Janesville55.4°

Open season on Wolf

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Tom Haudricourt
July 22, 2010
— On the chance that the Milwaukee Brewers’ decision-makers had fooled themselves into thinking their starting pitching really isn’t that bad, we bring you this public service announcement.

It is.


Whatever starting pitching is being offered to general manager Doug Melvin as the July 31 trade deadline approaches, he might consider grabbing it. For the third time in four games Wednesday night, a Brewers starter allowed at least 10 runs to score.


Three times in four games!


“It’s no fun,” said manager Ken Macha. “You sit there where I sit, and it’s no fun.”


Establishing a new low point in an already discouraging season, the Brewers were crushed, 15-3, by the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, with left-hander Randy Wolf getting pummeled for 13 hits and 12 runs in 5 2/3 innings.


With the bullpen overtaxed by previous rotation malfeasance, Macha had no choice but to leave Wolf in to take a beating, establishing career highs for hits and runs allowed. With two down in the sixth, it finally got too ugly to allow it to continue.


“He came in and said, ‘I’ll go back out in the sixth,’ “ said Macha. “I couldn’t let him stay out there any longer.”


Despite watching his earned run average balloon to 5.20, Wolf said he tried to save a few bullpen arms.


“It was my mess out there,” said Wolf, who let the game get away in a six-run fourth inning. “I’d rather me take the abuse than the bullpen.


“I already got killed enough. I don’t care what my ERA is. I was trying to save those guys out there.”


It was woeful starting pitching that bled into the bullpen in the early weeks of the season, quickly dropping the Brewers from the National League Central race. And it’s the starting rotation that’s now hurling them into oblivion, ending any faint hope of making a run toward respectability.


The meltdown started Sunday in Atlanta, when Manny Parra surrendered 10 runs in 5 1/3 innings. On Tuesday against the Pirates, Dave Bush allowed nine runs in the first inning and 10 overall (five earned) in four frames.


Now, this.


The one starting pitcher not ravaged over the last four games, Chris Capuano (one run in five innings Monday), was subsequently removed from the rotation. That’ll teach him to be effective.


For a historical perspective on the awfulness of the Brewers’ pitching this week, the Elias Sports Bureau confirmed that no major-league team had starters allow at least 10 runs three times over a four-game span since the St. Louis Browns in July 1937. Manny Parra, Dave Bush and Randy Wolf, meet Oral Hildebrand, Elon “Chief” Hogsett and Jim Walkup.


Perhaps it was karma that those Browns originated as the Milwaukee Brewers of the American League in 1901.


“It happens,” Wolf said of the recent ugliness. “Every day is different. Tomorrow is a new day. I didn’t do my job today. I know in five days I’ll do a better job.”


Not that the Brewers are going to look for a replacement for Wolf on the trade market. He was their big off-season acquisition, signing a three-year, $29.75 million free-agent deal, which means he keeps getting the ball.


In 21 starts, Wolf (7-9) has surrendered 74 earned runs, most in the NL. He also leads the league with 63 walks. And, after getting tagged for two more home runs, he is tied for the most allowed with 23.


This from a pitcher who compiled a 3.23 ERA last season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, making 24 quality starts and holding opponents to a .227 batting average.


“It’s extremely frustrating,” he said. “I was getting to the point where I liked the way I was throwing the ball.


“It’s happened before but the flare-ups seem to be pretty big this year. There have been two or three games where it’s been a royal butt-kicking. Those games hurt.”


Believe it or not, the Brewers actually led this game, 3-2, going into the fourth inning. But the Pirates tagged Wolf for six runs that inning, capped by Delwyn Young’s three-run homer, and the rout was on.


“They pretty much put a whipping on us,” said Macha.


Then, describing both his starting rotation and team in general, Macha added, “Two steps forward, two steps back.”



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