MILWAUKEE — After starting the homestand with a pair of crisp, well-pitched games, the Milwaukee Brewers continued to struggle to find consistency over a stretch of time.
Like they have all too often recently, the Brewers played one of the sloppiest games of their season Thursday afternoon, committing errors that led to four unearned runs in a 7-2 loss to the Cubs.
By winning two of three in Milwaukee, the Cubs jumped into fourth place, sending the Brewers to the division’s cellar.
“In order for us to get back in this or even get close, we can’t play this type of ball,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “The starting pitching has been better, the relief pitching has been great for a long time; we are getting more consistent offensively. Then we have miscues like this that ends up really hurting us.”
Wily Peralta’s final line Thursday won’t look that appealing, but he wasn’t all that bad. Chicago got two runs in the second inning with just one hard-hit ball, as bloopers and weak ground balls resulted in hits.
Milwaukee’s first defensive miscue came in the second inning, as Martin Maldonado had Ryan Sweeney thrown out trying to steal second base, but Jean Segura dropped the ball. If Segura secures the out, the Cubs don’t score in the inning.
Chicago’s third run scored on a dropped fly ball by left fielder Caleb Gindl, his second drop in as many days. Peralta got Brian Bogusevic to hit a ground ball to third base that should have ended the inning, but first baseman Juan Francisco simply dropped Aramis Ramirez’s throw.
One batter later, Dioner Navarro hit a hanging slider into the seats for a three-run home run. Bad defense turned a close ballgame into a blowout quickly.
“Not very good,” Roenicke said of the defense. “Two bad games on defense, and they cost us. Our pitchers aren’t able to make some pitches to get out of things when we play poorly behind them. You want them to be able to do that, but we didn’t do it today.”
Peralta was able to get through the fifth inning with an elevated pitch count. Only three of the seven runs he allowed were earned, and the majority of the eight hits he allowed weren’t struck well.
“He really should have given up one earned run today, and that’s not too bad,” Roenicke said. “We played poorly behind him. He didn’t make pitches, he didn’t pitch as well as he did last time.”
While Peralta hasn’t consistently pitched well this season, he also has found himself hurt by a bit of bad luck quite a bit. After a few things go against him, he allows a big hit to compound the damage.
“I’ve been through this the whole year,” Peralta said. “Sometimes I make a good pitch and they get a bloop single. In the third inning, I just hung a slider. I wanted it down and away, it was middle in.
“Nobody wants to make errors, it’s going to happen. I have to execute and get people out to pick up my teammates, and I wasn’t able to do that.”
Though this season has been filled with ups and downs, Peralta said he’s doing fine mentally, knowing he can’t let starts like Thursday’s get in the way of his development.
“It’s pretty frustrating the way we’ve been playing,” Peralta said. “You want to go out there and do your best to help the team win. When you aren’t able to make pitches when you need to, it makes a big difference. When there’s an error, I have to be able to pick up my teammates by executing pitches.”
Roenicke was asked if he attributed the lapses on defense during the past two days to a lack of focus, but he feels it’s due to guys playing out of position and the effort is there.
“I don’t think that’s our case,” Roenicke said. “We have some of these games from time to time. We’ve had three of them in the last week and a half to two weeks, which we shouldn’t do. I don’t believe it’s a lack of focus. Guys are still getting after it trying to make plays for the pitching staff. You make errors, and they are piling up right now at a bad time.
“We’ve got some guys that really aren’t in their comfortable positions. I don’t know if that’s the only reason, but I think it’s some of it. Gindl we know is a good right fielder. He has been playing left field quite a few times in Triple-A, but he doesn’t look comfortable out there to me. The ball Francisco dropped today, probably if he’s been there for years, he probably doesn’t drop that ball.”
With so many key players out of the lineup, the Brewers have had to piece together a starting nine all season long, often times playing two or three guys somewhere other than their natural position.
The margin for error is not there with Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and Carlos Gomez absent from the lineup.
“We don’t (have the same margin for error, that’s for sure,” Roenicke said. “It would be nice to say the guys coming up are just as good, but that just isn’t fair. We’ve lost some key spots in our lineup and just positions, just putting guys where they are comfortable.”