ARLINGTON -- The good news is that the Brewers are still in first place, leading the Chicago Cubs by five games, and still the only team in the National League Central that has a winning record. The bad news is they have lost 18 of their last 27 games, 11 of their last 14 road games, and on Friday could not defeat a Texas Rangers club whose starting rotation has a nearly incomprehensible 7.00 ERA. Did we mention the good news?
"We've got to change the way it's going," manager Ned Yost grumbled after the Brewers' 9-6 loss before 29,562 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. "It's time we step it up a little bit and start doing our jobs on the field." Yost had just seen his team blow an early one-run lead, fall behind 7-1 by the end of the fifth, storm back to within one with a five-run seventh, and still wind up losing to the team with the worst record in baseball. "I think it's a little frustrating," Yost said, "knowing we can't play like this forever." Yost cited his team's improvement this year in several facets of the game, including defense, baserunning, even his pitchers' ability to contribute with their bats. Hard work on those aspects during Spring Training helped vault the Brewers (33-28) atop an admittedly weak division. "Now it just boils down to pitching and hitting," he said. "Our pitching hasn't been very good or very sharp. We're making a lot of mistakes. And offensively, we haven't scored the runs to cover it up." Friday's opener of a three-game series with the Rangers (22-38) was a good example. Prince Fielder led off the top of the second with his 22nd home run, tying the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez for the Major League lead. But left-hander Chris Capuano gave the lead away and then some, allowing two runs in the bottom of the second on a bases-loaded walk to Michael Young and run-scoring single by Mark Teixeira. Unfortunately, Capuano (5-5) was just getting started. He allowed four more runs in the fourth, giving up Ian Kinsler's 11th home run, a two-run double by Teixeira and an RBI double by Sammy Sosa that put the Rangers ahead 6-1. Capuano needed 82 pitches to traverse four innings and was battered for six runs on eight hits and four walks to remain winless since May 7. "He didn't have command, period," Yost said. "He struggled early, got his pitch count up in a hurry. He just had a bad outing." Capuano called it his poorest performance of the season. He is 0-5 with a 6.89 ERA over his last six starts, but said this loss was "doubly frustrating, because I knew we were going to hit the ball well here." That's because this is a hitter's park and the Rangers' starting pitchers are well on their way to being labeled the worst rotation in 50 years. In the last five decades, the worst rotation ERA was the 6.64 mark of the 1996 Detroit Tigers. The 2007 Rangers rotation has an ERA that finally reached 7.00 on Friday. Rangers starter Robinson Tejeda (5-6) actually pitched well for six innings, allowing only one run (Fielder's solo homer) on four hits while striking out seven. Then came the seventh inning, when a tiring and lackadaisical Tejeda reverted to form. Milwaukee unloaded for five runs on four hits in the inning. Geoff Jenkins doubled and scored from third on Bill Hall's groundout. Craig Counsell singled with two out and scored on a two-run homer by Corey Hart. J.J. Hardy drew a walk and scored on a two-run homer by Ryan Braun. The second homer chased Tejeda with the Brewers only trailing 7-6. "We battled back," Yost agreed. "But down 7-1 is a pretty big hill to climb." The Rangers' bullpen wouldn't let the Brewers reach the summit. Left-hander C.J. Wilson struck out Fielder to put out the fire in the seventh. Then Akinori Otsuka and Eric Gagne contributed with a flawless eighth and ninth, respectively. Gagne was given breathing room for his sixth save when the Rangers scored twice in the bottom of the eighth. Four hits off Carlos Villanueva and a throwing error by Hardy enabled Young and Ramon Vazquez to score the insurance runs. Despite his shaky finish and six runs allowed in 6 2/3 innings, Tejeda emerged a winner for just the second time in his last seven starts. "It's tough, but this is just the first game of a nine-game road trip," Capuano noted. "I think we still feel good about being able to put together a winning trip. We just need to be a little more consistent, and have our bad games be not so bad."
Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.