Brewers Get Jump on Competitors

General manager Doug Melvin, with owner Mark Attanasio's approval, pulled the trigger on a deal that could help the Brewers reach their first postseason since 1982.

Inside pitch

With the way the Brewers have played over the last six weeks, they really didn't need a shot in the arm.

They got one anyway Sunday, with one of the biggest arms in the big leagues. When the Brewers completed a trade with Cleveland that netted them reigning Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia, they made the first bold strike of trade season, beating the deadline by 25 days. Other National League contenders will be hard-pressed to come up with something as dynamic.

Rather than go after B-list types, the Brewers decided to shoot for the moon and pursue Sabathia, easily the best pitcher on the market. They soon figured out it would cost them their top minor-league prospect, outfielder Matt LaPorta.

And, if it was going to cost them LaPorta, the Brewers told the Indians the deal had to be done Sunday. Sabathia is scheduled to pitch again Tuesday and the Brewers figured if they could get him on the mound twice prior to the All-Star break it would make the deal worth doing.

The Brewers now can line up three power arms atop their rotation in All-Star right-hander Ben Sheets (10-2, 2.77 ERA), Sabathia and rapidly improving left-handed pitcher Manny Parra (8-2, 3.69). Veteran right-hander Jeff Suppan (5-6, 4.71) isn't pitching well at present but gets to stay in the rotation if for no other reason than his $42 million contract.

That means the Brewers will move out either right-hander Seth McClung or right-hander Dave Bush. McClung has pitched well since moving from the bullpen to the starting rotation, where he is 4-2 with a 4.47 ERA in eight outings.

Bush (4-8, 4.74) pitched very poorly over the first two months, resulting in a brief demotion to the minors. But over his last eight starts, he is 3-3 with a 3.12 ERA, including a strong outing Saturday night (eight innings, one run) against in a 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh.

Brewers 11, Pirates 6

The Brewers swept the Pirates to go a season-best 10 games over .500 (49-39). Third baseman Bill Hall, who platoons at third with left-handed-hitting Russell Branyan, got a rare chance to start every game of a series because the Pirates started three lefties. Hall made the most of it, going 7-for-11 (.636) with four doubles, a home run and six RBI. The Brewers' robust offense--they tied a franchise record with nine doubles and 12 extra-base hits--overcame a horrible start by righty Jeff Suppan. Given a 4-0 lead after one inning, Suppan turned it into a 6-4 deficit in the third. But the offense rallied and four relief pitchers combined for six shutout innings.

Notes and quotes

--Shortstop J.J. Hardy's 16-game hitting streak ended Saturday night when he sacrificed second baseman Rickie Weeks to second in a 1-1 game. Weeks later scored the winning run on first baseman Prince Fielder's single.

--Righty Eric Gagne has pitched two scoreless innings since returning from six weeks on the disabled list with rotator cuff tendonitis. Gagne no longer is the closer but he pitched the ninth inning Saturday against Pittsburgh in a 1-1 game and picked up the victory when the Brewers won in the bottom of the inning.

--Weeks has hit eight home runs this year, all on the road. He entered play Sunday in a 0-for-13 skid and batting .196 (9 for 46) with one homer and three RBIs since coming off the DL (sprained knee) on June 22.

--Suppan, who allowed six runs in three innings Sunday versus Pittsburgh, has been tagged for 30 hits and 21 runs (18 earned) in only 152/3 innings over his last four starts (10.34 ERA).

--Left fielder Ryan Braun hit his first home run Sunday since socking two June 17 against Toronto. He was told before the game he had been voted onto the starting NL All-Star team in fan balloting.

By the numbers

34--Total bases Sunday in an 11-6 victory over Pittsburgh. Included in that total were two figures that tied club records: nine doubles and 12 extra-base hits.

Quote of the day

"When you're not going good, it seems like every time you hit a ball hard it gets caught. When you are going good, it seems like everything is falling in. I'm getting a lot of pitches to hit."--Hardy, who hit safely in 17 of 18 games with 11 doubles and eight homers heading into the Colorado series.

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