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Burns provides relief behind Parra

Burns provides relief behind Parra

MIAMI -- For the sake of a battered bullpen, the Brewers badly needed Manny Parra to eat up some innings on Tuesday. He couldn't deliver.

Parra not only set dubious career highs in allowing 10 runs and 11 hits, he left Milwaukee's relief corps to cover the final four innings of a 10-3 loss to the Marlins at Land Shark Stadium. If not for newly-promoted Mike Burns, who worked all four of those frames in his first big league game in nearly two years, it could have gotten extremely ugly.

"That's good for [Burns] and for the other guys in the bullpen," said Brewers manager Ken Macha, who skippered his 700th game, "but it's no consolation for getting tattooed."

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The Brewers lost their fifth consecutive road game, a streak that includes Parra's start at Minnesota on May 22 in which he surrendered eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. He worked 6 2/3 innings five days later against the Cardinals but surrendered three runs and lost, 3-2.

Over his personal three-game losing streak, Parra's ERA has ballooned from 4.82 to 6.75. On Tuesday he became the fourth consecutive Brewers starter to work less than six innings, a streak Braden Looper will look to end on Wednesday. Looper worked seven innings against the Reds in his last start.

Parra was a man of few words after the game.

"It was just not good enough," Parra said. "I actually felt really good tonight. It definitely does [make it] more frustrating."

The Brewers are one of only three Major League teams to employ just five starting pitchers this season (the Pirates and Giants are the others) but they have not been shy this season about making changes when a player is struggling -- see Brad Nelson, Chris Duffy and Jorge Julio. In Parra's case, the team appears committed to letting its young lefty learn in the big leagues.

"Hopes are that he develops into what his potential says he's going to be," Macha said. "To make a position player comparison, it's kind of like Rickie [Weeks, who was on pace for a career year before he suffered a season-ending wrist injury]. ... This is a little bit of a work in progress. We're not talking about a polished pitcher."

"He's capable of being great," said Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy. "I don't know what it is. He lacks confidence. He doesn't realize how good he can be, or he doesn't believe he's as good as he is. He's got great stuff."

Florida's starter didn't fare much better. Anibal Sanchez, making his first start since exiting a May 7 outing with right shoulder discomfort, needed 40 pitches to get through the first inning and only made it through the third.

Somehow, he allowed only one run, on Parra's second-inning sacrifice fly that scored center fielder Jody Gerut after a single and two stolen bases. In the first inning, Sanchez struck out third baseman Mat Gamel with the bases loaded in a nine-pitch battle.

"That's a lot of work for nothing," said Hardy, who preceded Gamel with a walk.

Burke Badenhop (4-2) followed Sanchez with five innings of scoreless relief, limiting the Brewers to one hit. Corey Hart entered the game in the seventh inning when Macha decided to give Hardy a rest, and accounted for Milwaukee's final two runs with a home run in the ninth inning off Hayden Penn.

By then, the game had slipped away from Parra. He struck out all three hitters he faced in the first inning but then surrendered a two-run home run to Dan Uggla in the second inning and three more runs with a pair of wild pitches in the third. After Marlins catcher Ronny Paulino reached on an infield hit, Macha made a rare visit to the mound to remind Parra that the team needed some innings.

Parra escaped further damage in that inning but surrendered five more runs in the fourth. Center fielder Cody Ross, who robbed Frank Catalanotto of extra bases with a diving catch in the first inning, delivered the back-breaker when he belted a two-out grand slam for a 10-1 Marlins lead.

Asked what went wrong after the first inning, Parra shot back, "They got a lot of hits."

Macha believes that Parra's problems begin when runners reach base. He has been encouraged to use a slide-step more often to help limit the running game, but the move negatively affects Parra's curveball command, so he has been reluctant to use it.

"I'm trying to figure him out a little bit," Macha said. "He goes out in the first inning and strikes out the side [with] nasty stuff. Then the first hitter gets on [in the second inning] and the location leaves him. That pretty much did it."

Burns spared Macha from making some difficult bullpen decisions by holding the Marlins in check after Parra's exit. He only arrived from Triple-A Nashville about two hours before the game and walked into a closed-door session of kangaroo court.

In four innings, Burns walked two batters and surrendered four hits, all singles. Two of them came in the eighth inning, when Burns stranded runners at the corners."

"I'm built up [from] being a starter down in Nashville, so it was my job to eat up those innings," said Burns, who threw 47 of his 77 pitches for strikes. "It's good to get in and get off to a decent start. We'll see how it goes from here."

The start of the game was delayed 19 minutes at the start due to what a Marlins official termed atmospheric conditions, though it wasn't raining and the tarp never left its spot along the left-field line.

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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