MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers purchased the contract of Sean Halton from Triple-A Nashville following Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to Chicago, optioning second baseman Scooter Gennett to Nashville to make room.
Halton, 26, is hitting .288 with nine home runs and 35 RBI for the Sounds. Milwaukee’s 13th round pick in the 2009 first-year draft out of Lewis-Clark State College, Halton is a career .294 hitter in the minor leagues and hit a career-best 17 home runs last season in Triple-A.
With Ryan Braun still on the disabled list, Halton will give Brewers manager Ron Roenicke a right-handed option in left field, as Logan Schafer and Caleb Gindl both are left-handed hitters. He’ll also give Roenicke a right-handed option at first base, as Juan Francisco hits left-handed.
As Rickie Weeks has heated up at the plate the Brewers have dropped the platoon at second base with Weeks returning to playing every day. Because of this, Gennett would spend a lot of time on the bench, something the Brewers don’t want to do to their young second baseman.
Pinch-hitting with a man on first base and two outs in the ninth inning, Gennett came a few feet short from winning the game Wednesday with a walk-off home run. He hit .214 with one home run and five RBI in 17 games with the Brewers.
“With Rickie swinging the bat as good as he is, we’d like to play Rick more,” Roenicke said. “We really like Scooter — we don’t want him sitting here. He did a nice job for us; played good defense, almost had a huge hit for us today.
“He’s a good-looking young player. Some things he needs to work on down in Triple-A, but we really like him.”
Gennett agreed with the club’s decision to send him down if he wasn’t going to see consistent playing time in the big leagues.
“I have to get those at-bats in,” Gennett said. “I’m not going to improve if I’m not getting AB’s. It’s unfortunate, but I’ll take an opportunity to get better and be more prepared when I get back.”
Gallardo takes a step back: After going three starts without allowing an earned run, Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo struggled Wednesday, needing 96 pitches to get through four innings.
“Tough outing for him,” Roenicke said. “Command just off. He made some good pitches, but he didn’t have the consistency. He’s got good stuff; he should be able to get hitters out easier than what he did tonight. But it’s always 3-2, and he’s battling to get people out.”
It was a fight from the beginning for Gallardo, as he needed 24 pitches to work out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning. Chicago got two runs off of him in a long second inning, while Ryan Sweeney connected for a solo home run in the third inning.
The damage could have been a lot worse, as Gallardo was able to work out of a couple of jams until Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo delivered a big two-out hit in the fourth inning.
A one-out error by Weeks caused both runs to be unearned, but Rizzo hit an 0-2 fastball back up the middle to score the two runs that turned out to be the difference in the game.
“I was trying to go up,” Gallardo said. “It was a fastball up and in. It was in but it was down. The other starts I’ve had, I was commanding that pitch, locating it where I wanted to. I had some long innings and that doesn’t help. But I got two strikes on him quickly but a simple mistake like that, he puts a good swing on it and puts it up the middle for a base hit.”
While a couple of errors didn’t help his pitch count, Gallardo wasn’t pointing fingers after the game, knowing his command was far from where it was his last three outings.
“I have to do my job first,” Gallardo said. “It’s kind of tough for the defense to be ready when I’m out there struggling with my command. I just have to make pitches and whatever happens after that, it’s out of my hands. The guys behind me, they don’t want to make mistakes. It’s not like they are doing it on purpose. That’s how this game is.”
An RBI double by Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney in the second inning ended Gallardo’s streak without allowing an earned run at 21. Wednesday brought the Gallardo the Brewers saw early in the season, not the one they have seen lately.
“The ball was up,” Gallardo said. “I was leaving it up in the zone, and that’s what led to the big hits they got. I felt good but that was the main thing, leaving the ball up in the zone.”
Lack of execution: In a one-run loss, Milwaukee has to be kicking itself for yet another night where it struggled to execute with runners in scoring position.
The Brewers had a runner on third base with less than two outs three times in Wednesday’s loss, stranding all three. In the third inning, Norichika Aoki doubled and stole third base, but Jean Segura and Jonathan Lucroy struck out to end the frame.
Trailing 5-3 in the eighth inning, Aoki singled, stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball. Lucroy jumped ahead in the count, but Carlos Villanueva got him out in front of a 3-0 change-up, popping out to shallow left field. Aramis Ramirez followed with a strikeout, ending the threat.
After Juan Francisco homered to cut the deficit to 5-4 in the ninth inning, Weeks doubled and was sacrificed to third by Schafer. In the game for Gindl, Yuniesky Betancourt swung at the first pitch and hit a weak ground ball to third base.
Running on contact, Weeks was an easy out at home plate for Valbuena and Cubs catcher Wellington Castillo.
“That’s what he’s supposed to do, go on contact,” Roenicke said of Weeks. “We’ve been hitting balls right at people, so when we hit a ground ball right at them and we don’t have chance to score … the pros and cons of it are you hope it’s hit to the side a little bit more.
“He made a nice play getting it quick and getting rid of it. But you hope it’s chopped more … so they have to go over a couple of steps. I don’t know if it’s luck or what, but we’re hitting ground balls right at people. We’re trying to hit the ball in the air. The big thing is you should try to get the ball in the air.”