew they could come out and play hard. I still wish we would swing the bat a little better, but I thought Volquez was really good tonight. It's tough when a guy is throwing the ball well."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Garza ejected after hitting McCutchen twice

Brewers manager Roenicke also tossed as warnings had been issued

Garza ejected after hitting McCutchen twice play video for Garza ejected after hitting McCutchen twice

PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen's teammates were livid in the fifth inning Saturday night when Milwaukee pitcher Matt Garza was ejected after hitting the Pirates star with a pitch for the second time in the game.

Garza saved his own fire for after the game, perhaps fanned by the Brewers' emotional 1-0 victory.

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"If people think I hit McCutchen on purpose, with a 1-2 count in a game like this, then you're just an idiot, OK?" Garza said, referring to the tenuous situation in a scoreless game. "Because a game like this, a starter doesn't go after a guy like that. It's a [1-2] count and I'm trying to pitch inside. Guy leans in, it hits him on the elbow, that's my day. So it is what it is, and I'm happy we pulled it out."

Garza directed his ire at the 39,027 fans who booed him off the field and, in a sense, even at the umpire who ejected him.

Even though home-plate umpire Marty Foster had no other recourse, having warned both benches the inning prior after Pittsburgh starter Edinson Volquez had brushed back Ryan Braun. Garza hit McCutchen for the first time in the third inning.

"I just wanted to pitch inside, that's the way I have been pitching against him," Volquez said. "I don't think [Garza]'s was on purpose, too, there were two outs. I know [McCutchen] is one of the best hitters on the team, but I don't think it was on purpose."

"It was the right call, no doubt," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Garza's ejection. "If he doesn't get tossed, then I do. Somebody is going to leave."

McCutchen discussed his latest run-ins with pitched baseballs in even tones.

"The intent was to get the fastball off the plate in, that was the intent," McCutchen said. "As far as hitting me, I'm not too sure. They know better than to throw me a fastball on the plate in, so if they're going to throw it in there, they're going to throw it in off the plate. My assumption is that's what he was trying to do both times."

Gerrit Cole, the most visibly livid player in the home dugout, faulted Garza for not knowing how to properly pitch inside.

"I know when you're pitching to a guy like that, you have to get it inside, you can't leave it out over the plate," Cole conceded. "Going up and in, you've got to know how to do it, be comfortable doing it. I don't know what the intent was on either of them. It could've been as simple as that -- the only two misfires he had all night were to him."

When hit on the upper left arm, McCutchen angrily slammed his bat on the ground.

Garza and his manager, Ron Roenicke -- who was also ejected -- pleaded their case of an incidental pitch with Foster.

"I tried to plead my case to the umpire," Garza said, "and he just told me, 'In this type of situation, my hands are tied.' I said, 'Come on, you know it.' He said, 'Yeah, I know it,' and all three umpires there were like, 'You've got to understand the situation.' I was like, 'What? It's a playoff atmosphere situation. Of course, everybody's on the edge of their seats right now.' It is what it is."

The Pirates' dugout was up in arms while trainer Todd Tomczyk treated McCutchen, who remained in the game -- and in fact ended that inning by getting thrown out on a steal attempt.

"You see your best guy get hit like that, and everybody is pumped up, everybody starts screaming," Volquez said.

In April, Cole was at the center of a benches-clearing shouting and shoving incident with the Brewers after he called out Carlos Gomez for admiring a drive that turned out to stay in the ballpark.

The Pirates' displeasure at seeing McCutchen plunked twice was understandable. Their center fielder and reigning National League Most Valuable Player has been hit by pitches nine times.

"You might as well just put up four fingers if you're going to do that," McCutchen said.

Most notably, McCutchen was drilled in the spine by Arizona reliever Randall Delgado on Aug. 2, the day before sustaining an avulsion rib fracture believed to be related to the hit-by-pitch. McCutchen had to go on the disabled list for the first time in his career as a result.

Garza had hit a total of two batters in 160 innings this season before drilling McCutchen twice in three innings.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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K-Rod moves into tie for 10th on all-time saves list

Brewers closer pulls even with Myers with 347th save of career

K-Rod moves into tie for 10th on all-time saves list play video for K-Rod moves into tie for 10th on all-time saves list

PITTSBURGH -- With each move up a spot on baseball's all-time saves list, Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez has insisted it's a milestone to savor in the offseason. Would that pattern hold Saturday night, when he moved into the Top 10?

Essentially, yes.

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"I'm not quite there yet," Rodriguez said. "I'm tied. I'm not solo yet."

With six pitches, Rodriguez pitched a perfect ninth inning to finish a 1-0 Brewers win over the Pirates at PNC Park. It was the 43rd save of his resurgent season and No. 347 of his career, tying left-hander Randy Myers for 10th on the all-time list.

Since taking over the closer's role on Opening Day because of Jim Henderson's troublesome shoulder, Rodriguez has passed Jeff Montgomery, Goose Gossage, Tom Henke, Robb Nen, Rick Aguilera, Todd Jones, Jose Mesa, Roberto Hernandez, Francisco Cordero, John Wetteland and Rollie Fingers on the list.

Next is Troy Percival at 358 saves. Since the Brewers only have seven regular-season games remaining, Rodriguez will have to wait until next year to challenge his former Angels teammate.

"I'm going to take it with a lot of pride, definitely," he said of Saturday's milestone. "Especially with my family here with me, enjoying this moment, it's priceless for me."

Rodriguez had high praise for the Brewers' relievers who teamed with him and starter Matt Garza on a six-hit shutout, and the 69th 1-0 victory in franchise history. The Pirates threatened to deny Rodriguez a save opportunity when they rallied in the eighth inning against Brandon Kintzler, who doused it with help from left-hander Zach Duke.

Their escape was especially notable since Brewers opponents had wiped away Crew leads in the eighth inning of the two previous games.

"The last two games have been real heartbreakers, pretty much," Rodriguez said. "Since last week, every single game for us is must-win. To rebound from the last two games is huge for us. Hopefully, we can carry this momentum and keep rolling."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers handed yet another disheartening defeat

Club loses ground as Broxton allows late HR, spoils Gallardo's gem

Brewers handed yet another disheartening defeat play video for Brewers handed yet another disheartening defeat

PITTSBURGH -- For the second straight night, the Brewers saw their season play out in metaphor. They controlled a game through seven innings before the entire exercise slipped away.

Pushing the Brewers to the extreme margins of the postseason picture, Russell Martin's three-run home run off suddenly-struggling reliever Jonathan Broxton sent the Pirates to a 4-2 win and erased everything Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo had done during seven scoreless innings. While 37,974 jumping, jubilant fans were still celebrating at sold-out PNC Park on Friday night, the Brewers returned to the clubhouse to digest a second straight crushing loss.

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At 79-75, Milwaukee remains alive for a postseason berth. But a team that only three weeks ago was riding 150 straight days in first place has fallen to the point it faces a deficit of seven games with the Cardinals in the National League Central and 4 1/2 games -- five in the loss column -- with the Pirates for the league's second Wild Card. The Brewers have eight games to play.

"Mathematically, we're still in there, so in my mind, we're still in there," said Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy. "We've got to win. That's the bottom line. We've just got to win." 

The Pirates have pushed the Brewers to the brink of elimination by winning 12 of 14 games. The Brewers' collapse has included 20 losses in 28 games.

"Obviously, the way that [the Pirates] are playing, they've got some players that know how to get after it, know how to win ballgames," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.

Asked whether he was suggesting his own team was not doing the same, Roenicke said, "No, I'm not saying that. I'm just saying that's why they are doing what they're doing. And they're winning them late. When you have gamers, and you understand what you need to do, that's how you win all these games late, and that's what they've been doing."

