First-inning homers sink Brewers

First-inning homers sink Brewers

DENVER -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin thinks he has an idea to revolutionize pitching. He proposes that when back of the rotation starters are scheduled to pitch, teams use a middle reliever for the first few frames, then turn to the "starter" in the third or fourth inning and let him finish the game.

The idea, says Melvin, is that starters are starters for a reason, and you want your best pitchers working the most important innings, and since pitch counts so often limit starters to six or seven innings, you need to start them later in games. It's admittedly easier to pull off in the American League, where pitchers do not have to bat.

Still, Melvin believes the idea has merit.

Maybe Brewers starter Dave Bush should jump on board. The first inning seems to be his nemesis this season.

Bush surrendered a first-inning home run for the third straight start, serving up a pair of two-out homers to the Rockies on Saturday, including Brad Hawpe's grand slam in a 7-2 Brewers' loss at Coors Field.

"He made two bad pitches in the inning and they both hurt him," Brewers manager Ned Yost said.

Bush was close to escaping without damage. He retired the first two Rockies hitters on five pitches, but needed 29 more to record the final out. Ryan Spilborghs fought off an inside pitch and blooped a double down the right-field line before Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins walked. Hawpe then turned on a 1-1 cut fastball, sending it to the second deck in right field for his second career grand slam and his second home run in as many games since returning from the disabled list.

Catcher Chris Iannetta pounced on Bush's next pitch and hit a solo home run to left for a quick, 5-0 Colorado lead.

"The grand slam was not a good pitch at all," Bush said. "It's not an issue of bad selection, it was just bad execution, bad selection. ... Then I have no problem throwing a fastball first pitch to the next guy, but it's got to be better than the one I threw."

The Brewers answered with a pair of runs in the second inning, getting RBI singles from Russell Branyan and Jason Kendall, but that was all Milwaukee mustered against Rockies starter and winner Greg Reynolds (1-3), who worked six innings and allowed four hits for his first Major League win.

"He pitched OK," Yost said. "Every time we started to get a little something going, [Reynolds] would snuff it out."

The Brewers had something going in the second after the two runs scored, but Bush hit a hard line drive right back to the pitcher Reynolds, who doubled Kendall off first base.

In the fifth inning, Hardy led off with a double and moved to third on Kendall's groundout. Yost replaced Bush with pinch-hitter Joe Dillon, who for the second straight game couldn't push home a runner from third base with less than two outs. Dillon flew out to shallow center field and Craig Counsell grounded out.

"Bush was pitching decent at that time, and we took the shot at picking up that one run," Yost said. "We needed to get that run in, but in the scheme of things it didn't matter in the end."

Bush worked four innings and was charged with five runs, five hits and two walks, ending the Brewers streak of quality starts at seven. Bush struck out three.

In his 11 first innings this season, opponents have batted .319 (15-for-47) against Bush with four doubles, five home runs and seven walks. He has surrendered more runs (11), hits and homers in the first inning than in any other frame.

"I think it's been compounded in a couple of outings," said Bush, who gave up a first-inning homer in his previous start to Houston's Mark Loretta, to Atlanta's Kelly Johnson on May 27 and to St. Louis' Rick Ankiel on May 12, all Brewers wins. "I don't know for sure. I'm not much for breaking down stats to that degree. As a starting pitcher you're looking at six, seven innings, preferably more in every game, so if runs come in the first or the fifth it doesn't really matter.

"I would say that historically I haven't been the best in the first inning throughout my whole career, but I don't feel it's anything in particular. Some guys come out of the gate on fire. ... I don't feel it's been a big problem."

The Rockies padded their lead with an Ian Stewart home run off Mark DiFelice in the fifth inning that nobody -- including Stewart and first base umpire Lance Barksdale -- appeared to get a good look at. The 442-foot blast towered over the right-field foul pole, and Stewart paused before Barksdale gave a half-hearted home run signal.

Yost was out to argue the call before Stewart finished his tour around the bases.

"I thought I had a good view of it," Yost said. "It's a tough call but I thought it was foul. It wasn't blatant. ... I don't think anybody [knows] because the ball was hit so high."

Other than Barksdale and Stewart, Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder probably had the best view. What did he think?

"[Barksdale] called it fair, so it was fair," Fielder said.

Said Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun: "When you hit one that far, you deserve it."

Brewers hitters made the mistake of going to left field, into a strong wind. Branyan was slow out of the batter's box on his long RBI single in the second inning that hit the left-field wall, and Hardy twice hit fly balls that looked like they had a chance to go out.

"Garrett Atkins told me, 'The wind killed you today,'" said Hardy, who conceded he did not hit either pitch with the sweet spot of the bat. "He said I should have had two [homers]."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.