The pressure of a pennant race may be getting to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Struggling to win games and now pointing fingers among themselves, the Brewers try to regroup behind rookie Yovani Gallardo as they open a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Miller Park on Friday.
The Brewers’ run atop the NL Central ended at 103 days on Wednesday when they fell one percentage point behind the Chicago Cubs. Manager Ned Yost, who has noticed his team pressing more as the standings drew tighter, was not pleased with his team’s effort in Thursday’s 12-4 loss to the New York Mets— Milwaukee’s 10th defeat in 14 games.
That frustration hit a boiling point during the game as Yost and catcher Johnny Estrada got into a heated dispute in the clubhouse tunnel in the seventh inning. Players stepped between the two after Estrada returned to the bench following a three-run rally by the Mets in the top of the inning.
“There was frustration expressed on a number of different sides about our style of play and about the way we’ve been playing,” Yost said. “We handled it and took care of it like good teams do.”
Milwaukee (58-51) has lost consecutive series at home—where it is 37-19— after losing just four previously all season.
“It’s our business,” Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder said. “It’s team business. I think it’s good for the players, for us, we go over some business stuff and it should put us back on track.”
Gallardo (3-1, 2.72 ERA) now has the task of helping the Brewers regroup. The 21-year-old was in line for a win Sunday after giving up four runs in five innings, but St. Louis rallied for a 9-5 victory.
The right-hander has been tough at Miller Park, going 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three starts and four overall appearances, striking out 20 in 24 innings. Gallardo is facing the Phillies for the first time.
Brewers leadoff hitter Corey Hart homered twice in Thursday’s loss and is 11-for-37 (.297) with four homers and eight RBIs in his last eight games.
The Phillies (57-51) earned a split of a four-game series with the Chicago Cubs with a 10-6 victory in the series finale Thursday afternoon. Pat Burrell homered and drove in four RBIs for Philadelphia, which has won 10 of its last 13 games to close within four games of New York in the NL East.
“They stopped us after three innings. They kept coming at us, they were gaining on us, but then we got that three spot on in the ninth,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, whose team took a 7-1 lead after 2 1/2 innings.
Burrell has been enjoying his best stretch of the season in a current 11-game hitting streak, batting a torrid .531 (17-for-32) with three homers and 10 RBIs. A lifetime .270 hitter with eight homers and 26 RBIs against the Brewers, Burrell also has drawn 11 walks during his hitting streak.
Phillies rookie Kyle Kendrick (5-1, 4.04) tries to win his second straight start after one of his best outings since being called up in June. The right-hander limited the Pittsburgh Pirates to one run in seven innings of a 5-1 victory Sunday.
“He pitches with a lot of poise for a young kid. I like that,” Manuel said. “He studies the game and is very prepared for each start.”
The 22-year-old is 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA in four starts since the All-Star break, but 1-1 with a 5.71 ERA in three road starts. Kendrick is making his first appearance against the Brewers.
The Phillies took three of four games from the Brewers at home from May 14-17.