The Brewers have been doing the opposite. On Thursday night in St. Louis, Broxton walked home the tying run during a two-run Cardinals rally that included Mark Reynolds' mental mistake and a critical replay that went in the opponent's favor. A night later, Broxton committed a physical mistake when he was slow covering first base and saw replay work against him on Starling Marte's leadoff infield single, a hit that led to Martin's three-run home run to right-center field.

Broxton, acquired from the Reds on Aug. 31, had not surrendered a run in any of his first six Brewers appearances before the past two nights. Now he's been charged with five earned runs in the span of about 24 hours, including the Pirates' insurance run which scored after Jeremy Jeffress took over Friday.

"I didn't watch the video, I just know [the pitch to Martin] didn't stay in the ballpark," Broxton said. "I've always gotten him out away. I know he's got some power up and in, and he's caught me for seven years when we were in L.A. together. I have a feeling it's up. I know it's up. That's the only way he can get to it." 

Martin himself characterized it as a mistake pitch. PNC Park shook as he rounded the bases.

"It's what they've been playing in the backyard since they were six to get an opportunity to do now when they're grown," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Martin. "Our crowds, our fans have been fantastic throughout the game to pick us up any time anybody gets on base. Just the energy in the ballpark. Russell answered with that swing."

The defeat was no fault of Gallardo, who featured his best curveball of the season and struck out 11 over seven scoreless innings, scattering a walk and five hits. The last time he'd whiffed that many was July 15, 2012, when he set a career high with 14 strikeouts against the Pirates in Milwaukee.

Of Gallardo's 18 career 10-plus strikeout performances, four have been against the Pirates, including the first in April 2009. The matchup has long favored the loose right-hander, who remained 12-5 while lowering his ERA to 2.55 against Pittsburgh in 25 starts plus one relief appearance as a rookie in 2007.

"That's the best I've seen him all year," Lucroy said. "Absolutely. He was awesome." 

The Brewers helped out by providing a first-inning lead. Ryan Braun reached on a risky double and scored when Lucroy pulled a high fastball into left field for a single. In the fifth, Rickie Weeks extended the lead with a home run to the bullpen in left-center field, his first homer on the road since Aug. 13.

Including Gallardo's outing, Brewers starters own a 1.53 ERA over the team's last nine games, with eight quality starts.

"When the starters go out there and go seven [innings], and seven-plus [Thursday]," Broxton said, "that's a hard way of losing."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Broxton, Crew again on wrong end of replay

Reliever slow to cover first in eighth, allows go-ahead homer three batters later

Broxton, Crew again on wrong end of replay play video for Broxton, Crew again on wrong end of replay

PITTSBURGH -- For the second straight night, instant replay didn't favor Brewers reliever Jonathan Broxton.

Burned by an overturned call during a Cardinals rally the night before, Broxton again surrendered a lead after a close call was confirmed during the eighth inning of Friday's 4-2 loss to the Pirates. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke challenged after speedy Pirates outfielder Starling Marte led off the inning with an infield hit, racing to the bag along with Broxton while Brewers first baseman Mark Reynolds made an underhand toss.

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Marte was ruled safe by umpire Marty Foster, a call confirmed with a brief review. Three batters later, with two men aboard and one out, Pirates catcher Russell Martin connected against Broxton for a go-ahead home run in what became a 4-2 Pirates win.

"They got [the call] right," Roenicke said. "From what I saw, they got it right."

Roenicke suggested Broxton should have been quicker to first base on the play.

"We didn't make a play again. We got another jam-shot ground ball to first, and that should be an out," Roenicke said. "That changes the whole ballgame, if you get the first batter out."

The at-bat against Martin also changed when the veteran Pirates catcher checked his swing on an 0-and-1 pitch, according to the umpires. The Brewers believe it should have been the second strike.

"Sure it does [change the at-bat]; it's 0-2 and it makes [Martin] defensive, and we throw a different pitch," Roenicke said. "And he did swing on it. We're not getting calls, but let's make plays. Let's go! It shouldn't come down to that. Shoot, [Broxton] has got great stuff, he can get these guys out."

Including his four runs Friday, Broxton has allowed 20 earned runs, five home runs and 11 walks in 13 2/3 career innings at PNC Park.

"I haven't pitched very well here, but that's part of baseball," he said. "You have to pitch at every park."  

On Thursday in St. Louis, Broxton was briefly out of a more tenuous jam in the eighth when Matt Holliday was ruled out on a headfirst slide into first base. But that call was overturned upon review, Holliday was credited with an infield single, and Broxton walked the next batter with the bases loaded to tie the game in what became a 13-inning Brewers loss.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Gomez mulling Japan tour; Lucroy declines invitation

Gomez mulling Japan tour; Lucroy declines invitation play video for Gomez mulling Japan tour; Lucroy declines invitation

PITTSBURGH -- For now he's focused on the Brewers' postseason hopes, but at some point Carlos Gomez will make a decision on whether to join a contingent of Major Leaguers on a goodwill tour of Japan in November.

Gomez was one of many players contacted by MLB recently to gauge their interest in the tour, which has already received commitments from Gomez's fellow All-Stars Robinson Cano, Adam Jones, Albert Pujols and Yasiel Puig. The group will travel take part in a five-game All-Star Series against Japan's national team, Samurai Japan.

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"Right now, I don't know," Gomez said. "I'm concentrated to finish this season, and what we've been through the last couple of weeks. This is more important. I would like to go there, but I told them to wait until the season is over [to gauge] how physically, and mentally, I feel.

"Physically, probably yes. But we have to wait [to see] what happens here. If it doesn't go like we're supposed to, mentally, probably no. Then I would want to be home with the people I want to be with."

Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who like Gomez started for the National League in this year's All-Star Game, received a similar invitation via email but declined.

Asked his reasoning, Lucroy said, "Because I've played 100-and-how-many games here, and I'm more worried about next year than going to Japan. I want to be an everyday guy. That would be a cool experience, but I'm more worried about the Brewers."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Day after mental lapse, Reynolds gets chance to atone

Brewers first baseman lost track of outs in Thursday's costly loss

Day after mental lapse, Reynolds gets chance to atone play video for Day after mental lapse, Reynolds gets chance to atone

PITTSBURGH -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke expressed no reservations Friday about reinstalling first baseman Mark Reynolds to starting duties, a day after Reynolds' mental error contributed to an extra-inning loss to the Cardinals.

"He'll bounce back," Roenicke said. "This is one of our sharpest guys out there. That's what's baffling about it. This guy, instinctually, is unbelievable. That's why when you see those things happen, it's surprising. And, you know, why couldn't you do it in a game that didn't matter? Or a month ago, when maybe we were winning 6-0 in a game and you make a mistake? It's just when he made it that was so tough."

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Forgetting there was only one out in the eighth inning, Reynolds missed an opportunity to initiate what he and Roenicke agree would have been a double play to end the inning with the Brewers ahead, 2-0. Instead, the Cardinals exploited the opening, scored twice to tie the game and won in 13 innings. Instead of picking up a game on St. Louis in the division and keeping pace with the Pirates for the National League's second Wild Card, the Brewers fell further in the standings.

Reynolds has proven the Brewers' best defensive first baseman in years, and has been essentially as advertised at the plate. While producing his seventh consecutive season of 20-plus home runs, he has the second-lowest batting average (.197 entering Friday) of Major Leaguers with at least 400 plate appearances. The Mariners' Mike Zunino and Orioles' Chris Davis were each at .196. Reynolds was the pick to start Friday because the Pirates had a left-hander, Jeff Locke, on the mound. Roenicke's other option would have been starting Jonathan Lucroy at first base and Martin Maldonado at catcher.

Had Reynolds' brain cramp occurred earlier in the season, might Roenicke and his coaches have made a different choice?

