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Brewers' struggles continue

Brewers' struggles continue

MILWAUKEE -- Manager Ned Yost figures that if his Brewers are going to hold off the charging Chicago Cubs, or any other National League Central contender, they are going to have to do it behind their stable of starting pitchers.

Lately, the Brewers have not been very good in that department, and another frustrating outing by left-hander Chris Capuano in Friday's 10-6 loss to the Rockies at Miller Park left the manager mulling some changes.

"We've seen 'Cap' when he's been good, and if we're going to be successful, it's going to be with our starting pitching," Yost said. "You keep working through it."

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"But," Yost added, "it's not an endless rope either."

Capuano slipped further down that rope after allowing five runs in three innings of the Brewers' eighth loss in their last 11 games. Their edge over the charging Cubs was trimmed to 3 1/2 games, the slimmest it has been since they led the Pirates by 3 1/2 games back on April 30.

Led by two home runs and four RBIs from third baseman Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee offense spared Capuano a loss that instead went to usually-reliable reliever Carlos Villanueva (6-1). But the outing continued a "frustrating" trend for Capuano, a 2005 18-game winner and 2006 All-Star who won his first five decisions this season but since is 0-7 with a 7.74 ERA in nine games.

"It can't continue," Capuano said. "I'm physically healthy. I've been successful at this level for a while. I know that around that corner are some good times. It's just a matter of trying to find my way around that corner."

Said Yost: "He's going to have to find a way to get himself out of it pretty quick."

Capuano and the Brewers fell into a 2-0 hole in the third inning when Todd Helton's two-run double glanced off right fielder Kevin Mench's glove. But the Brewers came back with four runs in the bottom of the frame, getting a three-run home run from Braun -- his first of two homers in the game -- followed by a Prince Fielder solo shot. It was Fielder's National League-leading 30th home run of the season.

That gave the Brewers a 4-2 lead that quickly slipped away. Just like Sunday in Washington, Capuano followed a go-ahead Brewers rally with a walk, this time a seven-pitch pass to Troy Tulowitzski after getting ahead in the count, 1-and-2. Capuano was also ahead, 1-and-2, before walking Brad Hawpe. Yorvit Torrealba followed with a single to load the bases.

That brought to the plate Rockies starting pitcher Jeff Francis (9-5), who hit the first pitch for a two-run double off the glove of left fielder Geoff Jenkins. Ryan Spilborghs greeted Carlos Villanueva with a sacrifice fly for a 5-4 Rockies lead.

"I'm telling myself to be aggressive on every pitch," Capuano said. "Attack the strike zone. Trust your stuff. It seems like the ball is dipping a little too low or dipping outside on me lately. All you can do with that is work every day to increase the percentage of quality pitches you make. For me, I have to get that percentage up there."

But he insists he is close.

"Physically, I feel great," said Capuano, who spent two weeks in June on the disabled list with a groin strain. "My leg hasn't bothered me in my last couple of starts at all. My body feels good, which is always the No. 1 thing for me. I feel like if my body feels good, then I'll be able to locate the ball where I want to.

"I feel close. In the last few games, it's like, for most of the game, everything is right there and then it's that one [bad] inning. For me, it's about avoiding that inning."

Capuano apparently will get an opportunity to work out of his funk as a member of the starting rotation. Yost said he is not considering a change at this time, even with Villanueva or equally-promising right-hander Yovani Gallardo looming in the bullpen.

"It's just a slump," Yost said of Capuano. "It happens. He's human. He's not out there trying to let things get out of hand, but sometimes they get out of hand. They got out of hand for him today real quick in the fourth inning. He throws the ball really, really well and then he starts to fall behind in the count and things develop from there."

Told of Yost's "it's not an endless rope," comment, Capuano said he couldn't concern himself with those thoughts.

"You can't as a player. You simply can't do it," Capuano said. "You just have to be ready to take the ball when they give it to you again. When you run into a string of bad outings, you can't see around that corner. Just like when things are going bad in your life."

Even after that inning, the Brewers still had life. Corey Hart's double in the fourth inning tied the game at 5 but the lead again slipped away from the Brewers. Villanueva walked a pair of batters in the fifth inning and both scored on two-run homers by Tulowitzski and Torrealba, and Matt Holliday added a solo shot in the sixth.

Like Capuano, Villanueva was charged with five runs in three innings. He had not allowed more than two runs in 35 straight outings, since he surrendered three Dodgers runs on Opening Day.

"I gave up three hits, and three home runs," Villanueva said. "I made mistakes when I shouldn't have. I didn't execute there with two strikes."

With the Cubs on a roll, are the Brewers starting to feel the pressure?

"Not really, because we are in the driver's seat," Villanueva said. "We're in first place right now. If we win and they win, we're still up. We need to take care of our own business and not worry about anybody else."

Adam McCalvy 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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