Lohse's gem, two home runs lead Brewers to win
Gomez breaks out of funk with fifth-inning shot, Francisco goes deep
MILWAUKEE -- Considering the way they limped into the All-Star break, this was just the re-Opening Day the Brewers needed.
Kyle Lohse started a new quality start streak by delivering six scoreless innings, Juan Francisco hit his 12th home run of the season and Carlos Gomez added his 15th of the year to bust out of his slump and help the Brewers to a 2-0 win over the Marlins at steamy Miller Park on Friday night.
If the 39-56 Crew is going to attempt the long climb back toward .500, this was as good a place as any to start.
"Hey, I'm not worried about getting back to .500 or where we're going to end up. I want to play good baseball," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We played good baseball tonight."
Francisco's opposite-field home run off Marlins starter Jacob Turner put the Brewers ahead in the fourth inning, and Gomez's shot in the fifth may have been just as auspicious. The All-Star center fielder finished the first half in a 2-for-32 funk, and began the second half by making inning-ending outs in the first and third innings, stranding a pair of runners each time.
But with the bases empty and two outs -- and two strikes against him -- Gomez connected on a curveball and sent it down the left-field line. He watched the ball fly, and when it wrapped around the right side of the foul pole, Gomez began his customary sprint around the bases. It was his team-best 15th home run.
"I kind of looked at it, but I kept my hands inside really good and I thought I hit it fair," Gomez said. "Anytime you hit a home run it feels good, especially in a close game like that. We started off on a good foot for the second half."
Has he been feeling any pressure during his midseason slump?
"Not really," Gomez said, "because if you look at the last seven years of my career, always this month is tough for me. Why, I don't know. It's weird. But it's been like that, up and down. These [last] three weeks, I've been getting past lots of stuff."
He has played through a sore left shoulder, which he injured making a wall-crashing catch on June 23 against the Braves. He's also played with a sore right thumb, which he said he sprained on a headfirst slide into second base. Neither is completely healed.
"They are little things that complicate it when you want to be really, really good," Gomez said. "I've been playing because I don't think to play baseball games you need to be 100 percent. I don't put out excuses, but sometimes there are little things that don't let you do exactly what you want to."
His confidence remains high.
"I'm not worried," Gomez said.
He connected with what Turner called "a terrible pitch," and handed the young Marlins right-hander a first: His first Major League game allowing more than one home run. Turner had allowed only one home run in his first eight starts this season, but took the loss after allowing two runs on five hits and four walks in five innings, striking out six.
"I definitely didn't have my best stuff," he said. "You're not going to have it every day. It's just a matter of trying to make as many pitches when you have to. Unfortunately, the home runs."
Lohse, the Brewers' best pitcher before the All-Star break, began the second half with his team-best 12th quality start. He scattered five hits -- four singles plus a Logan Morrison double in the sixth that popped out of Gomez's glove at the wall. He struck out five and, for the sixth time this season, Lohse pitched at least six innings without issuing a walk.
"It was very humid out there," Lohse said. "Sometimes when it gets like that, it gets a little tough to grip the ball, because you've got so much sweat dripping down your arm. Tonight I didn't throw as many changeups because I couldn't get the grip very well. Everything else was working, so we didn't need it."
Relievers John Axford, Jim Henderson and Francisco Rodriguez -- each drawing interest as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline nears -- pitched scoreless innings. Rodriguez earned his 10th save and the Brewers improved to 6-3 this season when they are involved in a shutout.
They also improved to 12-3 at home against the Marlins in the past five seasons, the Brewers' best mark against any opponent in that span.
"We didn't play well [before the break], even though we had chances in Arizona to beat a good team, and it didn't work out," Lohse said. "It felt good to get the second half started this way. We just have to keep playing clean games and keep it going."