"No," Roenicke said. "This guy feels worse than anybody does. Sitting him, it doesn't make you come out and say, 'Well, I'm going to concentrate better.' Concentration is something that's built up over years of playing this game and knowing, mentally, how to think about what you're doing. There's a lot of time in baseball between plays, and you've got all this time to think about everything else. Over time, you develop a pattern and a rhythm of what you do to make sure your thinking's right. It was just one of those times when it was crucial."

Roenicke added, "I'm playing the guys that we need to win this game tonight. Most of the time, that's the way I do it."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Crew falls in 13th to fall back in Wild Card race

Mental mistake helps allow Cards to tie game in eighth inning

Crew falls in 13th to fall back in Wild Card race play video for Crew falls in 13th to fall back in Wild Card race

ST. LOUIS -- There are tough losses, and then there was the marathon of hurt that befell the Brewers at Busch Stadium on Thursday night.

With the team's postseason hopes on the line, first baseman Mark Reynolds lost track of the outs in the eighth inning, a mental lapse that contributed to the Cardinals' tying rally in what became a 13-inning, 3-2 Brewers loss. Instead of riding a second consecutive series victory into a make-or-break weekend in Pittsburgh, the Brewers fell six games behind the Cardinals in the National League Central and 3 1/2 games behind the Pirates in the chase for the league's second Wild Card.

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"We can't give any games away," said Reynolds, who owned up to his mental error. "We've got to bring it every day. We're running out of time and our backs are against the wall. We need these wins. Tonight would have been nice to win, but we've just got to keep pushing forward. We're not out of it yet. It's getting to that point where you win or go home."

For weeks, the Brewers have spoken of "controlling their own destiny," but with Thursday's loss they now need help. Even with a weekend sweep of the Pirates at PNC Park, Milwaukee will enter the final week of the regular season on the outside of baseball's postseason picture.

"We put ourselves in this situation; we've got to get ourselves out. It starts [Friday]," said Kyle Lohse, whose solid 7 1/3-inning start went to waste. "We can't look forward and get distracted. You saw a little thing today that cost us. We can't do that stuff."

The Brewers were five outs away from a big win after Lohse carried a three-hit shutout into the decisive eighth, Jonathan Lucroy tied a Major League record for doubles by a catcher and Aramis Ramirez and Scooter Gennett delivered two-out RBIs.

Then, with one misplay, it started to get away.

Lohse had thrown 88 pitches and surrendered four singles when Brewers manager Ron Roenicke removed him with a runner at first base, one out and pinch-hitter A.J. Pierzynski coming up in the eighth. Pierzynski was 2-for-10 lifetime against Lohse, and Matt Carpenter, the batter on-deck, was 1-for-16, but Roenicke preferred new setup man Jonathan Broxton, who had not allowed a run to score in his first seven dominant appearances in a Brewers uniform.

"We were really thinking of going to him at the start of the inning," Roenicke said. "Kyle had pitched so well and his pitch count was fine, and he felt great. So we decided to let Kyle go out there but getting Broxton up along with him. Any trouble at all and then we'd go get [Lohse]."

Against Broxton, Pierzynski smacked a sharp grounder to Reynolds, who stepped on first base instead of throwing to second to start a potential double play. Reynolds hung his head when he realized his mistake, then watched the Cardinals rally to tie the game on two walks and two singles -- including Matt Holliday's infield hit that was first called an out, but overturned upon review of Holliday's headfirst slide.

After that call, Broxton walked Matt Adams with the bases loaded to tie the game.

"It was a crazy inning all the way around, but those two walks, they come back to haunt you," Broxton said.

The teams remained tied for an hour and a half, with the Brewers stranding runners in scoring position in the 10th, 11th and 12 innings. In the 13th, Holliday, Jhonny Peralta and Tony Cruz singled against Brewers reliever Jimmy Nelson to win the game, Cruz's one-out single rolling into center field.

The teams combined to score only 12 runs in 34 innings in the series.

"It's not the type of game that comes down to a single play," said Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun, who had two hits but struck out with a runner at second base to end the 12th inning. "We all had plenty of opportunities there in the late innings. We just weren't able to get the big hit." 

Instead of beginning their series in Pittsburgh well-rested, Roenicke used every player on his expanded roster but emergency catcher Matt Pagnozzi. The Brewers' busses departed Busch Stadium at 12:45 a.m. CT, bound for the St. Louis airport and a moonlight flight to Pittsburgh.

"We'll bounce back. We'll play well [Friday]," Roenicke vowed. "Hopefully we'll get a bunch of runs so we don't go this many innings without scoring. We're getting people on base. We're getting them in scoring position. We just need some consistent at-bats and hopefully get in some runs."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Mental mistake by Reynolds costs Crew

First baseman forgets number of outs in eighth, doesn't attempt double play

Mental mistake by Reynolds costs Crew play video for Mental mistake by Reynolds costs Crew

ST. LOUIS -- Brewers first baseman Mark Reynolds realized his mistake the moment he turned around and saw his teammates standing there.

"Everyone had their hands on their heads," a dejected Reynolds said after a 13-inning, 3-2 loss to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Thursday night, a must-win game that turned against the Brewers after Reynolds lost track of the outs in the eighth inning.

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"It happens; it just happened to be in a crucial part of the game in a crucial game we needed to win," Reynolds said. "I feel bad about it. I messed up."

His mess-up came with the Brewers holding a 2-0 lead and a runner at first base. Brewers reliever Jonathan Broxton had just entered the game to face Cardinals pinch-hitter A.J. Pierzynski with -- Reynolds was about to realize -- one out. Pierzynski smacked the first pitch right to Reynolds, who had entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and remained in the game for his defense.

Reynolds has far exceeded expectations in the field this season, his first in Milwaukee, and has proven particularly adept at just this sort of play. But instead of throwing to young shortstop Hector Gomez covering second base, trying for a 3-6-3 double play, Reynolds simply stepped on first.

"It happens," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "But obviously it came at a bad time. We put him in there for defense because he is our best defender, and it happens."

Reynolds turned around, took one step toward the dugout, noticed the rest of the Brewers standing in place, and froze.

"Mistakes like that can't happen, obviously," Reynolds said, "especially at this point in the season. [Brewers starter Kyle] Lohse pitched his [rear end] off, these guys battled hard and I got in the game and just messed up."

The inning continued and the Cardinals made the most of their extra base and the extra out, getting to Broxton for two singles and two walks, including Matt Holliday's infield single that was initially ruled an out, but overturned upon replay review. Matt Adams was up next, and he worked a bases-loaded walk from Broxton that tied the game at 2-2.

Asked about the Reynolds misplay, Broxton said, "It's not that. I walked those two guys. I mean, that's on me, and that's what hurt. Those two walks, that's what kept them going."

Tony Cruz delivered a walk-off single for St. Louis in the 13th inning.

The Brewers fell six games behind the Cardinals in the National League Central race, and 3 1/2 games behind the Pirates for the league's second Wild Card berth.

"In a game like that, any little thing is huge," said Holliday. "We found a way to win. Lohse pitched great. We found a way to win again. It's all about winning games this time of year. It took longer than most of us hoped, but it's all good."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Lucroy ties season mark for doubles as a catcher

Lucroy ties season mark for doubles as a catcher play video for Lucroy ties season mark for doubles as a catcher

ST. LOUIS -- Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy's fourth-inning double on Thursday gave the Brewers their first hit while also tying a Major League record.

It was Lucroy's Major League-leading 52nd double this season, and his 45th as a catcher. That matched the mark set by Ivan Rodriguez, who hit 45 doubles while playing catcher for the Rangers in 1996.

