Fiers continues struggles in Brewers loss

BY foxsports • September 25, 2012

For 12 straight starts -- his first 12 in the major leagues -- Mike Fiers looked ready to set the Milwaukee Brewers rotation on fire. He had "potential Rookie of the Year candidate" written all over him, turning in a 1.80 ERA and .218 opponents' batting average in that span that made him baseball's most effective pitcher at the time.
But on Tuesday, like it's been during most of Fiers' starts lately, that time seemed distant. While the rest of Milwaukee's rotation has kicked it into gear in the past month, Fiers has slowly been falling out of it, with a 6.70 ERA in his last nine starts.
And in a potentially do-or-die series opener with the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday — with the Brewers in danger of losing back-to-back games for the first time in a month — Fiers couldn't find the dynamite command that had made him so dominant to start his career.
Could fatigue finally be slowing Fiers down? After all, he's pitched almost 200 innings, if you include both his Triple-A and major league starts this season. But manager Ron Roenicke said after Tuesday's game that he didn't think that fatigue was a contributing factor.
"That's why I think his stuff is still fine," Roenicke said. "It's just location, him getting behind the count. He throws four innings, and he's at 88 pitches or something — definitely not efficient with his pitches."
The most troubling part of Fiers' outing on Tuesday — which, like in three of his last five starts, lasted less than five innings — was his inconsistency. One moment, he'd look completely in control of his breaking ball. The next inning, he couldn't get it down in the zone, as hard as he tried.
Fiers started off the game with two strikeouts in a clean first inning. He followed it up in the second inning with four straight hits allowed to the Reds without a single out. Then, again in the third inning, Fiers seemed to find his mark, striking out the side.
But with so many pitches already thrown, Fiers lasted just 4.1 innings and still surpassed the 100-pitch mark. 
"You'll see a lot of really good pitches," Roenicke said, "and then a hanging curveball to (Jay) Bruce, a fastball he got up to (Zack) Cozart, most of the pitches are up in the zone."
Confidence has been one question with Fiers lately, as his body language has given subtle hints that he's pressing a bit on the mound. It's certainly something that Roenicke didn't rule out when asked about it after Tuesday's game.
"I don't know if it's ocnfidence, end of the year, I don't know," Roenicke said. "There's a lot of things that go on this time of year that a guy that hasn't been through it, you always have those questions of what's going on. It's good for these guys; it's great experience for them."
For the future, Fiers can learn from the struggles. But for the young right-hander and the Brewers right now, it could mean a nearby shutdown and hopes of a playoff bid slipping away faster than ever before.
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