Brewers’ bullpen is worst since ’06

Former Brewers manager Ken Macha learned from Whitey Herzog that to be a successful skipper in the Major Leagues, you need a good sense of humor and a good bullpen.

At the moment, the current Brewers manager has neither.

In Sunday’s 11-10 loss to the Nationals, the Brewers entered the eighth inning with a 7-3 lead, lost it, then entered the ninth leading 9-7 after back-to-back home runs by Norichika Aoki and Carlos Gomez. And yet, they lost.

“Inexplicable,” said John Axford, the former closer. “It’s tough to describe what’s happening.”

Sunday’s game extended a terrible stretch for Brewers relievers, who squandered leads in all three games at Philadelphia last week in a sweep that pushed the team toward trading Greinke to the Angels for prospects. They have 20 blown saves this season, most in the Majors.

Axford struggled to describe the Brewers bullpen’s failures, “especially after the run we had last year, mainly between ‘Frankie’ [Rodriguez] and myself. We had discussions throughout the year, trying to maybe pull answers from each other to see what’s going on, and we can’t explain it.

“Maybe it is just a domino effect right now. Last year, when things were going great, they just kept going. When someone stepped in a hole, we pulled them right out of it. … Right now, it seems like if someone steps in that hole, we’re digging it even deeper for them and we’re all jumping in. It’s not really working out.”

This Brewers’ bullpen is the team’s worst since 2006, when 23 different men threw a pitch in relief for Milwaukee including the likes of Joe Winkelsas, who was working as a trash collector before giving baseball another shot, and Chris Demaria, Chris Mabeus and Allan Simpson. None of those players ever appeared in the Majors again.

That ’06 bullpen combined for a 5.03 ERA, worst in the National League. After combining to surrender nine Nationals runs in 5 1/3 innings on Sunday, this year’s bullpen has a 4.80 ERA. Brewers relievers entered Sunday ranked 27th in the Majors in walks allowed, 28th in relief ERA, 29th in batting average against and worst in blown saves.

Now the Brewers are making changes.

They added veteran Minor Leaguer Jim Henderson to the mix on Thursday and he delivered three scoreless outings during the Nationals series, including a one-out stint Sunday that bailed Rogers out of a sixth-inning jam. Another new arm will be in uniform by Monday, when the Brewers continue their homestand against the rebuilding Astros.

Stay tuned for that new name. It was not clear on Sunday when the Brewers would make their announcement.

*

Follow me on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy

 

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