Doubles as a catcher in a season
Player Year Team Doubles
Ivan Rodriguez 1996 TEX 45
Jonathan Lucroy 2014 MIL 45
Yadier Molina 2013 STL 44
Terry Kennedy 1982 SD 40
Brian McCann 2008 ATL 40
Jorge Posada 2002 NYY 40
Jorge Posada 2007 NYY 40
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 2013 BOS 40
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It gets complicated when you begin parsing records by position, but Lucroy is now the clear all-time doubles leader among Major League catchers. He'd already owned the record for total doubles in a season by a player making more than half of his starts at catcher (the previous mark was 47 by Rodriguez in '96).

Lucroy is bidding to be the first catcher ever to lead his league -- much less the Major Leagues -- in two-base hits, and he is also one double shy of tying Lyle Overbay's franchise record. Overbay hit 53 doubles for the Brewers in 2004.

For extra measure, Lucroy knocked a pair of RBI doubles in July while making his first appearance in the All-Star Game.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers have Triple-A deal with Colorado Springs

Brewers have Triple-A deal with Colorado Springs

ST. LOUIS -- The last untethered Major League organization and the last open Triple-A affiliate came together Thursday, when the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Springs Sky Sox announced a two-year player development contract, news of which generated a muted reaction in the Brewers' clubhouse.

"Like anything, anywhere, players are going to have to adapt and make the best of it," said journeyman catcher Matt Pagnozzi, who played for the Sky Sox in 2011. "There's nothing anybody could do. Pretty much everybody's hands were tied. We could sit here and complain about it, or we could look at the positive things about it."

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Pagnozzi articulated the four major concerns shared by many who have coached or played in Colorado Springs: Uncertain weather coming over the Rocky Mountains, shifting winds, a so-so stadium and the altitude, which is higher than Denver's. To help offset the latter, baseballs are kept in a humidor.

The Brewers also will face additional travel challenges compared to Nashville, which had been their top affiliate for the past 10 seasons. The Brewers wanted to remain with the Sounds, who are moving from antiquated Greer Stadium into a new facility for 2015, but were informed Wednesday the relationship had been terminated. A day later, the Sounds announced a four-year partnership with the Oakland A's.

Although they won't be moving into a new stadium as they would have in Nashville, the facilities at Security Service Field in Colorado Springs will be an upgrade over what the Brewers had for the last 10 years. The batting cages are top notch, which is important, Triple-A manager Rick Sweet said, because of the weather. The home clubhouse is old but spacious, according to Pagnozzi, marking another upgrade over Greer.

"And, Colorado Springs is a good city," Sweet said. "They really get decent fan support. They're very bitter, too, right now, that the Rockies left them."

The Rockies had played their Triple-A games in Colorado Springs -- about 90 minutes south of Coors Field -- since 1993 before jumping to Albuquerque for a newer ballpark and lower altitude.

Sweet's chief priority is player development, which could be impacted by the move away from Nashville. Pagnozzi remembers the Rockies holding some of their top pitching prospects down at Double-A Tulsa to avoid them pitching in altitude.

The Brewers happen to be in an excellent situation at that level. They announced Wednesday a four-year extension of their PDC with Double-A Biloxi, which is moving from Huntsville into a new stadium that is not expected to be ready for Opening Day, but should be open for business by midseason.

Colorado Springs is a member of the PCL's American Northern Division along with Omaha, Iowa and Oklahoma City.

"It's not in the top tier of the PCL -- I'm not too shy to say that," said outfielder Logan Schafer, who has played parts of three of the past four seasons at the Triple-A level. "It's going to be a grind for a little bit [early in the season], but the summer months are great in Colorado Springs and it should be a good place for guys to get their work in. Who knows whether they're going to make some changes or fix it up a little bit."

Sweet noted one awkward coincidence: Early word, he said, is that Colorado Springs will open next season in Nashville.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers re-sign catcher Zarraga to Minor League deal

ST. LOUIS -- The Brewers re-signed catcher Shawn Zarraga to a Minor League contract on Thursday, ensuring he'll be eligible to participate as planned in the Arizona Fall League. Zarraga will be a taxi squad player for the Glendale Desert Dogs.

The contract includes an invitation to the Brewers' Major League Spring Training camp in 2015.

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Zarraga, 25, is a former 44th-round Draft pick who has been bouncing around the Brewers' system since 2008. In 2014, he batted .309 with a .416 on-base percentage in 92 games between Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville, with a career-best 18 doubles.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Holliday safe at first as Cards win challenge

Originally ruled out to end eighth, call is overturned following a replay review

Holliday safe at first as Cards win challenge play video for Holliday safe at first as Cards win challenge

ST. LOUIS -- In one of their biggest replay reversals to date, the Cardinals leaned on an overturned call in order to extend the eighth inning of Thursday's game long enough to finish erasing a two-run deficit. The Cardinals would eventually finish the comeback with a game-winning hit in the 13th to send the Brewers to a 3-2 defeat.

The call in question came just after Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay shaved the Brewers' lead to one with his two-out single to left. Matt Holliday followed with a slow ground ball and finished his sprint to first with a dive into the base. The throw from second baseman Scooter Gennett arrived nearly simultaneously, though first-base umpire Fieldin Culbreth initially ruled Holliday as the third out of the inning.

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"I had no idea," said Brewers first baseman Mark Reynolds, when asked for his instant reaction to the call. "I couldn't feel. Normally if a guy hits it with his foot you can feel it. He hit it with his hand and I have no idea."

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who had won 10 of 27 challenges this season, requested a review. Video evidence was convincing enough to overturn the call and put Holliday back on first base. It was also ruled that Matt Carpenter, who had circled all the way home from second on the play, return to third.

"Would I have been safe standing up or sliding? I don't know," Holliday said. "It felt like a desperate act. I wasn't thinking about it. I just did it. It worked out, thankfully. I would have questioned myself if it was faster to run through it, if I would have been out. It worked out."

The Cardinals briefly argued Carpenter's placement, though it wouldn't matter, as he would soon trot home on Matt Adams' bases-loaded walk to tie the game at 2.

"I don't think many of us are a big fan of the diving-into-first-base trick," Matheny said. "But apparently it worked today."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Fiers flirts with no-no, but Crew falls back in WC

Righty yields two-out hit in 6th, while error aids decisive two-run 7th

Fiers flirts with no-no, but Crew falls back in WC play video for Fiers flirts with no-no, but Crew falls back in WC

ST. LOUIS -- Mike Fiers was just fine in his return to the mound for the Brewers, but a slip-up behind him spoiled what was shaping into a special night.

In his first action since a misplaced pitch struck Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton in the face, Fiers carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and a shutout bid into the seventh, only to see it get away after an error charged to Gold Glove center fielder Carlos Gomez. The Cardinals turned that stumble into the only scoring rally of the Brewers' 2-0 loss on Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.

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The Cardinals stayed 2 1/2 games ahead of the surging Pirates in the National League Central race, while the Brewers fell 2 1/2 behind the Pirates in the chase for the second Wild Card.

"Obviously, everyone knows what happened," said Fiers, referring to the Stanton incident. "But we've got games in front of us, important games, and this was an important one. ... Sometimes you get beat by a guy that threw better."

That guy was Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, who scattered seven hits for his third shutout of the season and his second complete-game win over the Brewers this month.

"We faced one of the toughest pitchers in the game and he got the victory," Gomez said, "but Fiers threw better than him, I think."

Considering the circumstances, for the team and for Fiers himself, holding the Cardinals to two runs (one earned) on three hits in seven solid innings was something of a triumph. It was Fiers' work start since a pair of inside fastballs struck Stanton and, after he was taken away on a gurney to receive treatment for multiple facial fractures and other injuries, pinch-hitter Reed Johnson. Both pitches were ruled swinging strikes, but a shaken Fiers was removed from the game and was near tears while discussing the incident later.

If there was any doubt about whether he would be able to move on, Fiers eliminated it with his very first pitch to Cardinals leadoff man Matt Carpenter. It was an 89-mph fastball that painted the bottom of the strike zone, the first of many pretty pitches in Fiers' relief-inducing outing.

