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Brewers' offense silenced by McClellan

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R.B. FALLSTROM
May 9, 2011
— Aside from pinch hitter Craig Counsell's epic at-bat, the Milwaukee Brewers' offense flopped yet again.

Counsell kept the Brewers alive with a bases-loaded infield RBI single on the 13th pitch from Eduardo Sanchez. But the Brewers lasted only one more hitter in a 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.


Milwaukee batted only .171 and totaled 17 runs while getting shut out three times during a 2-8 trip and is a major-league worst 6-15 on the road overall.


"Whether it's a play here or there, things seem to be against us," losing pitcher Chris Narveson said. "In the toughest of times, you've got to keep your head up and stay positive because the next game could be the game that helps you break out of it."


Nobody's struggling more than the Brewers' top two threats.


Ryan Braun, the NL offensive player of the month in April, had a broken-bat single and is in a 3 for 29 slump this month with no RBIs. Prince Fielder's single to start the ninth snapped an 0-for-16 slump, and he's 3 for 28 in May with a homer and one RBI.


"I haven't seen anything like this from these guys, that's for sure," said the 40-year-old Counsell, in his fifth straight season with Milwaukee. "It's all of us. Braun and Prince aren't going to be the guys every single day.


"That's not how it's going to work, so we've all got a job to do."


Kyle McClellan (5-0) worked into the ninth inning to become the NL's third five-game winner and the bullpen labored to get the final three outs. Colby Rasmus had a two-run double and Tyler Greene matched his career best with three hits for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, who took two of three in the series.


Albert Pujols, who led the league with 42 doubles last season, hit his second this year with a drive to the warning track that center fielder Carlos Gomez lost in the sun.


McClellan, the Cardinals' former setup man, took a three-hit shutout into the ninth and left after Prince Fielder's leadoff single.


The Brewers went on to load the bases with two outs and, down to their final strike, pinch-hitter Craig Counsell fouled off seven pitches with two strikes. The pesky Counsell ended a 13-pitch at-bat with an infield RBI single off Eduardo Sanchez.


"He kept throwing strikes and I couldn't put the barrel on it, so it was a fun at-bat, for sure," Counsell said. "I would have loved to have hit a grand slam but when you get two strikes on you, you're just trying to get on base any way you can."


Fernando Salas then struck out Rickie Weeks on three pitches for his third save in three chances.


McClellan had his longest outing of the year. The strong effort came five days after a five-inning appearance that was his shortest. McClellan took injured Adam Wainwright's spot in the rotation, is tied with Kevin Correia of the Pirates and Roy Halladay of the Phillies for the NL victory lead.


McClellan escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first created by Greene's fielding error at second base by getting Yuniesky Betancourt on an infield popup. The Brewers had only two runners in scoring position the next six innings.


Narveson (1-3) gave up two earned runs in six innings on six days' rest and has lost three straight decisions. He struggled against the bottom of the order, with seventh- and eighth-place hitters Nick Punto and Greene combining for four hits and a sacrifice fly.


Punto singled and Greene reached on an infield hit to start the fifth. The runners stayed put when McClellan popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt third base umpire Gary Darling ruled that Narveson intentionally dropped it Rasmus followed with a double into the right-field corner that easily scored both runners.


"The one inning they scored there was a seeing-eye ground ball through the right side and an infield single," Narveson said. "That's baseball. Any of those balls hit right at somebody, you've got a double play."


Lance Berkman's grounder to open the sixth scooted between third baseman Casey McGehee's legs at third for a two-base error and he scored on Punto's one-out sacrifice fly.


NOTES: Greene has a pair of three-hit games, the other on June 10, 2009 at Florida. He had been in an 0 for 16 slump. ... The Brewers are 1-6 in Narveson's starts. ... McClellan had been 0-4 with a 2.82 ERA in 22 career relief outings against the Brewers, none longer than two innings.



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