LOS ANGELES -- The Brewers scored a pair of two-out runs in the top of the ninth inning on Thursday for a temporary tie, but the Dodgers answered in their half. Boy, did they answer. Andre Ethier crushed a down-the-middle fastball from Milwaukee reliever LaTroy Hawkins for a game-winning grand slam, sending the Brewers to a 7-3 loss and re-igniting a crowd of 38,456 fans at Dodger Stadium that had been silenced a half-inning earlier.
Gregg Zaun had two RBIs and Prince Fielder scored two runs for the Brewers, who needed one more clutch hit for their first-ever sweep of the Dodgers in 13 seasons together in the National League. You'll have to pardon the veteran Hawkins if he had other things on his mind. "I'm puzzled," Hawkins said. He repeated those two words twice more for emphasis. It's an unfamiliar feeling for a veteran who breezed through last season with the Houston Astros with such precision that the Brewers committed to a two-year free-agent contract. Hawkins (0-3) said his command has eluded him in all but his first two outings this season, and now his velocity is gone, too. That was a bad combination against Ethier, who has more game-winning hits since 2008 (11) than anyone else in baseball, and now has homered in both of his at-bats this season with the bases loaded. "Your hair stands up on your neck a little bit louder just for the fact you can feel the energy, you can feel the excitement of the situations coming up," Ethier said. "You're standing on deck and you know you're going to get an opportunity to do it." He did it. Ethier's slam cleared the fence in straightaway center field. "As soon as he hit it, I headed for the clubhouse," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. Ethier had his opportunity only after the Brewers rallied in the top of the ninth inning against Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton (2-0). Ryan Braun and Fielder singled to set up Zaun for a two-out, opposite-field single that cut the deficit to 3-2. Craig Counsell followed as a pinch-hitter and fell into an 0-and-2 hole, but worked back to 2-and-2 before sending a ground ball up the middle. It eluded the Dodgers' infielders, who batted the baseball around long enough to allow Fielder to score the tying run from second base. "That's a nice character-builder when you come back against somebody tough like Broxton," Zaun said. "That's a small victory. It's nice to see guys not giving up. But it doesn't matter; a loss is a loss." Brewers rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar had a chance to push the visitors ahead when he followed Counsell, but Broxton simply overmatched him with three straight sliders for an inning-ending strikeout. The Dodgers wasted no time in rallying against Hawkins, who surrendered singles to Jamey Carroll and Xavier Paul, then uncorked a wild pitch during a battle with dangerous outfielder Matt Kemp that allowed Carroll to advance to third base. Hawkins walked Kemp to load the bases for Ethier and again fell behind with balls one and two. Ethier gave the Brewers a break when he swung through a high fastball that would have been ball three, then fouled off another fastball to even the count. Zaun, the catcher, wasn't about to change course. "We're in a 2-and-2 count, bases loaded, nowhere to put him, and I've got to go with the guy's best pitch," Zaun said. "If I miss with second- or third-best, or second- or third-best gets hit, and we lose, then I'm kicking myself." Trouble is, Hawkins' best pitch has not been very good of late. He was pumping 96 mph fastballs with ease during his four scoreless outings to begin his Brewers career, but on Thursday he didn't top 91 mph. Hawkins missed part of Spring Training with a shoulder injury but said his arm is fine. Which leaves him "puzzled." "You can make mistakes if you throw hard enough. You can't make mistakes at 88-90 [mph]," Hawkins said. "If I knew what it was, I'd tell you and I'd fix it. ... It definitely doesn't put your mind at ease, that's for sure." Against Ethier, "It all boils down to making your pitch, and I didn't make my pitch," Hawkins said. The Brewers' late rally did spare starter Dave Bush what would have been a tough-luck loss. Bush allowed a run in the first inning without allowing a hit by walking two batters ahead of James Loney's sacrifice fly, and the defense let him down in the second inning. Casey McGehee's throwing error -- it was originally charged to first baseman Fielder but was changed after the game -- opened the door for two unearned runs and forced Bush to throw 16 extra pitches. Those pitches had added up by the sixth inning, when Macha replaced Bush with a pinch-hitter and tapped the bullpen. "I racked up a lot of pitches the first two innings," Bush said. "After that I settled in, had some pretty quick innings. I didn't really have to work out of trouble after that." Neither did his counterpart, Dodgers rookie John Ely. The right-hander didn't touch 90 mph on the stadium radar gun all night, but that didn't stop him from becoming the latest rookie to shut down the Brewers' offense. Ely pitched into the seventh inning and allowed only one run in his second Major League start, retiring 16 batters in a row during one stretch. The Dodgers' 3-0 lead stood into the seventh inning, when Fielder's single off opposing first baseman Loney's glove gave the Brewers their first hit since McGehee's single leading off the second inning. Fielder advanced on a groundout before scoring on Zaun's bloop single to center field. Something about rookie pitchers seems to bring out the worst in Milwaukee's offense. Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia allowed only one run in seven innings of his season debut on April 10 but the trend was more evident last season, when Alfredo Figaro of the Tigers, Anthony Swarzak of the Twins and Ryan Sadowski of the Giants all won their Major League debuts at Milwaukee's expense. The Brewers did touch-up Braves righty Tommy Hanson in his debut last June, but Atlanta rallied to win the game.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.