Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 6/24/12
It was a painfully slow start in 2012 for the Brewers' starting rotation, as all five hurlers struggled to find a rhythm. But with those days seemingly long gone, Milwaukee's starters haven't lost a game since June 9. So why aren't the Brewers making the same headway in the division race that they did last season? For one, during that 13-game span without a starter-induced loss, the Brewers are just 6-7. That means seven losses have come at the hands of Milwaukee relievers. And on Sunday afternoon, it was more of the same for the Brewers' pitching staff. Young right-hander Michael Fiers tossed 7-13 shutout innings with seven strikeouts, dominating the White Sox and allowing just five hits, two of which came in the seventh. But even after Fiers' picture-perfect start and an impressive two-out stint from Francisco Rodriguez, in which the reliever struck out two straight batters with two runners in scoring position, the Brewers couldn't make the minor moves to give their struggling bullpen some room. "We're playing all these close ballgames and we're not doing little things to help us win games," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. And those little things start with the effort from Milwaukee's relievers. For instance, after Fiers walked just one of the 28 batters he faced on Sunday, Jose Veras and Manny Parra combined for three walks in 1-13 innings. Roenicke specifically mentioned the late walks as a problem for the Brewers' bullpen. On top of that, Veras and Parra also allowed four hits to just four outs. The Milwaukee bullpen has been consistently inconsistent this season, so this performance was nothing new for Roenicke and the rest of the Brewers. Now, with the struggles more frequent, Brewers' relievers currently have an average ERA of 4.13. Of course, the bullpen wasn't the only cause of the small mistakes that have plagued the Brewers recently. Baserunning mistakes from Norichika Aoki and Nyjer Morgan foiled good opportunities throughout Sunday's game. A few unlucky breaks, including a robbed Corey Hart home run may have turned the tables. "For whatever reason, thing are just not clicking for us," manager Ron Roenicke told reporters on Sunday. "It's not just the pitching. We'll get into a game where the pitching is really good and we'll have opportunities to score runs and we don't score runs. Everything is a little bit off. We'll be good for a couple games but then all of a sudden we lose it and can't stay consistent with it." But consistently, it's been the bullpen that has hurt Milwaukee late in games. And on Sunday, without much offensive output, the relief staff again couldn't hold on after a dominant performance from a Brewers' starter. "When we had the winning formula, it was because the bullpen was so good," Roenicke told reporters. "Every time we brought them in, they'd throw up zeroes, they would keep that lead or they'd give us a chance to get back into it. And we're not doing that." Follow Ryan Kartje on Twitter.
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