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News » METS 5, BREWERS 4 A shot to the stomach Castillo's two-out infield hit makes for bitter ending

METS 5, BREWERS 4 A shot to the stomach Castillo's two-out infield hit makes for bitter ending

METS 5, BREWERS 4  A shot to the stomach  Castillo's two-out infield hit makes for bitter ending
New York - When you're off to a slow start, this is the kind of loss that really stings.

The Milwaukee Brewers played in traffic too many times to get away with it in the late innings Friday night, finally losing to the New York Mets, 5-4, on Luis Castillo's two-out, run-scoring infield hit in the bottom of the ninth.

Even reliever Todd Coffey, who pitched out of two late jams to keep his scoreless streak alive with the Brewers , found no solace in that achievement.

"That doesn't matter. We lost," Coffey said. "It's irrelevant. All that matters is wins."

And those have been tough to find for the Brewers , who fell to 3-7 while beginning a three-city, nine-game trip in frustrating fashion.

No one was more frustrated than reliever Seth McClung, who watched the Mets celebrate because the speedy Castillo hit a grounder to the one place that would result in a hit: in the hole at short.

"I thought it was a pretty nice curveball, away," said McClung, who found immediate trouble when Carlos Delgado led off the bottom of the ninth with an opposite-field double.

"He beat it on the ground. There's not really a lot you can do about it."

After Delgado's double, Carlos Beltran struck out and the Brewers opted to intentionally walk Ryan Church. Omir Santos hit a grounder to short - too soft to turn two - moving the runners up and setting the stage for Castillo.

Castillo also delivered a run with an infield hit to short during the Mets' three-run rally off Dave Bush in the first inning. Bush allowed hits to the first three batters he faced and later walked in a run, the sixth time a Brewers pitcher has done that already this season.

But, just as quickly, Bush found his groove, tossing shutout ball for the next five innings to give the Brewers a chance to come back against Livan Hernandez.

"That (first inning) set me back," said Bush, who needed 30 pitches to get out of that frame. "You've got to throw strikes.

"After that, I kept the ball down and got some ground balls. I mixed my pitches and threw a lot of strikes. I was able to keep my pitch down after (the first inning) and give us a chance to win the game."

A good chance, in fact. After Mike Rivera put the Brewers on the board with a sacrifice fly in the fifth, Ryan Braun put them ahead with a three-run home run - a line-shot down the left-field line - off Hernandez with none down in the sixth.

It was the first homer of the season for Braun, who realized that many fans were worried about him after he battled through an intercostal strain in spring camp.

"Brewer Nation can relax," Braun said. "I hit a home run. Actually, I felt like I've been swinging the bat much better lately."

The lead was short-lived, however. Brewers manager Ken Macha turned to left-hander Mitch Stetter in the seventh and Mets skipper Jerry Manuel immediately countered with pinch hitter Gary Sheffield. The veteran slugger was released by Detroit this spring despite being owed $14.1 million and sitting on 499 career homers.

In an epic nine-pitch at-bat in which he fouled off three two-strike pitches to stay alive, Sheffield finally got hold of an inside fastball from Stetter and drove it out to left for No. 500 and a tie game.

"It was a tough at-bat," Stetter said. "I didn't know if they'd pinch-hit him right away or save him until the next time around. He was up there battling.

"I tried to go in hard with a fastball and he did a good job of keeping it fair. I didn't realize he was sitting on 499. I wasn't even thinking about it. I realized it when the whole dugout came out on the field."

Sheffield, who began his career with the Brewers in 1988 and hit his first home run that season, raised both arms as he watched the flight of the ball.

"He was taking good swings the whole at-bat," Braun said. "It was kind of cool to be part of history like that but I would rather have watched it on TV against some other pitcher."

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.)

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Added: April 18, 2009

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