Found April 19, 2012 on Fox Sports Wisconsin:
MILWAUKEE Four straight losses had followed the Brewers back to Milwaukee on Tuesday, four straight early-season slip-ups that marked a vaunted pitching staff with the worst ERA in the National League and a lineup struggling in key spots. Last year's NL Central title winners had stumbled out of the gate to a 4-6 record. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke had watched his team slide in the first month of last year's season as well. And although that season ended with a spot in the NLCS, he wasn't going to bet on it again. "If we play like this," Roenicke said after being swept in Atlanta on Sunday, we're going to get beat everywhere. We can't continue to play like this." And with the Dodgers the league's hottest team at 9-1 coming to town, the Brewers needed something to get their April back on track. On Tuesday, it was a George Kottaras double and a sneaky Mat Gamel slide that started pushing Milwaukee back in the right direction. On Wednesday, it was Nyjer Morgan, ignoring the stop sign from third base coach Ed Sedar on a Ryan Braun sac fly and scoring in the bottom of the 10th. And if it weren't for a diving web gem of a play from former Brewer and current Dodgers third baseman Jerry Hairston in the eighth inning Thursday, it might've been a sweep for the Brewers, whose next six games are against teams they arguably outmatch both on the mound and in the lineup. Three very close games decided this Dodgers-Brewers series, and the fact Milwaukee was able to pull out two of those games in the late innings has to be encouraging for a team that lost by six or more runs in its first three losses of the season. Zack Greinke said it best Wednesday: This is how the Brewers won games last year. And certainly, with the unparalleled success of last season's squad, anyone in Milwaukee would likely take a repeat of 2011's results. But what's most encouraging for a team that has struggled with consistency in the lineup thus far is that the Brewers' clutch offensive contributions the past three games have come from guys near the bottom of the order or on the bench, guys like Kottaras, Travis Ishikawa and Mat Gamel all of whom played major roles in one or more of Milwaukee's games this series. Those three alone combined for seven hits, six RBI and four runs in the series. With sluggers Ryan Braun and Corey Hart struggling against the Dodgers, Milwaukee's bench and bottom of the order were able to pick up the slack something Roenicke hopes is a sign of things to come. It certainly helps when you talk about deep lineups, and you get guys six, seven, eight contributing," Roenicke said. If we do that through the season, we're going to score a lot of runs. I know our three, four hitters, they're going to hit. If we can continue to do that at the bottom, we'll be good." Still, consistency remains the biggest question mark for Milwaukee, with plenty of new parts still adjusting to their roles. Gamel and new cleanup man Aramis Ramirez seemed to take a step forward in this series, as both hit their first home runs in Milwaukee uniforms. And if both of them can produce enough to make the Brewers at least forget for a second that Prince Fielder used to reside at first base, then it's going to be a joyful season at Miller Park. Of course, it's too early in the season to give any specific series a special level of credence or pass any definitive judgment on where Milwaukee stands, especially when the Dodgers' schedule had included the bottom-dwelling likes of San Diego and Pittsburgh before coming to Milwaukee. But a series win against a team tabbed the hottest in baseball" no matter how premature that title may be sure means something. And getting back in the right direction in April, well, down the line that can mean a whole lot more. Follow Ryan Kartje on Twitter.
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