Banks can't escape four-run fifth in loss
Righty allows six walks, seven runs; Sabathia stymies offense
SAN DIEGO -- Unharmed but not untouchable, Milwaukee's CC Sabathia didn't toss a shutout on Wednesday, nor did he manage to give the Brewers' bullpen the entire night off, two things he is apt to doing on occasion.
But Sabathia, who had provided much more than a pick-me-up to a team in the hunt for the playoffs, was plenty good at PETCO Park, even if his latest start did not measure up to the absurdly lofty expectations established by his own performance.
Sabathia allowed one run on nine hits as the Brewers won their eighth consecutive game, this time a 7-1 decision over the Padres before a crowd of 32,771 who saw Milwaukee do a little bashing and more than just a little pitching.
And while Sabathia -- who is now 7-0 in eight starts since joining the Brewers after being traded from Cleveland in July -- didn't exactly blow past the Padres (46-74), the left-hander did show exactly why the Brewers added him in the first place.
Well, for other reasons than the obvious -- winning.
Take the fifth inning of Wednesday's game for example. Milwaukee had taken a 7-1 lead in the top of the inning thanks to, in large part, Corey's Hart's bases-clearing triple down the left-field line that kicked around in the corner like a pinball machine.
Sabathia, who had faced these Padres on June 15 while still with Cleveland -- loaded the bases quicker than you can say Wild Card, allowing consecutive hits to Luis Rodriguez, Scott Hairston and finally an infield single to Brian Giles.
Normally, this would qualify as a red-flag moment for a pitcher, though for Sabathia, it hardly merited a moment to sweat, as he proceeded to get Kevin Kouzmanoff to pop up to shortstop J.J Hardy for the first out and then got Adrian Gonzalez for the second out with a nasty slider away.
Sabathia then ran a fastball in on the hands of rookie Chase Headley, causing the bat to splinter and allowing the ball to trickle just far enough down the third-base line so Craig Counsell could pick it up and step on the bag for the final out.
"We fouled off some pitches, but couldn't break through," San Diego manager Bud Black said of the missed opportunity in the fifth inning."
It was these kind of moments that the Brewers (70-51) envisioned when they traded for Sabathia, who could well bolt during the offseason. But if Milwaukee makes the postseason for the first time since 1982, it would all be worth it.
In all fairness to the big left-hander, Sabathia might have allowed nine hits, but two of them never left the infield. He walked one batter over seven innings and had eight strikeouts. The only run he allowed came on a fielder's choice in the fourth inning after Headley doubled with one out and eventually scored on a ground ball.
"He throws his fastball in the mid-90s, has a good change and a good slider. He's won a Cy Young and been on All-Star teams. There's no secret as to why he's pitching the way he is."
And the early run support Sabathia received made him more dangerous, as the Brewers scored three times in the second inning against Josh Banks (3-5). The first run came on Prince Fielder's second home run in as many days.
Banks had trouble with his command for his 4 1/3 innings, his shortest stint this season since moving into the starting rotation in late May. He walked six, though one walk was intentional. The six walks, not surprisingly, were a season high.
"It looked as though he couldn't get his secondary pitches over and was pulling off his fastball," Black said. "It was atypical of what we've seen."
The night wasn't a complete loss, as rookie shortstop Sean Kazmar, recalled on Tuesday from Double-A San Antonio, got his first start and got a hit on the first pitch that he saw from Sabathia in the second inning.
"I think everyone I talked to said I should swing at a first-pitch fastball," said Kazmar, who was 1-for-2. "The nerves were definitely there. It was very exciting ... and very overwhelming. I'm glad I got it out of the way in the first at-bat."
Kazmar said Sabathia was much better in person than on video and that he was actually surprised that the Brewers pitcher didn't rely on his fastball as much as he thought he would.
"I saw three pitches from him, but from watching game film and going over hitters' charts, I was very surprised that he throws as much offspeed stuff as he does fastballs. [His changeup] is a great pitch because it looks just like his fastball."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.