MILWAUKEE (AP)—Eric Gagne is back—apparently for good.
But just as it has been all season, Gagne’s outing wasn’t without drama. The struggling reliever allowed a single and a walk before getting Juan Pierre to hit into a pop fly and earn his 10th save of the season.
“It feels good,” Gagne said. “A little relief, you know?”
Brewers manager Ned Yost admits he’s taking a gamble by giving Gagne his job back so soon after blowing five saves a little more than a month into the season. But Yost said taking a by-committee approach to closing can disrupt a bullpen, and he ultimately had to trust his player.
“Sure, I could not pitch him so that nobody thinks that I’m stupid for pitching him,” Yost said. “But I’ve never done that. I believe and I trust in my guys, and Eric Gagne’s my closer.”
It was the fifth straight loss for the Dodgers, who started without three top players because of injury, illness and inconsistency.
And it came thanks in large part to Ryan Braun, who continued his hot streak with a two-out, two-run double that put Milwaukee ahead for good in the fifth inning.
But Braun’s big hit might not have happened if Dodgers starter Brad Penny (5-4) hadn’t walked the pitcher to lead off the inning.
“I made the crucial mistake,” Penny said. “I walked the pitcher and that was the difference in the game. I just didn’t throw strikes.”
Coming off one of the worst outings of his career last week, Penny gave up two runs in the first four innings, then led off the fifth with a four-pitch walk to Brewers pitcher Carlos Villanueva (2-4).
Penny came back to get two quick outs and had Milwaukee’s Mike Cameron down 0-2 before giving up a single that brought up Braun, who was coming off back-to-back two-homer games Sunday and Monday.
This time, the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year bashed a double off the left-field wall to give the Brewers the lead. Prince Fielder followed up with a single to score Braun.
“It’s huge,” Braun said. “I am definitely seeing the ball well right now. For me, any pitch that I am getting that I should hit, I am hitting.”
Then came closing time, a sore spot for the Brewers all season.
Milwaukee’s closer situation has been up in the air since Saturday, when Gagne said after another rough outing that he didn’t deserve to pitch the ninth anymore. Gagne said before Monday’s game that he wants another shot at closing, but Yost used him in the seventh and eighth innings Monday night.
Given a chance to close Tuesday, Gagne allowed a leadoff single to Russell Martin before getting Blake DeWitt to hit into a fielder’s choice and Mark Sweeney to fly out. DeWitt advanced to second on a passed ball, and Gagne walked Andruw Jones before getting Pierre to pop out. But Gagne didn’t breathe until the ball ended up in J.J. Hardy’s glove.
“The way it’s been going, you never know,” Gagne said. “Maybe a bird was going to fly out or something.”
Yost said Gagne made a “simple adjustment,” although he wouldn’t provide specifics.
“I just think that he just needed a day to get away from closing, and that day was yesterday,” Yost said.
Villanueva went six innings for Milwaukee, giving up eight hits and three runs (only two were earned) for the win after losing his last four decisions.
The Dodgers have scored a total of 10 runs in their five straight losses.
Los Angeles was playing without three key players on Monday. Manager Joe Torre gave Jones the night off before using him as a pinch-hitter in the ninth, shortstop Rafael Furcal was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 6 with a lower back injury and closer Takashi Saito was unavailable while he recovered from an illness.
Torre said losing Furcal wasn’t the reason the Dodgers were losing.
“He does a lot for us,” Torre said. “But for us to sit here and say that’s the reason that we’re not winning, I don’t think that is the case. He is certainly missed. We still need to pitch better.”
Brewers RHP Yovani Gallardo had surgery Tuesday morning to repair the ACL he tore in his right knee May 1. Assistant general manager Gord Ash said the results were “outstanding” and Gallardo would begin rehabilitation Wednesday. … The Dodgers purchased the contract of Luis Maza from Triple-A Las Vegas to take Furcal’s place.