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News » METS 1, BREWERS 0 Close to the bone Narrow losses eating at Brewers

METS 1, BREWERS 0 Close to the bone Narrow losses eating at Brewers

METS 1, BREWERS 0  Close to the bone  Narrow losses eating at Brewers
New York - The Milwaukee Brewers have forgotten how to win close games.

They need to refresh their memory soon or the hole they have dug for themselves will only get deeper.

It wasn't surprising that Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo and New York Mets ace Johan Santana engaged in an old-fashioned pitching duel Saturday at spacious Citi Field. And, sadly for the Brewers , it wasn't surprising that they found a way to lose a one-run game for the fourth time in five chances.

Making two mistakes in the seventh inning of a scoreless game, the Brewers bowed to the Mets, 1-0, to fall to 3-8.

Yes, it is early. But, as a reference point, the Brewers never fell five games below .500 in 2008 en route to snapping their 26-year playoff drought.

"We're in every game," said first baseman Prince Fielder. "That's the most frustrating part. If we were just getting slaughtered, it would be different. That's what makes this so irritating."

Speaking of irritated, manager Ken Macha was exactly that when reliever Carlos Villanueva entered the game in the seventh inning and walked the first hitter he faced, Ramon Castro. A .188 hitter, Castro is batting eighth in the Mets order for good reason.

"We've had enough walks," said Macha, whose pitching staff has issued a league-high 53 passes. "It's their No. 8 guy and it's a tie ball game. Lead-off walks late in the game are killers."

Pinch-hitter Alex Cora bunted to Fielder, but his throw to first was dropped by second baseman Rickie Weeks, putting runners on the corners with no outs. It was a play reminiscent of Game 1 of the 2008 NLDS against Philadelphia, when Weeks dropped a throw on a bunt play that led to three unearned runs in a 3-1 defeat.

"I just missed it," said Weeks, making no excuses.

Jose Reyes then hit a liner that deflected off Villanueva's glove to shortstop J.J. Hardy, who got the force at second. Pinch-runner Omir Santos scored from third, however, with the only run of the game.

"I threw the ball well except for that walk," said Villanueva, who pitched a perfect eighth inning. "In a game like that, a minimal thing can cost you the game."

Getting behind the Mets after seven innings is particularly daunting because they have former Seattle closer J.J. Putz to pitch the eighth and record-setter Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth. Putz put the Brewers down in order, but Ryan Braun led off the ninth with an opposite-field hit off Rodriguez.

Fielder went down swinging, bringing Hardy to the plate. Braun had second base stolen twice, but Hardy fouled off the pitches. With a 3-2 count, Hardy took a changeup on the outside corner for strike three and Santos threw out Braun with a perfect throw, which ended the game.

"(Rodriguez) made a great pitch and (Santos) made a great throw," said Braun. "There's not much you can do about that."

And there wasn't much either offense could do with the starting pitchers. Santana did not allow a runner past first base during his seven-inning stint, surrendering five hits and no walks while logging seven strikeouts.

Gallardo, bouncing back from a walk-filled nightmare against Cincinnati, had a few speed bumps to navigate but did so nicely. He struck out Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran to strand two runners in the first inning, and benefited from a double play in the sixth when Braun tracked down Ryan Church's drive to left with the runners going.

Gallardo had trouble throwing his curveball for strikes early but eventually found command of it and matched zeros with Santana.

"He's a great pitcher; you know it's going to be tough," said Gallardo, who had one of the hits off Santana.

"I tried to go out there and do the same thing. It was exciting to be in a game like that but I tried to keep making my pitches."

With seven games remaining on this three-city trip, the Brewers must try to regain the winning touch.

"It's tough, but it's still early," said Villanueva. "We've gone through stretches like this. We have to keep battling and keep playing close games, and they're going to turn our way."

Copyright 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 19, 2009

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