"He kept the ball away mostly at the beginning, and then he started pitching like he usually does," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "It was just trying to see where he was, and if he was going to be the same guy. And he was. 'Luc' [catcher Jonathan Lucroy] saw it right away."

Fiers faced the minimum through 5 2/3 innings, allowing only a third-inning walk to Daniel Descalso, who was promptly caught trying to steal second base on a pitch in the dirt. Fiers didn't allow a hit until Wainwright punched a single up the middle with two outs in the sixth inning, and he was still working a shutout with one out in the seventh when Matt Holliday coaxed a walk during a plate appearance that included a near-home run which drifted foul.

The next batter was left-handed slugger Matt Adams, who beat the Brewers' defensive shift with a single to center field. Gomez slipped and then bobbled the baseball, allowing Holliday to score and Adams to take second while the Brewers tried for an out at the plate.

"Before I could even catch the ball, I was on the ground," Gomez said. "Tough game. Tough loss. Fiers threw unbelievable today. Just one error right there, and it changed the game."

The Brewers nearly nabbed Holliday at the plate. Gomez threw from his knees to shortstop Jean Segura, whose relay home was just a moment too late.

"We were having trouble getting a hit, let alone a run, so we have to pull out all stops and have to be overaggressive there," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "When we're not getting things going, we have to make something happen." When Jhonny Peralta followed with another single past second base, the Cardinals owned a 2-0 lead.

Even with that earned run on his ledger, Fiers has been one of the best pitchers in the league since joining the Brewers' rotation on Aug. 9, with a 1.68 ERA and 61 strikeouts in eight starts. Since that date, the only NL pitcher with more strikeouts is Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (62), and the only superior ERAs belong to the Giants' Jake Peavy (1.13), Kershaw (1.42) and the Marlins' Jarred Cosart (1.52).

"I felt like I could have done better," Fiers said. "It's baseball. Wainwright gave up more hits, but he was able to pitch out of jams and pretty much the only jam I got into, they got the hits when they needed to. I needed to be better that one inning. I wasn't and they capitalized. That's why they're one of the best teams."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Melvin refutes report regarding Aramis' option

Brewers GM says club has not engaged in talks regarding 2015

Melvin refutes report regarding Aramis' option play video for Melvin refutes report regarding Aramis' option

ST. LOUIS -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin expressed surprise on Wednesday about a report from Jon Heyman of CBS Sports indicating the team had already decided to exercise its half of third baseman Aramis Ramirez's $14 million mutual option for 2015.

Melvin said he had yet to even broach the topic with principal owner Mark Attanasio.

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"We don't do anything on contracts until the end of the year," Melvin said. "Paul Kinzer is [Ramirez's] agent. Paul Kinzer was in town a month ago and we met with him, and he never even brought it up."

Melvin also noted that Ramirez's option is mutual, "so if the team picks it up, he has a chance to refuse it and go try to get a multi-year deal. So that makes absolutely no sense reporting it."

The three-year, $36 million contract struck between Ramirez and the Brewers in December 2011 calls for a mutual option for '15 with a $4 million buyout to be paid in a pair of $2 million installments over the following two years. Ramirez, 36, has already indicated a desire to play an 18th Major League season in 2015, but he has declined to declare his own intentions as it pertains to the option. As Melvin suggested, Ramirez may be inclined to test his value on an offseason third-base market expected to be led by the Giants' Pablo Sandoval.

Ramirez entered Wednesday's action batting .295 with 15 home runs and 65 RBIs, a pace for the lowest homer and RBI totals of any season in which he had played more than 100 games. But the Brewers have no obvious in-house candidate for the starting third-base job should Ramirez depart.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Braun tabbed as Brewers' Clemente Award nominee

Braun tabbed as Brewers' Clemente Award nominee play video for Braun tabbed as Brewers' Clemente Award nominee

ST. LOUIS -- Ryan Braun is the Brewers' nominee for the 2014 Roberto Clemente Award, which is presented annually to a Major Leaguer "who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement."

Braun was selected by Brewers Community Foundation Executive Director Cecelia Gore and Senior Director of Community Relations Katina Shaw.

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"We confer every year about which player best meets the criteria, and we felt Ryan did," Gore said. "He has been really open to wanting to support our initiatives in the community, and he mirrored what they were looking for."

The nomination comes less than 14 months after Braun was suspended by MLB for the final 65 regular season games of 2013 for violations of the league's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program. In his first year back, Braun has been active on a number of fronts, according to Gore. Among the programs to which he has lent time and money are the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin, the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, and Habitat for Humanity.

"It's an honor -- obviously, a tremendous honor," Braun said. "I've always tried to do everything I could to have a positive impact on people around me in the community, and do as much good as I can. I realize I'm fortunate to be in the position I'm in, so every opportunity I have to give back is special. Whether you're recognized for it or not is incredibly special, but to be recognized and mentioned a name alongside Roberto Clemente is really special." 

Last month, Braun and his wife, Larisa, helped Brewers Community Foundation unveil a "Growing Power" mosaic mural which is on display on the loge level Miller Park for the rest of this season. The mural will travel to schools throughout Wisconsin during the 2015-16 school year as part of a program that teaches kids about healthy eating.

Braun also has made $25,000 donations to ARCW in support of families affected by AIDS, and in 2014 gave $25,000 in partnership with Brewers Community Foundation to support Make-A-Wish's 30th anniversary. Continuing a tradition he has upheld since 2007, Braun funded 15 scholarships in 2014 worth $1,000 apiece for students from the Greater Milwaukee area whose families face financial barriers to affording college. 

"He's been the same since Day 1," Gore said, "and I've been here five years. We meet with him and the rest of the players every Spring Training to find out what his interests are. He has not changed from that standpoint at all."

The 30 Clemente Award nominees are now subject to a fan vote, the winner of which will be announced during the World Series. There were more than 1.3 million fan votes last year, and fans can begin casting ballots again on Wednesday at ChevyBaseball.com, which is powered by MLB Advanced Media. Voting ends on Oct. 6, and participating fans will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to next month's World Series.

The winner of the fan vote will receive one vote among those cast by the selection panel of dignitaries, which includes Commissioner Bud Selig; MLB chief operating officer and Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred; Vera Clemente; Hall of Fame Broadcaster and the Spanish Voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers Jaime Jarrin; MLB Network analysts and former Clemente Award winners Al Leiter, Harold Reynolds (also of FOX Sports) and John Smoltz (also of FOX Sports); Hall of Famer, ESPN analyst and former Clemente Award winner Barry Larkin; ESPN analyst and former Clemente Award winner Rick Sutcliffe; FOX broadcaster Joe Buck; Hall of Famer and TBS analyst Dennis Eckersley; TBS analyst Ron Darling (also of MLB Network); MLB.com senior correspondent Hal Bodley; a representative from Chevrolet and others.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Melvin irked over breakup with Triple-A affiliate

Nashville Sounds inform Brewers that they are seeking new parent club

Melvin irked over breakup with Triple-A affiliate

ST. LOUIS -- The Triple-A Nashville Sounds, Milwaukee's top farm team since 2005, will have a new affiliation in 2015 along with a new ballpark. The Sounds informed the Brewers on Wednesday that they were cutting ties and going with a new parent club.

The decision elicited a strong reaction from Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, whose top affiliate will play in either Fresno, Calif., or Colorado Springs, Colo., beginning in 2015. Melvin said a resolution should come within 10 days.

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Melvin delivered the Nashville news to reporters a few hours after the Brewers announced extensions of their player development contracts with two other clubs. It's a four-year extension with Double-A Biloxi, which is bringing along the Brewers from Huntsville, Ala., into a new stadium at some point next season, and a two-year extension with Class A Advanced Brevard County. The Brewers had previously announced an extension with rookie-level Helena, and are already under contract with Class A Wisconsin beyond this year.

