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Starter, closer make pitch for jobs in Brewers' win

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- The start of the final series of the year for a Milwaukee Brewers team long out of playoff contention was, in many ways, a job audition for starting pitcher Johnny Hellweg and closer Jim Henderson.

The results were mixed in the eyes of Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, who saw his team beat the New York Mets 4-2 despite some inconsistent pitching on Thursday night at Citi Field.

"I don't know, it was an interesting evening," Roenicke said. "It just seems like we weren't exactly on, but we still did OK."

Hellweg, the Brewers' most heralded pitching prospect since being acquired from the Angels in the Zack Greinke trade a year ago, threw 80 pitches in four innings and just 37 were strikes. The lanky right-hander gave up one earned run and two hits, striking out three, but he walked four and hit two batters.

"I was ready to go back out there, I wanted to, but from what I showed in the previous four innings I couldn't argue too much for my case," Hellweg said.

In Triple-A, Hellweg went 12-5 with a 3.15 ERA in 23 starts en route to being named Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year and the Brewers' Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

But that success hasn't followed him to the majors. He is 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA, eight hit batters and four wild pitches.

"We've got a long ways to go," Roenicke said. "It's nice he's getting through innings now. First couple of times he couldn't get through innings. But he's got to command the ball better. He does it at times, but then he'll lose it."

Roenicke said he wanted to keep Hellweg out there to get the win, but his command was too inconsistent despite not getting hit hard and having an early four-run cushion, highlighted by a two-run single from Scooter Gennett in the second inning.

"I'm looking up at the board and he's got two hits given up and one run and I'm taking him out after the fourth inning," Roenicke said. "That's weird."

Hellweg hit back-to-back batters in the third inning, including David Wright in the helmet. The Mets third baseman left the game but passed concussion tests.

"I'm feeling fine," Wright said. "It was more just precautionary that they didn't want me to stay in the game, so I feel pretty good, I passed all the concussion tests and went through that protocol so everything seems like it's good."

Mets starter Dillon Gee (12-11) picked up the loss. He allowed four runs -- all in the second inning -- and seven hits, striking out two with two walks.

Gee finishes the season with 199 innings pitched, one year after missing the entire second half recovering from surgery on his pitching shoulder.

"He should be very proud of the year he's had because he's pitched very, very well," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He's kept us in about every game he's pitched in. Tonight, he just didn't have his normal stuff and we didn't get him any runs to work with, but Dillon Gee has had a good year."

The same could be said of Brewers closer Jim Henderson, who picked up his 27th save despite giving up a solo home run to Josh Satin and a double to Justin Turner in the ninth inning.

Henderson will be competing for a spot when spring training starts, just like Hellweg.

"He comes into camp certainly with the idea he's going to be one of the guys looking to win a job," Roenicke said. "But we also know that there's some progress that needs to be made there. We certainly like his stuff, we like that he doesn't give up hits. When he's throwing it over the plate, I don't think he's going to give up a lot of runs."

NOTES: Brewers CF Carlos Gomez served a one-game suspension from Major League Baseball for his role in a benches-clearing fracas against the Braves on Wednesday night in Atlanta. He chose not to appeal. "I was expecting it after what happened last night," he said. "It's not good for baseball, all that's going on. You have to take it like a man and be responsible for the stuff that I did. Just take the game today and come back tomorrow and continue to finish hard and strong." ... Brewers 3B Aramis Ramirez tweaked his left knee during the altercation and did not play Thursday night. ... Mets RHP Matt Harvey (elbow) was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. ... Baxter started his third consecutive game. "I just thought he's been swinging pretty good," Collins said. "It was about three games ago he put some good swings on the bat -- he hit the ball hard. He doesn't have a lot to show for it, but he swung the bat very well."
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