MILWAUKEE -- Johnny Hellweg made another early exit, and the Brewers opened their final homestand before the All-Star break with a stinker.
Looking every bit a rookie, Hellweg was burned in his home debut by walks, some maddeningly well-placed Mets hits, his own fielding mistake and errors by shortstop Jean Segura and third baseman Aramis Ramirez that added up to a 12-5 Brewers loss at Miller Park.
"I think this guy's going to be a good Major League pitcher," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said, "but we have to get that command issue straightened out, and we need to play better behind him. He's going to get a lot of ground balls, and on the infield you'd better be ready."
But the Brewers misplayed balls in the field beyond their three errors (Ramirez was hit with a pair) and ran into three outs on the bases, including two at home plate. Those blemishes aside, the most troubling element of Friday's loss may have been the ongoing struggles of Hellweg, a ballyhooed, big-armed pitching prospect who had been knocked out of his Major League debut seven days earlier after 1 2/3 similarly ugly innings and been urged the next day to be more aggressive in his subsequent start.
Instead, Hellweg had trouble finding the strike zone. He walked in a run in the first inning and did not make it through the end of the fourth this time, removed from the game with the bases loaded, two outs and Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler due to bat with a chance to add to New York's 7-2 lead. When reliever Tyler Thornburg retired Wheeler, Hellweg still was stuck with a messy pitching line: 3 2/3 innings, seven hits, seven runs (three earned), five walks, one wild pitch and zero strikeouts. He threw 56 of 93 pitches for strikes.
Roenicke could not commit to another start for the 24-year-old. The decision will hinge, in part, on whether Wily Peralta's hamstring is healthy enough to pitch against the Mets on Sunday.
If Peralta is healthy and Alfredo Figaro returns soon from the disabled list as expected, Hellweg may find himself back at Triple-A Nashville, where he was 6-0 with a 1.64 ERA in the seven starts before his promotion to Milwaukee.
"I had a good roll going down there, and a lot of change of scenery and schedule and everything, I guess is speeding the game up for me a little bit," Hellweg said.
Is he putting too much pressure on himself?
"I want to go out there and show the team I can do it, put up some zeros when they give me runs," Hellweg said. "But as far as putting more pressure on myself, I'm trying to go out there and keep a good mind state, so I'm trying not to do that."
Mets right fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis entered the day batting .179 in limited at-bats but had four RBIs by the end of the fourth inning and finished 4-for-4 with a pair of walks and a career-high five RBIs as New York won its third straight road game.
For the Brewers, center fielder Carlos Gomez was a bright spot, going 4-for-5 at the plate and making a leaping catch in the seventh inning to take a home run away from pinch-hitter Marlon Byrd. But Gomez made a mistake in the bottom of the inning when he got greedy and was thrown out at third trying to stretch his RBI double into a triple.
The Brewers missed other opportunities against Wheeler, who did just enough to win by holding the home team to three runs (one earned) on seven hits in five innings. His biggest pitch was his last, a slider low in the zone for a called strike three with the bases loaded against Brewers first baseman Juan Francisco, who had homered an inning earlier.
The Brewers helped Wheeler's cause when Segura was thrown out at home in the first inning after running through third base coach Ed Sedar's late stop sign, and when Norichika Aoki was thrown out at home on a double steal in the third.
Roenicke took the blame for the Aoki out, saying, "I didn't communicate the play well enough." The others, he chalked up to judgment calls.
"We know where we are in the score and sometimes you have to play a little cautious, but we haven't done well when we've played cautious this year," Roenicke said. "Every time we've sat back and not steal and do the things we're capable of doing to make our offense go, it seems like nothing happens and we don't score runs. I still think we need to be aggressive. We're going to make some mistakes and we did today."
Hellweg made many, including what he called "a lapse of judgment" with the teams tied at 2 in the second inning. Segura's misplay of an Eric Young Jr. grounder put runners at first and third with one out for Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, who hit a comebacker. Instead of trying for an inning-ending double play, Hellweg instead threw to third, where the runner was safe.
"I kind of had a little lapse of judgment right there," Hellweg said. "As soon as the ball came back to me, I thought that there was a guy at third. With the ground ball before, I just spaced on the guy being at first when the ball got back to me. It wasn't the right play."
Ike Davis cashed in with two outs by dribbling an RBI infield hit to shortstop that gave the Mets a 3-2 lead, and Nieuwenhuis followed with a two-run single that sneaked under second baseman Rickie Weeks' glove and into right field.
The Mets tacked on two more runs in the fourth inning, one of which was unearned when Ramirez bobbled a John Buck grounder.
"That's how you win at this level," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "If you're going to have games where teams are going to give you outs, you'd better take advantage of it, because that's how you're going to win. You look at those first two innings and we scored some runs because they made some mistakes. Then you look at the end of the game, and that could have been a big difference."