But speaking of the Sounds, Melvin said, "Very disappointing. We gave them 10 years there. A number of times we had a chance to move and we were patient with them. ... I'm just disappointed they wouldn't have given us two [more] years for what we put up with there."

The relationship had its trying times. Brewers Minor Leaguers were miserable at aging Greer Stadium, widely characterized as one of the worst places to play in the Pacific Coast League. The new stadium, for which Brewers officials including Melvin participated in a groundbreaking ceremony, had been years in the making. The Sounds, meanwhile, expressed dissatisfaction several years ago with the caliber of teams the Brewers were providing. The Sounds were 10 games under .500 in 2012, and 30 games under .500 in '13.

Melvin says the Brewers tried to address those concerns, pointing to the hiring last year of veteran manager Rick Sweet to guide a team that led the PCL in victories at home during 2014. Sweet said on Wednesday that he'd not heard of any recent qualms with the partnership.

"From my end of it, from the general manager, the assistant, the people there we worked with every day, they were very happy with it," Sweet said. "We gave them a good club. We played very well at home. Community service, we went overboard. Never had any complaints."

Even amid rumors that the Sounds were poised to drop the Brewers for a partnership with the Oakland A's, Melvin heard the same. He says the Brewers offered to play preseason exhibition games in Nashville, and even to invest in the club if it helped move the sides toward an extension of their PDC.

Those overtures were declined without explanation, according to Melvin. He says he asked Sounds ownership three weeks ago, "If you're leaning toward not having us, just give us a heads up so we don't lose out on something else."

"There was one out there that we would have liked to have gone to, we might have been able to go to," Melvin said, "and now we lost out on it."

Nashville Sounds owner Frank Ward was informed of Melvin's comments and submitted a statement to MLB.com.

"As a Minor League Baseball affiliate, we have very strict rules as set forth by Major League Baseball when it comes to investigating the possibility of reaffiliation," he said in an e-mail to MLB.com. "We followed those to the end. Within those parameters, we informed the Brewers that we would explore the opportunity to look at our options at the appropriate time. When it came time for us to have the opportunity to talk to other teams, we decided to do what we felt was best for our franchise and for the city of Nashville with respect to winning baseball."

That Brewers' alternative landing spot was probably Albuquerque, which is owned by the same group which controls the Brewers' Double-A team. But the Albuquerque club announced on Wednesday afternoon that it was partnering with the Rockies, who are moving from Colorado Springs.

Whether the Brewers land in Colorado Springs or Fresno, it will present additional logistical hurdles for callups traveling to Milwaukee. Fresno is farther away, but the facility is superior, Sweet said. Colorado Springs often has early-season weather challenges.

The Brewers learned of Nashville's decision when an official from that club contacted Brewers director of Minor League operations Scott Martens.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Grand Central stretch for Brew Crew

Trailing in races, Milwaukee set to visit rival Cards, Pirates, Reds

Grand Central stretch for Brew Crew play video for Grand Central stretch for Brew Crew

MILWAUKEE -- Given the marathon nature of Major League Baseball, one could see this coming, since the 2014 schedule was released more than a year ago. One way or another, either as a postseason contender or playing spoiler, the Brewers' 10-day, nine-game swing through St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati would be packed with meaningful games.

And that is indeed the case. The Brewers will begin the regular season's final trip on Tuesday, trailing the Cardinals by five games in the National League Central standings, and the Pirates by 1 1/2 games in the chase for the league's second Wild Card berth.

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"It's everything or nothing," said Milwaukee center fielder Carlos Gomez.

"The good thing is we're part of the playoff picture right now," third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. "From now on, every game counts, and we're in the division. That's the way it should be. That way, you can control your own destiny."

Here's a series-by-series look at the Brewers' long trip:

Tuesday-Thursday at St. Louis
Record vs. Cardinals this season: 6-10, minus-15 run differential
Regular season vs. Cards under Ron Roenicke: 26-42
Regular season at Busch Stadium under Roenicke: 13-20

Key 2014 moment at Busch
On Aug. 1, Wily Peralta tied for the Major League lead with his 13th victory, Aramis Ramirez finished a triple shy of the cycle and Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy emerged from extended slumps to beat Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals, 7-4, extending Milwaukee's lead in the division to 2 1/2 games. But trouble was on the horizon: Kyle Lohse would suffer a sprained ankle the following night that caused a slump from which he is still trying to emerge, and Matt Garza suffered a rib-cage strain the day after that, leading to a month-long stint on the disabled list. This will be the Brewers' first trip back to Busch Stadium since that series.

Players to watch
Peralta, who takes the mound for Milwaukee in Tuesday's series opener opposite Lance Lynn, is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in four starts against St. Louis this season. ... Catcher Jonathan Lucroy is only hitting .207 against the Cardinals this season, but half of his 12 hits have been doubles. No primary catcher has ever led his own league, much less the Major Leagues, in doubles, but Lucroy entered the week tops in MLB with 51 doubles, six more than runner-up Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers. ... Over the past 10 seasons, Ramirez's .570 slugging percentage against the Cards ranks seventh highest among St. Louis' regular opponents. ... On Wednesday, Brewers right-hander Mike Fiers is scheduled to make his first start since he struck Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton in the face with a pitch. He draws Cardinals ace Wainwright. ... Lohse is scheduled to work opposite Shelby Miller in the series finale.

Friday-Sunday at Pittsburgh
Record vs. Pirates this season: 11-5, minus-13 run differential
Regular season vs. Bucs under Roenicke: 41-24
Regular season at PNC Park under Roenicke: 17-12

Key 2014 moment at PNC
In this case, it's plural -- moments. After losing the opener of a four-game series on April 17, the Brewers won the next three days thanks to borderline magical moments. On April 18, catcher Martin Maldonado literally knocked the cover off the ball on a ground-ball single to confused Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez. On April 19 and 20, Ryan Braun belted tying ninth-inning home runs off then-Bucs closer Jason Grilli, a pitcher who hadn't allowed a Brewers run since June 2007, when he was pitching for the Detroit Tigers and Braun was three weeks into his Major League career.

"Great series. We could have easily been swept," Braun said after Milwaukee won the series finale in 14 innings. "We really could have -- and arguably should have -- lost each of the last three games, so to find a way to win all three of those games on the road is very encouraging moving forward."

They found a way to win more, improving to 20-7 before April was finished.

Players to watch
Lined up to start the series opener, Yovani Gallardo is 12-5 with a 2.67 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) against the Pirates. His 9.59 strikeouts per nine innings is third-best all-time among qualifying pitchers against the Bucs, trailing Kerry Wood (10.75) and Wandy Rodriguez (10.08) and ahead of Pedro Martinez (8.77) ... Scooter Gennett is batting .366 with a .407 on-base percentage in 41 at-bats against the Pirates this season. ... Lefty reliever Zach Duke has surrendered one run on four hits in six appearances against Pittsburgh this year.

Sept. 23-25 at Cincinnati
Record vs. Reds this season: 8-8, minus-7 run differential
Regular season vs. Reds under Roenicke: 31-35
Regular season at Great American Ball Park under Roenicke: 11-23

Key 2014 moment at GABP
Delivering exactly the sort of start that prompted the Brewers to open their pocketbook in January, Garza retired the first 12 Reds he faced and allowed only two hits over all nine innings of the Brewers' 1-0 win at Great American Ball Park on July 5 to snap a four-game losing streak. Garza's first shutout since his no-hitter for the Rays against the Tigers in 2010 boosted Milwaukee's lead in the NL Central back to five games over the second-place Cards.

"We were talking earlier today that we needed one of our pitchers to have a big game," said Roenicke that day. "That was a big game."

