Brewers' offense falls flat against Cubs, Hamels

August 3rd, 2019

CHICAGO -- The Brewers have bidding to win a second straight National League MVP Award. They have hotshot , who on Saturday became the first Brewers player in a decade to be named NL Rookie of the Month. They have a couple of All-Stars in and who were brought in as one-year free agents at a cost of more than $28 million, each in the midst of productive seasons.

So why can’t the Brewers seem to score in bunches lately?

It’s a question that manager Craig Counsell & Co. are trying to figure out.

“Look, it’s a really important part of the rest of the season for us -- to put runs on the board,” Counsell said before another frustrating showing in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field. “We’re very capable of it. I think we have the names in the lineup we want, the health. It’s all there. And it just happened. The big hits just haven’t been there.”

The Brewers were shut out for five innings by in the Cubs left-hander’s return from the injured list before put Milwaukee on the board in the sixth when he punched an 0-2 pitch into center field to make it a tie game. Chicago broke the logjam in the seventh with ’s line-drive home run to the basket in left field off , then added two runs in the eighth against to hand the Brewers their third straight loss and fifth in six games.

It dropped Milwaukee three games behind the Cardinals and Cubs in the NL Central, pending the Cards’ game on Saturday night.

“It’s hard not to press, especially in this situation against the Cubs, our bitter rivals,” said Eric Thames, whose ninth-inning double represented Milwaukee’s last gasp. “It’s just one of those times. We’re approaching the dog days of August, and that’s when everyone gets slow. The bat’s getting a little heavier, the body’s getting tired. That happens throughout the league. Arms get tired, too. This is the month you have to really grind it out. Yeah, it’s going to be hard to score runs sometimes, but that’s when you have to scrape runs together …

“August and September are when things start to pick up, and it’s one of those things where now it’s starting to be a critical time. We have to avoid thinking about that, because that’s when you really start to press.”

Said , the veteran starter: “As long as we keep having the drive to fight and play baseball, that’s all that matters. We can’t look too far into the future.”

The second half began with promise for Milwaukee’s lineup, which scored at least five runs in 11 13 games coming out of the All-Star break. But in eight games since, starting with a well-pitched series victory against the Cubs at Miller Park from July 26-28, the Brewers have averaged three runs per game while hitting .170 (9-for-53) with runners in scoring position. That includes Saturday’s 1-for-7.

For the season, the Brewers’ .244 average with runners in scoring position is last in the NL.

“The lineup I’m writing out every day, I really like it. I do. I think it’s capable of scoring a lot of runs,” Counsell said. “At this point, I think it’s [about] us just getting the big hits. We have guys on base; we just have to get big hits. If I’m looking at all the numbers, that’s the number that’s not there.

“It’s a timing issue as much as anything. We just have to have better timing [with our hits].”

Because that timing has been off, Brewers pitchers have had a razor-thin margin in games like Saturday’s, when Gonzalez returned from a shoulder scare to throw 71 pitches in 4 1/3 innings before Counsell preemptively went to the bullpen facing a one-run deficit. took over and recorded five outs on 11 pitches, then Braun tied the game in the top of the sixth.

But in the seventh, Guerra took over and blinked.

“That’s how these games have been going,” Counsell said. “The bullpen is pitching with the game on the line every pitch. They’ve got to be perfect, and they’re not going to be perfect every day. We need to score some more runs, and we will. But obviously, when you’re going through it, it doesn’t feel good. We just have to know we’re going to come through it and get out of it and be a good offensive team.”