Much to delight of Milwaukee manager Ken Macha, Randy Wolf gave the Brewers' bullpen some much-needed relief with six strong innings Saturday against the D-backs.
It's an area where the club needs improvement. Last year, the 5.37 ERA for starters tied Baltimore for worst in the Majors. This year, Brewers starters are averaging about 5 1/2 innings per game.
On Sunday, it will be up to Chris Narveson to improve on that average in the finale. The D-backs will counter with Ian Kennedy in the hope of winning at least one game in the three-game series.
"The most valuable guys in the starting area are the guys who go out there deep," Macha said. "Guys like [Phillies ace Roy] Halladay, who give the whole bullpen a day off. Are there many guys like that? There's not too many." The Brewers don't have one. Yovani Gallardo threw the team's only complete game in 2009, and only one starter has pitched into the eighth inning this year. Wolf worked a team-best eight frames in a win over the Pirates on April 27.
"Maybe we're just in a little streak here," Macha said. Asked whether he felt the bullpen was reaching a "danger zone," Macha said, "No. I don't think guys are going to break down."
Narveson has been effective in both of his starts since taking the struggling Jeff Suppan's spot, allowing just nine hits and six walks in 11 innings total. He has been dominating left-handers, holding them to a .156 batting average, but right-handers are batting .404 against him.
As for Kennedy, he did not allow a run over 6 2/3 innings to earn a 1-0 win in his last start against Houston. In the previous start, he cruised through seven innings against the Cubs, allowing just one run, but ran into trouble in the eighth inning. He loaded the bases in the eventful inning, but Kosuke Fukudome unloaded them when he hit a first-pitch fastball just over the wall in left for a grand slam.
"I tried to throw a two-seamer, and he was looking for a fastball, obviously," Kennedy said of the pitch to Fukudome.
Kennedy has shown poise. He pitched five innings or less in his first three starts of the season, but he's gone at least eight innings in two of his last three outings.
"My confidence never went away," Kennedy said. "You know when you believe in your ability."
Brewers: Crew on a roll
Rickie Weeks recorded his 10th multi-hit game of the season Saturday. ... Prince Fielder has hit safely in five consecutive games and is batting .333 (7-for-21) over that stretch. ... Ryan Braun has hit safely in five straight games and is hitting .409 (9-for-22). ... Jody Gerut's cycle was the third hit against the D-backs, with the last coming on July 28, 2006, by Houston's Luke Scott.
D-backs: Johnson is streaking
Kelly Johnson has hit safely in eight of his last 10 games and is hitting .293 (12-for-41) over that stretch. ... Conor Jackson has hit safely in eight straight games (beginning on April 11) and he's batting .294 (10-for-34) during that stretch. ... The D-backs allowed a season-high 17 runs in Saturday's game, the eighth time in franchise history they have allowed 17 or more runs, and the first since Aug. 24, 2005, against the Mets, when they gave up 18 runs.
Gerut loves playing against the D-backs, he's hitting .392 in 25 games against them in his career, which includes Saturday night's cycle.
Gerut, who finished 4-for-6 with four RBIs Saturday, was the first Milwaukee player to hit for the cycle since Chad Moeller in 2004.
"It was unlike anything I've ever experienced, that kind of appreciation," he said. "It was great. I just tried to clear out my head and take the at-bat and not try to do too much [in the last at-bat]."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.