Unfortunately for Roenicke, seven straight losses followed, dropping Milwaukee into a tie with the Cardinals atop the division. Since then, it's been a battle for the Brewers.

Players to watch
Ramirez, who has played his whole career in the NL Central, ranks 35th all-time with 34 career homers against the Reds. A pair of former Milwaukee Braves top that list, with Hank Aaron leading the way (97 home runs at the Reds' expense) followed by Eddie Mathews, in a tie with Willie Mays at 76. … Mark Reynolds has homered four times in 10 games this season against Cincinnati. … Gomez is only a .196 hitter in 34 career games (24 games started) at Great American Ball Park.

But talking about the trip, Gomez said, "I'm excited, especially because I'm starting to get better and healthier. I'm feeling good. I feel good at the plate, see the ball really good after I missed one week. The team I getting some W's. Now we're going out there against the team that leads the division and the team we're behind [in the Wild Card race]. It's going to be intense and interesting. People are going to want to watch."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Crew clips Cards in 12th to trim Central deficit

H. Gomez's clutch hit keeps Milwaukee 1 1/2 back in Wild Card race

Crew clips Cards in 12th to trim Central deficit play video for Crew clips Cards in 12th to trim Central deficit

ST. LOUIS -- "It's 10 days, nine games," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was saying two hours before the start of his team's most critical road trip, "and probably the first two are going to tell a lot of what's going to happen here."

If that's the case, the Brewers are in for quite a ride. They began their trek on Tuesday night by rallying for a ninth-inning tie on a sacrifice fly by one September callup (Matt Clark) and winning in the 12th on a bloop single by another (Hector Gomez). A pitching-fueled 3-2 victory over the Cardinals pulled the Brewers within four games of National League Central-leading St. Louis while remaining 1 1/2 games behind the Pirates in the chase for the National League's second Wild Card.

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"We're playing like a playoff right now," said center fielder Carlos Gomez, who scored the go-ahead run. "Everybody is intense. Everybody is excited. I think that's what we need to continue to play good. Nobody told us it was going to be easy. We have to fight for it."

Gomez fought for the game's decisive run after working a 12th-inning walk off Cardinals reliever Kevin Siegrist. Noticing Siegrist's deliberate move to the plate, Gomez stole second base with one out and third base with two outs, positioning the "other" Gomez -- Hector -- for his first Major League RBI.

Hector Gomez, who had scored the tying run three innings earlier as a pinch-runner, dumped a go-ahead single into shallow right field.

"As soon as I saw the ball had a chance, I was thinking, 'Oh boy, we have a chance!'" said Hector Gomez, with coach Mike Guerrero serving as translator. "It went good, and that was a great feeling." 

"You know something?" Roenicke said. "We deserved a bloop. We did. They [the Cardinals] get bloops to hurt us all the time. They hit the ball hard, but they also get a lot of bloops to beat us. ... Whatever, I'll take it."

Brewers starter Wily Peralta was hurt by one of those bloops in a two-run first inning, only to settle in nicely. The online play-by-play of that frame read like a horror story for Milwaukee fans willing their team to the finish from afar: Ground-ball single, line-drive single, soft line-drive single and a walk. Eighteen pitches into the game, with none out, Peralta and the Brewers found themselves in a 1-0 hole.

The Cardinals made it 2-0 on Jhonny Peralta's double-play groundout, which began Peralta's turnaround. He made a fine play on Yadier Molina's comebacker to end the inning, surrendered a Kolten Wong single leading off the second, then faced the minimum through the end of the seventh inning. Right fielder Ryan Braun aided Peralta's cause by throwing out the speedy Peter Bourjos trying to stretch a single into a double in the fifth.

Peralta retired the next seven batters and was replaced by a pinch-hitter when that spot in the batting order appeared during the Brewers' half of the eighth inning.

By then, the Cardinals had also replaced Lance Lynn, who pitched seven innings to lower his lifetime ERA against Milwaukee to 2.26 -- best among active pitchers who have started against the Brewers at least nine times. The right-hander surrendered Gerardo Parra's two-out solo home run in the fourth inning plus four harmless singles over seven innings. He walked one and struck out five.

Peralta's line was similar: Seven innings, five hits, two earned runs, one walk and three strikeouts. From the third inning through the end of the game, Peralta and six Brewers relievers -- Will Smith, Jonathan Broxton, Jeremy Jeffress, Zach Duke, Brandon Kintzler and Francisco Rodriguez -- combined to surrender three singles and no runs. Rodriguez logged his 42nd save.

"We came in on one mission, take every game we can possibly take," Rodriguez said. "This is it. It's not like we have another two-three weeks to rebound. We only have 11 games left. Every single game from now on is just do or die."

The Brewers' in-season additions are playing a major role. Of the three players who drove in a run Tuesday -- Parra, Clark and Gomez -- none were with the Major League club before July 31. Likewise, Jeffress and Broxton joined the team along the way, Jeffress from Triple-A Nashville and Broxton in an Aug. 31 trade with the Reds.

Asked about those late additions, Carlos Gomez said, "I don't look at it like 'September guys.' They're the Brewers. We look at this like a team."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers renew contracts with Biloxi, Brevard County

The Brewers announced Wednesday that they have renewed their player development contracts with their affiliates in Biloxi, Miss., and Brevard County, Fla. Milwaukee's new deal is for four years with Double-A affiliate Biloxi and for two years with Class A Brevard County of the Florida State League.

Milwaukee's old Double-A affiliate -- Huntsville -- was purchased by a group based in Biloxi earlier this season, and the team will move for the 2015 season. The Brewers will have Biloxi as their Double-A affiliate through the 2018 season, and Brevard County is signed up through the end of 2016.

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Doug Melvin, Milwaukee's general manager and president of baseball operations, issued an official statement regarding the new affiliate in Biloxi and the extension of the contract.

"We are excited to extend our contracts with Biloxi and Brevard County," he said in a press release. "We look forward to working with Ken Young and his ownership group as the team relocates from Huntsville to Biloxi and into a new ballpark. The top-notch facilities will give our players the necessary tools to further develop into Major Leaguers."

The Brewers' Double-A affiliate had been based in Huntsville since the 1999 season, but the team is excited to break into a new market in Mississippi and into a brand-new ballpark next year.

"We're looking forward to bringing baseball to Biloxi and are eager for this new chapter," said Biloxi general manager Buck Rogers as part of a press release. "The Brewers are a class-act organization, and we can't wait to get started in our new ballpark."

Brevard County has been a Milwaukee affiliate since 2005, and it plays its home games at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla., the Spring Training home of the Washington Nationals. Brevard County's team is operated by the Central Florida Baseball Group, LLC.

"The Manatees are thrilled to continue the great working relationship with the Milwaukee Brewers," said Central Florida Baseball Group chairman Dr. Tom Winters. "The entire organization is first class."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Clark capitalizing on chances, aiding Crew's playoff push

Called up this month, outfielder delivers big homer in crucial victory

Clark capitalizing on chances, aiding Crew's playoff push play video for Clark capitalizing on chances, aiding Crew's playoff push

MILWAUKEE -- Mired in the Mets' organization at the Double-A level at midseason, Matt Clark hardly expected to find himself in the middle of a playoff push, much less be a significant contributor.

But Clark is making the most of his late-season opportunity with the Brewers.

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Clark blasted a three-run homer Sunday -- his third home run in five days -- as the Brewers broke out their recent offensive doldrums with a 9-2 victory over the Reds.

"It definitely makes it worthwhile, makes it that much more fun," said Clark. "Makes it that much more interesting right now, especially with us going to play St. Louis and Pittsburgh on the next road trip. It's going to be really interesting."

The Brewers trail Pittsburgh by 1 1/2 games for the second National League Wild Card spot and are five games back of St. Louis in the NL Central. After an off-day, Milwaukee begins a crucial nine-game road trip, starting with three games each at St. Louis and then Pittsburgh.

After five years in the Padres' organization, Clark spent the 2013 season with the Chunichi Dragons in Japan, hitting 25 homers with 70 RBIs. He signed as a Minor League free agent with the Mets before this season, but ended up at Double-A Binghamton.

He was granted his release in June and picked up by the Brewers, who needed a first baseman at Triple-A Nashville after Hunter Morris suffered a broken arm.

Clark responded by hitting .313 with 16 homers in 53 games at Nashville, earning a September callup.

The Brewers' first-base situation is crowded with veterans Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay splitting much of the playing time. To keep his bat in the lineup, All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy also has been seeing action at first.

Reynolds drilled his 22nd home run Sunday, but his average has dipped to .196. The 37-year-old Overbay is hitting .240, but has peformed well off the bench.

Clark hit his first career home run in a 4-1 victory over Miami on ? and followed it up the next night with another homer in a 4-2 win over the Marlins. After being out of the starting lineup for two games, Clark returned Sunday and hit his game-breaking three-run shot.

"That's how they come," said Clark. "They come in bunches. You just try to ride the wave because you know it's not going to last that long. But [I] just keep trying to put good swings on it and see what happens."

Manager Ron Roenicke said Clark definitely is having an impact -- at least short term -- on the offense, which has struggled to produce runs in the second half.

"That's why we brought him up here, was with the idea that if the matchups were good and he did well, I'd be able to put him back out there," Roenicke said before Sunday's game. "With him continuing to swing the bat well, he's going to play a little bit more."

Jim Hoehn is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Roenicke wins challenge on play at first base

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MILWAUKEE -- With one out in the ninth inning and a runner on first base Sunday, Reds pinch-hitter Donald Lutz reached on an infield single, beating the toss from Brewers first baseman Mark Reynolds to pitcher Rob Wooten, who was covering.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke challenged the call by first-base umpire C.B. Bucknor. After a review of one minute and 21 seconds, the call was overturned and Lutz was ruled out.

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Milwaukee, which beat Cincinnati, 9-2, is 16-9 in replay challenges.

Jim Hoehn is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers pound Reds, keep pace in Wild Card race

Clark's homer, Gomez's grab aid solid Garza; Crew 1 1/2 back of Bucs

Brewers pound Reds, keep pace in Wild Card race play video for Brewers pound Reds, keep pace in Wild Card race

MILWAUKEE --- Just when they needed it most, the Brewers combined an offensive breakout, solid starting pitching and a standout defensive play to post a 9-2 victory over the Reds on Sunday afternoon, building momentum heading into a crucial road trip that includes the two teams ahead of them in the National League Central.

Matt Garza continued his dominance of the Reds and late-season callup Matt Clark belted his third home run in five days as Milwaukee kept pace for the second NL Wild Card spot.

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"We're playing ball again," Garza said. "We've had some ugly ones that last couple weeks, so it was good to see everybody on the same page today and see if we can get this thing rolling."

The Brewers, who won for the fourth time in five games, remained 1 1/2 games behind Pittsburgh after the Pirates rallied past the Cubs, 7-3. Milwaukee remained five games back of St. Louis in the NL Central as the Cardinals defeated the Rockies, 4-1.

After an off-day, Milwaukee opens a crucial nine-game road trip against St. Louis on Tuesday at Busch Stadium, followed by series in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

"This is where it should come down," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "It's there for us if we play good baseball and the other teams I'm sure feel the same way. It's good that we're playing in our division, which I've said before is what we should be like. And, whoever plays better is going to get in there."

Garza, who tossed a two-hit shutout against the Reds in July, allowed one run on four hits in six-plus innings in his best outing in three starts since returning from a strained left oblique. Garza has allowed two earned runs in 22 innings against Cincinnati this season.

"I thought he did a really good job of making good pitches with downward plane to the bottom of the zone," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "And he pitched ahead. When I looked up, the first 17 or 20 pitches, he had thrown two or three balls. He kind of kept that mentality throughout the course of his outing and didn't give us anything to hit."

Clark, called up Sept. 2 from Triple-A Nashville, keyed a five-run seventh that put the Brewers up, 8-1, delighting the fans at Miller Park. Ryan Braun and Khris Davis singled, then Clark sent a 1-1 pitch from Logan Ondrusek 438 feet into the right-field seats. Milwaukee then bunched three singles and a pair of walks to add two runs.

"That's how they come," said Clark, who spent the 2013 season in Japan. "They come in bunches. You just try to ride the wave because you know it's not going to last that long. But [I] just keep trying to put good swings on it and see what happens."

Mark Reynolds hit his 22nd home run to make it 9-1 in the eighth. The Reds scored a run in the ninth off Rob Wooten.

The nine runs were the most by the Brewers since a 10-1 victory over San Diego on Aug. 24, which was followed by a stretch in which they lost 13 of 14 games. Despite the offensive outburst, however, the game might have turned on a sterling defensive play by center fielder Carlos Gomez.

With the Brewers nursing a 1-0 lead, Cincinnati had runners on first and second with two outs in the fourth. But Gomez kept the Reds off the board, hauling in Zack Cozart's drive deep into the gap in right-center with a sensational running catch.

"That was huge," Garza said. "That takes the air out of their sails right there. If that ball lands, it's tied up and next you know, it could be a different ballgame. But that catch you could tell it just took the momentum right out of them. And then we just went to hitting. It was awesome."

The Brewers manufactured a station-to-station run in the second for a 1-0 lead. Reynolds walked to open and Segura singled to right. Both runners advanced on Garza's sacrifice and Reynolds scored on Gomez's sacrifice fly down the right-field line.

Jonathan Lucroy's two-out, two-run single in the fourth put Milwaukee up 3-0. Todd Frazier pulled the Reds within 3-1, lining the first pitch from Garza in the sixth over the left-field wall for his 26th homer.

Jim Hoehn is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Catching prospect Coulter could be tried at other positions

Catching prospect Coulter could be tried at other positions play video for Catching prospect Coulter could be tried at other positions

MILWAUKEE -- Clint Coulter's offensive performance at Class A Wisconsin helped him earn honors as the Brewers' Minor League Player of the Year, but it's uncertain if the former first-round Draft pick will remain behind the plate.

Ranked as the Brewers' No.7 prospect by MLB.com, Coulter, who hit 22 home runs with 89 RBIs in 126 games with the Timber Rattlers, split playing time between catcher and designated hitter. However, there has been some talk of moving him to another position.

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"Right now, I'm a catcher," Coulter said Saturday at Miller Park. "You have to talk to our [director of] player development, Reid Nichols, and see what they've got for me. But, I'm comfortable wherever they stick me. I just want to get to the big leagues."

"I hate to say back in high school, but back in high school I did play a little bit of third base and a little bit of outfield, so we'll see."

Coulter, a first-round Draft pick in 2012 out high school in Camas, Wash., was honored along with Jimmy Nelson at a pregame ceremony Saturday prior to the Brewers' game against the Reds. Nelson was called up from Triple-A Nashville in July, but was still named the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Coulter, listed at 6-foot-3 and 222 pounds, is expected to participate in the Fall Instructional League.

"I'm going to the Instructional League as a catcher, but they did tell me that I will be probably be working at some other spots, maybe third base and outfield, but we'll see how it goes," he said. "So far, I'm a catcher."

If Coulter is shifted to another position, it wouldn't be the first time the Brewers moved a first-round catching prospect.

Brett Lawrie -- now a third baseman with Toronto who was traded by Milwaukee to the Blue Jays after the 2010 season for pitcher Shaun Marcum -- originally was drafted as a catcher in the first round by the Brewers, who moved him to second base.

Jim Hoehn is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["prospect" ] }